I think I mentioned recently that Jacob took up golf this year, and we looked for golf books. Well, Molly took up ballet right around the same time, and we didn’t have to look for ballet books – they practically fell of the library and bookstore shelves into our waiting arms. There are TONS of books about little girls and ballet, since those two things go together like little girls and pink, or little girls and princesses! But it doesn’t mean they are all great books, and we did our fair share of weeding to get rid of the books that were frothy nothings filled with sappy stories and pretty pink tutus. Just as we looked hard to find the right fit for a ballet class (the kids that would encourage imagination and expression through movement, not mindless repetition, endless competition and eventual eating disorders), we have looked hard to find ballet books that belong on our bookshelf. So these come with the Molly AND Mommy stamps of approval.
Tallulah’s Tutu by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
This is Molly’s favorite of the ballet books. The story is fairly simple and predictable (Tallulah wants a tutu, quits ballet when she doesn’t get one immediately, and then realizes how much she dancing and doesn’t mind working and waiting for her tutu) but the pictures are gorgeous, and the details enchanting – especially how everything reminds Tallulah of ballet, like the clock doing ronds de jambe. The endpapers, illustrating the positions, are a lovely touch. And just out this spring is a new Tallulah adventure – Tallualh’s Solo. Both books include her little brother, Beckett, which is a nice touch for little girls with brothers.
Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird, illustrated by Helen Craig
A book that needs n introduction, it nonetheless refuses to be left off the list, as it’s where most ballet loving girls first find ballet in a book. Almost thirty years after her creation, Angelina is still beloved by little girls everywhere, and with good reason. She’s charming, cute without being cutesy, and it’s a situation little girls and parents alike can relate to – trying to channel all that energy and devotion into a positive force, instead of a disruptive one. And if you like Angelina, you’ve got plenty of reading (and playing and watching) lined up as there are dozens of books as well as a cartoon, dolls, puzzles and more.
Miss Lina’s Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone, illustrated by Christine Davenier
If Mol likes Tallulah, I like Miss Lina! There are inevitable comparisons to Bemelmans’ Madeline, of course, but it’s a charming book about dancing, friendship and even math all on it’s own. The simple rhyming text, the Parisian feel, the beautiful pastel illustrations make it a book that is easy and enjoyable to read over and over. It’s also the start of a series (aren’t they all!) with a second book already out (in which a boy joins the class!) and a new one coming this fall.
Belinda the Ballerina by Amy Young
Most ballet books for little girls are very soft and very pink. They are pretty and delicate. They are girly – aggressively girly. But that’s not for every girl (or every mom). Belinda is not soft and delicate, nor is her book. She is a bit gangly and very bright. Belinda is a wonderful dancer with two big problems – her enormous feet. Laughed off stage, she gives up dancing forever. Or has she? It’s not only a great story about following your dream, it’s a nice visual encouragement for the little girl who doesn’t see perfection when she dances, but loves it anyway. (Oh yes, Belinda also has two more books too – luckily they are as whimsical, funny and bright as this first book!)
Ella Bella Ballerina Books by James Mayhew
The Ella Bella books aren’t masterpieces, but they are sweet and kind of comforting in their repetition (Ella Bella hears the music from a magic music box and is transported into a classic ballet) and the pictures are that ballet-delicate look you instantly recognize. What I like about them is that each book introduces the audience to the storyline of a classic ballet, and the final page of the book tells about the composer and a little history of the ballet. It’s kind of like reading the Charles Lamb Tales from Shakespeare – it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s enjoyable and it sets the stage for many trips to the Music Center in the future… (I hope!)
Ballerina by Peter Sis
Sis has long been a favorite in out house – I’ve been a fan of Tibet Through the Red Box since before the kids were born, and one of Jacob’s first favorite books was Fire Truck. So we re-discovered this book when Molly started taking ballet. Though it’s really for young toddlers, it’s also a wonderful early “read to myself” book. Molly reads the book to me (she’s 5 now, and not really ready to read big words that are unfamiliar, but combo-reading/memorizing) and loves to point out the positions and talk about the costumes and ballets that the ballerina in the book does in her mirror.
I Dreamed I Was a Ballerina by Anna Pavlova, illustrated by Edgar Degas
This is the story of Anna Pavlova, and how she felt about her first trip to the ballet. The simple words, drawn directly from her memoirs, are illustrated by beautiful paintings by Degas. I love ballet (in an alternate universe, one where I don’t walk into walls, I am a ballerina) and Degas is my favorite painter, so I got this book more for me than for my daughter (though she was the excuse). To my delight, she also loves both the story and the paintings, and it led us to a trip to the museum and to a perusal of other art books to see other paintings by Degas. This book is a wonderful gift to grow with, and for mothers and daughters to read and dream together.
This isn’t a book, it’s a DVD and activity, but I can’t help but mention it. Molly is lucky enough to have found an amazing ballet teacher, one who wants her to have fun and learn to move her body and use it to tell stories. Molly can’t wait to get to ballet each week. So she was really bummed that our summer schedule of swimming and such conflicted with the times ballet was held for a month. But then we discovered that her teacher, Liz Vacco, had this wonderful DVD that we got and can do at home. So we invited some friends over and had ballet at our house for a few weeks alongside Petite Feet: Ballet Adventures with Liz. It’s great to do alongside a storytime with ballet books, and an extra added bonus was that Jacob (who won’t take the class, because “it’s all girls in tutus”) loved to dance along, too! So if you’re not strictly looking for books on ballet, but want a rainy day activity as well, I can’t recommend this enough.