Ballet Picture Books

It’s the one-year anniversary of the Kid Lit Blog Hop! With lots of authors and readers blogging and spreading the word on favorite children’s books, there’s always something to discover, so hop around and find something to love!

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My newly four-year-old daughter is very excited about ballet, so here’s a round-up of four favorite picture books on that topic, plus a bonus book about fairies. I could say it’s a little girl thing, but my son also went through a ballet phase at three, insisting on wearing a leotard every day for about a month and watching ballet dvds from the library.

Tallulah's TutuTallulah’s Tutu by Marilyn Singer. Art by Alexandra Boiger. Tallulah wants a tutu more than anything, but her mother suggests taking some lessons first. It takes some effort, but Tallulah learns to focus on class and knows she’s a good ballerina. Still, she expects her tutu after her second lesson. When it doesn’t arrive after her third, she decides to give up ballet, until something happens that changes her mind. This is a lesson in perseverance, told with gentle understanding. Tallulah’s little brother wanting her to teach him, too, is adorable. Boiger’s beautiful watercolors add a lot to the story, showing Tallulah’s many imaginings in big clouds over the pictures. This is the first of a recent and ongoing series, including Tallulah’s Solo, Tallulah’s Toe Shoes, and Tallulah’s Nutcracker. I like Tallulah enough to print and cut out the paper doll and the five position flash cards which are available on the book’s web site.

dancing-in-the-wingsDancing in the Wings by Debbie Allan. Art by Kadir Nelson. Sassy is taller and has bigger feet than anyone else in her ballet class. Her brother and the other girls in her class are always mocking her for it. Still, with support from her uncle and her mother, she decides to try out for the summer ballet workshops in Washington, D.C. anyway. Bonus points for having a hard-to-find all-in-color cast of characters. The author, Debbie Allan, is herself a noted choreographer of African-American heritage, and Nelson’s oil paintings tell the story beautifully. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the amount of teasing in the book, but Sassy proves stronger than it in the end and my daughter adored the book enough that I had to renew it.

angelinaAngelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird. Illustrations by Helen Craig. A classic, with many sequels in print and dvd. Angelina the mouse can’t help dancing everywhere she goes, to the extent that she knocks things down and neglects all her other responsibilities. But enrolling in ballet school gives her the outlet she needs to have energy to devote to other things outside of class. These have a strong British village feel, and the original illustrations do wonderfully well at showing little mouse bodies doing ballet. The books have been made into TV shows (which my daughter also loved) and then had books inspired by the TV show. Unsurprisingly, it’s worth going back to the original.

Ballerina SwanBallerina Swan by Allegra Kent. Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. Somewhere in the big city, a swan falls in love with the ballet class she watches through the studio window from her pond. Eventually, she works up the courage to try to attend class. Her first try is a failure, but when a younger, friendlier teacher takes over, she tries again. It’s never clear how the swan and humans communicate – the people know that her name is Sophie – but this didn’t matter to my daughter. She loved the story of the swan learning what ballet moves were easier and harder for her body, and earning herself a part in – yes – Swan Lake. This is another one told by a professional ballerina.

Too Many FairiesToo Many Fairies Retold by Margaret Read MacDonald. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell.
A little old lady hates how much time she spends on housekeeping, and complains and complains. Then, fairies come to help her with her work. She should be happy – but they’re so noisy and so unceasing that it starts to drive her crazy. What will she do? This is a lovely folk tale, told with nice repetitive language, fun sound effects for the fairies work, and illustrated with bright, cheerful pictures.

Dance is a topic that seems to come up fairly often in for this age. From earlier this year: Giant Dance Party and Belinda the Ballerina
From my son’s preschool dance obsession: Lili at Ballet, Alley Cat’s Meow and Tessa’s Tip-Tapping Toes.
And from my Twelve Dancing Princesses reading project, a round-up of Twelve Dancing Princesses picture books.

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
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10 Responses to Ballet Picture Books

  1. Hazel Nutt says:

    Hi Just dropping by from the Kidlit Blog Hop – I’m not so much into ballet yet, but will be sure to remember this post when I do!

  2. Katie says:

    Great round-up of titles! I loved ballet as a kid, and I loved reading about it too!
    Thanks for sharing this with the Kid Lit Blog Hop. 🙂

  3. My daughter has just started ballet again after a year off because we moved. I love watching the smile on her face when she dances and I think she’ll love some of these. Angelina Ballerina is already an old favourite of hers. #kidlitbloghop

    • That sounds precious! We’re just doing books until we’re done paying for preschool – assuming she’s still interested in ballet next year. Angelina Ballerina has been sticking around for 20 years with good reason!

  4. Ah yes! Angelina Ballerina – my daughter loved her too when she was younger. Back when she actually took dance! After a few years of dance classes, we both came to realize that she was in it for the social aspect, not the actual dancing. lol Thanks for linking your post into the Kid Lit Blog Hop – it’s nice to see you there again! 🙂

    • Angelina does have sticking power! I think I only made it through one dance class myself before my mother decided I was just in it for the tutu, and made me one of my own.

      Thank you for stopping by, and for hosting the Hop!

  5. reshamad says:

    The Ballerina List is terrific. My daughter was BIG into Angelina Ballerina..although I think the story line was more interesting to her than the ballet itself!
    I will look out for the other ones at the library too and see if she would want to read those. She has taken a fancy to Fantasy right now.. so who knows 🙂
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing on Kid Lit Blog Hop.
    -Reshama @ Stackingbooks

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