cover image Ballerino Nate

Ballerino Nate

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, , illus. by R.W. Alley. . Dial, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2954-4

Bradley (Favorite Things ) tackles gender stereotypes head-on with a plucky hero who prefers pliés and pirouettes to Little League and Nintendo. Nate (a small, gray shepherd-like mutt in this all-dog story), an eager kindergartener, gets hooked on ballet during a field trip to a performance: "He loved the fluttery costumes... He loved the way the dancers jumped and leaped and spun." When he declares he wants to learn to dance that way, his second-grade, sports-loving brother, Ben, quickly pronounces, "You can't ... You're a boy." Much of the poignant humor revolves around the brothers' back and forth, as Ben keeps reminding Nate that his chosen pursuit is primarily a girls' pastime that requires wearing pink shoes and a dress. Alley's (Tiger Can't Sleep ) true-to-life ink-and-watercolor illustrations adroitly capture the youngsters' home life (e.g., in one scene, Nate blithely twirls around Ben, who's zoned out in his red beanbag chair playing a video game). Their mother's exasperated reactions to Ben's insensitivity are comically realistic. Readers will be inspired by Nate's perseverance in the face of sibling pressure (and also the discovery that all the dancers in his ballet class are girls), as well as by his overt joy at realizing a new passion. Three cheers for this contemporary tale that effectively takes on the issue of societal pressure—and for Nate's parents, who handle the matter with only encouragement and grace. Ages 4-up. (Mar.)