Manchester native Aaron Tolson has a successful career as a professional tap dancer and teacher. But this year, he is embarking on another art form: writing children’s books. The book is set in Bedford and follows a tap dancing fairy named Steve.
Tolson tells NHPR Morning Edition host Rick Ganley how Tolson’s bedtime stories for his children inspired the new book, Little tap shoes.
Rick Ganley: Hello. Thank you very much for coming. It’s a really, really sweet story. It’s about a fairy named Steve who likes to tap dance. So what made you want to write a children’s book?
Aaron Tolson: Honestly, it just comes down to my kids. We read books at night, then when we were done reading books, they sat next to each other and I told them stories. And Steve was a regular character in all of these stories. So I was talking to them. I said, “You know, we really like it. Maybe other people would like it too. Should dad write a book?” And they were like, “Absolutely, Dad.” And it’s like my kids’ vocabulary, “Absolutely, Dad, you have to do this.” And that’s what I did.
Rick Ganley: So tell me more about the book. Who is the main character of the book?
Aaron Tolson: Well, the main character of the book is Steve the fairy, and the book is about his dance exploits and encounters in the human world. It is quite a fun and exciting adventure that he is going on. And I didn’t want him to have some kind of mystical, magical name that no one has ever heard of. I wanted people to feel like fairies are just normal. Here they are. They exist and they are there. One happens to live in Bedford, New Hampshire. And my kids love fairies and mermaids, so it made sense to give it a very normal name and bring it to life in our neighborhood.
Rick Ganley: So you grew up in New Hampshire? Tell me, what are some of the New Hampshire influences that a reader might find here?
Aaron Tolson: Well, there are definitely some local destinations there. So Steve’s house is in an ice cream shop in Bedford, New Hampshire called Inside Scoop. And I cleared it with Inside Scoop so I could use it. They love that Steve lives there. And, you know, the area where he lives and the things that happen in the book are very New Hampshire. And I think by doing that, it can attract readers from everywhere. Very often these stories that we hear about happen in big cities, but a lot of people don’t live in big cities. So I want it to be in a setting where many, many people can relate to. And if you’re from a city, you always get it.
Rick Ganley: Speaking of the big city, I know you tapped everywhere. I know you worked a lot in Manhattan. Tell me about tap dancing, though. This is sometimes considered a kind of old fashioned art form.
Aaron Tolson: Old fashioned, sure. I mean, tap dancing was born here in America. It starts in the slave fields, where people who were enslaved communicated through drums and the owners passed a law called the Negro Act, took the drums away. So what are they doing? They created another way to be percussive and communicate, and that’s where tap dancing was born. And then it continues through other cultures that see and imitate. And that’s where it goes to the minstrel stages and then it goes to vaudeville and Broadway. And here we are.
Rick Ganley: And do you see a revised and renewed interest in the faucet these days?
Aaron Tolson: You know, more people are tap dancing than ever before in history. In the early 80s, people were saying it was a dying art form, it was going away, but it never happened. He never left. It was just a bit underground. And now there are conventions and tap festivals. When there’s no pandemic, there’s a tap festival every weekend somewhere in the world, and there are huge pockets of tap dancers in Japan, Brazil and Canada. Like, it’s not just here. And I get to travel the world and tap dance with all these people.