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The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories Review by Tammy Walker

By Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Illustrated by Rebecca Guay
Barefoot Books
2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Raised on yearly outings to "The Nutcracker" and classic fairly tales like "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella," most girls are fascinated with princess stories. And many girls also love the ballet. For younger girls, the fantastic stories in this anthology will capture their imagination. Older young ladies with a greater interest in the art of ballet will enjoy not only the tales within, but also the wonderful historical information given before each story.

The book begins with a brief history of ballet from its earliest formation in Italy and France. The authors (mother and daughter) trace the growing popularity of the art, the Greek and Roman mythological story lines, and even the history of the ballet shoe itself. Then, at the beginning of each of the seven stories, the authors share the history of that particular ballet--when it was first performed and the cultural/historical atmosphere at the time.

This compilation includes a retelling of "Coppelia: the Girl with the Enamel Eyes," "Swan Lake," "Cinderella," "The Nutcracker," "Shim Chung: the Blind Man's Daughter," "The Sleeping Beauty," and "Daphnis and Chloe." Having not grown up with ballet, myself, I was quite interested in the historical background of these tales. I was immediately interested in the powerful Korean folk tale of Shim Chung and her deep sacrifice to save her blind father. And this rendition of "Cinderella" offers a slightly different version than one commonly found in fairly tale books.

As with all storybooks containing folk and fairy tales, one must proceed with caution. This anthology contains magic, evil characters, and fantastical elements, yet the evil characters are not overly described. If these elements are inappropriate for your homeschool, you will want to avoid this book. The illustrations are quite remarkable, and the renditions are nicely written, making this a nice gift book as well. Barefoot Books continues to publish books worth keeping and giving. Those who have any interest in ballet and princess stories will fall in love with this one.

Product review by Tammy Walker, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2008