Becoming a Ballerina: A Nutcracker Story

Lise Friedman, Author, Mary Dowdle, Illustrator, Mary Dowdle, Photographer
Lise Friedman, photos by Mary Dowdle. Viking, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-670-01392-0
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Friedman and Dowdle, who previously collaborated on Break a Leg! The Kids’ Guide to Acting and Stagecraft, follow 13-year-old Fiona, a real-life fledging ballerina, on her journey from hopeful auditionee to starring performer as Clara in the Boston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Writing in Fiona’s voice, Friedman doesn’t always strike the most authentic tone—she too often uses dialogue to do the expository heavy lifting—but like Mother Ginger, she has an endless store of delicious details and insights. Fiona talks about her aches and pains (“Sometimes [my feet] hurt so much that I want to cry”), her sacrifices (“I miss going to birthday parties and the movies, being in school talent shows, sleepovers—normal stuff”), the fierce competition, and even what Clara and the Prince talk about while they’re floating over the stage in a balloon headed for the Kingdom of Sweets. Dowdle’s photographs, the result of extraordinary access to the production, immerse readers in the hard work of rehearsals and backstage life. But when it comes to the performance itself, there’s perhaps too much documentation of famed Nutcracker moments and not enough bravura shots of Fiona. Ages 7–9. (Oct.)
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