Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Review: Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher

Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2008; 356 pages; ISBN 1599901641
My Goodreads
Rating: 5.5 stars

I saw this and figured it was the perfect read for a nostalgic librarian
like myself. The story takes place in 1940's Chicago right before the United States enters into World War II. This is an excellent book that I wish I would have picked up sooner, but I'm glad I finally did. Ruby, her mom and her sister live in "The Yards" of Chicago. Ruby's father has passed away, so her family is left in a pretty dire financial situation. Ruby's mom is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and has to stop working, so Ruby goes to work at the meatpacking plant. Then she hears about "dancing halls" where girls get paid a-dime-a-dance. Ruby loves to dance and is determined to get her family out of the yards, so she takes the job. She has to learn the hard way what taxi dancing is really all about and all the while she lies to her mom, her sister, and sometimes even to herself to continue working as a taxi dancer. There are also issues of first love, racism, friendship, and of course the war. The author did an excellent job of presenting period details throughout the book. She talks about what everything cost, the style of the dresses the taxi dancers wore, the shoes, the makeup, and even where they would eat after a long night of dancing. There are also parts of the story that talk about the music of the era, which is especially important to Ruby since she absolutely loves to "hoof" (slang for dancing). I thought the story was extremely well-written, well-researched, and well-paced. The period details are excellent, as well as the language and the characterizations. It felt authentic and heartfelt and I just had to give it more than five stars.

Photo: From website

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