cover image The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

Elise Gravel. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-235124-1

With gravity-defying pigtails and a near-permanent scowl, Ada lives up to her description in the title of a book whose theme is less “practice makes perfect” than “follow your bliss.” Working in a palette of pink and mint—spiked with jittery reds and lime greens that amplify Ada’s irritation—Gravel (I Want a Monster!) follows along as Ada puts on her “waaay too tight” leotard and “waaay too itchy” tutu before being driven to class by her father. Once there, Ada’s attempts at a pirouette send her careening across the studio, carving a path of destruction as she goes. But what’s this? A karate class next door, taught by a man “in some kind of pajamas,” where a path of destruction might be a good thing? This isn’t a story that takes itself (or ballet) (or karate) too seriously, but Gravel is clearly not in the camp that believes that “quitters never win.” Instead, she suggests—both to children and to the adults in charge of their extracurricular schedules—why not channel your energy into something you actually enjoy? Ages 4–8. Agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Aug.)