Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Where's the Ballerina?

Where's the Ballerina?
written by Anna Claybourne; illustrated by Abigail Goh
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

You'll soon discover how the best ballets are full of funny mix-ups, thrilling drama, and most important, huge casts of wonderful characters in colorful costumes. 

I don't know squat about ballet. I don't know a passe from a forward pass. I don't know a plie from a pair of pliers. But I really like this book. Ten famous ballets are spotlighted. Each ballet is summarized in a two page spread. It starts with a paragraph that provides the setting and some background for the story. From a teacher's perspective, I appreciate this frontloading. Then, the story is told in a sequence of 7-8 paragraphs. Each paragraph is accompanied by an illustration featuring ballet dancers. Also included is an illustrated set of main characters. That's important because each two page summary is followed by another two page spread that is a dazzling search and find based on the setting of the story. It's the job of the reader to find the characters in the search and find. They can also look for a ballet dancer and a peacock who are in all ten search and find sets. These are elaborate pieces of artwork. It occurred to me that you could use this book to talk about different types of architecture across the ages. Another cool aspect of Where's the Ballerina? is that you are introducing classic stories to students. Look at this list: Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, The Nutcracker, La Bayadere, Coppelia, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Cinderella. You're going to be smarter for having read this book. When you hear that someone is tilting at windmills or being puckish, you will get the meaning since you learned about it in Don Quixote and A Midsummer Night's Dream. That's pretty impressive for a search and find! I learned about stories I've heard mentioned all of my life, but never bothered to check out. Want another way you could use this in a classroom? How about comparing characters? There are plenty of heroes and villains in these stories.

This is such a smart way to introduce ballet to students. They will start with the search and find, but will also be pulled in to the stories. You can introduce tragedies and comedies, universal themes, and other literary terms to older students. The artwork is fabulous and could be used to teach landscapes and architecture. You will do a peppy pirouette at the possibilities presented in Where's the Ballerina?

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