Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire
Written by Roxane Orgill
Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Most youngsters are interested in show business and the movies, but few reading at the fourth grade reading level are familiar with vaudeville or one of the most famous movie dancers of all time, Fred Astaire or his sister, Adele, his dancing partner for three decades. This rich biography, beautifully illustrated, can be a good read aloud book as well as good for children with comprehension at the fourth grade level to read on their own.
Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire is a fascinating biography of people who began their professions at such a young age, readers will find it hard to believe. At a time when child labor laws were nearly non-existent, young Fred and Adele traveled by train with their mother from Omaha to New York City. After more training in the art of dance, they donned costumes and began their careers singing and dancing on stage. They were only five and eight, Adele being the older. Times were so different then. No radios or television existed, and although there were movies, the movies had no sound. People went to the theatre to see live performances by all kinds of artists – jugglers, singers, talking dogs, trick bicyclists and more. That was vaudeville. Fred and Adele were right in the middle of it. They did two shows every day. At the end of each week, they would pack up and travel with their mother to another town to do it all over again. The only friends they had were each other. They couldn’t go to school, but their mother taught them their subjects. Things were not always easy and their careers stuttered when Adele grew into a young lady and Fred, small for his age, was left behind. However, they persevered and went on to be big stars. Adele hung up her dancing shoes when she was still relatively young, and that was when Fred changed gears and moved on to even greater fame.
The back of the book contains further readings, as well as suggestions for listening to recordings of Fred and Adele and a website (www.AlsoDances.net) that is a dedicated Fred Astaire site. There is also a good list of suggested videos. Candlewick Press, the publisher, offers a short author interview at http://www.candlewick.com/authill.asp?b=Author&pg=1&m=actlist&a=&id=0&pix=n&dlisbn=0763621218. The author has a webpage (http://www.roxaneorgill.com/) with some tips on becoming a writer.