GirlChild is currently obsessed with all things ballet. Sure, she can’t walk across a room without bumping into something or tripping over her own feet (case in point: the self-proclaimed “wounds” on and under her nose from the face-plant she did on the sidewalk right before church Sunday morning!), but she has dreams of being gracefully en pointe before an audience of thousands (or so), and she will check out any book at the library with a ballerina on the front. Therefore, this month’s theme is ballet!
Invitation to Ballet: A Celebration of Dance and Degas, by Carolyn Vaughn, works of art by Edgar Degas, illustrations by Rachel Isadora: This nonfiction book introduces children to the basics of dance–from attire and classes to the various positions, steps, and jumps–using brief blocks of text and illustrations of children performing the discussed exercises. It also discusses performances and famous ballets and showcases the art of Edgar Degas. The final part of the book gives a brief history of ballet and selected biography of Degas. Includes an index and an appendix of the works of art included. A perfect book to share with any child who shows an interest in ballet, whether he or she has experience with classes or is just intrigued. (Read-aloud for early elementary, independent reading from middle to upper elementary. GirlChild–a preschooler–loves it read aloud in small doses with plenty of time to practice the exercises!) You can even buy the book with a tutu for dress-up or with a tutu and a ballerina doll from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (if you’ve got cash to spare!)!
Bea at Ballet, by Rachel Isadora: Featuring Bea, a little dancer with a definite preschool physique, this book is a simple introduction to ballet for the very young. Bea and her classmates show off their dance attire, the different positions, poses, and the ways dancers use their feet. The characters–both male and female dancers–are drawn in black and white, but their clothing is painted in bright colors. An excellent primer for toddlers and preschoolers who might be attending their first dance classes. Rachel Isadora is a former dancer who turned to art professionally after an injury. She won a Caldecott Honor in 1980 for the book Ben’s Trumpet and has also written other books about ballet (such as Max, the story of a young baseball player who finds that dance helps him excel athletically).
Brontorina, by James Howe, illustrated by Randy Cecil: Brontorina is a ballerina at heart, and she dreams of dancing. While Madame Lucille has some reservations at first about a dinosaur dancing ballet, Brontorina–with the help of willing classmates and instructor–overcomes her obstacles and inspires Madame Lucille to open a dance academy with “room for everyone” (even dinosaurs…and cows). Fun for preschoolers to early elementary.
Little Ballet Star, by Adèle Geras, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas: Tilly is a young ballet student whose aunt is performing in a production of The Sleeping Beauty and takes her backstage before the show as a special birthday treat. She gets to experience all the pre-production preparations–getting a little stage make-up and even her own dancing fairy costume–before joining her mother to watch the show. After the curtain falls, her aunt reappears on stage and invites Tilly up to perform a special birthday dance in front of the audience. The illustrations are detailed and cute, and they show many different ballet positions and steps. Ms. Geras has written other Tilly books (all about ballet) as well. A very cute series for any aspiring little ballerinas preschool to early elementary.
Belinda Begins Ballet, by Amy Young: This prequel to the Belinda the Ballerina books tells about how Belinda of the very large feet first became a dancer. Also check out Belinda, the Ballerina, Belinda in Paris, and Belinda and the Glass Slipper (reviewed in the Cinderella theme). Preschool to early elementary readers and listeners will enjoy hearing about Belinda! (You can read this title online at Belinda Begins Ballet – Read | We Give Books.)
The Nutcracker, by Susan Jeffers: Susan Jeffers’ beautiful art makes this basic retelling of the Nutcracker ballet perfect for fans at Christmas (the setting of the story) or any time! She accepted this writing proposal so that she could preserve the integrity of the ballet as well as make the story accessible for young children. The paintings show a lot of dancing (not all ballet) and elaborate dress in smaller panes and full-spread images. Although it’s a good read-aloud for preschoolers through early elementary, early middle elementary readers and children who love picture-reading will enjoy it independently. If your child participates in the Nutcracker ballet at some point, this would make a great gift to commemorate the performance!
Rufus the Scrub Does Not Wear a Tutu, by Jamie McEwan: Rufus is clumsy on the football field, and he finally takes his mom’s advice to join a ballet class to learn some grace on his feet. His teammates and even his coach tease him, but who’s laughing when Rufus’ new skills win a big game? Another sports-themed early chapter book by the author of Willy the Scrub and Whitewater Scrubs, this book was selected as a Gryphon Award Honor Book in 2008 by the Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois (my library school alma mater!).
Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance, by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall: This sixth installment in the Ivy and Bean series has the two second-grade girls caught in a promise to stick out the ballet classes they begged their parents for, only to realize that it wasn’t the crazy good time they had envisioned. Read-aloud for early elementary, independent reading for the intended age group and above.
My Ballet Book, by Kate Castle: Like most books by DK Publishing, My Ballet Book is absolutely packed full of photographs, illustrations, art reprints, and a huge amount of information about ballet. Written for middle elementary and up, this book is a treasure trove of ballet history and detailed information about the world of ballet that the casual ballet enthusiast might never know.
Angelfish, by Laurence Yep: This fiction book for upper elementary to middle school readers features a young, half Chinese ballet student who has just landed a role as Beauty in a recital when she accidentally breaks the window of a shop (when messing around with her friends from ballet class) and has to work for the grouchy Chinese owner who refers to her as “half a person” because of her mixed heritage in order to pay it off and keep from being grounded from the performance. Third in a series about the main character, Robin Lee, and her family; the series also includes Ribbons and The Cook’s Family (and both also feature ballet). Laurence Yep is probably best known for his Newbery Honor books Dragonwings and Dragon’s Gate.
Babypro, Volume 3: Let’s Dance & Tumble!: Both BoyChild and GirlChild loved watching this short video and dancing along. GirlChild particularly enjoyed watching the professionals perform (there are toddler, youth, and professional segments), and BoyChild loved when the little ones were playing. An excellent video to encourage movement and dance (instead of sitting like a lump)!
As a child, my sister and I danced our own amateur version of ballet to classical records my parents bought at the grocery store, and despite my frequent need as an adult to tell my students (after I tipped off of a stool or tripped on my pants leg in the hallway) that there was a reason I was a teacher and not a ballerina, I understand GirlChild’s need to twirl! There are many, many more books on ballet available for children–just check your local library!