cover image The Only Boy in Ballet Class

The Only Boy in Ballet Class

Denise Gruska, , illus. by Amy Wummer. . Gibbs Smith, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4236-0220-0

There's nothing flashy about Wummer's (The Incredible Peepers of Penelope Budd ) solid watercolor-and-ink cartooning or debut author Gruska's breezy prose, yet they effectively convey what it's like to be a boy who jetés to a different drummer. Without wearing their empathy on their respective sleeves, the author and illustrator allow readers to understand both Tucker's artistic exhilaration (dancing “feels right to him. Like breathing”) and his painful ostracism at school. It's too bad, then, that the story is saddled with a credibility-stretching, “everybody wins” ending: Tucker gets drafted into a pee-wee football game and saves the day with his ballet-instilled agility, thus winning over not only his former persecutors (who promptly sign up for ballet class) but also his loud-mouthed, macho Uncle Frank. That may be a comforting message, if unimaginative (all Tucker has to do is show he's one of us), but it smacks of inauthenticity. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)