________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2016


The Cranky Ballerina.

Elise Gravel.
New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins (Distributed in Canada by HarperCollinsCanada), 2016.
32 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-06-235124-1.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Chloe Humphreys.

***½ /4



Every Saturday, Ada gets cranky. That's because on Saturdays, Ada has her ballet class.

Miss Pointy makes all of the girls practice their pliés, their jetés, and their arabesques.
But Ada won't practice hers.


Cranky Ada hates Saturdays because she has to attend ballet class in her "fluffy tutu that's waaay too itchy." While the rest of her class follow the teacher's graceful lead, Ada either pouts or attempts to follow along with disastrous effects. Instead of gentle pirouettes, Ada energetically swats and kicks her way across the ballet studio, knocking over her classmates and everything else in her path, including a mysterious man in "some kind of pajamas." This man turns out to be Mr. Chop, a karate teacher who is wowed by Ada's moves. Happily, Ada joins Mr. Chop's class, discovering that Saturday mornings don't have to be terrible if you're doing something you love.

      Before audiences even have a chance to begin reading The Cranky Ballerina, they are met by the disgruntled stare of Ada, the picture book's protagonist, who emphatically declares "ballet stinks" on the book's front cover. With her arms crossed, eyebrows furrowed, and pigtails defiantly sticking out from her head, it is immediately obvious to readers that this little girl is the embodiment of the book's title. Ada's disdain for ballet make her an exceptionally relatable character as many young readers will quickly identify with her situation. What child hasn't encountered an activity that s/he's not good at, and consequently, doesn't like to do? By allowing Ada to communicate her negative feelings, Gravel normalizes expressions of anger, conveying to children that it's ok not to like something, and that it's normal to vocalize your dislike. Gravel also imparts the important life lesson that it's impossible for everyone to be good at everything, and that it's paramount to seek out activities that make you happy.

      These overarching themes are made easy to swallow by Gravel's clever and humorous writing style. Speech bubbles contain numerous sassy comments from Ada that include: "pliés puh-leeze," and "arabesques are grotesque." These bold sentiments will surely make young readers laugh and root for Ada to win her battle against ballet. Gravel's vibrant illustrations, rendered in a palette of pink, red, green and teal, are full of small details that draw the eyes of readers. In particular, Ada is accompanied on nearly every page by her little toy monster who dances alongside Ada, delighting audiences.

      With its wit and energy, The Cranky Ballerina is a welcome addition to any library or classroom collection.

Highly Recommended.

Chloe Humphreys is a newly-minted librarian with a passion for children's literature and reading. She works at Vancouver Public Library, and lives in beautiful North Vancouver, BC.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - September 16, 2016.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive