Mikhail Baryshnikov, , illus. by Vladimir Radunsky. . Atheneum/Seo, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87582-3
The unnamed narrator of Baryshnikov's buoyant foray into picture books assures his audience, "I love my grandma, really, but she just always embarrasses me." She leaps over neighbors, imitates the dog asleep with its paws in the air, and pretends to skate like the narrator's friend Maria—without having skates on. "See what I mean?" he asks plaintively. Grandma's one-word answer to questions about her behavior is always "because...," until the final spread, where she completes the thought: "Because... I-am-a-dancer!" Though the boy begins by rather glumly recounting a week in his life with Grandma, the illustrations eventually betray him, as he tries a jeté himself, smiling at her encounter with some break dancers, and finally, a whole-hearted embrace of her sashaying, cartwheeling antics that sends them both flying above the rooftops of their urban neighborhood. Baryshnikov's casual text is perfectly paired with Radunsky's customary off-kilter images. Thickset Grandma, with her ample bosom and large bottom, defies the stereotype of a conventional dancer's physique. (She also defies gravity, as even arching backwards, her straw boater remains firmly stuck to her wiry hair.) The white backgrounds put the focus on the dancers, making them appear as if suspended in air. Grandma's sublime expressions and her pleasure at using her body to convey her happiness is infectious. Roll up the rug before you read this book aloud—it will get everyone up and dancing. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 04/02/2007