Katarina Ballerina

S. & S./Aladdin. (Katarina Ballerina). Jun. 2020. 192p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781534452763.
Gr 3-6–On her walk to school, Katarina stops and watches beautiful ballet on a New York City storefront television as she dreams of being a dancer. Her struggle at the school talent show proves that it’s not as easy as it looks, so she enrolls in ballet school where her bright red leotard and curly hair don’t quite fit the mold. Katarina quickly realizes that there is more to learn in order to fit into this new world; but her love of ballet and hard work mean that anything is possible as she overcomes obstacles and self-doubt. The message that staying true to one’s identity takes priority over fitting into expectations is a positive one, although Katarina’s challenges are a little too easily resolved. Her single father has financial difficulties but the consequences never seem more than theoretical. The secondary characters, which include a supportive subway busker and ice-queen class bully, are fairly one-dimensional. Katarina’s best friend Sunny is largely a tool to further the plot, first helping Katarina improve her technical ability, then causing conflict, then getting hurt at just the right time for Katarina to step up and shine. The outcomes, while predictable, are still enjoyable. Katarina is a likeable and relatable protagonist. There are appearances by the author, a self-insertion that will please ballet fans familiar with Peck’s celebrated ballet career, in which she offers kind and sage advice. Cute illustrations and a pleasant font increase readability and appeal.
VERDICT Young dance enthusiasts will jeté with joy for this lighthearted pursuit of a dream.

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