Ballewiena

Rebecca Bender. Pajama, $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-77278-137-3

Dotty, a piebald dachshund with a warm brown tummy and face, loves classical ballet. “She chasséed down the sidewalk, stepped in glissade at the park, and pranced in pas de chat by the fire hydrant,” writes Bender (the Giraffe and Bird series). But Dotty’s owner, Ms. Austere, portrayed with paper-white skin, prefers her dogs to perform conventionally, and hauls Dotty off to obedience school. Fleeing to the park (“All I want to do is dance”), Dotty meets a Balanchine-like squirrel, Louis-Pierre, who encourages her passion while demanding rigorous practice: “Look how much discipline you’ve gained, Pitou! The more focus you have, the better you dance.” This insistence on diligence and commitment propels Dotty to a triumphant performance at the dog talent show, which shows Ms. Austere the error of her ways, and infuses freshness into a familiar-feeling beat-of-one’s-own-drum story (Dotty even realizes why Ms. Austere’s other dogs practice unceasingly). The gouache, watercolor, pencil, ink, and digital illustrations brim with joie de vivre as the wiry pooch spins, leaps, and pursues her dream—readers may find themselves becoming budding balletomanes as the story unfolds. Ages 4–7. (June)
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