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Sparks Fly High: The Legend of Dancing Point Hardcover – October 3, 2006

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-5–A story set in Colonial Virginia and based on local legend. Colonel Lightfoot was an amazing dancer, and always the first to say so. His self-satisfaction and flashy moves caught the attention of the devil. Hating to be outdone, the fiend began dancing at night on the colonel's land, turning it into a swampy mess. Enraged and overly confident, Lightfoot challenged him to a dancing duel. Gore combined acrylics and pastels to create vibrant, textured illustrations. Lightfoot always appears to be thinner and sprightlier than the other characters, who are well dressed and proper. His elongated grace is echoed by his foe's lithe shape. A finely curled mustache and goatee add a bit of humor to the devil's countenance and prevent him from looking too evil. Likewise, winged angels and petulant, toddlerlike demons provide musical accompaniment and comic relief during the contest. In the end, Lightfoot bested his adversary, who slunk down to the fires below. Concluding the story with a few shivers, Quattlebaum reveals that on dark nights, people still see sparks flying on Dancing Point, where the competition continues. An author's note cites sources and informs readers that Dancing Point is a real place located along the James River. Told with tongue-tingling language, this story will make a great read-aloud.–Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A colonist wins a dance with the devil in this lively retelling of a Virginia folktale. Colonel Lightfoot, a fine dancer, has been known for his "quicksilver feet" since childhood. In addition to his "waltzing ways," he prides himself on his land, which is pristine except for one corner, where the devil likes to dance. Striking his flinty hooves on the wet ground, the dancing devil spoils ever-larger patches of the colonel's property. Then the devil challenges the colonel to a dancing contest: Whoever can dance the longest will be lord of the land, once and for all. The colonel accepts, and, in a reversal of pride, wins by downplaying his own talents and baiting the devil's boastful arrogance. Gore's textured illustrations convey the story's energy and comedy in beautifully composed scenes of the vain, buffoonish dancers, circling and strutting. What really shines here, though, are the folksy words, which have all the infectious rhythm of a country dance. An author's note citing sources closes this sure hit for story hours and units on morality tales. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374344523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374344528
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,909,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dear Leonid Gore,

I have missed you. When it comes to picture book illustrators you've a style that one cannot compare to anyone else's. I first fell in love with your work when I had the good fortune to pick up a copy of Janice del Negro's, "Lucy Dove". Your art on that folktale was without compare. Simultaneously creepy and lovely all at once. For some time now I've waited patiently for you to illustrate something, heck ANYTHING, that had the same emotional oomph. Finally, some eight years later, you have. And for that, m'dear, I thank you.


A Devoted Fan

That is the letter I would write to Leonid Gore if I had the guts to seek out his publisher's address. And yes, I mean every word. When "Sparks Fly High" plopped down on the center of my desk, I was elated. Here, at last, was a picture book that could seriously be called "beautiful". It's been a while since Leonid Gore did a good old-fashioned folktale, but finally one has arrived that is worthy of his attention. Thank author Mary Quattlebaum then for having the wherewithal to attentively research and bring to life this fabulous original American tale. A great find for those lucky enough to locate it.

Now there once was a man by the name of Colonel Lightfooot. He was a bright and bonny fellow and one heckuva fabulous dancer. "No sooner could he stand than he was prancing, no sooner prancing than kicking his baby booties high". And talk about conceited. This fellow was a braggart through and through, but definitely a nice guy deep down. Just conceited. Now the one thing Lightfoot loved more than his dancing was his land. It was almost entirely perfect, except for a rough patch that got bigger and boggier every year.
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Format: Hardcover
What can I say? My ancestor bested the devil. Not bad for a day's work!
This is an old Virginia folktale I discovered about 15 years ago, during a geneological trip to Williamsburg, VA. It was great to finally see a book come out about it.
As a side note, the Sandy Point area in Clark County, Virginia, where this tale takes place, is on what was once Philip Lightfoot's land (called Tedington). Nothing would grow in this area and many folks thought that it was haunted. There were two large trees there for many years, which bore the nicknames of "Lightfoot" and "The Devil". In the 1900's, during a flood, "The Devil Tree" was washed away, but the "Lightfoot" tree remained standing. So, Lightfoot actually beat the Devil twice!
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Format: Hardcover
Mary Quattlebaum retells SPARKS FLY HIGH: THE LEGEND OF DANCING POINT, telling of one Colonel Lightfoot whose fancy dancing leads him to boast about his talents and his land. So much so that the Devil himself comes out to compete in this fun story based on a Virginia legend.
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Format: Hardcover
Halloween is coming, and what would Halloween be without at least one fun/scary book? For weeks, I've been reading and rejecting the usual crop of trick-or-treat books, silly ghost stories, and tales of witches in tall, pointy hats. Just as I despaired of finding a book worth mentioning, along came this classy retelling of an early American legend with exactly the right balance of humor and high drama.
Colonel Lightfoot was born to dance, and not a man in colonial Williamsburg could match him on the ballroom floor. But much as he loved "his own waltzing ways," there was one thing the colonel loved more: ... "his fine Virginia land, stretching serene and green along the James River." Fine, that is, except for one bare, boggy patch where rumor was that the devil himself lived. And each year, that patch grew bigger.
Bolstered by his pride, the colonel determined to save his land by challenging the devil to a dancing contest. And how the sparks flew then! All night, those two twirled and whirled, jigged and stomped. Demons sprang up beating drums as the devil danced and leaped. But angels floated above, playing their music to guide the colonel's steps. And the next morning, only one exhausted dancer remained on Dancing Point.
The legend of Dancing Point is to colonial Virginia what the legend of Sleepy Hollow is to New England, and Mary Quattlebaum's masterful retelling is as worthy as Washington Irving's more famous tale. In language as nimble as the colonel's twinkling toes, Sparks Fly High brings to life a folkloric struggle between good and evil.
Amazing illustrations in acrylic and pastel at first evoke an aura of early eighteenth century artwork. Closer examination reveals on the stylized figures a lifted eyebrow, a devilish smirk, or a surprising angelic grimace, gracing the book with a winning timelessness. Indeed, sparks do seem to fly off the page.
This outstanding picture book deserves a wide audience, not just at Halloween but all year round.
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Format: Hardcover
In her retelling of a classic Virginia legend, Mary Quattlebaum weaves a tale that will have young readers begging, "Read it again!" Colonel Lightfoot is a talented, but braggadocios, dancing landowner. His plot of land, inhabited by the devil, won't grow a thing. One night, Lightfoot has enough and finally challenges the devil to a dancing duel. In the end, the result is happy not only because he wins fresh and fertile land, but because he also learns the lesson of modesty and humility.

Yes, there is a devil in this story, but he is not a "scary" type devil. His presence is counterbalanced by the angels who support and encourage Lightfoot in his mission. Amazon recommends the book for children four through eight years of age, but I would say that the reach of this book could extend to ten year olds, who would likely fully appreciate the moral of the tale.

Mary Quattlebaum's language is so compelling in this book, and the fabulous images by Leonid Gore make it a work of art. The author's note at the conclusion of the book gives a wonderful historical perspective on the legend.
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