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On Pointe

On Pointe

4.8 14
by Lorie Ann Grover

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Our feet slip

into satin shoes

with stiff shanks,

hard boxing,

tight elastic,

and slippery ribbons

that wrap and end

in hard knots.

The frayed edges

are crammed

out of sight.

We stand.

A row of bound feet


to its toes.

For as long as she can remember, Clare and her family have had a dream: Someday Clare will be a dancer in City


Our feet slip

into satin shoes

with stiff shanks,

hard boxing,

tight elastic,

and slippery ribbons

that wrap and end

in hard knots.

The frayed edges

are crammed

out of sight.

We stand.

A row of bound feet


to its toes.

For as long as she can remember, Clare and her family have had a dream: Someday Clare will be a dancer in City Ballet Company. For ten long years Clare has been taking ballet lessons, watching what she eats, giving up friends and a social life, and practicing until her feet bleed -- all for the sake of that dream. And now, with the audition for City Ballet Company right around the corner, the dream feels so close.

But what if the dream doesn't come true? The competition for the sixteen spots in the company is fierce, and many won't make it. Talent, dedication, body shape, size -- everything will influence the outcome. Clare's grandfather says she is already a great dancer, but does she really have what it takes to make it into the company? And if not, then what?

Told through passionate and affecting poems in Clare's own voice, On Pointe soars with emotion as it explores what it means to reach for a dream -- and the way that dreams can change as quickly and suddenly as do our lives.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Booklist, starred review The poetic, spare language, written in Kay's self-possessed, first-person voice, is refreshingly frank....Like Virginia Euwer Wolff's free-verse novels, Grover's book balances vivid emotional scenes with plenty of space between the words.

Publishers Weekly [A] hard-hitting debut novel....Any reader who has faced cancer, death or just struggled to define his or her own truth will respond to this memorable heroine and the novel's themes of loss, survival and remembrance.

Publishers Weekly
Grover (Loose Threads) brings an air of authenticity to this well-wrought free-verse novel about a girl's passion for ballet. Clare has studied for 10 grueling years; now she is spending the summer at her grandfather's, to be closer to her all-consuming classes at Ballet Conservatory, in western Washington. Pressure mounts as she and the other students anticipate the imminent auditions for City Ballet, which has just 16 openings. Grover, who in her teens was a member of the Miami Ballet Company, expertly captures the mood of the students as they privately obsess about their abilities and bodies, always competing. Clare sweats out a difficult move: " `Good extension, Willow,'/ Madame croons./ My leg shakes violently/ while I stare/ at Willow's short, still leg/ poised at shoulder height." Some will do anything to keep their weight down, and almost everyone shuns Dia, whose unexpectedly voluptuous development eventually costs her all her aspirations. Clare, taller by at least four inches than all the other girls, tries to make up for her height with extra effort, but will her hard work be enough? While spelling out the physical toll of pain, bloodied feet and cramping muscles, Grover more subtly communicates the depth of the characters' ardor. She casts a knowing eye on Clare's family, especially on the mother who talks about "our" dream. While the tensions resolve in familiar ways, the limber verse will keep the audience engrossed. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-In this introspective novel told in free verse, Clare poignantly describes her struggles to reach her dream of becoming one of 16 dancers chosen for the City Ballet Company. At the beginning and the end of her story, the voices of other dancers provide added perspectives on what drives young people to the dedication needed to become a ballet dancer. From the details of the dance-class routines and the tensions and competition among the dancers to the intimate family crises, the teen's voice rings true. Her sense of failure is convincingly portrayed when she is told that she is too tall to join the company, as is her gradual realization that her years of training were not wasted. The relationship between her and her mother, who has made her daughter's dream her own, is insightfully described. When Clare's grandfather has a stroke, the family rallies around him and is forced to focus on something besides the disappointment about the ballet. Clare begins to refocus her life and appreciate the fact that her love of dance is important to her. This finely written novel touches on contemporary themes such as body image leading to bulimia, overly ambitious parents, and aging grandparents who can no longer live alone.-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Acceptance into the City Ballet Company in Washington State is the entire focus of 16-year-old Clare's life; in fact, she moves in with her grandfather over the summer to be near her ballet school. Blisters, bulimia, combinations of steps, and who's getting fat are the sole topics of conversation at class. When Clare learns that she's too tall for ballet, she's crushed but not nearly as devastated as her mother, who has always referred to ballet as "our dream." Clare and her mother do work through this mother/daughter issue quite neatly. Another story line involves Clare's grandfather, who suffers a debilitating stroke. With the help of her grandfather's attendant, Clare learns to love the joys of dance as opposed to the stress and pain of performance. Writing in free verse-often more like prose with line breaks-Grover explores the many unpleasant aspects of ballet and pays scant attention to current dancers, choreography, or music. Clare's loving relationship with her grandfather and her ability to cope successfully with the end of her ballerina dreams make her almost too good to be true, but she'll appeal to teens interested in dance. (Fiction. 12-14)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One


I dance because Mother says I'm her prima ballerina. City Ballet Company? Please. I'm going to New York. Soon I'll be the youngest professional dancer in American Ballet Theatre. Mother says so.


I dance because money won't buy my spot in City Ballet. I want this so bad I'll do anything. I get whatever I want.


I dance to feel beautiful. But all of a sudden I've grown. Not taller or fatter. But now I need a big bra and my hips are huge. I have to cover up and hide everything. Otherwise they won't let me dance anymore. I know it.


I dance because I always have. What else would I ever do?


Most guys don't dance, but I like to. None of my friends get it. Who cares? Ballet makes me strong. Besides, I like hanging out with so many girls.


I work half an hour at the barre and an hour on the floor, six days a week. I stretch every sinew and sweat from every pore, proving I'm in control. This is our dream: me, my mom, dad, and grandpa's. We dream that I'll be a dancer in City Ballet.

I let go of the barre, press my salty lips to my towel, and breathe in my sweat.

Willow pitty pats her face dry.

Elton wipes up where he dripped.

"Here, Clare."

Rosella hands me my toe shoes.


"And now move to the floor room,"

says Madame.

Little girls pour out of the dressing room, racing for the barres we've stepped away from.

We hurry with our class down the hall to the floor room and watch the adult class end.

"How sad," whispers Rosella.

The men and women are like twenty years old.

A few could be thirty or forty.

Who knows?

They don'tuse pointe shoes.

Their bodies sag.

Bits of fat bounce on their bones.

Their tights and leotards blare color.

Half of them can barely stumble through combinations.

Their instructor with the little goatee must be sick to his stomach after trying to teach them.

Why are they even here?

Why do they smile?

I shrink back as they brush by to leave.

The guys get extra time to stretch while we girls drop down against the back wall.

Without our flat shoes on, we are a row of feet, bulging in tights spotted red and brown with blood.

The holes we cut let us peel the fabric back from our toes.

The tights tug up loose skin and coagulated blood.


We grind our teeth and blink back the stinging pain.

Blisters pop.

Clear liquid runs.

Fresh blood oozes.

Gauze, tape, moleskin, and spongy pink toe caps hold the skin and blood in place.


We hold our breath and stretch the tights back over our toes.

Our feet slip into satin shoes with stiff shanks, hard boxing, tight elastic, and slippery ribbons that wrap and end in hard knots.

The frayed edges are crammed out of sight.

We stand.

A row of bound feet rises to its toes.

"I'm looking for a four/four piece,"

Madame says to the pianist, the old guy that's here everyday, that no one ever talks to or really looks at.

"No, not that one," says Madame.

She shuffles through his music.

Rosella and I lean against the window.

A breeze tickles a couple stray hairs against my cheek.

I press them back into place and look outside.

The Cascade foothills snug up close against my grandpa's town sitting low in the valley.

Mount Rainier is peeking out of the top of the clouds hovering above us.

It looks huge.

"I'm definitely fat today, Clare," says Rosella.

"You are not," I whisper, and look away from the window.

She turns sideways and stares at herself in the mirrors that cover the wall.

They show the truth every second we are in this room.

But even so, some girls can't see themselves for real.

"Yes, I am," she says. "Fat."

I shake my head.

Even her neck looks skinnier today.

"Okay, class."

Madame claps, and we walk out to the floor.

None of us is fat.

Or we wouldn't be here.

There are only sixteen positions in City Ballet.

Sixteen positions make the company.

How many in my class?

How many in the conservatory?

How many in western Washington dream like me to be one in sixteen?

We stand perfectly still.

Madame chants the combination.

"Demi-plié, pas de chat, changement, relevé."

I try to mark the steps by barely moving my hands.

We catch the words being fired out of her red-lined lips.

My mind is frantic to gather each sound.

"Begin," she says.

The pianist plays an intro.

I dip down and leap, switch feet and rise on pointe.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And then flow into the steps we memorized last class.

The choreography is graceful, then strong.

It's like I'm melting, then getting zapped with electricity, then flowing across the floor.

To the final plié.

I got it.

Every single step.

I hold my arabesque.

Madame weaves through the class making adjustments to form.

I'm at least four whole inches taller than all the girls, and a couple inches taller than all the boys, except Elton.

He's still taller than me, at least.

Why didn't I inherit Mom's shortness instead of Dad's tallness?

And why the spastic growth spurt this summer?

My ankle wobbles, and sweat outlines my eye.

Madame raises my foot.

Her eyes measure every edge of me.

Please, don't notice the four inches.

She moves on.

Her cane taps along the floor.

"Good, Margot."

I peek at her in the mirror.

Margot's only five-foot-two.

I lose my balance and drop the arabesque.

We're sliced and divided into little groups.

If we're performing, it's as a group of individuals, each dying to be noticed for something good.

I land my triple pirouette.

Madame doesn't see it.

If we're waiting our turn, we're watching to see if anyone fails in any little way.

Willow misses a tendue.

Madame doesn't see it.

We're sliced and divided.


Steamy sweat, like a pot of chicken soup.

Oak floors.

Pine rosin.

Sour breath from deep inside.

We breathe it all in rhythm.

Here is the moment when the music flows into my bones, and I don't have to think of the steps, and I don't have to count the movements, and it really feels like I might actually be dancing for a few seconds.

I'm a pale dust mote swirling on a warm sunbeam.

I leap and float, land deep and rise to step and spin in the shaft of light, showing everyone who I really am.

It's like I'm turned inside out.

With a great sweeping bow, we thank Madame, silently, but for the brush of shoes on wood, and then we bow to ourselves in the mirrors.

Even if we failed most everything today, at least these bows let us pretend we're real dancers.

Madame once was.

A dancer.

We all know she was great.

Her black-and-white photos line the back wall.

She was a soloist, then a principal dancer in a European company.

She lived it, every person's dream in this room.

So even though she's the typical ballet instructor --

tough, harsh, and scary --

we respect her for what she was and what she can do for us now.

I snatch my flat shoes from the row against the wall.

It's easy to find the biggest pair.

"Can you come over today, Rosella?"

She works at landing a triple pirouette and nails it.

and rush down the hall.

I can't keep growing taller.

I've got to stop.

I can't lose control and be pointless like poor Dia.

Everyone bustles around the dressing room.

Chiffon skirts, shoes, and ribbons flutter as we metamorphosize back into girls and cover up our leotards and tights with jeans and T-shirts.


I bang on the stall.

The toilet flushes.

She comes out wiping her lips Copyright © 2004 by Lorie Ann Grover

Meet the Author

Lorie Ann Grover attended the University of Miami. After school she lived with her husband, David, in South Korea, where she spent most of her time painting and writing poetry. The Grovers have two daughters, Emily and Ellen, and live in Sumner, Washington.
The author of Loose Threads, Lorie Ann was inspired to write On Pointe by her own experiences as a teenage member of the Miami Ballet Company.

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On Pointe 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
dancer543 More than 1 year ago
I have been a dancer since I was five years old. Which makes it easy to understand the painful blisters from pointe shoes and muscles aches. This book shows how much hard work and time Claire dedicates to ballet, and it can all be over after one audition. Well at least the competion, bit not the joy of dancing. That will be her decision.
Myam_Lusia More than 1 year ago
I myself am a dancer. When I was younger, I used to read books about frilly ballerinas, keeping my mind set that I wanted to be like them someday. Now, here I am, attending class after class, suffering blister after blister, getting better and better, just like Clare in On Pointe. Clare's story is real. If you are a dancer, you know very well what it is like to be Clare. The pain, the joy, the floating, the fun, the heartache when you misstep, the shameness when you are called out for daydreaming or goofing up a move, the experience overall. Clare wants nothing more than to be one of the sixteen chosen City Ballet dancers. Will she make it? Will her height fail her? Failing is not an option in Clare's world. Will she be able to handle the pressure of everyone around her? Excellent novel! Please pick it up an read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book! I Enjoyed Reading it. It was happy at times and it was sad too. I'm actually in the end of reading the book! But so far it is the best book I have ever read in my life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was one of the best ive ever read. it was happy, sad, and overall, a beautiful book (besides the retching). it told of a dancer who tries out for the City Ballet Company. cant say anymore or ill ruin it. Anyway, I LOVED IT!!! READ IT, YOULL LIKE IT =D!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
well, this book i thought was very good b/c i do ballet and although i'm not bad i'm not near as good as these 2 other girls in my class (they're younger than me!!!) so this book tought me to stick with it b/c if i really love it i won't let that get in my way b/c i really love dancing...i'm not gunna say n e more b/c i'll ruin it but i thought this was a really good book for ballet dancers or n e 1 else that thinks they lyk this kind of book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was GREAT book it tells the life of how real dancers are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was sad at some points and happy in others. Overall it was a GOOD book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I kiss cammy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I walk into the abandoned apartment and cry feeding my kittens
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is written like an actual dancer wrote it. It tells exactly what it's like to wear pointe shoes and the pressure and hard ballet gives. I am a dancer myself and this is exactly what I go through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1- wake up 2- get ready 3- go to the dance studio 4- stretch 5- go to the barre 6- practice 7- eat lunch 8- practice more 9- go home 10- sleep 11- repeat
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A definite must read for dancers of all ages. This book lets people know what dancer have to go through in their everyday life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Are you still there?~Elise