A title sure to attract ballet aficionados, with added appeal for its depiction of an adoptive family and a ballerina who...

BALLERINA DREAMS

FROM ORPHAN TO DANCER

This autobiographical title for newly independent readers will reward efforts with an inspiring story about ballerina Michaela DePrince’s life and passion for dance.

Orphaned as a young child in Sierra Leone, Michaela is a shy girl whose vitiligo causes a loss of pigmentation on parts of her body. This makes her an easy target for teasing, but another child at the orphanage, Mia, befriends her. Another bright spot occurs when she is transfixed by a magazine picture of a ballerina. When an American family adopts her and Mia, their new mother promises that they will study ballet. Michaela’s dreams come true, and she overcomes her shyness in order to perform as a ballerina. The narrative is broken up into chapters detailing her ongoing achievements, and difficult vocabulary is followed by parenthetical phonetic spellings to support decoding. Photographs document Michaela’s life, including images of her time in the orphanage and of her participation in a film entitled First Position, among other highlights. These are interspersed with illustrations that depict ballet positions and Michaela on stage and in class. At its heart is the core message that hard work and determination are the keys to making any dream come true. 

A title sure to attract ballet aficionados, with added appeal for its depiction of an adoptive family and a ballerina who just happens to be black. (Early reader/memoir. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-75516-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

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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Young readers with a fondness for amphibians will jump all over this one. (Fiction. 6-8)

STINK AND THE FREAKY FROG FREAKOUT

From the Stink series , Vol. 8

Stink Moody, younger brother of Judy, hops into the spotlight with a common problem—and  one that’s a bit more unusual.

Stink would like to advance in his swimming lessons, but he’s afraid to put his face underwater and seems doomed to remain a Polliwog forever. Fortunately, he’s distracted from that issue by the sudden appearance around town—in some surprising places—of a whole lot of real frogs, a few of which are deformed. These frogs give McDonald the opportunity to offer a little information, through the voice of a nature-center guide, on how adverse environmental conditions can influence frog development. Stink memorizes a variety of frog sounds, enabling him to participate in a frog count at a local pond. Somehow, he becomes convinced that he’s turning into a frog himself, but that might just make it possible for him to swim underwater. Brief, cheery, oversized text and lot of cartoonish black-and-white illustrations (only some of which were available for review) make this a good choice for newly independent readers. A minor issue is that the text informs readers that it is early spring; even in Virginia, that’s a little early for Stink to be taking swimming lessons in an outdoor pool, as indicated in the illustrations.

Young readers with a fondness for amphibians will jump all over this one. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6140-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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