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Miss Lina’s Bellerinas

February 5, 2011


Title: Miss Lina’s Ballerinas
Author: Grace Maccarone
Illustrator: Christine Davenier
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780312382438
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (2010)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99
Buy on Amazon

When it comes to picture books, I have two general pet peeves:

  1. Books with breathtaking illustrations, but horrendous (or horrendously worded) stories.
  2. Rhyming books with inconsistent rhyme schemes.

I realize that this seems like a rather pretentious and “literary” thing to complain about, but do allow me to explain myself. Some people might say, “Cait, they are just children, they won’t pick up on an inconsistent rhyme scheme.” But trust me, they will. Especially because the true glory of rhyming books is that they are perfect for reading out loud (just think of any Dr. Seuss book from your childhood, and I’ll bet you remember it being read out loud to you). If the rhyming is done correctly, and the pattern of rhymes between lines is consistent, the reader will pick up the flow of the book, and the story will become almost like a song. However, if the rhyme scheme changes halfway through the book, or the author tries to cram too many syllables into a sentence, the reader will lose the flow of the story, and the kids will certainly notice when the fun sing-song story comes to a screeching and awkward halt.

I say all of this because Miss Lina’s Ballerinas, by Grace Maccarone, passes both of my tests beautifully! Not only does the book have some of the most adorable illustrations I’ve ever seen, but it has a sweet story as well. And, most importantly, it is a rhyming book done right.

Maccarone uses a fun and consistent rhyme scheme to tell the story of eight little girls, who study ballet with Miss Lina (pronounced LEE-NA). “Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina, Katrina, Bettina, Marina, and Nina” dance in four lines of two all day long.

Little readers, especially little ballerinas, will enjoy hearing about this gaggle of girls, who, “In pink head to toe, they danced all day– plié, relevé, pirouette, and jeté.” Maccarone’s dancers prance in four rows of two all around town: at school, at the market, at the beach, at the park, and at the zoo. But when a new little girl, named Regina, joins Miss Lina’s class, chaos ensues. Despite having a name that rhymes with the rest of the girls, and lovely ballet skills, Regina throws off the existing “four lines of two” routine.

In the end the girls learn the advantages of including others, when they see the fun in dancing in three lines of three.

Maccarone’s sweet story is brought to life by Christine Davenier’s (also the illustrator of Julie Andrews’ The Very Fairy Princess) even-sweeter illustrations. Davenier’s style reminds me of a cross between Ludwig Bemelmans’ illustrations in Madeline, and Hans Rey’s original drawings for Curious George. Davenier’s use of bright watercolors (vibrant pinks, yellows, blues, and greens) are accented with crayon, giving the illustrations a fun, youthful, spring-time feel.

So, why is it worth $16.99?

  1. Little girls will love the soft, yet silly, illustrations, as well as the overall ballet theme.
  2. Parents and teachers will appreciate the book for its read-out-loud qualities, the story’s moral of including others, as well as the heightened vocabulary (“annoyed and irate, distraught and distressed”), and handy list of ballet terms on the last page.

Check out the book trailer for Miss Lina’s Ballerinas!

Other ballet books I would recommend:

Picture Books For Younger Readers:

Chapter Books For Older Readers:

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4 comments

  1. What do you think are some of the benefits of using such specific, technical, kind of advanced language in books geared to young ages? Is this vocabulary common in these types of books, or rare?


  2. I wish more books like these were made for children. I think that heightening their vocabulary at a young age is a good thing. When kids are young they tend to absorb it more and if its in a rhythmical manner,a child is more likely to remember it. This is definitely a good children's book and I would buy it to read to my little cousins.


  3. I am enjoying your blog very much! You give me a clear picture of the worth of each book, the specific audience for the book, and offer more works by the same author. VERY helpful! I needed your blog around when I was teaching kindergarten! By the way, this is Rita from Tartine. Harry and I got reacquainted with you when we were there a couple weeks ago, and you gave me your blog address. SO nice to see you again. Keep up the great work!


  4. Jenny, I think Rhiannon did a pretty good job summing up the benefits of using this kind of creative & advanced language in picture books. The best way for teens and adults to expand their vocabulary is through reading (and I would argue that the VERY BEST way to expand your vocabulary is by reading Jane Austen). The same goes for kids (sans Jane Austen).And using this kind of language is becoming increasingly popular in children's books. Authors are no long simply adding silly made-up words to their stories, like the timeless and amazing Dr. Seuss, but they are now incorporating fun, heightened language as well. Look at my post on _Princess Hyacinth_, Heide's diction is elevated, but the words she uses are still silly and creative. They are words that young readers will want to incorporate into their own daily lives. She elevates the vocabulary without losing the overall playful tone of her narrative.The _Fancy Nancy_ series is a perfect example of this growing trend in children's literature. The whole concept of the series is centered on the use of heightened language. Fancy Nancy teaches her readers fancy words, like "soiree" and "plume." But the author, Jane O'Connor, sneaks in these vocabulary lessons in a way that delights, rather than distracts, her readers. Harper Collins even sells Nancy's dictionary called _Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words: from Accessories to Zany_. It will be interesting to see how this current trend in kiddie lit plays out…Rita, it was so good to see you again!



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