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by Shana Corey & illustrated by Pamela Paparone

Age Range: 3 - 6

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-375-81416-7
Publisher: Random House

Bernice the bear isn’t very successful as a budding ballerina, but she keeps taking lessons and keeps practicing, even though her leaps land in lumps and her pliés in plops. Corey, author of the First Graders from Mars series, infuses her ursine heroine with a strong attitude of confidence, enough for Bernice to keep dancing even when told she “will never be a ballerina.” Bernice finds a perfect partner in Bertram the bear, who dances exquisitely but boringly. As a team, Bernice (with her humorous antics) and Bertram (with his polished and perfect steps) perform at their spring recital, offsetting each other’s flaws and charming the audience. Paparone (The Little School Bus, p. 810, etc.) provides a cast of amusing animal characters in her jewel-toned illustrations, with a pleasingly plump Bernice who fills out her leotard as a healthy bear should. The animals convey the idea of ballet movements and positions rather than precise ballet technique, and Bertram’s supposedly perfect dancing is not reflected in the illustrations. (He doesn’t point his toes when dancing, for example.) But ballet technique is not the point here, as it is Bernice’s unshakable confidence that is the story’s gentle message, a refreshing change from baby ballerinas who steal the spotlight due to extraordinary talent. (Picture book. 3-6)