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Forget low expectations from celebrity authors-this series opener is warm, funny and tender. Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson's mother has been foisting her own ballet fantasies on her daughter ever since she was born, and now that the two of them have moved from Georgia to Harlem, Alexandrea has been enrolled in the Nutcracker School of Ballet ("When I was growing up, I dreamed of taking ballet [there]," says Mama). A would-be costume designer, Mama gives her wild outfits names, like her Iceberg Suit ("white with shades of shimmery blue" with a triangular cap over each shoulder), and makes outrageous hats. Goldberg stops short of caricature, finding something believable to respect in Alexandrea's struggles in her dance class and in Mama's perseverance. She also gets friendships right, from the science-minded girl who, supposedly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, speaks backward, to great comic effect; to a snobbish trio. Teachers behave reasonably, as does Alexandrea, and when she unsurprisingly finds success, it's credible and cause for readers' happiness, too. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.