Friday, October 29, 2010

Miss Tutu's Star

Miss Tutu's Star
by Lesléa Newman
illustrations by Carey Armstrong-Ellis

Over summer, we read an assorted collection of books on ballet: picture and photo books, fiction and non-fiction.

One of them, Miss Tutu's Star, has bowled us over, making us giggle uncontrollably, even keel over laughing at times, that I wanted to dedicate a post to this delightful book.

Ms. Newman's lyrical text is catchy and easy for Ana to read by herself; and, is a pleasure for me to read aloud to both the 5 year old and the 2 year old.

The illustrations by Carey Armstrong-Ellis elicited un-muffled laughter as they told little stories of their own on every page, while managing to depict and complement the text successfully.

Selena is a little girl who does not walk so much as twirl.

Thus starts this simple story about little Selena who wants to learn ballet more than anything else. And she does, as the story culminates in her first recital.

What could be more inspiring than to read about a little girl who achieves her dream, with diligent practice and perseverance?

If this sounds fairly run-of-the-mill, banish that thought. The clever and playful illustrations conceal little nuances that we might miss in the first read unless we take our time to relish each page. I could relate to almost every little bit woven into the illustrations like:
  • Selena's infant sibling on mom's backpack carrier is busy clutching a handful of mom's hair and tugging it
  • Selena's mom starts knitting a scarf while waiting in Selena's dance studio during her lessons and manages to create a 3 mile long one which wraps around quite a few cold necks in the audience at Selena's debut
  • Selena's baby sibling manages to crawl, toddle, walk - grow- by the end of the book indicating the elapsed time from Selena's first ballet class to her first recital
But, best of all is the portrayal of Miss Tutu, the ballet teacher - regal and elegant, yet kind and patient, - plus her little kitty. Yes, her little striped gray kitty. His presence in every page not only aptly captures the feline antics but adds to the mood of the moment through his human-like expressions.

Cat lovers can easily recognize the body language and expressions of Miss Tutu's kitty, adding another layer of hilarity in a book that is already jam-packed with mirth... especially as we see this frisky little kitty grow up right along with the kids, finally chasing a mouse as is his wont, on stage, during Selena's recital .

The last page showing Selena taking a bow is a masterly touch that unmistakably triggers convulsive giggles in my kids (and me, even if I won't admit to it in public) and ties in perfectly with the front cover image, making us give this book a full round of applause. Every time we read it.

While filled with witty charm that elicits chuckles all the way, the story also manages to elegantly impress upon would-be ballerinas the lesson of perseverance and practice leading to realization of one's dream.

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