Sarah Wilson's The Day We Danced in Underpants
illustrated by Catherine Stock
Book review by Sherri Trudgian
Be yourself. Enjoy life, laughter and, most of all, dance!
I predict that Sarah Wilson’s The Day We Danced In Underpants will one day be a classic not unlike The Emperor's New Clothes.
What would you do if you received an invitation to picnic with the King of France? Why you would purchase a pair of “sunny, dappled, dancing pants”!
Playing his flute, Papa leads his entourage (young son, three wild aunties and two large sheep dogs) in a frolicking romp across France. They dance from early morning ‘til late at night. They dance, “until with every swoop and spin poor Papa’s pants began to thin.”
Anticipation becomes reality. The day of the picnic finally arrives. Wanting to impress their royal host, the three aunties don camisoles, pantalettes, stockings, garters, hooped petticoats, layers of crinolines, underskirts, and overskirts. Their pouf coiffeurs à la Marie Antoinette dwarf Papa in his ruffled shirt, frock coat and “sunny, dappled, dancing pants”!
Although the morning air is fresh and cool, our merry band of travelers soon wilt beneath their heavy clothes and the sweltering sun.
“We started out with jigs and jogs … and then the sun began to roast until we felt like buttered toast.”
Discarding their shoes and mopping their faces, they continue to plod down the country lane dragging along their two sheep dogs.
“We reached the palace, drooped like roses, dogs on shoulders, sun-burned noses. Papa smiled and bravely bowed, politely as tight pants allowed.”
The “ooos” and “aaahs” of the three wild aunties echo all the way past the gilded mirrors, down the marbled stairs, through the multi-paned glass doors and onto the sprawling lawns.
Lunch is served alfresco under the trees. The tables are heaped with bowls of fruit and plates of melting “éclairs français”.
Keeping with protocol the family is formally introduced to the King and his counselors who stand beside his majesty “stiff as posts”.
“We’re all as boiled as codfish stew,” one whispered low. “Aren’t you warm, too?”
The King and Queen take their places around the table. With heads bowed low the grace is said.
“Then Papa tried to take his chair and …
We heard a thunderous tear!
buttons shot from here to there,
and we saw Papa’s UNDERWEAR!”
What could have been an unfortunate situation at such a stuffy gathering turned out to be the ice breaker!
“The startled King stood by, amazed.
His courtiers gasped, their eyebrows raised.
The Queen appeared to keep her wits
But then broke into giggling fits!”
The gracious King takes a sticky situation and with one statement absolves Papa of all embarrassment.
“His deep voice boomed, “I NOW DECLARE
WE ALL STRIP TO OUR UNDERWEAR!”
Barefoot and unencumbered by their hot, heavy clothing, the court (including the King and Queen) dance on the cool grass and splash in the fountains late into the evening. It’s the best party in “l’histoire français”. No one wants to leave!
Book review - The Day We Danced in Underpants
It’s interesting how we create our own “masquerade”. Not unlike the “bon ton” of Louis’ court we tend to hide behind our clothing. Be it designer skinny jeans, gothic or grunge, when clothes are peeled off the barriers brake down. We become equals. We can be ourselves. Clothed only in their pantaloons the French courtiers dance for pure joy on the palace lawns. They have discovered a new sense of freedom and light-hearted playfulness.
Catherine Stock’s ink and watercolor illustrations complete the picture. Her attention to detail is exquisite. The King’s cat looks very much like Puss in Boots complete with sword and plumed hat. The grand hall resembles Versailles. Papa’s balding head and round glasses hint of Ben Franklin. The three wild aunties resemble Cinderella’s step-mother and ugly step-sisters only quirkier and much more loveable!
The rhythm and rhyme of The Day We Danced in Underpants is so much fun! The cadence will entice listeners of all ages to set aside their inhibitions and dance!
Read more of Sherri's book reviews.
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