Movement and music unite when we dance. These books about dance and dancers for all ages of children express the beauty and challenge of this elegant art form.
“Emma and Julia Love Ballet” by Barbara McClintock, 2016, Scholastic, ages 4-8.
Emma, a young girl, and Julia, a professional ballerina, both love ballet. Barbara McClintock’s detailed ink and watercolor illustrations compare and contrast a day in the life of these two individual dancers, and the time at the end of the day when they meet each other, share a hug between two kindred ballet spirits.
“Princess! Fairy! Ballerina!” by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, 2016, Arthur A. Levine Books, ages 4-7.
Three young friends must choose between playing princess, fairy, or ballerina. Each little girl believes her choice is best and tries to convince the others. An unlikely bystander inspires the girls to compromise and play in a way that lets each one be alone together. Beautiful watercolor illustrations invite readers to experience each girl’s enchanted play land.
“Bea in the Nutcracker” by Rachel Isadora, 2015, Penguin Books, ages 4-7.
Young girl and boy dancers perform a simple version of the beloved Nutcracker, with Bea as Clara and Sam as the Prince. As the children dance their way through the story, readers will marvel at the pencil, ink, and oil paint illustrations giving detailed images of costumes and ballet form and positions. The author, Rachel Isadora, is a former dancer and past recipient of the Caldecott Honor Award for the illustrations in “Ben’s Trumpet”.
“My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey” by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James E. Ransome, 2015, Simon & Schuster, ages 7-12.
As an African –American boy growing up in Miami, Robert Battle found movement to be a way to express his emotions. Whether through martial arts or ballet, Robert felt himself come alive, and this momentum carried him through teasing on the playground or the Juilliard School in New York. Robert went on to create his own dance company and lead the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Husband and wife team, Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome create an exquisite tribute to Battle’s accomplishments. Illustrations drawn with pastels capture the sense of movement so crucial to Battle’s life and story.
“So You Want to Be a Dancer?” by Laurel van der Linde, 2015, Aladdin, 200 pages, ages 10 and up.
This informational book presents middle-grade children with the details of what it takes to become a professional dancer. Features include interviews with professional dancers, definitions of dance terms, and biographies of dancers who have struggled and survived. Bulleted lists, word searches, and short chunks of text make this book appealing to readers who may only want snippets of dance information.
“Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Ballerina” by Michaela DePrince, with Elaine DePrince, 2014, Knopf, 249 pages, ages 10 and up.
As a young girl, Mabinty Bangura’s father was killed and her mother died of illness. Refusing to take on another mouth to feed in war-torn Sierra Leone, Mabinty’s uncle sold her to an orphanage. A picture of a ballerina found in an old magazine filled Mabinty with hope and inspiration. Upon her adoption by American parents, who named her Michaela, she shared her dream of becoming a ballerina. Michaela’s early life challenges served to give her the strength she would need to become a professional ballerina.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler