Paperback Score: 93+/100 (9.3+ out of 10)
Audiobook Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Sora Searches for a Song is another phenomenal children's book by one of our most prolific children's authors, the mother-daughter team at Once Upon a Dance!
The book follows a cricket named Sora who is basically the black sheep of her orchestra of crickets. Sora seems to suffer from crippling self-doubt, low self-esteem, and performance anxiety. Part of it is that Sora is constantly reminded by their friends and orchestra mates that they “lack an imagination” or “have no imagination.” They've pretty much gotten into Sora's head and convinced them that they're lame and don't fit in.
We constantly get the line that “everyone says so,” perhaps punching home the idea that the negative opinions of other people can seem so much bigger than they really are. In reality, negative opinions are just that: opinions. And they're usually only the opinions of a select group of people. It is hyperbole and exaggeration to think that “everyone” doesn't like you, your work, or the way that you are. The truth is, we often underestimate how powerful, talented, incredible, and influential we are. We often underestimate what we mean to other people. Unfortunately, Sora allows these negative opinions to become ingrained in her psyche, and they take it to heart that they lack creativity, an imagination, and the ability to make music.
This can be a great talking point to have with your students/children about how sticks and stones can break your bones, but that words are what you make of them. You can let them get you down and crush you, or you can use them to build yourself up or motivate you. Or you can ignore them. It's up to you!
Choice seems to be one of the great themes of this book, something we greatly appreciated. For example, in this book, the reader sis hown a series of dance moves, but are encouraged to make up their own! We really loved this! We sometimes found that making our own dance moves were simpler and easier than trying to rigidly following what was prescribed or suggested.
Sora goes on an impromptu journey of self-discovery, trying to find, well... their song (as the title implies). They encounter cicadas, bats, coyotes, frogs, butterflies, birds, turtles, and fish. The chirpy birds, obnoxiously-loud cicadas, and a mysterious unknown river dweller (possibly a barracuda fish or a turtle), make a particularly big impact on Sora.
Sora begins to realize that they have a lot of creative energy to put out into the world, and that not every creature has to make the same sound or song. There are a lot of ways to make music and a lot of ways to dance (ex. “Sora could whistle and trill and cluck and coo”)!
This book is incredible on so many levels! For one, the art is mindbending and beautiful, but in a very unique way. The art almost reflects a Native American tapestry, similar in style to the Polar Bears Journey by Tuula Pere. It has a distinct “earthy” look full of browns, dark greens, dark yellows, dark oranges, and beige, reflecting the fact that the book follows a cricket who lives close to the ground and in the dark of night. This is in clear contrast to the bright reds and purples in Andi's Valentine Tree or the bright blues and purples in Eka and the Elephants.
Although we preferred the more colorful, realistic art in Eka and the Elephants, this book is still stylistically unique and beautiful in its own right.
Ballerina Konora continues to be a cute, beautiful, gorgeous, talented, and colorful spokesperson and model for this series, demonstrating all of the recommended movements in a way that's cool and eye-catching. Konora's passion for dance reaches out to you from every page! She comes across as a great, charismatic, and appealing role-model for your little ones to follow along with.
The writing is very eloquent and dream-like. One issue that has constantly emerged in this series is that the writing is a bit much when also trying to follow the dance instructions. In other words, every book in the series that we've read so far has been very wordy, something that might test a child's (or adult's) attention span. From running countless “circle/reading times” the one thing you want to avoid with younger kids is to be stuck on one or two pages for too long. That's when they start fidgeting and having side conversations. Thankfully, the fidgeting is somewhat alleviated when the kids are encouraged to move and dance. This book may be more appropriate for older kids (kindergarten to 6th grade).
It's easy to get so caught up in the story being told and then be jarred by the dance instructions interwoven in the tale. Thankfully, the author(s) seems to have been aware of that, and you are free and even welcome to skip the instructions and just read the story as a stand-alone story.
Now, we have to talk about the audiobook. This is probably THE BEST children's audiobook we've listened to. It is SO well-produced!The Sora Searches for a Song audiobook has a little extra something. The audiobook is incredibly well thought out and structured. The audiobook perfectly utilizes background noises and animal sounds to indicate transitions and to add a bit of “magic” to the book. The narrator does a phenomenal job at bringing the charisma and energy needed. All of that works together to immerse you.
The sounds will even pick up while you're doing the dance movements, then settle down to indicate the end of the segment. An owl hooting sound (which we originally thought was a dog) clearly indicates that the story is cutting and the next dance movement is being introduced (or vice-versa).
One of our favorite dance movements from this book was creating sounds by rubbing our hands behind our backs, similar to how crickets and cicadas make their songs. The sound effect used seems to be sticks rubbing together or a flint continually being sparked. It fits!
Both the paperback and audiobook have a lot to offer!
Check them out on Amazon!