cover image The Jellybeans and the Big Dance

The Jellybeans and the Big Dance

Nate Evans, Laura Joffe Numeroff, , illus. by Lynn Munsinger. . Abrams, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-9352-5

A heavy-handed message about how individuality and teamwork aren't mutually exclusive threatens to sink this promising girl-power story by the author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and her co-author on Sherman Crunchley . But Munsinger's (What Mommies Do Best ) anthropomorphized cast keeps it bravely treading water. Emily (a terrier) is a passionate dancer, but her first studio class starts out dismally: all of her classmates (a bunny, a cat and pig) would rather be doing something else (“I like to play soccer,” declares one. “My mom made me take this class”). How will the group ever get their act together for their recital performance of “Oh, Little Bug!”? Emily finds inspiration in candy: “Jellybeans are all different flavors,” she tells them in a pint-size version of a locker-room pep talk, “but they still go well together. Maybe we could, too.” Every girl knows that sisterhood isn't always powerful—in fact, it can be downright snotty—but this book simply steamrolls over its opportunity to model why acceptance and camaraderie are good things. Munsinger's facility with expressions and body language is as impressive as ever: she can do heartbreak, ecstasy, confidence and peevishness without ever compromising the essential species-ness of her characters. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)