Starring Prima!: The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie

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From the day she was born in the piano backstage at the Ballet Jolie, it was obvious that Prima was destined for greatness.

Her family fully expected her to become the lead dancer with the American Ballet Rodente. Such an honor should be enough for any mouselet, but Prima had even bigger plans. She wouldn't be satisfied until she could share her talent with all creatures -- even humans. But as any mouse with half a brain knows, the last thing you want to do around a human is ...

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From the day she was born in the piano backstage at the Ballet Jolie, it was obvious that Prima was destined for greatness.

Her family fully expected her to become the lead dancer with the American Ballet Rodente. Such an honor should be enough for any mouselet, but Prima had even bigger plans. She wouldn't be satisfied until she could share her talent with all creatures -- even humans. But as any mouse with half a brain knows, the last thing you want to do around a human is draw attention to yourself. Did that stop Prima? not on your tutu!

In the old grand piano at the Ballet Jolie in New York City lives a ballet dancer who just happens to be a mouse, and who intends to become principal dancer in ballets for mice and humans, and the occasional dog, as well.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With a bright and generally cheery reading sparked with an occasional hint of sarcasm, bestselling author Mitchard (writing her first children's novel) invites listeners backstage to meet the mice of the Ballet Jolie, which performs in special theater nooks and crannies in New York City. Descended from a great French mouse ballerina, young Prima appears destined to be a star of the dance. Prima's dark coloring, exceptionally long legs and pink paws "as delicate as the sugar roses on a birthday cake" presumably mark her for greatness. But Prima has the self-confidence and ambition to surpass her natural gifts-she wants to do the unthinkable: perform for human people. When she's punished for sneaking onstage during a performance for humans, Prima's career changes course. She meets up with a young human named Kristen and finds her way to a New York apartment and eventually to Paris, where she also finds romance. Amusing mouse and place names-e.g., the Mezzanina and Snacketta families, Whiskerella-help create a parallel dance world that aspiring ballerinas can appreciate (though some older listeners may find it cloying). Ages 8-10. (June). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
While Jacquelyn Mitchard has proven herself to be a popular writer of novels for grown-ups, younger readers may not have the same capacity for narrative and backstory. Both of these work together to slow the pace of this book, and there's just not enough action to inspire in the reader that all-important question: "What happens next?" Prima is a mouse that wants to dance. Conveniently, she is the granddaughter of the star ballerina Madame Mousielle and she lives in the Ballet Jolie, so she dances. Midway through the novel the theme shifts, from dancing to friendship. Prima befriends the daughter of the prima ballerina at Ballet Jolie, Kristen Brown, and moves into Kristen's high rise apartment. After living with Kristen for some time and becoming friends with her new kitten, Meowsky, the whole group takes off for Paris. There, Prima meets Abelard Pianoforte, principal male dancer of the Ballet Francais Minuscule. Prima and Abelard fall in love, and Prima decides to stay in France. One year later, Kristen returns to France and meets the daughter of Prima. Our main character has died, usually not a crowd pleaser in children's fiction, but a mouse life is a short one, the reader learns. Quickly recovering, Kristen takes Prima's daughter back home with her. In the last two pages the reader is taken through Kristen's life from child to grandma, the story is over, but no problems are resolved because this lucky cast of characters never had any. 2004, HarperCollins Children's Books, Ages 8 to 12.
—Mary Loftus
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-A popular adult author has joined the ever-growing number of writers trying to cross over into the children's market. Disappointingly, this effort is not successful. Prima is determined to become the lead dancer in the mouse ballet and skyrocket to stardom instead of taking her time and learning the ropes. Her first sentence uttered is "I am born to dance." She even calls herself Antoinette Brown, after the great prima ballerina. Along the way she is befriended by the dancer's daughter, a stereotypical child of a celebrity who is showered with material gifts but craves her mother's attention. Instead she finds love and acceptance with Prima. Eventually, they travel to Paris where Prima meets and marries the mouse of her dreams. The book is peppered with cutesy references to famous mice including James Tailer, Squeequido Domingo, and Fred Mousetaire. The book has long, run-on sentences, and all of the threads are neatly tied up in a pat ending. Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux (Candlewick, 2003) and Dick King-Smith's The Three Terrible Trins (Knopf, 1997) are much better choices.-Linda Zeilstra Sawyer, Skokie Public Library, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Born in a grand piano, at the Ballet Jolie in New York City, Prima's first words are, "I'm born to dance," and indeed, she becomes a ballet star. She's a mischievous and daring mouse and it gets her into trouble on the one hand and enables her to make friends with Kristen, a ten-year-old human, on the other. Their adventures together include accompanying Kristen's mother, a star ballerina, to Paris, where Prima falls in love with the star ballet dancer, Abelard. She marries and remains at the ballet, where her grandmother had taught years ago. When her friend returns to Paris, she meets Prima's daughter, who has stayed to welcome her and tell her of Prima's passing. Various characters (Kristen's new kitten, Prima's loving and talented family) help make this a rollicking adventure, but numerous asides alluding to human and mouse foibles and an elaborate history of the mouse family are often distracting as they interrupt the storyline and break up the narrative flow. Black-and-white cartoon drawings are as whimsical as the adventures. A reasonably enjoyable read-aloud, especially to those who were Angelina Ballerina devotees when they were younger. (Fiction. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060573584
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/3/2005
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacquelyn Mitchard

New York Times bestseller Jacquelyn Mitchard's novels include The Deep End of the Ocean, Twelve Times Blessed, and The Breakdown Lane. She is also the author of The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship, a collection of her newspaper columns. She lives with her husband and six children in Madison, Wisconsin.


"Jacquelyn Mitchard has considered changing her name legally to The Deep End of the Ocean. This is because her own name is much less well-known than the title of her first book," so read the opening lines of Mitchard's biography on her web site. Granted, the writer is best known for the novel that holds the distinct honor of being the very first pick in Oprah Winfrey's book club, but Mitchard is also responsible for a number of other bestsellers, all baring her distinctive ability to tackle emotional subject matter without lapsing into cloying sentimentality.

Mitchard got her start as a newspaper journalist in the ‘70s, but first established herself as a writer to watch in 1985 when she published Mother Less Child, a gut wrenching account of her own miscarriage. Though autobiographical in nature, Mother Less Child introduced the themes of grief and coping that would often resurface in her fiction. These themes were particularly prevalent in the debut novel that would nab Mitchard her greatest notoriety. The Deep End of the Ocean tells of the depression that grips a woman and her son following the disappearance of her younger son. Like Mother Less Child, the novel was also based on a personal tragedy, the death of her husband, and the author's very real grief contributes to the emotional authenticity of the book.

The Deep End of the Ocean became a commercial and critical smash, lauded by every publication from People Magazine to Newsweek. It exemplified Mitchard's unique approach to her subject. In lesser hands, such a story might have sunk into precious self-reflection. However Mitchard approaches her story as equal parts psychological drama and suspenseful thriller. "I like to read stories in which things happen," she told Book Reporter. "I get very impatient with books that are meditations - often beautiful ones - on a single character's thoughts and reactions. I like a story that roller coasters from one event to the next, peaks and valleys."

The Deep End of the Ocean undoubtedly changed Mitchard's life. She was still working part time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison writing speeches when the novel got Oprah's seal of approval and went into production as a major motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer. She didn't even consider leaving her job until, as she recounted to Book, "my boss finally said to me, ‘You know, kiddo, people whose books have sold this many copies and are being made into movies don't have this part-time job.'" So, she left her job despite misgivings and embarked upon a writing career that would produce such powerful works as The Most Wanted, Twelve Times Blessed, and The Breakdown Lane. She has also written two non-fictional volumes about peace activist Jane Addams.

Mitchard's latest Cage of Stars tells of Veronica Swan, a twelve-year old girl living in a Mormon community whose life is completely upturned when her sisters are murdered. Again, a story of this nature could have easily played out as a banal tear jerker, but Mitchard allows Veronica to take a more active role in the novel, setting out to avenge the death of her sisters. Consequently, Case of Stars is another example of Mitchard's ability to turn the tables on convention and produce a story with both emotional resonance and a page-turning narrative, making for a novel created with the express purpose of pleasing her fans. "Narrative is not in fashion in the novels of our current era; reflection is," she told Book Reporter. "But buying a book and reading it is a substantial investment of time and money. I want to take readers on a journey full circle. They deserve it."

Good To Know

Mitchard is certainly most famous for her sophisticated adult novels, yet she has also written two children's novels, Rosalie and Starring Prima, as well as Baby Bat's Lullaby, a picture book. She currently has three new children's books in development.

Now that Mitchard has officially scored a successful writing career, what could be left for the writer to achieve? Well, according to her web site, her "truest ambition" is to make an appearance on the popular TV show Law and Order.

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