Finding My Dance

by Ria Thundercloud (Author) Kalila J Fuller (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

In her debut picture book, professional Indigenous dancer Ria Thundercloud tells the true story of her path to dance and how it helped her take pride in her Native American heritage.

At four years old, Ria Thundercloud was brought into the powwow circle, ready to dance in the special jingle dress her mother made for her. As she grew up, she danced with her brothers all over Indian country. Then Ria learned more styles--tap, jazz, ballet--but still loved the expressiveness of Indigenous dance. And despite feeling different as one of the only Native American kids in her school, she always knew she could turn to dance to cheer herself up. Follow along as Ria shares her dance journey--from dreaming of her future to performing as a professional--accompanied by striking illustrations that depict it while bringing her graceful movements to life.

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Kirkus Reviews

A moving picture book about the resilience one can find in one's cultural inheritance.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 3-5--The artist known as "Beautiful Thunder Woman" chronicles her career, beginning with a jingle dress her mother made for her. She traveled across the country with her family dancing the "Pow Wow Trail." Beautiful Thunder Woman explored other forms of dance, but found "classical dance is rigid and structured, while [her] traditional dance is more grounded and expressive." Beautiful Thunder Woman pushed through, joined a dance group, and won prizes. As the only Native American in her school, she was too shy to correct people who mispronounced her name, but "I could always dance it out and feel better." Eventually, she danced her way around the world. The tale comes full circle when Beautiful Thunder Woman has her daughter, and corrects people who say her name wrong, "so she will correct them also. Every time someone says our names, they are speaking a language that still exists, and a culture we still honor, despite many attempts to wipe it out forever." The text is in a different font and color when she explains something of importance to her. Richly colored illustrations convey movement, from the shawl's fringe to the eagle wings. Native American art motifs are woven throughout, including patterns on the end pages. With so little on this subject available outside of Indigenous communities, and even less written down, this is a compelling volume of a life and the importance of self-expression, as well as the protection of custom. VERDICT A warmly illustrated memoir of dance and culture, this will have broad appeal about using art for expression and to overcome difficulties.--Tamara Saarinen

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Ria Thundercloud
Ria Thundercloud (she/her) is from the Ho-Chunk Nation and Sandia Pueblo. She holds strong ties to her kinship in the Southwest and North, practicing both styles of traditional dance. She started training in classical dance at the age of thirteen, went professional at sixteen, and has traveled internationally as a cultural ambassador and professional dancer. Ria is a 2019 graduate from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Indigenous Liberal Studies and is a holistic yoga teacher from the Healing Lotus Center. Her art is influenced by the women who came before her, reclaiming stories of matriarchs that highlight the resilience and knowledge of Indigenous women.

Kalila J. Fuller (she/her) was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to draw inspiration from her childhood amongst the fir trees. She graduated from the Pacific Northwest College of Art with a degree in illustration. She loves dogs, watching cartoons, and drinking chai lattes.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 13, 2022
BISAC categories
JNF007060 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Performing Arts
JNF018040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
Library of Congress categories

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