A troupe of picture books about ballerinas has recently danced their way onto my desk…and except for the fact that several of them are pink (VERY pink—but more about that later), I have enjoyed all of them.
Real ballerinas work hard to achieve their dreams, and the same is true for the picture-book ballerinas. Whatever their species, these young dancers present wonderful examples of patience, persistence, and friendship.
Species? Yes, indeed, for not only little human girls dream about being ballerinas! Mice, dogs, and even dinosaurs are eager to learn to do the plie and pirouette and arabesque.
In Miss Tutu’s Star, Selena and the other girls in Miss Tutu’s class are not particularly graceful, but they are passionate, and with their teacher’s encouragement, put on a first recital that is delightful, if not very elegant.
Tallulah must earn her tutu (Tallulah’s Tutu), and when she doesn’t receive one right away, she quits ballet. But everything she sees reminds her of ballet (even the basset hound looks like it stands in second position), and Tallulah realizes that ballet is about more than the tutu. (Tallulah’s Tutu will be out on March 21.)
Miss Lina’s Ballerinas also presents a math lesson. Reminiscent of Madeline, eight little ballerinas gracefully dance in four rows of two—at school, to the park, and through the town— until the addition of a new girl results in chaos. With patience and practice, the nine young students learn to dance in three rows of three.
Mimi, a little mouse, wants nothing more than to perform on stage and to hear the audience cry, “Brava, Mimi!” Since she isn’t beautiful or talented, will her determination—and a few ballet lessons—be enough? Brava, Mimi! is for everyone who sees what they could be.
These four picture books should be very popular with young girls, especially if they share the dream of dancing. But, in my experience (as the mom of two boys and the former daycare mom of many more), boys are often turned off by pink and by books mostly about girls. But they love to dance.
When my boys, Alex and Nathan, were eight and three years old respectively, we saw Amahl and the Night Visitors, performed by the James Sewell Ballet in Minneapolis. The show was beautiful, the dancers graceful, and the music lovely. And my boys sat as still as statues, entranced with the movement and the story. For weeks, they leaped and whirled as they acted out the tale.
So here are two books for boys like my sons and my daycare boys who loved to dance.
In Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, a young dancer’s dog thinks he is a ballet dancer. He watches ballet and follows his young owner to dance classes, despite dad’s derisive, “Dogs don’t do ballet!” When he sneaks into a ballet, however, he saves the day—and proves that dogs CAN do ballet.
In Brontorina, a young but very large Apatosaurus has her heart set on becoming a dancer. At first the other students complain about her size and her lack of proper footwear, but soon the boys and girls accept her. When the teacher realizes that the problem isn’t Brontorina, but the studio (it’s too small), she relocates to the outdoors and welcomes in other dinosaurs as well.
For more titles on ballerinas and dancing, please see Mackin’s Hot Topics list on dance.
Brava, Mimi! by Helga Bansch. 2010.
Brontorina by James Howe. 2010.
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp. 2010. Miss Lina’s Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone. 2010.
Miss Tutu’s Star by Leslea Newman. 2010.
Tallulah’s Tutu by Marilyn Singer. 2011. (advance copy)