cover image Ribbons


Laurence Yep. Putnam Publishing Group, $16.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22906-0

Yep fumbles with this strained tale about an 11-year-old girl who yearns to dance. The star of her ballet class, Robin Lee has to give up her lessons at Madame Oblamov's academy when her mother imposes a draconian budget on the household, in order to save enough money to bring Robin's grandmother from China to the Lees' home in San Francisco. Robin gamely practices on her own, stuffing her feet into outgrown toe shoes and dreaming of her return to ballet school, but tuition money isn't available, even after her grandmother finally moves in. To make matters worse, Grandmother blatantly favors Robin's younger brother. In a forced parallel, Robin damages her feet (those too-small toe shoes), and only Grandmother can understand her determination to dance anyway: Grandmother's feet were bound in childhood and, despite immense pain, she unbound them in adulthood as a way of embracing modern values. A lot of the characterizations here verge on stereotypes: the indomitable Chinese matriarch, the unstoppable young artist with a dream, the impoverished but noble-hearted Russian ballet mistress. Combine this with the adults' extremist stances (Mom won't even let Robin keep the $20 her other grandmother sends for Christmas), and the novel reads as a lengthy contrivance. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)