Princess Naomi is beyond annoyed with her little sister, Princess Miranda. First, Miranda spilled the last of the milk, leaving Naomi without any left for her breakfast cereal. Then, she started singing Naomi’s least favorite song at the top of her lungs. Aaaaagh! Naomi gets so irritated that she storms out of the castle, mounts her horse En Tournant and gallops off. Soon, though, she finds herself embroiled in a fantastic new adventure involving a lost little unicorn and learning all over again the meaning and value of family.
Princess Naomi Helps a Unicorn by Once Upon a Dance would be a delightful fairy tale for children ages four to seven were it presented as a story alone, what with Ethan Roffler’s charming and colorful pencil-and-watercolor illustrations and the evocatively sensory details of Naomi’s experiences. Yet this book, as with others in the series by the author, is special: it is a “Dance-It-Out” book.
“What is a ‘Dance-It-Out’ book?” you might ask. Well, we’re all familiar with the idea of children “acting out” a story to increase their engagement and comprehension. Once Upon a Dance’s “Dance-It-Out” series takes that tried-and-true method a step further — into the realm of dance, specifically ballet.
Accompanying each page of the book are insets of real-life ballerina Konora explaining and demonstrating dance moves that go along with the story. Konora’s moves focus on the connections between emotions and body language, the physical experience of interacting with different types of surrounding space, and mimicking the actions of the characters. Along the way, she works in instruction on how to perform chassés, a classical ballet move that aptly mimics the galloping of Naomi’s horse as well as the unicorn she meets.
Such physical activities not only give little readers some (perhaps much-needed) exercise, but help them to connect with their own bodies, senses and emotions. Princess Naomi Helps a Unicorn and, by extension the rest of the growing “Dance-It-Out” series, are also perfect for teaching basic dance concepts to budding ballet dancers.
Other books in the series include Brielle’s Birthday Ball; The Cat with the Crooked Tail; Danny, Denny, and the Dancing Dragon; Petunia Perks Up; and Joey Finds His Jump! Even more are in the stages of writing and production. Each focuses on a different set of ballet moves; parents and teachers can use each book to build upon the skills learned in the previous ones, or as standalones. It is also worth noting that Once Upon a Dance also publishes a series for children ages six and older on “Dancing Shapes” that is more oriented to instruction and exercises than the playful “Dance-It-Out” series.
Whether your little one dreams of being a ballet dancer, needs help with physical coordination, or simply needs to step away from the screen and move more, Princess Naomi Helps a Unicorn and the other books in the “Dance-It-Out” series fit the bill — with engaging and fantastical stories to boot.
Princess Naomi Helps a Unicorn is available for purchase here.