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ART BEAT: Dance education starts early with new kid's book

Holley Calmes

Holley Calmes

"Dear Baby, Let's Dance!" is a new children's book with a joyous message for little ones: Dancing is fun.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, the book's author, Carol Casey, will be at Barnes and Noble's Norcross location to sign books. She will also encourage parents to take the book's charming idea and put it to work in their own homes.

This newest addition to the "Dear Baby" series has every member of the family introducing "Baby" to their own "signature" move, from ballet to ballroom to hip-hop and more. Big sister encourages Baby to "shake that tutu and groove to a rock and roll band." Even the family pet, Moose the dog, gets into the action, as well as the uncle who doesn't dance, but his "touchdown move" belongs in the Hall of Fame. The introduction to styles of dance is enhanced by the obvious enthusiasm for movement that comes naturally to toddlers.

"Dear Baby, Let's Dance!" is the second book for Casey and her illustrator, Jason Oransky, both from Atlanta. With vibrant colors, endearing characters and catchy rhymes, the "Dear Baby" author and artist hope to create a fresh, new series of books to nurture and entertain young children. The first book of the series is titled "Dear Baby, What I Love About You!" and was published this past summer. Another book, "Dear Baby, It's a Colorful World!" will be out in May. This story will feature learning the names of and identifying colors featuring an endearing cast of multicultural kids.

Dance is an important part of Casey's memories.

"I love how dancing can link generations in a family," she said. "In our house, we all love to turn on the music and teach our 2-year-old our favorite moves. The very first page I wrote for this book was inspired by a tango that my parents did a few years ago on Christmas Eve. They are 86 and 81 and have been married for over 60 years, so I think it is fair to say that dancing does fire up romance to stay a groom and bride."

Casey began writing for children when she couldn't find the perfect book to read to her own granddaughter, one that expressed her feelings. The success of her first book launched a whole new business, the boutique press "Dear Baby Books." The first book, "Dear Baby, What I Love About You!" was recently on the nationally televised reality program "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." "Dear Baby" books have been featured on www.workingmother.com, and Casey has been interviewed on numerous educational and literary radio programs.

She has a good idea about what children like. She has two children of her own as well as granddaughter Ava, and enthusiastic response is no stranger to her. When she read "Dear Baby, Let's Dance!" to a group of elementary school students recently, one little boy jumped up at the end of the book and yelled happily, "What else ya got?"

Visitors to Barnes and Noble will be able to ask Casey the same question during her visit Saturday. On the other side of Gwinnett, Discover Mill's Kidz Club has invited Casey to make an appearance at Books-A-Million the following weekend, at 2 p.m. Feb. 27. Young students from Gwinnett Ballet Theatre will also be on hand to share their love for dance at this event. Then at 11 a.m. March 6 Casey will return to the Barnes and Noble at Perimeter Center for an appearance. For more information about the "Dear Baby" books and Casey's appearances, visit www.dearbabybooks.com. For more information about the Barnes and Noble event, visit http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/store/2070.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.