Ballet Kids

Candlewick. Oct. 2022. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536220377.
PreS-K–“I’m Thomas, and I want to be a ballet kid.” It is wintertime, and Thomas is getting ready for ballet class. He gets bundled up and traverses through the snow to the studio where he is greeted by an assortment of students as well as a white male ballet teacher. The class practices traditional positions and steps, which are clearly defined in child-friendly terms. Then they transition into creative movement where they can move their bodies as they please. While the practice uniforms are gender-prescribed, the students can to choose their own costumes for the Nutcracker-themed recital. Thomas selects the sparkly purple tutu of the Sugar Plum Fairy. He expresses slight trepidation about the public performance, but the rest of Thomas’s ballet experience, including the recital, is purely joyful. The students encourage and compliment one another throughout the class, and there is none of the nervousness, teasing, or discomfort that often accompanies a story about a boy attending ballet class. Sterling’s story shares elements with the “Lola and Leo” series by Anna McQuinn. The straightforward tone is clear without being plain, with descriptions that are relatable to a young child: “My feet feel so light and snug.” The children are illustrated simply, with dots for eyes, rosy cheeks, round heads, and smiling faces. Thomas and his sister have brown skin and black hair, like one of their two moms; the other is white.
VERDICT An easygoing, refreshingly natural addition to the ballet bookshelf.

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