Top 10 Ballet Books
(with titles suitable for early childhood to young adult reading age range. More ballet books here)
Yesterday we went to ‘Tutu Day’, an event by the Queensland Ballet. It was one of the best organised, most fab open day type events that I’ve even taken the girls to. There was the opportunity to meet the dancers and watch them take Company class (oh their muscles!), ballet bun hairstyles to be had, face painting, leaping like a ballerina on a bungy ride and jumping castle, tutu decorating, storybook reading and more. It was small ballerina heaven.
Sadly my own ballet career was stifled by my lack of coordination, a fall off the stage (as a dancing penguin) and the horror of being singled out for having the best fairground clown costume hat – oh the humiliation of having to stand up in front of all the big ballet girls thanks to my mothers talent in making the pointiest clown hat in the class. Still recovering.
In the spirit of Tutu Day – I’m sharing my Top Ten favourite ballet books. There are many stories of ballet aimed at young ballerinas but not all are created equal; many are downright disappointing and twee. The ten I am sharing below have strong writing, excellent illustrations and a little bit of spunk about them. Because you know what I took away from Tutu Day this morning? Ballerinas are gorgeous creatures indeed but by golly they are also STRONG.
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Top 10 Ballet Books
(actually there is 12 titles, but ‘top 12’ doesn’t sound right!)
Let us begin with the classic that every ballet lover would know, ‘Ballet Shoes’, first published in 1936. I love this edition of this classic story of orphans Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil. There is also a television and movie adaptation – but the book is better.
‘The Dance Teacher’ is a beautifully illustrated, timeless story about ballet, effort and rewards, and a special relationship between a girl and her teacher. I got all teary reading this for the first time to a group of five year old girls – it’s a lovely story about the impact of a great teacher. The book trailer is below.
Many of you will have read and adored ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ by Li Cunxin (let me just gloat slightly at this point and tell you that we have him here in Brisbane). Many parents and teachers are unaware that there is a Younger Readers edition of the story (suitable from about 10 years +), an illustrated fiction book called ‘Dancing to Freedom’, suitable for upper primary – lower secondary and illustrated by the amazing Anne Spudvilas (currently unavailable, check your local or school library) and finally – ‘The Peasant Prince’ which is aimed at primary school aged students, is also illustrated by Spudvilas and is one of PudStar’s favourite books.
‘One Perfect Pirouette’ is one of my favourite titles on my Mother Daughter Book Club list. Attending the National Ballet School is every aspiring dancer’s dream. It’s been Brynna’s for as long as she can remember. When her parents move her family to Melbourne so Brynna can attend a top ballet school, it looks like her dream is about to become a reality. But why does she feel so awful about the move? Her brother Tam is angrier than she hasever seen him and her mother is working hard to keep the family afloat. Will every step towards success come at a price? For Brynna to realise her heart’s desire, something has to give. But will it be her family?
The ‘Ella Bella Ballerina’ books by James Mayhew are never on the shelves in my school library (granted it is a girls school!). Ella Bella Ballerina loves her ballet classes with Madame Rosa at the old theatre. And theatres are magical places where anything can happen! After the lessons, Ella Bella always stays behind to listen to Madame’s Magic Music Box… and the music of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev carries her away into the enchanted world of classical ballet. They are perfect for reading in preparation for preparing to attend one of the classic ballets like ‘The Nutcracker’. Mayhew’s illustrations take these books into the realms of collectable keepsakes with his gorgeous, detailed vintage style reminiscent of books from the 40s and 50s.
You can find the other Ella Bella Ballerina titles here.
‘Flora and the Flamingo’ is a visually stunning, wordless picture book by former DreamWorks animator Molly Idle, captures a graceful flamingo and the charming Flora as they leap, dance and splash through pages which are all the shades of pink you could ever possibly imagine – and then some. You can read more in my review here.
For fun factor, ‘Dogs Don’t Do Ballet’ is lovely and laugh out loud funny. Biff is not like ordinary dogs. He doesn’t do dog stuff like peeing on lampposts, scratching his fleas or drinking out of toilets. If you throw him a stick, he’ll just look at you like you’re crazy. No, Biff is no ordinary dog. Biff likes moonlight and music and walking on his tiptoes. You see, Biff doesn’t think he’s a dog, Biff thinks he’s a ballerina, which is all very well …But dogs don’t do ballet
As mentioned earlier I am no ballet expert, so I don’t know how these two non-fiction ballet book stands up to the test. However of all the non fiction ballet books in my library these are by far the most popular.
Not so much a ballet loving reader? Check out the Top Ten Pirate books for an alternative!