Dancing on the Edge
by Kit Bakke

Kit Bakke's Dancing on the Edge
(previously published as Dot to Dot)

Book review by Karen Talley

Young Adult

From tragedy to triumph

Dancing on the Edge by Kit Bakke is the poignant story of twelve-year-old Dorothy Mary-Jane or Dot for short. A young girl grieving the death of her mother.

A trip to the library turns tragic when Dot's mother is hit by a truck. Her best friend is gone; she struggles to imagine life without her mother.

The beginning of the story finds Dot reliving the accident. She can't erase the image of her mother lying in the road. She sees the red truck that struck her and all the red blood pooled underneath her body.

Eccentric Aunt Tab steps in as Dot's guardian. She believes the best therapy for her niece would be a trip.

Thea, Dot's mother, always dreamed of traveling; England would be the perfect place to tell Dot the story behind her name. Dorothy Mary-Jane was derived from Thea's three personal heroes Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary (Wollstonecraft) Shelley and Jane Austen.

Aunt Tab fails to mention to Dot she plans to take her mother's ashes and distribute them at significant landmarks along the way.

Dot reluctantly packs for their journey. The colorful silk collage she and her mother made invoke memories she can't leave behind. She removes it from the wall and places it in her suitcase. Her mother called it, Dancing on the Edge, "because that's what life is," said Thea. "The best parts, anyway."

Their journey takes them on an adventure filled with magical moments and imaginary characters, as they roam the English countryside.

Dot finds it creepy that Aunt Tab secretly brought her mother's ashes. But her aunt explains they will spread them in places connected to Dot's three namesakes. She eventually buys into the idea. She believes her mother would be happy with their plan.

The trip proves to be very cathartic for Dot and her heart begins to heal. Perhaps, the world without Thea exists, after all.

Review - Dancing on the Edge by Kit Bakke

I bought this book because the cover appealed to me and I was intrigued by the title. What I discovered inside was a heartwarming story about the special bond between a mother and daughter.

The story was extremely well-written. The strong characters jumped off the pages and invited me to join them on their adventure.

The vivid scene descriptions brought the story to life. I joined Dot and Aunt Tab as they made their pilgrimage to Thea's final resting places. I was a bystander on London Bridge when they poured ashes into the Thames River. I sat silently as they read poetry at Dorothy Wordsworth's grave, with church bells ringing in the distance. 

Powerful, to say the least.

This is a must read for children grieving the loss of a loved one. Discussion questions at the end provide an excellent resource for grief counselors.

Dancing on the Edge has been added to my favorite books for young adults. There is no doubt I will recommend it every chance I get.

More books about children dealing with death.

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