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Finding my dance
Where is it?
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Trade Reviews
Publishers Weekly Review
"My name is Waka˛ ja haja pj˛j˛wi˛ga, which means 'Beautiful Thunder Woman.' I am from the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin and Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico," which "value an important part of my life: dance" begins Thundercloud's autobiographical picture book, tracing the protagonist's experience as a dancer, starting with the gift of an orange jingle dress at age four. At her first powwow, Thundercloud leads her family into the arena, "a circle to symbolize unity, where there is no beginning and no end, just infinite connections to the spirit world and the earth." Each summer for years, "my older brothers and I would hit the 'powwow trail,' " until joining a dance team leads to a professional career that takes her all over the world. But "no matter how far I went, I would always return." In a heartfelt, personal-feeling narrative, Thundercloud encapsulates many Indigenous traditions; Fuller's unlined graphic art employs warm, rich colors that align with the narrator's heart, determination, and love of dance. Ages 4--8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 3--5--The artist known as "Beautiful Thunder Woman" chronicles her career, beginning with a jingle dress her mother made for her. She traveled across the country with her family dancing the "Pow Wow Trail." Beautiful Thunder Woman explored other forms of dance, but found "classical dance is rigid and structured, while [her] traditional dance is more grounded and expressive." Beautiful Thunder Woman pushed through, joined a dance group, and won prizes. As the only Native American in her school, she was too shy to correct people who mispronounced her name, but "I could always dance it out and feel better." Eventually, she danced her way around the world. The tale comes full circle when Beautiful Thunder Woman has her daughter, and corrects people who say her name wrong, "so she will correct them also. Every time someone says our names, they are speaking a language that still exists, and a culture we still honor, despite many attempts to wipe it out forever." The text is in a different font and color when she explains something of importance to her. Richly colored illustrations convey movement, from the shawl's fringe to the eagle wings. Native American art motifs are woven throughout, including patterns on the end pages. With so little on this subject available outside of Indigenous communities, and even less written down, this is a compelling volume of a life and the importance of self-expression, as well as the protection of custom. VERDICT A warmly illustrated memoir of dance and culture, this will have broad appeal about using art for expression and to overcome difficulties.--Tamara Saarinen
Booklist Review
Thundercloud's debut picture book recounts her personal experiences as a young Indigenous dancer. At age 4 she jingle danced at her first powwow; at 13 she began fancy shawl dancing. She studied Western-style dance as well (tap, jazz, ballet, modern), and performed with a competitive dance team for several years. As a professional, she decided classical forms were too structured for her; currently she concentrates on her Indigenous repertoire, which now includes an eagle dance. The succinct text emphasizes the author's love of her heritage (Ho-Chunk and Sandia Pueblo) and the grounded, expressive feelings she derives from traditional performances. Fuller's colorful artwork excels at depicting the cultural elements of this art form (regalia, drumming, and the powwow setting itself) as well as Thundercloud's experiences in non-Native spheres, such as classical dance lessons, dance competitions, and school. Greens and blues predominate in scenes set in Native territory, with oranges employed to spotlight important details. An inspiring story about following one's passion.
Kirkus Review
A renowned Indigenous dancer tells her story. At 4 years old, author Thundercloud, of the Ho-Chunk Nation and Sandia Pueblo, received her first jingle dress--an intricate, hand-sewn garment worn by Indigenous dancers. When she performed for the first time at a powwow, her spirit soared. This feeling never left Thundercloud, and as she grew up, she began dancing in the Native "fancy shawl" tradition as well as in contemporary, jazz, tap, ballet, and modern styles. Despite her meteoric rise in numerous dance communities (which eventually led to her becoming an internationally renowned professional dancer), Thundercloud was a "shy" kid who "didn't fit in." She was perpetually "the only Indigenous girl in class," no one pronounced her name--Wakąja haja pįįwįga, or "Beautiful Thunder Woman"--correctly, and the timid girl "never corrected them." As Thundercloud reached adulthood, she found strength through her ancestral dance and the birth of her daughter. Empowered by her heritage, Thundercloud now corrects those who mispronounce her daughter Yelihwaha•wíhta's name ("She Brings Good Energy"), lifting up "a language that still exists, and a culture that we still honor, despite many attempts to wipe it out forever." Accompanied by Fuller's evocative illustrations that fill pages with bright colors and dynamic figures, Thundercloud's rousing story of an uncertain child who grows to take pride in her identity will resonate with readers. (This book was reviewed digitally.) A moving picture book about the resilience one can find in one's cultural inheritance. (Picture-book autobiography. 5-10) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
In her debut picture book, professional Indigenous dancer Ria Thundercloud tells the true story of her path to dance and how it helped her take pride in her Native American heritage.

At four years old, Ria Thundercloud was brought into the powwow circle, ready to dance in the special jingle dress her mother made for her. As she grew up, she danced with her brothers all over Indian country. Then Ria learned more styles--tap, jazz, ballet--but still loved the expressiveness of Indigenous dance. And despite feeling different as one of the only Native American kids in her school, she always knew she could turn to dance to cheer herself up.

Follow along as Ria shares her dance journey--from dreaming of her future to performing as a professional--accompanied by striking illustrations that depict it while bringing her graceful movements to life.
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