Written and Illustrated by Anne Rockwell
Parents Magazine Press, 1966
Once there was a little gypsy girl named Maggi. She wandered the wide world over with her gypsy mother and daddy, and one day, they came to a great big city.
The plot in a nutshell: A young girl wants to dance for someone in her new shoes
Maggi’s parents move into an apartment behind a storefront, where her mother tells fortunes. Her father gives her a pair of red patent leather shoes left over from when the store was a shoe shop. She runs to show her mother, who is busy telling a woman’s fortune. She heads out into the city looking for someone who will watch her dance in her new shoes. The firemen are responding to a fire bell, so they can’t stop to watch. The woman in the bakery is too busy making cakes, but she offers Maggi a cookie. The lady in the flower shop is also too busy, but she gives Maggi a rose. Everywhere she goes, people are too busy to watch her dance. She goes to a park and dances for a squirrel. When her dance is done, a round of applause breaks out from the group of schoolchildren who had gathered to watch her. They ask her to dance again and then invite her to play with them. The teacher says she will speak to her mother to see if Maggi can come to her school. Maggi goes home, happy to have had such a lovely day.
Here’s another book from my childhood and the wonderful Parents Magazine Press book club. Author/illustrator Anne Rockwell has written many wonderful nonfiction books for elementary age children, but I first knew her through this book and The Monkey’s Whiskers, which were both book club selections. At the time, I remember thinking that Maggi and her family were very exotic and exciting. I suppose there are a lot of elements to this book that would not be considered politically correct here in the 21st century, but I have a nostalgic love for this book and was pleased to see, when I looked around online, that lots of others share my opinion.
The artwork is colorful and wonderful, making her New York neighborhood seem so culturally diverse and fascinating, especially in the picture that shows all the different storefronts. As an adult, reading it again, I love that most of the people are kind to her, even if they don’t have time to watch her dance. I feel like that contributes to her having the confidence to dance on her own. Reading this makes me feel like I’ve missed out on something by never having owned a pair of red patent leather shoes.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, if no one has time for you, make time for yourself…and you may find others wanting to join you.