Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Rating: 4.5 stars
Any "So You Think You Can Dance" fans out there? I admit that I watch a few too many reality TV shows, and this dance show strikes a chord from my show choir (insert chuckle here) past. I'll spare you the details of jazz hands and glittering outfits. Debbie Allen, the author of this book, is a judge on the show and is a famous dancer (so I hear from her on the show).
Even if you don't watch the show, the book is good and the illustrations are gorgeous. But c'mon, what picture of a ballerina doesn't reach out and grab you? Doesn't a young woman stretching her legs in an impossible position while balancing on her toes just take your breath away? If you agree even half-heartedly, then you'll like this book. Or the little girl in your life will love this book.
Sassy's a young dancer from California who is mercilessly teased for being so tall. She towers above all the other dancers, and her teachers complain that they can't find her a dance partner to match her height, so she never dances in any of the recitals. Then, her dance class finds out that there's an opportunity to dance in Washington, DC, for the summer at a prestigious school. She's not sure she should try out, but she does--in a look-at-me yellow leotard, standing in the front row. She gets the attention of the Russian instructor for that, but soon holds his attention with the way she moves.
I admit that the picture where she, and only she, makes the cut brought me to tears. The expression on her face is a mix of shock and awe (in a wonderfully childish way) at herself and her potential, finally recognized by someone important. She suddenly belives in herself. She is SO proud of herself, as is her big brother, who is the leader of the pack who teases her about being tall.
This is a beautiful book, and definitely a great one for a little ballerina's library.