Ballerina Dreams — Perfect Picture Book Friday

9780312370299_p0_v1_s260x420Title: Ballerina Dreams

Author: Lauren Thompson

Photographer: James Estrin

Publisher: New York, Feiwel and Friends, 2007.

Genre: Picture book, nonfiction

Audience Age: 4 to 8 years

Themes/topics: ballet, dreams, goals, disabilities, cerebral palsy, challenges, achievement

Opening Sentences: Ballet class is about to start, and the girls are hurrying to get ready. They pull off their coats and shoes, and pull on their ballet slippers and tutus. They look forward to class all week long.

Synopsis: From that beginning, which could be about any child’s ballet class anywhere, the reader is taken into the very special world of Joann Ferrara’s ballet class for children with physical challenges (mainly cerebral palsy), where Joann helps little girls who struggle with balance, walking, moving their arms, movement in general, “to feel like a ballerina princess.”

The book tells the story of a dance recital in which these girls get a chance to show not just their joy in being able to do ballet like their friends, but also just how much they have achieved physically. As part of the text says, “Week after week, they have practiced positions and moves that were difficult for them until they weren’t so difficult anymore. Their bodies have gotten stronger. They have learned to reach farther and stand taller than ever.” One of the girls could hardly lift her left arm at all, now she lifts it above shoulder level. One little girl is eager to show her father that she can stand by herself with the use of her cane.

Each child has a helper, who is with them through their ballet classes, and is with them on stage giving them the physical support they need to be able to dance to the best of their ability.

To see a couple of the photographic spreads from this book, and to get a better idea of what these little girls contend with in the pursuit of their dream of being ballerinas, click this link to the publisher’s website.

This is an inspiring, empowering book. Since it is a nonfiction book, there is more text than children may be used to, but it is written in an accessible manner, with enough narrative about the recital to engage young listeners. There are captions for the photos, as well – unfortunately they are in white typeface on pink pages, so they aren’t as easy to see. The book can encourage children who have physical limitations to see that they can work toward their dreams, and it can teach able children to see that differently-abled children have the same desires, dreams, hopes as they do.

Activities/Resources: Besides enrolling children in ballet or other dance classes, teachers or parents can encourage informal dance activities, simply putting on music and asking the children to express with their bodies what the music sounds like to them, what story they think the music is saying.

Familiar games can be altered to suit a dance or ballet theme, such as this suggestion for a Ballet Freeze game from Kidspot in Australia.

The KidsHealth website gives children information about cerebral palsy.

To learn more about giving kids with physical challenges a chance to dance, check out the Dancing Dreams website.

Availability: Readily available in hardcover.


Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


26 thoughts on “Ballerina Dreams — Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. I’m not usually a big fan of nonfiction, but this looks like a winner. I agree about the pink and white making the text difficult to read, but what a message! And the pictures are worth it. Great choice, Beth.

    1. Thanks, Genevieve. I came across this book by accident — except that in such a case, I don’t think it was an accident at all. It is, indeed, a winner.

  2. Oh, wow, Beth! What an absolutely wonderful book! I love the whole idea – of the class and the book. How empowering, as you say, and how right that every girl who dreams of being a ballerina should have the chance to try. And for these girls to improve their physical abilities and therefore their quality of life as a result is especially wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing this one – it was worth the wait! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Susanna! Glad you think it was worth the wait! It happened to be sitting open on display on a shelf I walked past in the library. If it hadn’t been up like that, I’d never have seen it, because I don’t usually check the nonfiction shelves. I was totally delighted with the book!

  3. The subject matter of this picture book is heart warming. It is good to share with a child so they can see the importance of trying to do your best, and the benefits, no matter what your situation is in life 🙂

  4. Beth, I cannot tell you how happy I am that you introduced me to this book! I can’t wait to buy it and read it. As a dancer (and as someone who anticipated entering the workforce quite poor), I’ve wondered how I would be able to continue dancing while still being able to eat. The answer I found was that if I joined a Company, I’d be able to teach and that would cut down on my dance expenses. After your write up and preview of this book, the only kind of dance instruction I want to do ever is this type! How beautiful this woman is to help every little girl find her inner ballerina!

    1. Oh, wow, Anjelica! This is so exciting! And because of your proximity to NYC, you can actually go to Joann’s class and learn about what they do in person!

      1. Hi, Beth! I just saw your reply to my comment from the other day (or yesterday?) when I came to check on today’s comment! I pop over from time to time, but I hardly ever leave comments on any of the blogs I read (big mistake, I know). But when you started blogging about ballet, well, I just had to leave you comments saying that I love that you’re talking about ballet. I’d love to go visit this studio and see what they’re doing in person! If you’re ever at all interested in taking classes, many places do offer adult classes. Two of the three studios I’ve danced at have had very successful adult classes at differing skill levels. And I’m sure that there could be an opportunity for you to take a class or two if you wanted to while you’re at Southampton this summer. Miss you!

  5. Oh Beth this sounds lovely…similar to my young friend’s 4th Wall theater co. For kids with special needs. I will call this to her attention too. FYI I did not see this linked on Susanna’s blog.

    1. Great — I’m delighted that you’ll share it with your friend. I’ve read about 4th Wall Theater. And thanks for reminding me about my link!!!

  6. Oh!! I am in love with this book already! What a fabulous fabulous story! Me and my buddy Walker and the Mom Person spend a lot of time working and playing with kids like these who have such big dreams and big hearts! It makes me jump for joy when I see them achieve the seemingly impossible! I’m going to be looking for this book. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Oh, Rhythm — I’m so glad you’re going to check for this book. You and Walker and the Mom Person will love it, I am sure.

    1. Thanks, Joanna! It found me — I was walking past a shelf in the library, and it was standing up on display. I’m so glad it was!

  7. Diane…what a perfect find! Thanks for adding it to the list and doing a great review. As you point out, it is an important book for children who are ‘able’ and those who are ‘differently-abled’…in one way or another, we are all ‘differently-abled’.:) And hurray for the people who do this kind of work!

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