Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace; illus. by LeUyen Pham Preschool, Primary Disney-Hyperion 40 pp. 8/12 978-1-4231-5753-3 $14.99
It's a familiar story: a young girl begins dance lessons, works hard, perseveres through doubts and missteps, and eventually makes a successful debut performance. The twist here? She's a young vampire, taking evening ballet classes. Aside from a few vampire-student-specific tips (watch the fangs; don't trip on your cape when curtsying to Madame), Pace's encouraging text reads like an advice book for any young dancer. Pham's illustrations steal the show, offering plenty of visual jokes for both vampire fans (Vampirina's spiderlace costume and lack of reflection in the studio mirror) and balletomanes (she poses for a Degas-style painting and wears a "Dancing Queen" T-shirt). The watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations make excellent use of black and, of course, soft ballet pink; two foldout pages highlight Vampirina's recital with her classmates. Sound advice, good technical form, and correct terminology will help ensure that young ballerinas will, as Madame advises, "always move with your head held high." But the message that passion, dedication, and patience have beautiful results is inspirational for any reader. After all, "it doesn't matter if you take one giant leap or many tiny steps, as long as you are moving toward your goal."