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Independent-minded, forest-animal children present a choreography challenge for their ballet teacher in this picture book.

Writer and illustrator Lee offers a delightful premise about choreographing a recital featuring young dancers bent on performing their favorite, individual dance moves–to the exclusion of all others. Ballet teacher Ms. Berry solves the dancing dilemma by giving the animal children roles showcasing each one’s specialty. This clever solution surely comes as a relief to adult readers who remember dreary dance classes where tiny participants brought the instructor’s dreams to life instead of their own. Particularly charming are illustrations in which a young rabbit and, later, a young mouse, perform their favorite steps with gusto and confidence. However, some of the illustrations lack sophistication and the typeface sacrifices clarity for creativity. The prose occasionally lacks the lyrical quality prized in picture books–the genre calls for an economy of carefully selected words, but this story disregards that convention. The slim book also suffers from a number of errors. Plié, used numerous times, is spelled without its accent mark and never defined. The author provides generic descriptions for several other maneuvers. The innovative Ms. Berry’s choreography involves each child’s favorite dance move followed by a chain-reaction response from the next performer. It’s a complex set of activities which could have been more clearly explained by the text and illustrations. The book ends abruptly when the recital is finished, which is a misstep in terms of plot development–it misses an opportunity to share the parents’ or dancers’ reactions to this innovative show, or offer a lesson for young readers regarding working as a team while spotlighting individual talent.

A picture book with promise but insufficient polish.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1439209165
Program: Kirkus Indie
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