cover image Miss Lina's Ballerinas

Miss Lina's Ballerinas

Grace Maccarone, illus. by Christine Davenier, Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-312-38243-8

In both its pictures and rhyming text, this book is in many ways a ballet-themed version of the Madeline books: "In a cozy white house, in the town of Messina,/ eight little girls studied dance with Miss Lina./ Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina,/ Katrina, Bettina, Marina, and Nina." Davenier (The Very Fairy Princess) is in fine form, with predominantly pink watercolors, accented with crayon, that blend soigné fluidity and slapstick comedy; while some grownups might quibble that her setting looks more Parisian than Sicilian, the spaces have a lyrical expansiveness reminiscent of an MGM musical. Maccarone's (the First Grade Friends series) story, which turns on the arrival of a ninth dancer (helpfully named Regina) who brings chaos to the corps' finely tuned "four lines of two," has a fairly flat narrative arc and near-instant resolution (Miss Lina quickly re-divides the girls into three lines of three). The girls' enthusiasm is undeniably infectious as they dance "[a]t the park, at the zoo, at the beach, and while shopping"; but while the book is a charmer, it's a bit of a letdown in the end. Ages 3–6. (Oct.)