The four ballets retold in this series are the most beloved and enduring of the classical and romantic repertory. Their music, choreography, and mime continue to transfix audiences and envelope them in a world of fairy dust, love, and heartbreak, and the mercurial achievements of the human body as it performs classical ballet steps unchanged for hundreds of years. Capturing this in mere words is difficult, and Geras is too absorbed in the artificiality and stilted quality of her telling to succeed. There is no attempt to convey the emotional intensity of gesture, mime, and the beautiful musical scores. In Giselle, Prince Albrecht remembers his brief love affair with the doomed Giselle. Unfortunately, the text omits the fact that Giselle is fragile and warned by her mother not to exert herself. The sequence of events in the first act is disjointed, and the description of Albrecht being forced to dance to his death by the Wilis (avenging spirits of those who die betrayed by love) in the second act is inaccurate. These are essential elements of the ballet. Sleeping Beauty (1-86233-246-0) is retold by its principal characters (dancers), but omits mention of the quintessential Rose Adagio. The Nutcracker (1-86233-226-6) is Clara’s story and is a pedestrian version of the annual Christmas favorite. Swan Lake (1-86233-231-2) resembles a Halloween tale: good battling evil, with nothing of the stirring visions of the second- and fourth-act choreography. Each title contains the same introduction, different afterwords, flowery border decorations, and pretty little color illustrations. Fans of the ballet will not be served by the poor writing and the odd choice of making the stories into memoirs or first-person narratives. In addition, only Petipa is credited as a choreographer for Swan Lake, with no mention of Lev Ivanov. Listen to recordings or find a copy of Violette Verdy’s Of Swans, Sugarplums, and Satin Slippers, illustrated by Marcia Brown. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-86233-226-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.


Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.


If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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