Indescribably Arabella

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Arabella Anastasia
wants to be famous.
Will she be...

a famous painter?
a famous actress?
a famous twirling,
whirling ballerina?

Or will she be famous in her own indescribable way?

An ...

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Overview


Arabella Anastasia
wants to be famous.
Will she be...

a famous painter?
a famous actress?
a famous twirling,
whirling ballerina?

Or will she be famous in her own indescribable way?

An unusual young girl, upon deciding to become famous, tries painting, acting, and dancing, but is disappointed in the results until a lonely old couple encourages her to do things her own way.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Although she has a huge bow in her hair and a no- nonsense attitude, Arabella is no Eloise. Her teachers tell her she will never be famous, and "the people in the Big Offices" laugh at her "because she [is], well, indescribably Arabella." But with her ample legs, lace-trimmed dresses and painted-on smile, Arabella is determined to become famous nonetheless. The stylized renderings of outfits and furniture, coupled with a bygone smalltown setting, lend the tale a fable-like quality. Just as the downhearted Arabella decides to give up her quest, "two little old people" suddenly appear to cheer her on. The themes explore the idea of fame and individuality, while the narrative frequently reminds readers that Arabella "is not an ordinary little girl." She paints an "unusual picture," gives an "unusual performance" and dances in "her own special way." It's not until Arabella receives the applause of "the whole neighborhood," that the narrator says, "so you see she has become famous after all." Gilbert's chic, gouache paintings adorn cream-colored pages and the handwritten text recalls neatly inscribed entries in a journal or diary; the book jacket details the manuscript's unusual journey to publication (see Children's Books, April 21). This tale may appeal more to nostalgic adults than to young readers (who may literally have difficulty reading the cursive text on their own), but the message of being appreciated in one's own neighborhood bears repeating. Ages 3-7. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Arabella does not wait for fame to find her. She goes off to be discovered. She tries everything, from being an artist to a famous dancer. No one takes her seriously so she gives up all her props and feels sad inside. Out of nowhere, two older ladies approach Arabella and wonder why she is throwing away all her beautiful costumes. Arabella tells them that no one wants to see her dance, act or paint. The two ladies invite Arabella to their house where she discovers the most wonderful audience in the world. The entire story of Arabella is written in cursive handwriting, giving it a unique quality, but this may limit the age of the readers. Most students learn cursive in the upper primary grades when chapter books become more predominant. Jane Gilbert does an incredible job showing us how important it is too pay attention to our children and make them all feel like they are famous in our eyes. 2003, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Ages 7 to 9.
— Julia Beiker
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Arabella Anastasia wants to become famous, but she's not sure how to go about it. First she decides to become known for her painting, but her art teacher regretfully tells her that that will never happen. Then she decides to become an actress, but she has trouble remembering her lines and "her entrances were always late." Finally she tries ballet, but no one will watch her dance. Forlorn and distraught, she is ready to trash her paints, costumes, and dance slippers. Just then, an elderly couple walks by, stops to ask why she's throwing away her things and hears Arabella's complaint that "No one appreciates me." The two lonely people take her to their home, where she paints them a picture, acts out a play, and dances for them. They are delighted, and Arabella finds herself performing for the neighborhood, finding, at least, local fame. Written in 1947 but never before published, this sweetly innocent story reflects its old-fashioned sensibilities, particularly the idea that it might be safe for a child to go home with perfect strangers. The characters have a doll-like appearance, and the text is printed in cursive handwriting. The art is well executed, with some of the characters reminiscent of Hilary Knight's drawings. Young readers who love books about ballet and dreams of stardom will enjoy meeting Arabella Anastasia and perhaps be prompted to put on some shows of their own.-Leslie Barban, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gilbert wrote and illustrated this story in 1947, and her story of an "indescribable" little girl trying to become famous retains the gentle, nostalgic feeling of works for children from an earlier era. The main character, a doll-like child named Arabella Anastasia, tries painting, acting, and dancing as her claim to fame, but she is dismissed by experts in each field. An elderly couple befriends Arabella, encouraging her creative pursuits and building up her confidence. She succeeds in dancing for her neighborhood friends, finding her place (and 15 minutes of fame) in her own backyard, as have quite a few other storybook characters. The gouache-and-ink illustrations are integrated into the text, which is hand-lettered using old-fashioned cursive script. Arabella herself has a unique physique, with overly large legs and tiny, pointed feet that along with the flat perspective of the illustration style give her the look of a ballerina doll. Arabella is not really an indescribable character, but her story is a charming reminder of a simpler time. (Picture book. 3-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689853210
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.36 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.42 (d)

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