Sunday, November 30, 2008

Children's Book Review: "The Tutu Ballet" by Sally O. Lee

This very short children's book tells the tale of Ms. Berry, the ballet teacher, and her four students. The four students are Belinda the Bear, Mirabel the Mouse, Harriet the Hare, and the Fillippo the Fox. Each student has a preferred dance move and they don't want to do anything else. So, after Ms. Berry tried hard to get them to work together and follow instructions, she decides to go with each student's favorite dance steps for their first recital. Each student will do their own thing and trigger the next student until the four have each done their own move. The resulting recital is a huge success. "The audience cheered and it was the best ballet ever." End of book.

According to the copyright page, the book is "a story about tolerance, patience, creativity, teamwork, and love." As a parent and education professional, I would say it is more a story of how everyone is considered a winner these days no matter what they do. This mentality has infected our school systems where every child gets a sticker of some thing regardless of ability or effort. Such is the case here. Instead of actual learning to follow instructions given by their teacher, Ms. Berry, the children do what they want from start to finish. It is the adult role model, the former prima ballerina, who ends up surrendering to their behavior and letting children do what they want to do. In fact, by coming up with the plan for the recital, the adult has encouraged the independent do what you will behavior to continue in the future. While the age group targeted may not pick upon that message the adults certainly will. Even for a children's book, these characters show no growth at all. The moral of the book seems to be let the kids do what they want and everyone will be happy.

Unfortunately, things don't work that way. Even if one can get by the moral theme, there are other issues with the book. For example, the illustrations are flat with everyone depicted as half smiling regardless of circumstances. There is a woodeness to the depictions that while the figures are colorful, they have no life to them. The poses may change, but there is no change to the characters and they remain uniformly the same throughout the book.

The biggest issue is the typeface. "This book is typeset in 'snowman' created by Sally O. Lee" according to the copyright page. The typeface itself seems to be nothing special and is rather small. The main issue is that the typeface is often set directly on top of the watercolor illustrations, making the unrythmic text virtually unreadable. This is somewhat depicted on the cover with the "story and illustrations by sally o. lee" blending into the illustration and there are stronger examples inside the book itself.

With a text that pushes the do anything and its great agenda, flat illustrations and unreadable typeface in many places throughout the book, I have to caution parents strongly to avoid this self published book. This one doesn't work on many levels and is a real disappointment.

The Tutu Ballet
Story/Illustrations by Sally O. Lee
Booksurge Publishing (self publishing unit of Amazon)
September 2008
36 Pages per publisher

I received this material on behalf of Blogger News Network in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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