This is another one of my favorite books (I, know, I say that a lot)! I read “Dancing in the Wings” to my fourth and fifth graders AT LEAST twice a year for different purposes. The text is a bit long, and there is some name-calling and teasing in the book, so elementary-age children may be able to enjoy this book more than younger children.
Sassy, the main character, is a tall, big-footed, young woman who loves to dance. Due to her height, she is unable to participate in recitals because she is too tall for the boys to pick up and would stand out too much if she danced in a group. She is forced to “dance in the wings.” To make matters worse, she is teased by her brother and her fellow dancers. She sticks up for herself, however she feels discouraged. An opportunity arises and Sassy is able to try out for an important ballet. After some encouraging words from her uncle, Sassy gains the confidence to put her best big foot forward.
Debbie Allen wrote this book based on some of her own experiences which gives this book its authentic feel. I am assuming that she had a brother because the back and fourths between Sassy and her “big forehead lookin’ like a street lamp” brother are right on. I love how they tease each other, yet when Sassy needs it, he is there to cheer her on.
The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are beautiful. The details in the way that the ballerinas stand add to the charm of the book. There fingers and toes always seem to be standing perfectly, just like a ballerina. Also, I like the Degas-type paintings in the background of the dance studio. Nice touch! Enjoy!