Project Description


The Last Dance

by Carmen Agra Deedy
illustrated by Debrah Santini

A beautiful picture book for older readers about life, death, and the enduring power of love from award-winning author and storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy.

Bessie and Ninny are the best of friends. Sometimes on milk-moon nights, Ninny throws buttons at Bessie’s window. When Bessie peeps outside, Ninny sings: “Bessie, oh Bessie! Come dance with me! For I hate to dance alone…”

Down the drainpipe Bessie slides to visit Ninny, and off they go. Most nights, they visit the grave of Ninny’s grandfather, Oppa. It was Oppa who taught them three things that they will never forget: to dance, to sing, and to tell stories. Oppa’s wisdom ultimately inspires a pact between the two young friends—a pact that binds them together through love and marriage, war and separation, birth and death.

In this simple but extraordinary story, New York Times best-selling author Carmen Agra Deedy speaks to readers about the value of promises and the limitless power of love even in the face of death.

Format: Hardcover
Price: $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-109-8
Publication Date: 10/1/1995
Page Count: 32
Size: 7″ x 12-1/2″
Age Range: 8 – 12
Language: English
AR Level: 3.9
F&P: GRL R, Gr 4, Genre HF
Lexile: AD580L
Themes: Death, Friendship, Love


“Deedy lovingly lulls readers into the intimacy of the reminiscence… Santini’s watercolors, sometimes vague, mostly dreamy, enhance the feeling of events recalled through time…. Use this with older readers as a fine example of what family history can be. It’s like a full cloth made from the remnants of people’s lives, with all the humor, pathos, and drama that’s necessary for a very effective, personal sort of storytelling.” ―Booklist

“My young jury asked to have [The Last Dance] read to them again-and they got the point: ‘Those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told.’ Debrah Santini’s masterful sketches and watercolors tell as much as the text.” ―Robert D. Hale, Horn Book Magazine

“This tale of love and memory, spun on illustrations as light and rich as gossamer, is a beautiful reminder that picture books are truly a form of art that speaks to the heart no matter one’s age… The Last Dance is a book for anyone who wants to remember and to rejoice in the enduring powers of love.” ―Children’s Book Review

“This traditional tale could be used in an elementary classroom for literacy or art.” ―For the Love of Reading


Not Just for Children Anymore! ―Children’s Book Council, 1999

Best Books for Young Teen Readers ―R. R. Bowker

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Meet the Author

Author Carmen Agra Deedy

Carmen Agra Deedy, a New York Times bestselling author, has been writing and traveling around the world telling stories for more than twenty years. Her books have received numerous awards and honors. Carmen has performed in many prestigious venues, but children are her favorite audience. Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the United States as a refugee and like most immigrants sees the world from multiple perspectives. She lives in Georgia. You can visit her website here.

Meet the Illustrator

Debrah Santini has illustrated a number of children’s books. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is a faculty member of the art department at West Georgia College.