Dancing with Daddy by Anitra Rowe Schulte and Ziyue Chen

Hello, Anitra Rowe Schulte! Hello, Ziyue Chen! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you so much for stopping by to share Dancing with Daddy's cover. Anitra, what ran through your heart the first time you saw Ziyue Chen’s finished illustrations for Dancing with Daddy?

Anitra Rowe Schulte: My emotions were off the charts – racing heart, irrepressible joy, tear-filled eyes… the works! My heart bursts again just thinking about that moment. The art throughout the entire book – from the cover and the endpapers, to the scenes within – is full of love and rich, dazzling color. Ziyue’s work is so phenomenal. I love the way she captured busy family life just as much as I adore her compositions of the most tender of moments. I’ve never seen a family like mine reflected in a picture book. Ziyue’s art gave me a strong, unrealistic urge to pick up the phone and call this family to set up a play date!


Ziyue, what materials did you use to create the art for Dancing with Daddy?

Ziyue Chen: I started off sketching in Procreate on iPad Pro and completed colouring in Adobe Photoshop. The most important thing is how your illustrations can convey a story and evoke emotions to the reader.


Anitra, imagine you’re booktalking Dancing With Daddy to 100 teacher-librarians. What would you tell them about the story?

Anitra Rowe Schulte: What a fun prospect! OK!

Dancing With Daddy is a story about a girl named Elsie, who cannot wait to go to her first father-daughter dance. Elsie picks out the perfect dress and dreams of the moment when she’ll dance under the lights with her dad. She expresses her excitement through gestures and words chosen in a PODD book (a form of AAC), and she practices her dance moves in her wheelchair. But as snow falls heavily outside, Elsie worries that she won’t get the chance to dance. Dancing With Daddy features a child with a rare chromosome disorder as the main character. I hope this story provides a mirror for many children with disabilities, and that children who are unfamiliar with Elsie’s life experience will enjoy drawing near her, too!


Ziyue, please finish the following sentence starters: 

Dancing with Daddy is quite a lovely way to bond with the Daddy and it is definitely memorable for every girl. This means any girl with disabilities should always be included.

Picture books show that illustrations speak louder than words, to delight and engage children. The illustrations and words are interrelated, creating a meaningful story. They fill us with wonder and keep us curious. I love how they transport us to another world, widening our horizon, and quenching our mind and soul.


Anitra, please finish the following sentence starters: 

Elsie is inspired by my eldest daughter, who has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome. I have been encouraged by the number of picture books that have included children who uses wheelchairs in the artwork. But as the mom of a child with a rare chromosome disorder, there was a book that I wanted to see on the shelves but rarely encountered – a fiction story with a child with a disability at the center of the narrative. I wrote Dancing With Daddy, and created this character, so that my daughters (all three of them) could see exactly this. And, oh my, do they love this book! They are very invested in every scene!

School libraries were an incredibly important part of my childhood. I loved exploring the stacks, following my curiousity, and bringing something home that was mine-all-mine (for a time!). Before COVID, I volunteered in the school library at our neighborhood elementary. My favorite part was sorting and shelving the returns. This task reiterated something so important – absolutely no two readers are the same! One moment, I’d be shelving books about snakes. The next, I’d be shelving historical fiction. Then I’d be in the early readers, then over to the look-and-finds. The librarian’s displays were so thoughtful – awards here, new books there, featured authors over there. Each set up was an open invitation. School libraries and school librarians meet students where they are, and open up the world!

Thank you, Anitra Ziyue! 


Anitra Rowe Schulte has worked as a journalist for The Kansas City Star and the Sun-Times News Group, as a staff writer for Chicago Public Schools, and as a publicist. She is the mother of three beautiful girls, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and is the inspiration for Elsie in this book. She lives in the Chicago area, and this is her first picture book. 


Ziyue Chen is the Deaf illustrator of a number of children’s books, including Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk, How Women Won the Vote by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby by Danna Smith. She lives with her loved ones in Singapore.


Look for Dancing with Daddy on October 26, 2021. 

Two Lions' Description: 

Elsie can’t wait to go to her first father-daughter dance. She picked out the perfect dress and has been practicing swirling and swaying in her wheelchair. Elsie’s heart pirouettes as she prepares for her special night. With gestures, smiles, and words from a book filled with pictures, she shares her excitement with her family. But when a winter storm comes, she wonders if she’ll get the chance to spin and dance her way to a dream come true.

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