Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tallulah's Tutu by Marilyn Singer, illus. by Alexandra Boiger

When I was four, I watched Peggy Fleming skate to gold in the Winter Olympics, and I wanted to be her. I didn't want to be like her, I wanted to be her, and my poor mother had a devil of a time explaining to me that I could only be myself, and that I could learn to skate, but I couldn't actually be Peggy Fleming. It was in the spring when I took a few ballet classes – probably at the YMCA, where my mother worked at the time. (I'm sure we couldn't have afforded ballet classes otherwise.)

I had a leotard and tights for sure. I'm not positive whether I had ballet shoes or not. I remember trying and trying to stand in first position properly, but my right leg never quite cooperated. Turns out my right hip isn't quite as flexible as it ought to be – it wasn't then, it isn't now, it never has been. And it turns out that I was not a graceful petal, and that ballet wasn't quite my cup of tea, and it wasn't all that long before I wasn't taking ballet classes anymore. I devoted my time to climbing trees and playing hide-and-seek and reading and such. And then, in second grade, I fell in love with the piano and begged and pleaded for lessons – I'd found my personal passion, and it was one I pursued through college. I still play, in fact, although some of my skills are a bit rusty.

I tell you all this by way of saying why I felt such a strong response to Tallulah's Tutu, the new picture book written by my friend Marilyn Singer, and resplendently illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. Tallulah, you see, wants to be a great ballerina. She is pretty certain that the only thing she needs in order to be a great ballerina is a tutu, although her mother wisely suggests that lessons might help.

Tallulah enjoys her ballet classes. She learns the positions and moves. She practices all the time at home. But in her mind, she really wants that tutu – and, of course, she wants it NOW. She's willing to allow for slight delays, but eventually, she gets fed up and decides that if she can't have her tutu, she won't bother to dance. She tries eschewing ballet with a firm hand, but because it really, truly is her passion, she can't help but see it everywhere. In fact, my favorite page in the book may be this one:

But everything kept reminding Tallulah of ballet. Her neighbor's basset hound always stood in second position. The kitchen clock constantly performed ronds de jambe. The serving spoon at dinner was forever doing tendus.
Eventually, Tallulah realizes that she likes ballet too much to stop doing it, whether she has a tutu or not. She is helped in her realization by meeting a little girl who has a tutu, but cannot yet dance. And, of course, Tallulah does get her tutu . . . eventually.

An adorable book about pursuing one's passion, about patience and practice and perseverance (although, thankfully, without that level of alliteration and without being overtly didactic). Recommended for little dancers everywhere – or for any little girl who has found her particular passion. (The extreme pinkness of this book makes it an unlikely choice for most boys, even though there is a boy in Tallulah's ballet class, and her baby brother is interested in ballet as well.)

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