House of Dance, by Beth Kephart

House of Dance, by Beth Kephart (2008, Harper Teen, 263 pp)

15 year old Rosie is facing an empty summer. Her best friend is away for the summer, and Nick, the boy next door, is hard at work. $20 a week comes from her father, who left years ago, but that doesn't count for much, and her mother is trying to find the answer to her own loneliness in the arms of her married window-washer boss. But perhaps even lonelier is her grandfather, living alone on the opposite end of town, his daughter not speaking to him, still missing his wife who died long ago, and now dying himself.

So Rosie spends her summer with him, trying in the time left to them to be as much a granddaughter as she can. She sorts through all his things, trying to organize what he has saved, trying to decide what piece of his past she should save. And in doing so, she learns about her grandmother, who loved to put on music and dance the afternoons away.

Her daily path to her grandfather's house takes her past The House of Dance, and the sounds of ballroom dance music draw her inside. With her father's money, she learns to dance herself, so that she can give her grandfather back a little piece of his past by dancing for him. More of the money goes for her dress, for food, for flowers--for bringing a last splash of color to his life. In planning for that evening, Rosie's loneliness ends, as the people from the House of Dance, and others in the community, come together to help. Even Nick.

"My granddad," I said again, "is dying."
"I know," he said. "You told me."
"Dancing is the opposite of dying,"I said.
He looked at me strangely, a look of wonder on his face. A look that said, "Come on, Rosie. Say it."
"Dancing is going somewhere without packing you bags. Like you did on the train when the girl sang. Dancing is the thing I"m giving Granddad."
"You're a good soul," Nick said, after a very long time.
"I want you to come to a party," I said. "A dance party, right down the street. At my granddad's house."
"I'll come," he said. (p.228)

House of Dance is the most tender and loving ya novel about the relationship between a teenager and a grandparent I've ever read. Of course, as usual when I make statements like that, I can only think of one other example (A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeline L'Engle). So maybe I should just say something along the lines of "this is a truly tender and loving story." Which is true.

Here are two other reviews, from The Happy Nappy Bookseller, and Little Willow.


  1. Thanks for the link. Though now I feel as if I've cheated the author and novel of a few words.

  2. Charlotte

    You are a very beautiful writer. I read this review thinking mostly of just how well it was written, often forgetting that it was about HOUSE.

    Thank you.

  3. You're welcome, Doret! And I liked your words just fine!

    Aw shucks, Beth! I was pretty careful with this review-- I was trying to do the book justice, and was a tad intimidated by your own lovely writing!


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