Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Making Do: Lena's Slippers by Ioana Hobai

The school dance recital was almost here!

Lena swirled and twirled.

She did one last pirouette outside the classroom.

Taking a deep breath, she cracked the door open and tiptoed inside.

Mrs. Pascu did not tolerate tardiness.

Mrs. Pascu, the ballet teacher, doesn't tolerate much.

She tells the girls that they are to be dancing flowers in the spring recital. Their skirts must be daffodil yellow and their slippers must be white.

Lena knows that money is tight and that fabric is in short supply in her little town. Her mom waits in line for hours just to get milk, and the only yellow fabric she can find is more like the color of a winter squash than a spring daffodil.

"It's not the right yellow!" protested Lena. "Mrs. Pascu is so picky!"

"Oh, Lena," said her mom. "We're lucky to have found any yellow at all. I'll sew you a beautiful skirt."

And her skirt is beautiful. But when Lena and her mother wait in line to buy the white slippers, someone else gets the last pair and there are no more to be had.

As expected, Mrs. Pascu scolds Lena about her skirt, but when she sees Lena is wearing white socks, she is truly angry. Picky Mrs. Pascu snaps that she absolutely will not be allowed to dance in the recital without white shoes.

When a friend gives Lena's father a pair of his daughter's old ballet slippers, Lena's is happy... until she sees that they are black. She is sure Mrs. Pascu will never let her dance in black shoes.

But where there's a will, there's a way. With a coat of white paint, perhaps Lena's slippers will pass muster, in Ioana Hobai's true story of her childhood in Romania, Lena's Slippers (Page Street Kids, 2018). And in the spirit of making the best of what you have, Hobai's endearing illustrations, filled with light and the joy of dance, demonstrate that what you do with what you have is what is important in art and life. It is the spirit of the dance that shines through in this different ballet story with an inspiring theme for young balletomanes.

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