Saturday, October 15, 2011


Miss Lina's ballet school is full of joyful ballerinas (Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina, Katrina, Bettina, Marina and Nina) who live to dance, and dance they do, everywhere they go, in two perfect rows of four dancers. They pirouette and jete in perfect formation, and life is balanced and beautiful.

The ballerinas love nothing more than dancing together: "They danced doing math. They danced while they read. And after their supper, they danced into bed."

But the composure and balance of Miss Lina's school is completely disrupted with the arrival of Regina, ballerina number nine. After she appears on the scene, disorder ensues as the perfect formation is thrown off and everything falls apart.

"Then eight ballerinas cried, 'What shall we do? With nine, we no longer make four lines of two.'"

The dancers trip over themselves, each other, and even Miss Lina before landing in a huge, messy heap of confusion. However, Miss Lina maintains her sense of dignity and puts her math skills to use to devise the perfect solution in the form of a new formation: three perfect rows of three.

"There, there," said Miss Lina, "you will soon see how delightful it is to be three rows of three."

And they do. The ballerinas quickly return to dancing as usual, which they find just as pleasurable and easy in three rows of three.

Both the rhyming text by Grace Maccarone and clever illustrations rendered by Christine Davenier echo Ludwig Bemelmen's classic childhood favorite "Madeline". In fact, Miss Lina maintains her composure just like her predecessor, Miss Clavel. Watercolor and colored pencil drawings using a palette of colors reminiscent of the contents of a gumball machine vividly illustrate the ballerinas' love of dance and non-stop activity. Pink, the favorite color of all young girls is the predominant color, with flashes of peach, red and ivory as complements. Although the dancers appear almost completely uniform, as any good corps de ballet should, slight variations showing each girl's individual personality shines through, mostly in the form of unique hair accessories such as headbands, pigtail tie-ups and bows. The illustrations show both lifelike action and elation, with a quality of sweetness.

The book is a great choice for both preschoolers and early elementary school children, whether they want to be ballerinas or not. Its rhyming text and bright illustrations will make it a fun read for bedtime or a group- or a great gift.