Author: Patricia McMahon
Illustrator: John Godt
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Audience: Ages 9 – 12
Summary: Mary Verdi-Fletcher was born with spina bifida in the 1950’s and her parents were given a grim prognosis. However Mary’s parents refused to accept it, took her home, and had braces made for her legs. They always told her not to think about what she could not do but about what she could do. Mary had a dream of dancing and grew up to form the “Dancing Wheels” company. It is a dance group of both “stand-up” and “sit-down” dancers which is run by Sabatino and Barbara Verlezza. The book takes the reader through a workshop in which the dancers learn the steps and rehearse for a performance of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentices.”
Literary elements at work in the story: The theme of this story is its message that all of God’s children have unique talents and abilities that can be used for good. The plot takes the reader on a journey alongside children with and without physical limitations as they work together to create and perform incredible dances. The length of the story would lend itself to being read in multiple sessions so that readers have the time to take in all of the marvelous photos and the message of the story. The plot serves to remind us all that people with different abilities can come together as one.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic ability: The author and illustrator do an excellent job of using both male and female characters of different ages and abilities in this story. So often when we think of a dance company, a stereotypical image of tall, thin, athletic persons who are not always but often female comes to mind. This book shatters that image as it does an incredible job of showing that people with and without physical limitations can work as a team to accomplish great things.
Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Isaiah 40:28-31
Theology: God has a unique plan for each of God’s children. All the circumstances of our lives are woven together for good by God because God works in all things. God gives us the strength we need when we need it to live out our lives according to God’s plan.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What was Mary’s dream?
- What do you think Sabatino means when he says on pg. 22 “This is about what you can do not what you cannot?” Why does Jenny believe that this could be her family’s motto?
- Why do you think that some people say mean things about Devin being a dancer and Mary being in a wheelchair? What is behind the words they say?
- Barbara tells the dancers on pg. 28 “It doesn’t matter if you do it wrong, as long as you do it big.” What do you think she means?
- Why does Devin worry that some of his classmates might come to the performance?
- How would Mary’s life be different today if she had listened to all that people said to her (see pg. 13)
- What do the “stand-up” and “sit-down” dancers in this book tell us about Christians living together in community?
Review prepared by Marcia Rauch, MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2006
Dancing Wheels by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.