PreS-Gr 2-Zorina is the littlest elephant in the biggest circus on Earth. When the others begin to learn a dance for a grand performance, she longs to join in, but is told she is too young. Nevertheless, the clowns teach her how to polka secretly. On the opening night, the prima ballerina becomes ill, and Zorina gets her big chance to become a star. Another in the small-character-makes-good category, this book has a difference: the story is based on a real-life episode. George Balanchine choreographed ``The Circus Polka'' for Ringling Brothers Circus in 1942, and persuaded his friend, Igor Stravinsky, to compose the music. The watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations and the layout of the book are pleasant, and the portrayal of the pachyderms and clowns is humorous and endearing. Since the text is short, this book could easily be used for preschool story time, and it will certainly strike a chord with would-be dancers and children fascinated by the big top.-Judy Constantinides, East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA
Zorina, a very young circus elephant, dreams of "the glamorous life of a prima ballerina, elephant-style." Balanchine, a famous Russian ballet master, arrives to teach the elephants to polka. Zorina longs to dance with the other elephants, but she is too young. Knowing her wish, the clowns teach her to polka and make her a costume. When Mordoc, the lead dancer, becomes sick on opening night from eating too many peanuts, the clowns manage Zorina's surprise debut in the show, and she becomes a star. Giannini bases his tale of a young elephant's dream come true on a factual 1942 elephant polka performance in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Madison Square Garden. His watercolor and pencil illustrations are a mixture of soft pastels and bright colors, giving the art a comforting yet exuberant appeal. With their pleasing round and squiggly shapes, the drawings are full of movement that offsets the simple text. Especially good for reading aloud.