Beginning ballet class is quite an adventure for Billie and her best friend, Jack.
Both start ballet with Miss Dainty as their teacher. Miss Dainty plays a “tinkly butterfly tune” for the girls and tells them to wave and flutter their arms. For the boys, she plays a “deep, stomping troll tune” to which they can make noise and chase the butterflies. Billie is a total failure at delicacy, knocking into and banging everything and everyone in her path. After dinner, the two best friends turn down dessert in favor of practicing their moves for the next class. Suddenly, Jack has an epiphany. His moves are delicate, so he will be the butterfly. Billie’s moves are aggressive and bold, so she will be the troll. Back in class, their teacher is pleased and accepting. Rippin’s description of a ballet class lacks any substance and is more suited to one for interpretive dance. She does not mention first steps or arm movements or even make a reference to a barre. The gender message—that girls and boys are not inherently gentle or fierce—is delivered with a wallop. Bold type highlights words more for appearance than for vocabulary. Occasional spot art does not compensate for the weakness of the text.
Emerging readers, particularly those who are knowledgeable about dance, will be better served by other stories. (Fiction. 7-10)