Ballerina Swan

illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. unpaged. glossary. CIP. Holiday House. 2012. RTE $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2373-6. LC 2011005770.
RedReviewStarK-Gr 2—Sophie, a cygnet, courageously leaves her park pond to struggle upstairs to the dance studio that has entranced her. She attempts to join the class pliés, but is shooed away by hatchet-faced Madam Myrtle. A new teacher is more accepting of Sophie's attempts, praising her grand jeté and working with her webbed turnout. Difficult auditions for a performance of Swan Lake seem to turn out badly until Madam Myrtle points out a special role that has been created for Sophie, whose commitment is rewarded by a stellar performance. McCully's famed delicate pen-and-ink and watercolor artwork is an ideal match for the topic. The artist balances the comic (Sophie using an Ipod for practice) with the sublime; the swan's final jump is utterly lovely. A variety of dancers, including males, appears in the troupe, but none will win hearts as quickly as the titular character.—Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA
Sophie the swan tries to join a class of young ballet dancers but is shooed away. Later, a more open-minded teacher welcomes her to class; eventually Sophie earns a part in Swan Lake. McCully captures Sophie's yearning to dance in ballerina Kent's satisfying success story. Readers will appreciate the tale's acknowledgment that while some things come easily to Sophie, others do not.
Celebrated ballerina Kent tells a satisfying success story of a most unlikely dancer. From her city pond, Sophie the swan watches a class of young ballet dancers in a nearby studio and, mesmerized, makes a (short-lived) attempt to join them. Shooed away by stern-faced Madam Myrtle, Sophie tries again another day when a "younger and way jollier" teacher takes over the class. Welcomed, Sophie works hard to improve and her practicing is rewarded when she earns a part in a performance of -- what else? -- Swan Lake. While there are some contrivances involved in keeping the story going, McCully captures Sophie’s yearning to dance and makes the most of both the comedic possibilities of a swan doing ballet (turnout is tricky with webbed feet) and the completely expected grace of a swan’s lofty grand jeté. Readers will appreciate the story’s acknowledgment that while some things come easily to Sophie, others do not; it’s a good reminder for all young learners, dancers or not. jennifer m. brabander

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