cover image Zuri Ray Tries Ballet

Zuri Ray Tries Ballet

Tami Charles, illus. by Sharon Sordo. Quill Tree, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-291489-7

Zuri Ray and her BFFD (“Best Friend From Diapers”) Jessie Colón take turns finding “anything-but-ordinary things” to do together. Jessie picks a weeklong ballet camp, and promises that it will be “fabulous, dahling!” But once at the barre, Charles (All Because You Matter) writes, Zuri feels out of place amid the other “proper” and “prim” amateur dancers; a pirouette attempt sends her sprawling. Reminded by her Black mother and white father that the family motto is “When the going gets tough... the Rays get tougher,” Zuri embraces the class on her own terms: in a soccer uniform with moves inspired by the playing field. Jessie is furious, but the wise teacher counsels that “both soccer and ballet require focus, technique and dedication,” repairing the friendship before the kids move on to the next activity. Digital cartoons by Sordo (the Ana & Andrew series) have the bright-eyed characters of contemporary message-driven animation, with lots of ancillary moments, including two brief dress-up segments, to add visual oomph. Balletomanes may not appreciate Zuri’s frustration, but it’s nice to see a variation on the traditional ballet take, one that resolves into a gentle comedy of fearless girlhood and friendship. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Lara Perkins, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: James Burns, the Bright Agency. (June) [/em]