A nervous young girl dances her way into a more confident version of herself.
Ballet auditions can be daunting. Readers are introduced to the heroine of Peoples-Riley’s debut picture book as she stands before the imposing Dance Theater Studio doors, which loom larger than life on the page. The ballerina protagonist—a freckle-faced girl of color with a mass of tight, red curls—hunches with her arms folded, cowed by her surroundings, until she receives a much-needed intervention from her sprightly shadow-self. Posed with hands thrust confidently on her hips, the tutu-clad shadow leads the young girl on a magical dancing adventure through New York, rather like a female Peter Pan, demonstrating to readers the importance of believing in oneself. The author/illustrator makes excellent use of simple, lyrical prose and perspective to convey the heroine’s intimidation and then her growing self-confidence as she absorbs the lessons her shadow-self provides. New York City, in particular Central Park, is a wonderful supporting character in this delightful tale. Most importantly the book contains a crucial message of female empowerment that is also linked to the rigors of dance. Often ballet is chided for its ruthless treatment of women, but this story showcases its ability to instill grace and poise in the protagonist while also helping her to discover inner strength and resilience.
A beautiful tribute to the power of dance that is a must-read for younger aspiring ballerinas. (Picture book. 2-5)