Brontorina by James Howe

brontorinaLynn: Remember a few weeks ago when Cindy demanded more estrogen in the picture books we blog? I have JUST the book that should please her and keep our focus group happy too. Brontorina (Candlewick 2010) is about a ballet dancer AND a dinosaur. In fact it is about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina. Brontorina has a dream – she wants to dance! When she shows up at Madame Lucille’s Dance Academy for Girls and Boys, Madame Lucille is at first nonplussed. But when she looks in Brontorina’s eyes she sees a true dancer. Others are not so sure. For one thing she doesn’t have the right shoes! Madame agrees to teach Brontorina with the request that she not “squish the other dancers.” As the weeks go by it is clear that although Brontorina is extremely graceful there are major problems. She doesn’t fit into the studio and how will a male dancer ever lift her over his head? Fortunately Madame Lucille is a flexible adapter especially when the right shoes are provided by a fellow student’s mother. “The problem,” says Madame Lucille, is not that you are too big. The problem is that my studio is too small.” Oh be still my heart! As school starts, I hope every child will have a Madame Lucille!

James Howe’s wonderful story is sweet and funny and Randy Cecil’s charming oil color illustrations in soft colors are ideally suited to the story. Brontorina spills grandly across the gutters, dwarfing the tiny dancers beneath her feet. There are lots of fun details that add to the fun.

Our focus group loved this book – somewhat to my surprise – proving that a little estrogen is not a bad thing – at least as long as dinosaurs are involved.

Cindy: What will Lynn come up with next? A jewelry craft book about a pirate that makes his own earrings? Hmmm. Maybe I’d be interested in that one. Silliness aside, Brontorina is a book that parents, teachers, and children are all going to embrace. After a weary week of professional development, it is this book that refocuses my thoughts on what it means to be a good educator (or a good parent). Kids will laugh and cheer, and adults will be moved by the philosophy within. Cecil’s illustrations are delightful: The piano accompanist who is threatened with being crushed, Brontorina trying to jete while scraping a hole in the ceiling, the ginormous tear that appears when Brontorina is told she is too big to dance, and the Picasso-esque double eyes that grace each profile shot.

I’ve always thought myself too clumsy for dance class but if dinosaurs and cows can do it, maybe I should dare to dream.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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