Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book #256: Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird, Illustrated by Helen Craig

Image from
Angelina loves to dance more than anything else in the world. In fact, her dancing is driving her mother crazy! She dances instead of tidying her room and when she dances in the kitchen she knocks over a whole plate of Cheddar cheese pies. Angelina’s mother is at her wit’s end, but luckily her father has an idea. The next morning Angelina finds a box on the breakfast table with a pink ballet dress and ballet slippers. She begins ballet lessons at Miss Lilly’s Ballet School. Now Angelina dances so much in class that she can spend time at home cleaning her room and helping to bake delicious Cheddar cheese pies. And after years of practicing, Angelina becomes the famous ballerina Mademoiselle Angelina and many people are able to enjoy her wonderful dancing.

The text is set against the white of the page, making it easy to read, and the delicate, detailed illustrations deftly showcase Angelina’s wonderful movements. There’s a timeless, yet contemporary, quality to the text and illustrations of this book. The action-driven text, great for reading aloud, centers on activities that could have happened yesterday or a hundred years ago. Likewise, although the illustrations were inspired by Craig’s childhood in rural England, children will not be lost in historical details. Even though both creators are English, I feel that Angelina’s story is universal.

This is a great book to share with the young dancers in your life. I remember pulling this book off the shelf when I was young just to look at the pictures. I agonized over whether I would wear the pink ballet dress, like Angelina, or one of the other dresses worn by the girls in her ballet class.

Pair this book with other ballet stories such as, Bea at Ballet, Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two or Brontorina. Turn on ballet music and let the kids dance. This is a great opportunity to bring out scarves if you have them. When you are done, practice your curtsies and bows, as Angelina does in the book.

Follow up by making your own tutu. Mammalicious uses elastic and (lots) of tulle to make this hand knotted tutu. Don’t have the resources to buy elastic and tulle? No worries. Save the elastic from a pair of men’s underwear. Just cut off the underwear part and then cut the elastic to the right size for your child. Instead of tulle, use leftover ribbons and other flowy fabrics (check your local thrift store for cheap scarves). These won’t stand out the way tulle does, but they will swirl when your child spins. For a less time consuming craft, try this Angelina Ballerina hand print craft.

Check out the Angelina page of Holabird’s website which includes a timeline of the creation and development of Angelina and printable activities.

If your kids fall in love with darling Angelina, check out the other books in the Angelina series. I vividly remember reading Angelina at the Fair and Angelina and Alice when I was young.



  1. Haha! Some mothers would probably see Angelina’s doings disturbing… But, isn’t it beautiful to see your kid crazy about something that will benefit her in the future and probably boosting her career? I admire parents who keep on supporting their children in such cases as dancing to show off their talent in the whole world.

    1. Eidine,
      I'm so glad you pointed that out. I think you've identified one of the reasons I've loved Angelina for so many years. I also enjoy that her parents don't question Angelina's desire to dance, they accept that it's part of who she is and that's just lovely.