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Last week was my daughters "end of term" ballet recital. If you have never been to one of these little performances, you should know that managing to stay upright, follow teacher's instructions and ultimately resist the temptation to run riot with fifteen other four year-olds dressed up in leotards and tutus constitutes a smashing success.
Given that she and her fellow aspirants managed to pull off their production without any notable disasters (at least none that can't be judiciously edited out of the video...) it seemed fitting to put her to bed that night with one of her favourite stories - "Angelina Ballerina - Star of the Show".
AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR
The story is written by American author Katharine Holabird and is illustrated by Helen Craig. They have been working together on the Angelina series since its creation in 1983, which, along with the twenty-one original books has spawned a range of merchandise including DVD's, games, ballet accessories, TV shows as well as dolls and other toys. The heroine of the books is an adorable little mouse called Angelina Mousling and follows her escapades as a young ballerina.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
Our hardcover version was given to my daughter as a gift from her grandparents (fitting given the story!). However, it is currently available on Amazon for £9.39, or, if you prefer, there is a paperback version currently selling for £5.39 (£5.99 RRP) from the same source. The hardcover comes with a dust jacket with a synopsis of the plot and a list of other books available in the series on the front and back sleeves respectively. It is mainly a picture book, so I would suggest that it would be suitable for little girls between the ages of three and six.
Angelina is ever so excited. She is going to perform a brand new dance at the Mouseland Dance Festival and will be travelling to the event on her grandparents canal boat - The Jolly Rat. Being an impatient sort, she imagines the great performance she is going to put on and can't help herself from practising on the way there - to the exclusion of all her other chores.
Much to their annoyance, she continually ignores her grandparents requests for assistance, bounding and leaping, practicing her ballet moves and generally causing havoc in the tight confines of the canal boat. Eventually, the inevitable happens and she ruins her beautiful costume. Devastated, she realises what a naughty little mousling she has been and apologises for her bad behaviour.
Her dress is unsalvageable, but Grandma comes to the rescue by modifying a lovely sailor suit that she herself used to wear. For the rest of the journey, Angelina is a model of good behaviour, mucks in with the chores, and when the boat arrives at the Festival, it is beautifully painted and decorated with flowers. Angelina performs a new dance she has practised with Grandma - a sailor's jig - and is accompanied by Grandpa on his tin whistle. Of course, the crowds love the performance and Angelina is the star of the show.
ILLUSTRATIONS & TEXT
Helen Craig's illustrations are beautiful, colourful and expressive, and for me at least, are the main reason to buy the book. She captures movement especially well, the best examples of which are Angelina's dance sequences interspersed throughout the book. The nuance, subtle humour and attention detail in each panel is exquisite and demands closer inspection.
The story is well paced, expressed in simple language and written in a decent sized text and font making it easy for young readers to follow. The trickiest words are the technical ballet terms, such as "pliés" and "arabesque" but these are infrequent and should be familiar to little girls doing ballet classes anyway.
There are couple of themes in the book that provide useful hooks for discussion and learning. The story teaches that everything has a time and a place. Angelina ignores her chores and ends up being a nuisance to her grandparents because she insists that what she is doing is far more important than what her grandparents are asking her to do.
By ignoring them and stubbornly defying their suggestions, she lands herself in a heap of trouble. All actions have consequences, and this is a useful way to explore how what you do can affect other people.
After her accident, Angelina mucks in with the chores and gets a sense of fulfilment and pride when the canal boat pulls into the dock at the festival, spic and span, all dollied up and bedecked in flowers. This helps illustrate that helping adults and doing your chores can be rewarding.
This is a great little story with a good underlying theme that most parents with pre-school girls reluctant to help around the house will all too familiar with. The fact that it is tied in with a subject matter - ballet - that my daughter loves, made it of particular interest to her. Any opportunity to be able to teach good behaviour without being too obvious about it is very welcome and, in that respect, the book is a useful resource. Add that to the wonderful illustrations and you have a lovely bedtime book which little girls will love.
Angelina Ballerina, Star of the Show
Written by Katherine Holabird
Illustrated by Helen Craig
Puffin Books 2004
ISBN 0-141-38015-2 (Hardcover Edition)
© Hishyeness 2009