________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 19. . . .January 19, 2016


Breaking Big. (Orca Limelights).

Penny Draper.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
130 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0923-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0924-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0925-3 (epub).

Grades 9-11 / Ages 14-16.

Review by Elaine Fuhr.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


“Hurry up, enough already!” I add the final touches. All the pointe shoes are braided together and hanging from the ceiling, loose leotards and leggings stuffed into the Lost and Found, and Sybille and Johanna’s lockers are stacked. I set Jeremy’s rat cage on a bench and put all the hairbrushes inside it-along with Ratinski the rat. He’s sure going to have fun for the next hour or so! Then a quick swipe of Vaseline on the combination locks. There’s no time to do anything else. I check to make sure the door is locked from the inside, then climb out the window onto Cam’s shoulders. He’s laughing so hard I think he’s going to drop me.

“What took you so long?” croaks Jeremy in a whisper as I drop down to the ground and we hoof it away from the girls’ locker room. “I was sure we were going to get caught!”

“I am an artiste,” I reply loftily, waggling my fingers. “Best prankster this side of the Rockies.”

“The girls are going to go ballistic,” laughs Cam. “I can’t wait to see Miss High-and-Mighty’s face!”


Robin is in his third year of scholarship to Premier Dance School, something he really wanted to do. His brothers chose football, and his parents wanted him to play soccer, but Robin wanted to dance, and now, he is one of the best dancers of the pre-professional classes. He is also a jokester! Ballet is a serious dance, especially in year three, but from the beginning, he couldn’t understand why they couldn’t have fun too, and so his mission is to make everyone laugh. Of course, Robin’s pranks get him into a lot of trouble too.

     Then the school announces their yearly dance presentation as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Robin is chosen as the understudy for Puck, the endearing prankster in this ballet. Everyone is shocked because any of their group of friends is good enough for this part, but after all, Robin is one of the best and a prankster at heart. He learns so much at the practices, so many little tricks and methods that the professionals use, and he wants to share his new knowledge with his friends. How perfect it is that one of them can learn and share what they will need to know in the future, better preparing them for their professional years. But Robin’s friends don’t see it that way. They think he is bragging and constantly reminding them that he is the understudy and they were not chosen. The harder he tries, the more his friends push him away. Soon he is all alone and not part of the group.

     The time has come for the presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the very worst happens. The dancer portraying Puck gets injured, and Robin, as understudy, must take over. Excited and scared, Robin trains harder than ever before, but his heart isn’t really into it because he can’t share this honor with his friends. And, he still doesn’t have the double tour, the most difficult but most important move for a male dancer. Slowly, his friends return to give him support because they realize they have been petty and jealous. Even Odette, who always appears to be too good for the rest of the group and especially doesn’t like Robin, came to help Robin develop the best double tour that he has ever done. The show is a success, even with Robin’s penchant for jokes which keep the professionals guessing throughout the performance.

     Penny Draper has written a delightful story about a world that most teenagers, especially males, never see. Draper has the teenage attitude and behavior down perfectly and that makes Robin’s life realistic. Breaking Big is a fun novel to read, and teens will surely enjoy a peak into the world of dance, possibly even opening an avenue to their dreams of dance as a career.

Highly Recommended.

Elaine Fuhr is a retired elementary and middle school teacher.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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