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.
Alexandrea has just moved from small-town Georgia to New York City's Harlem where her mother hopes to launch a costume-making business. The nine-year-old feels like she's in another world, except that Mama is still forcing her to take ballet, even though Alex dreams of becoming a speed skater like her idol Phoebe Fitz. The first day of class is made even worse, since her mother forces her to wear a wild creation-a tutu resembling a "pink puff pastry." When Alex is randomly assigned the coveted role of Sugar Plum Fairy in the school's summer performance, she is terrified and shunned by the other dancers. Practice doesn't help, and she seriously considers giving up the part. However, after seeing Phoebe Fitz on television talking about the importance of ballet, Alex determines to try her best. She enlists the help of other students, and as the girls progress with the dance moves, so do their friendships. Alex's voice is full of wit and determination. This fun easy chapter book develops at a good pace and creates a bit of tension and anticipation as readers follow Alex's efforts. Themes of self-confidence and the potential to achieve whatever you set your mind to are neatly woven into the story. Occasional spot art shows Alex and her new friends.-Bethany A. Lafferty, Las Vegas-Clark County Library, NV
When her ballet-nut mother decides to take her costume-designing business from Apple Creek, Ga., to Harlem, Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson ("The closest I've ever been to Russia is Atlanta") finds herself moving from a sleepy little small-town dance studio to the illustrious Nutcracker Ballet School. Much to her chagrin, Al, arguably the poorest dancer in the class, manages to land the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the upcoming recital. In order not to ruin the recital and embarrass herself, Al has to conquer the following problems: her trouble remembering the steps, her tendency to lose control when she spins and her terrible stage fright. Luckily, and unsurprisingly, she finds a group of friends who help her overcome all of these obstacles with a lot of practice and some creative solutions. Other problems, including Al's mother's difficulty finding clients for her business and her tendency to live vicariously through Alexandrea, reach quick and forced resolutions. Ultimately, though, an endearing multiethnic cast of characters and a positive message of the power of friendship make this one a keeper. (Fiction. 7-10)