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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

En Pointe? Tallulah's Toe Shoes by Marilyn Singer

TALLULAH COULD STAND LIKE A BALLERINA.

TALLULAH COULD MOVE LIKE A BALLERINA, TOO.

BUT TALLULAH KNEW THAT SHE WOULD NEVER BE A BALLERINA UNTIL SHE GOT A PAIR OF TOE SHOES.

Tallulah earned her tutu. She worked for her chance to solo in the spotlight. But Tallulah is a girl who wants it all--now.

And now her heart is set on soloing in those splendid pink toe shoes. She suffers pangs of envy as, dressed as a village girl in a plain brown dress, swaying in the chorus, she watches an older girl take the role of the Lilac Fairy in a glittery tutu, dancing en pointe in those elegant shoes.
ONE DAY HER TEACHER SAID, "TALLULAH, WHAT EXCELLENT FEET!  YOU'RE GOING TO BE WONDERFUL EN POINTE SOMEDAY!"

"WHEN IS SOMEDAY," TALLULAH ASKED.

"WHEN YOUR FEET ARE READY, WHEN THEY HAVE STOPPED GROWING."

But my feet ARE ready, Tallulah thought. And so am I.

Soon Tallulah sees her chance. In the dressing room she watches the Lilac Fairy girl toss her worn-out toe shoes into the trash can. Tallulah lingers until everyone leaves and then fishes the discarded shoes out and stuffs them into deep into the bottom of her ballet bag,

Back home, Tallulah closes her bedroom door, stuffs some tissue into the toes of the shoes, and laces them up in criss-cross style just as she's seen the older dancers do. They look perfect on her feet.

But her feet don't cooperate. Tallulah finds it impossible to stand on her toes. She even asks her little brother Becket to be her princely partner stand-in. Climbing up onto a chair, Becket extends his arm and Tallulah struggles to come up on her toes.

But her eleve' is far from elegante.

Tallulah persists, trying for a demi-pointe and a pirouette, but by then her toes are beginning to hurt! Really hurt!
OW! OW! OW! OW!

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak! Sadly, Tallulah limps through the next few days, silent about her disappointment, and after her next class, she dejectedly tosses the shoes back in the dressing room trash, just as the Lilac Fairy girl comes through the door. Instantly the older dancer intuits the whole story, and reassures her that she, too, once despaired of ever going en pointe and tells Tallulah that if she works really hard, maybe she, too, will get to dance the Lilac Fairy role.
"NOT SOME DAY, MAYBE," SAID TALLULAH. "SOMEDAY DEFINITELY."

In Marilyn Singer's latest in her series, Tallulah's Toe Shoes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), Tallulah continues to dream big dreams, but runs, not only into the discipline of ballet, but into the limits of her own anatomy. There's a good reason why little ballet dancers do not begin en pointe, and Tallulah luckily hits that wall early on, while the damage to her young feet is only skin deep. While Tallulah's yearnings for the trappings of ballet--tutus, spotlight solos, toe shoes--may seem superficial, this story touches on the deeper elements of developing a complex skill. The Lilac Fairy Girl is right: there are no guarantees that even hard work will make Tallulah the prima ballerina she longs to be--inborn talent and physiology play a part, but desire is important, too. Our girl Tallulah has plenty of that, and Singer's story captures that passion in plenty in this third book in her series.

Other books in this notable and top-selling series are Tallulah's Tutu and Tallulah's Solo, all elegantly illustrated by Alexander Boiger's delicate water-color and gouache art.

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