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Leaping Lola

Leaping Lola

Leaping Lola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaping Lola

Tracey Hawkins

Anil Tortop

New Frontier, 2019 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925594591

Down in the meadow, all boggy with mud, Clarissa the cow was chewing her cud. Up on the hilltop a calf caught her eye: flouncing and bouncing, she frolicked on by. “Oh no!” cried Clarissa. “Lola, don’t prance. Jerseys are milk cows – we’re not meant to dance.”

But Lola is determined to practise her moves so she can be perfect at that evening’s ball.  Not even the fact that she is a brown cow and it is a Black and White ball deters her. She enlists the help of her friend Pearl the Pig to disguise her and with great confidence she sashays in. With the twang of the band making her wriggle and giggle,  she has the time of her life and is the belle of the ball until…

Just the mental image of a cow leaping, let alone “whoomping and boomping her beautiful hide” is enough to set up the reader for the joyous, funny story this is and it is compounded by the rollicking text – who knew there were so many ways a cow could move its body? – and the delightful illustrations that take it into the fantasy that it is.  Occasionally as you travel through the countryside, you might see young calves frolicking but the concept of a dancing cow is the antithesis of what really happens. Thus, the stage is set for a story that will engage and delight, as young readers’ toes start to twitch and they feel compelled to try out some of Lola’s moves. But there is also an underlying message about being true to yourself, following your passion and not settling for being a stereotype. Thirty-two pages of fun!

 

Leonard Doesn’t Dance

Leonard Doesn't Dance

Leonard Doesn’t Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard Doesn’t Dance

Frances Watts

Judy Watson

ABC Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733333040

It’s just a week until the Big Beaky Bird Ball and Leonard would love to go but he doesn’t know how to dance!

And so he decides to ask his friends to help.  On Monday the magpies teach him how to do the warble-warble- waltz. On Tuesday the duck teach him to do-si-do and Wednesday’s lesson is how to do the caw-caw can-can with the crows.  Despondent because none of the lessons has been successful, Leonard decides he is not a dancer and refuses the offers from the rosellas, galahs and woodpeckers, hiding in his nest, ashamed. He huddles down deeper when his friends come looking for him on Sunday but when he hears them say they can’t go without him he feels even worse and agrees to go…but he won’t dance!

With stunning illustrations that take you straight to the Australian bush even though there is a range of birds from around the globe, this is a glorious story that rollicks along on the rhythm of the alliteration with a surprising and funny twist that will have the young reader’s feet tapping in anticipation.  How would they dance if what happened to Leonard happened to them? An invitation to get up and move and try all the dances for themselves!

Dance, like music, is an innate human expression and this is a celebration of that.  Everyone can dance, even those for whom movement is tricky, and Leonard shows that you just have to find out what works for you!

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

David McAllister

Gabriela Tylesova

Little Hare, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760129934

“From the stage to the page”.

Based on the Australian Ballet’s 2015 production of this iconic ballet in which Creative Director David McAllister wanted to preserve the original choreography by Pepita “while introducing modern pacing and narrative logic” this is a ballet lover’s must-have. 

Following the traditional story with no Disney additions in sight,  the story of Aurora, Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and the handsome prince is told in simple narrative,  accompanied by the most exquisite illustrations created by Gabriela Tylesova who was also the designer of the stage production. In all the shades of grey and pink all the characters have a magical quality filled with intricate detail that makes their balletic movements jump off the page. You can see the ballet and hear the music, even in the silence of awe.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

From the intriguing front cover to the stunning back one, this is a book that will needs to be in the ballet-lover’s collection as well as that of anyone who just likes beautiful things.  It thoroughly deserves its CBCA 2018 Notables nomination.

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Tallulah's Nutcracker

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Marilyn Singer

Alexandra Boiger

Clarion Books, 2013

48pp., hbk., RRP $A33.99

9780547845579

Christmas time means it is time for the popular perennial performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker based on the original story by E. T. A. Hoffman and budding ballerina Tallulah is very excited as she has won a role as one of the mice.  She is convinced she will be the best mouse ever and practises very diligently, turning down social invitations and inviting everyone she knows.  Even when she discovers the role is more about scurrying around wriggling her paws rather than doing eye-catching ballet moves, she doesn’t get discouraged, 

But on the night things don’t go according to her plan, and her performance is not what she dreamed it would be, so she scuttles off and hides, too ashamed to face even her family.  And when the ballet master, Clara and the Sugar Plum fairy come looking for her she is sure her future as a ballerina is over before it gets started…

This is a story that will appeal to all those who aspire to being the Sugar Plum Fairy one day with its gentle but realistic storyline and charming watercolour illustrations.  For those who are familiar with the story of The Nutcracker it takes on a new dimension and for those for whom this is new, not only will it help explain the prevalence of nutcracker decorations in stores at this time but it will also lead to one of the classic Christmas time stories, and perhaps even a performance of the ballet!

Worth tracking down for the ballerina who likes to read!

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781743318454

Over 140 years ago, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky brought a story about first love, betrayal, loss, and good versus evil to life through a musical score he called Swan Lake. and on March 4 1877 through the choreography of Julius Reisinger and a few years later that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that music was interpreted through dance, laying the foundations of one of the most loved and enduring of the classical ballets.

Now, in 2017, it has been reinterpreted through the stunning artwork of Anne Spudvilas.   

With a synopsis of each act to explain what the reader is going to experience, the story unfolds in pictures that echo the dark, hazy, haunting mood that permeates the story – the lake at midnight, the malevolence afoot at the Grand Ball,  the storm that accompanied Siegfried’s battle with the Sorcerer and the final tragic ending. Dramatic in their composition and demonstrating how many shades of grey there really are, Spudvilas has captured the essential elements of the story while also portraying the atmosphere that the music and choreography bring to the experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swan Lake as a ballet it is a complete sensual experience in itself; for those like me (and Spudvilas) who have been entranced with it since childhood, it is yet another layer adding to the wonder and love of the original. 

Definitely one to add to the collection for a range of reasons – at its basic level it is the story behind a classic ballet and its  interpretation in pictures;  but at a deeper level there is so much to explore and interpret such as  the creation of mood through a monochromatic scheme; the use of imagery and colour to identify emotions or portent…

While the long-ago LP record cover that took me into a lifelong love of ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular has disappeared forever, this new interpretation will be a suitable substitute and will join the other members of my treasured collection that brings back such happy memories. And even though I know I will only ever be Odette in my dreams maybe it will spark a dream for my granddaughters!

Watch this for in the 2018 awards lists…

Dance With Me

Dance with Me

Dance with Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance with Me

Penny Harrison

Gwynneth Jones

EK Books, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781925335231

The ballerina lived in a little wooden box and every day she stood straight and tall and danced for the little girl who would laugh and clap her hands and dance like the ballerina herself.  But as the years passed, the little girl grew up and the ballerina danced for her less and less, until, eventually, she danced no longer.  

So one day she jumped down from her box, skipped out the windowsill to find a new dance partner.  But the bee in the flowers was too busy; the turtle on the seashore wasn’t a dancer; and the leopard on the island wanted her for his lunch! So the ballerina hurried home to her box and danced one last time for the little girl.  But sadly, it was not enough and the lid was closed and the box stored away for many years.  Until one day another little girl opened the lid…

This is a poignant story about growing up and the treasured keepsakes we grow beyond as we do so.  For while it is the story of the ballerina wanting to do what she loves, it is also the story of those things that we always think of when we think of our childhood and which we know we will pass on to our own children in the hope they will get similar joy.  Gwynneth Jones’s illustrations are charming – gentle pastels while the ballerina is happy dancing for the girl and a bolder palette as she gets bolder – and feed right into the vision we have when we think about musical boxes with their magic tucked inside.

A great opportunity to talk about memories with our children as well as what they love enough to want to keep for their children, creating bonds across generations.  

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cranky Ballerina

Elise Gravel

Katherine Tegan Books, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062351241

Ada does not look forward to weekends, particularly Saturdays, because Saturday is ballet day and she HATES ballet.  Her leotard is too tight and her tutu too itchy and as for the moves she is forced to do and practise and practise…as she says, “Arabesques are GROTESQUE”. As for pirouettes – well! Even with her little monster sidekick who tries to offer support and encouragement, she just doesn’t like it. For Ada, it is definitely NOT a case of “practice makes perfect”. 

But one Saturday morning when she is trying to please Miss Pointy she pirouettes right out the door and into a whole new world, one where she fits perfectly.

Across the world, Saturday mornings see young girls and boys going off to do things like ballet and music and sport and so on because their parents think they should, or they should enjoy them or the parents are reliving their dreams, but how many are like Ada and have no aptitude or passion for the activity?  Many were the freezing mornings I cycled many miles to piano lessons thinking of excuses for not having practised until my long-suffering teacher told my mum she was wasting her money. Based on the creator’s one disastrous attempt at ballet when she was four, this story will resonate with those whose abilities, talents and interests lie beyond those that they are expected to do.  

The illustrations are very expressive – even the youngest non-reader can tell that this is a story about an unhappy child who seems to have a permanent scowl and for all their apparent simplicity, the feelings of Miss Pointy and the other girls are very obvious.  With a predominantly gentle colour scheme, lime greens and bright reds punctuate Ada’s discomfort along with speech bubbles and onomatopoeia giving it a fast pace that will encourage young readers to read it for themselves independently without much trouble. The final page is perfect.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Sharing this with a class could enable a discussion about the sorts of things that the students do on weekends and their feelings about those activities.  There may be a number of Adas uncovered who will be grateful for having their feelings legitimised and perhaps even have the courage to talk to their parents about what they would really like to be doing and lerning.

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Dance, Bilby, Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Tricia Oktober

Ford Street, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.95

9781925272130

Baby Bilby would love to dance.  Everything around him seems to do so, even the ants on the swirling leaves and the willy-willies.  Even Bilby’s shadow dances.  Will he be able to?  He’s doing quite well and delighting in the shadows he makes until a big scary shadow looms over him…

On the surface this is a most charming story beautifully illustrated by one of my favourite illustrators, perfect for preschool with its simple text, colour and movement. But it has the potential to be so much more if the reader starts to explore the concepts of movement, wind patterns and shadows and how they change.  The ending also offers scope for discussion.

One of the reasons I love Oktober’s illustrations is her eye for detail and these are no exception.  Bilby is very appealing yet very realistic while the meticulous detail of the contents of the willy-willy contrast perfectly with the ballet shoes on the emus!

Can’t wait to share this with Miss Nearly 5.

Silver Shoes (series)

Silver Shoes

Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhythm and Blues

9780857989079

 

Studio Showdown

9780857989093

 

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Random House, 2016

pbk., 144pp., RRP $A14.99

 

Three or four times a week, Eleanor Irvin and her friends attend the Silver Shoes Dance Academy to learn to dance. Jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, ballroom, lyrical – whatever the style it’s on offer and each girl has her favourite genre although they are also challenged to go beyond their comfort zone and take on new challenges.

This is particularly true for Riley in Rhythm and Blues when Riley takes on the role of being Miss Caroline’s personal assistant.  Having sprained her ankle playing tennis and forced to take a break from dance, Riley finds sitting at home on the couch really frustrating so this new position will at least get her back into that realm again.  But trouble is brewing because she finds she has access to private information and power to use it that threatens her friendships. On top of that, she is so determined to get back to dancing that she risks making her injury worse and causing permanent damage.

Similarly, Paige is challenged in Studio Showdown when she is asked to choreograph the Under8/9s’  item for the end-of-year concert with her friend Ellie.  The theme is ‘Hollywood glamour” and while Paige is intent on it being jive-based, Ellie has different ideas.  Rather than letting the younger dancers shine, she wants to be able to be the star with a support group.  It looks like the team is going to be 90% Ellie and 10% Paige and Paige has to dig deep to find the confidence to have her voice heard.

As usual each book has information about the featured genre and a full glossary and because the author is a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer herself you know they have authority.

Miss 9 was especially excited that Santa had managed to get his hands on some advance copies of these two new additions  and it is certainly a series that never stays on the shelves.  The reserve list for new titles is always long. Even though dance of some sort is the second most popular sport in Australia with over 4 000 000 participants, not all who would like to get the opportunity to dance, so this series continues to fuel their dreams. 

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

Click here for others in the series

Click here for others in the series

Silver Shoes (series)

Silver Shoes

Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broadway Baby

9780857989031

 

Lights, Camera, Dance

9780857989055

 

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Random House, 2015

pbk., 144pp., RRP $A14.99

 

Broadway Baby and Lights, Camera, Action are the latest additions to the Silver Shoes series which follows the early dancing days of a group of friends at the Silver Shoes Dance Studio.  Each girl has her favourite genre and this time it is the turn of Ellie and Ashley to shine again. Since her success in And All That Jazz, Ellie has been taking singing lessons and now she is determined to wow them in a Broadway musical and become a ‘triple threat” – one who can act, dance and sing.  However, her strength is jazz ballet not tap dancing and there are those who are better than she also auditioning.

Meanwhile, in Lights, Camera, Action hip-hop lover Ashley is now inspired by reggae and is desperate to impress an agent looking for the star of his next music video.  But, as with the others in this series, there are those who are determined to be better than the heroine so like Ellie, Ashley has to dig deep into her inner self to persevere and test herself. 

Dancing remains one of the most popular sports for Australian children and so it’s no wonder that this series has been a hit with so many of the young girls I know.  Once again, the author’s expertise shines through and while the key focus is on the dancing element, she still holds a mirror to the life of this age group who are branching out into new ventures and friendships as they try out new independence.  Each reader sees herself as the lead character on the stage but can also relate to the challenges that have to be faced to get there. 

I know these will be snapped up as soon as they appear – here’s hoping there are more in the pipeline!

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series