Ella and her friends took a ballet class in the Spring and her love has only grown in the off-season – just yesterday she was dancing around the house in her tutu and ballet slippers singing Carly Rae Jepsen!
Of course, I’m all about following her natural interests and providing materials to allow her to deepen her knowledge and fascination on a given topic – so I wanted to curate some beautiful ballet books for her reading nook.
For this collection of children’s ballet books, I wanted to have a variety of books that approached ballet in different ways:
- ballet books that challenged gender stereotypes
- ballet books that discussed the stories behind famous ballets
- relatable stories about kids doing ballet
- ballet books about famous ballerinas
- nonfiction books discussing ballet technique and moves
- ballet picture books with no written words
- multicultural ballet books
Of the utmost importance in selecting these books, I wanted beautiful books with great writing. They had to be books that Ella would be drawn to reading and exploring, and that I would enjoy reading to her over and over again.
I also tried to pick some ballet books that you may not have heard of before and books at different reading levels.
Now onto the books!
Swan by Laurel Snyder
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova is the compelling true story about the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was the first ballerina to dance the part of Odette in Swan Lake.
She changed the norms of the dance world and spent most of her older years travelling and teaching people from a poor background (like herself) about the beauty of dance and following your dreams.
This book is beautifully illustrated and poetically written. One of my favourite books of the year.
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Another favourite, we have both Flora and the Flamingo and the cold-weather follow-up, Flora and the Penguin. Both are wordless picture books of the dance between Flora and her feathered friends – I love hearing children make up the narrative to go along with the cute and funny dances!
Miss Lina’s Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone
Miss Lina’s Ballerinas is the first in a series of sweet and subtle rhyming books by Grace Maccarone. Our favourite is probably Miss Lina’s Ballerinas and the Prince, but this is the first book in the series, about involving a new ballerina into the group and adjusting the group’s dynamics.
As with the first two books in this list, I also love this book for it’s sweet illustrations, which are more subtle than the previous two, but still sweet.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
The Shoes Series is a classic – Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail broke down describing them while visiting a corporate book shop where the employees were unfamiliar with the series.
Ballet Shoes is the first book in the 1930s series, an inspiring story about 3 orphans striking out to make it for themselves in the competitive world of ballet. This is a perfect book for a more advanced reader, or for reading a chapter at night for a bedtime story.
Firebird by Misty Copeland
Firebird is written by former ballerina and New York Times Best Seller, Misty Copeland, and is an encouraging and lyrical account of the hard work that it takes to reach the heights of the “Firebird.” Also, one of the few ballet books that I found with a non-white protagonist.
The Jellybeans & the Big Dance by Laura Numeroff
If you love the “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie” series, you’ll love this ballet-themed book from it’s author, The Jellybeans & the Big Dance. This is the first book in her new series, with the Jellybeans meeting for the first time at dance class and have fun together, despite their differences.
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen
Roughly based on Debbie Allen’s own experiences as a young dancer, Dancing in the Wings is a story about a slightly awkward girl who desires to be noticed in the dance world. An encouraging and captivating story about accepting yourself and celebrating your differences.
(And again, one of the few ballet books featuring a black dancer.)
Brontorina by James Howe
While wonderful and silly (a brontosaurus ballerina?!), Brontorina is a fun picture book which also has so many great messages for children making it a great book even for non-ballet enthusiasts. The story is all about being true to yourself, being inclusive (considering the needs of others), and being brave in trying new things. So many great topics for further exploration.
Ella Bella Ballerina & Swan Lake by James Mayhew
This a fabulous series for a ballet unit study, especially for us after having done our Montessori Cinderella Unit Study. In each of the Ella Bella books, Ella Bella opens a magical music box and finds herself within a famous ballet and has to help the story along – learning about the characters and plot along the way. These make a great introduction to watching the actual ballets, as children can develop a context for the stories in a fun and age-appropriate way. (And I have to love the metaphor of losing yourself to the music and being whisked into the ballet!)
We’ve only read Ella Bella Ballerina & Swan Lake, but I’m excited to check out the rest of the series as we embark on our own Ballet Unit Study.
To Dance by Siena Cherson Siegel
A graphic novel based on the life of Puerto Rican dancer, Siena Cherson Siegel, who moved to America to pursue her ballet dreams. To Dance is a great pick for an older child based on the graphic novel format, Siena’s story was inspiring and the unique approach created some diversity on our shelves. (Even if I can’t get into graphic novels myself.)
Tallulah’s Tutu by Marilyn Singer
I love books that have lessons or morals to them, but are so subtle and well-done that children don’t feel lectured or preached to, and can just immerse themselves into a great story and discover the lesson on their own. (Like of like leaving breadcrumbs of a thought and allowing a child to follow it logically.) Tallulah’s Tutu definitely hits the mark.
Tallulah, like most girls I know, desires a tutu but thinks that it is a prize given out to the best dancers. She works hard to earn a tutu and is disappointed when she doesn’t receive one, but learns that ballet is more than beautiful tutus.
Ballerino Nate by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
Ballerino Nate is a great pick for encouraging boys who are interested in dance, or encouraging girls to be receptive to boys in dance class (as is Miss Lina’s Ballerinas and the Prince).
Nate is teased by his brother and scared that he will have to wear a pink tutu if he pursues his dream to dance – but he follows his dream anyways.
Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories by Jane Yolen
This collection of ballet stories is gorgeous and a great book to have available during a ballet unit study. We read the stories one a time, usually after learning a bit about the ballet from another “introduction” book, like the Ella Bella books or Swan. It comes with a story CD, too, which we love – it allows Ella to be read to during quiet time or whenever she desires and I am not available to read to her.
Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor
Ella loves the Fancy Nancy series and who can blame her? A fabulous kindergartner with a killer fashion sense, Fancy Nancy is as obsessed with ballet and mermaids as my little girl is. In this book, Fancy Nancy loses the coveted spot of the mermaid in her dance production but is determined to be the best tree she can be – bringing her signature fashion sense and positivity to the role.
I love Fancy Nancy books for encouraging boldness, creativity, and positive approaches in girls while also introducing children to new vocabulary words in an approachable way.
Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari
Chasing Degas is a gorgeous book that seamlessly weaves an introduction to Impressionist painters in with a tale of a young dancer searching for Degas through the streets of late 19th century Paris. I loved this book, and it is a great way to introduce not just the Impressionists but the concept of portrait and figure drawing.
Ballerina: A Step-by-Step Guide to Ballet by Jane Hackett
This encyclopedia-style book is great for children curious to learn more about the technical aspects of ballet, or practice properly at home – or even choreograph their own ballet! It also comes with an instructional DVD.
I love that this is a book that grows with your child – there are tips for improving technique for every stage of dancer.
A Child’s Introduction to Ballet by Laura Lee
A book and CD set, this book goes a bit more in-depth than the Barefoot Books collection listed above (though I still love that version for it’s illustrations and the wording of the stories) sharing dancing tips, history facts, and actual music from the ballet.