First Ballet

First Ballet

5.0 1
by Deanna Caswell, Elizabeth Matthews
     
 

The lights, the velvet curtain, the spotlight, the graceful dancers-nothing beats going to the ballet for the very first time. In this beautiful picture book, Deanna Caswell and Elizabeth Matthews conspire to recreate all the joy and wonder of the first theatrical experience, for children to relive again and again.
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Overview

The lights, the velvet curtain, the spotlight, the graceful dancers-nothing beats going to the ballet for the very first time. In this beautiful picture book, Deanna Caswell and Elizabeth Matthews conspire to recreate all the joy and wonder of the first theatrical experience, for children to relive again and again.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The title refers not to stage debut, but rather to a little girl's maiden experience as an audience member at The Nutcracker. Wearing a dressy red coat and Mary Janes, and accompanied by a regal matron in a Margaret Dumontesque fur, the girl soaks up the auditorium's opulence and the electricity in the air. But as soon as the ballet starts, Caswell, a debuting author, and Matthews (Different Like Coco) focus on the dancers, and the book sags. Their Nutcracker comprises mostly haughty ballerinas; there's little sense of the work as a magical smorgasbord or (more egregiously) that its central character is a young girl. Matthews's dancers look chunky, inert and detached, and Caswell's text is equally problematic. She writes in minimal, literal couplets composed almost entirely of noun-verb pairs (“Lights dim. Curtains rise./ Hushed lips. Watchful eyes.”), an approach that turns an exciting rite of passage into an oddly dry catalogue. It's only on the last page, which shows a charming and spontaneous pas de deux, that the book conveys how deeply the pair has been “captivated by the dance.” Ages 2–5. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
The reader is invited to spend an evening at the ballet with a young girl and a matronly woman who is, perhaps, her grandmother. They are dressed for this outing to the city in their best outfits and take their places in red velvet seats to peruse the program while the rest of the audience arrives. The orchestra starts to play and the magic begins. The text is written in couplets and both text and illustrations manage to convey more than is obvious. "Sweet enchantment. Story grows./A dream unfolds on pointed toes." As the ballerina performs, the young girl imagines herself in the role. And then, "Curtains lower. Houselights gleam./Crowd awakens from the dream." The girl and her grandmother both take dance steps as they walk along. "Twirling home. Sway and prance./"Captivated by the dance." The book is a nice gift for a young girl who may be taking beginning ballet classes. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—A tepid tale of a five-year-old's first trip to a ballet with her grandmother. The story is told in two rhyming lines per page, and the words don't always match the watercolor illustrations. For example, "Dazzled gasps, so surprised. Dreamy gaze, mesmerized" is accompanied by a picture of several rows of spectators sitting quietly with eyes almost closed and noses high in the air, looking decidedly unmesmerized. Though The Nutcracker is about a little girl's adventure on Christmas Eve, the dancers are all adults and look as haughty as the almost completely Caucasian audience. The child, sitting next to her yawning grandmother, appears to be the only young person in the crowd. The book jacket is glittery; unfortunately, that's the only part of the book with any sparkle.—Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
One sure gift of the Christmas season is the annual ritual of picture books in which grandmother takes granddaughter to the ballet for the first time to see The Nutcracker. In this iteration, Grandmother and her fellow theater-goers are decidedly upper-crust snooty and almost entirely white. The ballet is unnamed but is almost certainly The Nutcracker, as Christmas trees comprise the scenery and one scene depicts the fight between the toy soldiers and the Mouse King. Oddly, there are few children in the audience and very few dancers on the stage. The story is told mostly through short sentences: "Crisp air. Breath clouds. / Precious ticket. Eager crowds." First-time author Caswell would do well to rethink her sentence structure, as the clipped couplets quickly grow old. Matthews's full-page color illustrations are lackluster and uninspired, though vignettes illustrating various balletic maneuvers do educate. In particular, the image of a yawning Grandma at the end may discourage rather than encourage excitement in little ones. Even a ballet warhorse-perhaps especially this one-deserves better treatment. (Picture book. 2-5)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781423113539
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion
Publication date:
10/06/2009
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
3 - 6 Years

Meet the Author

Deanna Caswell has been a nanny, lab tech, teacher, waitress, calculus tutor, counselor, and mountain guide. She holds a B.S. in Chemistry, a minor in Math, and an M.A. in Family Therapy. First Ballet is her first picture book. Her second, Train Trip, comes out in Fall 2010.

Elizabeth Matthews is the author and illustrator of Different Like Coco. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she lives in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

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First Ballet 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is of a little girl's first visit to the ballet. The wording in a different style, but reads out loud well. You can ad lib extra words as you read to younger children if you like. This book is good for interaction with a small child as you describe and talk about the pictures and the story. At the end it makes you want to get up and twirl. I read this to my grand daughter (3 yr old) and she enjoyed the story and watched the pictures intently.