Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DANCING IN THE WINGS by Debbie Allen

DANCING IN THE WINGS

By Debbie Allen (Author) , Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8037-2501-9
Publisher: Dial

Dancer-choreographer Allen (of Fame fame) joins forces again with Nelson (Big Jabe, p. 565) in their second dance-themed picture book, following Brothers of the Knight (1999). Sassy is a tall African-American girl of middle-school age, a serious ballet student with extra-long legs, extra-big feet, and an extra-sassy manner of speaking that earned her the unusual nickname. She bickers with her brother, trading mean-spirited insults about his big head and her big feet, and snaps out sassy retorts to snide comments from her teacher and the more petite dancers in her ballet classes. Because of her height, Sassy is not allowed to participate in her school’s dance recitals—a most unlikely situation at any ballet school in the US. Despite this lack of performing experience (and despite wearing a non-regulation, sunshine-yellow leotard to the audition with a strict Russian ballet master), Sassy wins a competition to attend a summer dance program in Washington, D.C. She finally finds her way into the spotlight there, dancing with a boy who is taller than even she is. Some of Nelson’s illustrations would have benefited from tighter art direction: the height of the Russian ballet master seems variable from page to page and the dance shoes and positions of the feet are sometimes not quite correct. Despite these minor flaws, Sassy is an appealing girl with attitude who learns to accept her less-than-perfect physical features and make the best of her talents. Little girls who long for pretty tutus and pointe shoes of their own will like this sassy lassie. (Picture book. 5-8)