Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)







Lottie Perkins (series)

Katrina Nannestad

Makoto Koji

ABC Books, 2018

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Movie Star




Pop Singer


Fashion Designer



Charlotte (you can call me Lottie) Perkins is an exceptional child – well, that’s her belief anyway.  She has a range of talents -each different in each book – but most of all she has drive, determination and a confidence in herself that is remarkable for a seven year old.  In each episode of this new series, Lottie becomes a different character, one that is determined by the events that get her into strife and how she extricates herself from it. 

Aided and abetted by her best friend Sam Bell, who believes in her as much as she does herself, her goat Feta and her pet rabbits, she slips into new roles while managing to circumvent the blocking efforts of mean-girl Harper Dark and her cronies, using her unique talents to emerge triumphant and even more confident than ever.

This is a new series for young girls who are becoming independent readers, with its large font, short chapters and liberal illustrations supporting their efforts.  They will relate to the feisty, resilient Lottie and readily imagine themselves in her shoes. Something new for this age group who are transitioning between basal readers and novels with the first two books available now and the next two to come in November 2018.


Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Tallulah's Nutcracker

Tallulah’s Nutcracker











Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Marilyn Singer

Alexandra Boiger

Clarion Books, 2013

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


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!

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Day









The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

Natalie Jane Prior

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Every Saturday, with a hop, a skip, and a magical twirl, Mia, Emma and Grace (with a little help from Mia’s dachshund, Coco) put on their dancing shoes and turn into Fairy Dancers. First introduced in 2015 with The Fairy Dancers, this is the second volume which brings the three friends together in three stories perfect for young readers and aspiring ballerinas. 

Starting with a sleepover at Miss Ashleigh’s house where Emma is concerned about sleeping away from home; then a story where the girls have to dance with boys; and finally an adventure with Santa, this is a great way to build the bridge into reading longer “chapter books” independently.  Each story is short and complete in its own right and there are plenty of gentle illustrations that both illuminate and break up the text .

One for the budding ballerinas and perfect to pop in the Christmas stocking.


Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake











Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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


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…

Ballerina Dreams: A true story

Ballerina Dreams

Ballerina Dreams








Ballerina Dreams

Michaela & Elaine DePrince

Ella Okstad

Faber Children, 2017

80pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Many a young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and so it was for Michaela DePrince after she saw a picture of a girl in a tutu in a magazine.  Sound familiar? Probably.  But life for Michaela was very different than that of many of the girls we know.  She was an orphan living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents were killed in the war and teased unmercifully by the other children because she suffered from vitiligo, a condition that affects the pigment of the skin.  They called her Spots and “the devil’s child”!

How does a little girl from such a background become a leading dancer in a world that valued a different sort of beauty to hers? Currently  the Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company for the 2016-2017 ballet season, Michaela tells her story in this specially adapted version of her memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and hope, a message which she constantly shares with other disadvantaged children in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.

Perfect for those who dream of being ballerinas, it is also a story of following your dreams and being willing to put in the hard work that it takes to achieve them.  Ideal for newly independent readers, with short chapters, larger fonts and many illustrations, it can also introduce autobiographies to young readers showing them that there is much to learn, enjoy and inspire in this genre.

Just after she was adopted and living in the USA she watched a video of The Nutcracker; when she was eight she auditioned for and won a role as a polichinelle girl in the ballet, and vowed that one day she would be the first black Sugar Plum fairy. She achieved that in 2015.

As Michaela writes, “It doesn’t matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer or a ballerina.  “Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practice every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.”





The Nutcracker






The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker









The Nutcracker

Emma Goldhawk

Lisa Evans

Five Mile Press, 2010

32pp., hbk


Written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann as Nussknacker und Mausekönig, The Nutcracker is another classic iconic story of the Christmas season.

The story of Maria Stahlbaum, her care of the nutcracker after it is broken by her brother and her adventures that happen when it comes alive at midnight including the battles with the Mouse King has been told in many interpretations over the years, including in dance after Tchaikovsky put it to music.

This version, retold by Emma Goldhawk and lavishly illustrated by Lisa Evans, is an abridged version of the original that is perfect for introducing young readers to the story.  Its large, embossed, pages draw the reader into to the world of toys that Maria is transported to, especially the Land of Sweets where every little girl’s dream of being the Sugar Plum Fairy begin.

If you are planning to introduce your little ones to the ballet through the Australian Ballet’s Storytime Ballet (which I can recommend from personal experience) this is the perfect introduction to the story.



Clementine Rose and the Ballet Break-In


Clementine Rose and the Ballet Break In

Clementine Rose and the Ballet Break In











Clementine Rose and the Ballet Break In

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House, 2015

pbk., 160pp., RRP $A12.00


Just in time to delight all her fans at the start of the school year is the latest adventure of Clementine Rose, who is so like the readers she so appeals to.    This time, with her ballet lessons having finally begun, Clementine’s dance class has been invited to perform at the reopening of the village hall.  And like so many young girls, she discovers that ballet is not all about tutus and dancing elegantly en pointe.  In addition to those issues, there’s trouble between Angus and Joshua when Joshua discovers Angus is involved in the ballet and thinks he is a sissy-pants.  An incident occurs in a soccer game that might put the whole performance in jeopardy.

Miss 8 Loves this series and disappeared for a couple of hours with this one in hand, devouring it in one read!  Like many girls of her age she dreams of being a ballerina but she also likes the realism of the stories too.  As one who has been involved in “boy-sports” since she was little, she relates to Angus’s dilemma although she was bewildered that these gender divides still exist.  This sparked a lot of discussion and shows that this series has a lot of substance in the storylines.

If you don’t yet have this series in your collection, then its addition would make you a hero of all those who are just emerging as independent readers still requiring the supports that early ‘chapter books’ offer but who want realistic, relatable characters and a sound, engrossing storyline.  Use these notes and activities to host a Clementine Rose literary lunch for them and discover the others in the series on her own blog


Bella Dancerella

Bella Dancerella

Bella Dancerella









Bella Dancerella Loves to Dance

Bella Dancerella: Ballet School

Bella Dancerella: Concert Night

Bella Dancerella: The Big Test

Poppy Rose

ABC Books 2014

pbk., 48pp., RRP $A14.99


Bella loves ballet and every movement she makes is based on a dance step.  As she moves through her chores on the farm, she whirls and twirls, skips and leaps entertaining the barnyard audience, but getting into trouble with her dad because she forgets to do all she has been asked.  Even though he knows she loves to dance, and would dance in her sleep if she could, he sees it as a waste of time and would prefer her to like something useful, like fishing.  So even though she would dearly love to attend Miss Tweedie’s Ballet School, it’s unlikely he will agree…and so her farmyard friends hatch a plan to persuade him to say yes.


It seems little girls of a certain age like one of two things – ballet or horses.  Bella Dancerella Loves to Dance  is the first in a series that caters for the ballet-lovers and Miss 8 had her nose in it as soon as she spotted it, living her own dreams through Bella.  Brightly illustrated (albeit in a Disney-esque fashion) with just the right amount of text for the newly independent reader, she enjoyed all four of the series I had, particularly Concert Night which focuses on Swan Lake, a ballet she and I have attended many times.

There is a website  with lots of activities and an online search suggests that there may well be other accessories, such as how-to DVDs, all developed some time ago by a Melbourne mother Mary Toniolo.    Certainly a search of YouTube shows that there is more to the series than the books, including this clip which demonstrates the five basic positions.

While the books themselves will be a popular addition to your collection, suggesting it to parents as a possible present for Christmas may well be a smart move – they will thank you for it and many little girls will be very happy.