A tender story that teaches young readers that ballet isn’t just about performing—it’s also about relationships

DEAR BALLERINA

For those who are starting to dream of pirouettes and pointe shoes.

In this epistolary picture book from “Little Dancer” to “Ballerina,” who responds, this young, admiring protagonist describes what she likes about ballet: tiptoeing in ballet slippers, bending and stretching, jumping and turning. Little Dancer describes how she prepares for a performance, works hard in rehearsals, enjoys getting fitted for her tutu, and delights in wearing stage makeup. Little Dancer also loves seeing Ballerina’s name sewn into her tutu; it was once Ballerina’s. Awaiting her turn to perform, Little Dancer watches Ballerina from the wings as Ballerina dances with a male lead before an eager audience. When she finally gets her turn on stage with Ballerina, Little Dancer “dream[s] of being an amazing ballerina” too. Backgrounds awash in pastel pinks, yellows, greens, and purples create a joyous mood, and the thin, sans-serif type compliments the elegance of this art form. Text and illustrations in the backmatter explain some of the accoutrements of ballet, such as needle and thread, leg warmers, and a leotard. Although the illustrations depict both Little Dancer and Ballerina with light-brown skin and show a multicultural cast of little ballerinas—both male and female—with different skin and eye colors, their uniformly round heads and body types somewhat detract from the message that ballet is truly inclusive.

A tender story that teaches young readers that ballet isn’t just about performing—it’s also about relationships .(Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3932-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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