Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Cranky Ballerina

Gravel, Elise (Author/Illustrator)
HarperCollins 2016. 32 pages
First published: 2016
ISBN: 9780062351241 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

“Arabesques are grotesque.” With wordplay and slapstick humour, this picture book pokes fun at gender stereotyping in children’s activities, as little Ada attends her Saturday morning ballet class with her stuffed-toy companion: “‘I hate ballet!’ ‘She hates ballet.’”

Emphatic speech-bubble dialogue (“She stinks,” “That was awful,” “Ouch”) contrasts with deadpan narration that is grounded in a child’s perspective: “Miss Pointy is trying to be nice. ‘It’s okay Ada. Let me show you again.’”

Graphic-style illustrations are both artful and cartoon-like, with sharp outlines, minimal details and flat colour fills in a limited palette. Scenes and spot images skillfully portray slapstick hilarity, as Ada blunders her way through ballet class. One spread is dominated by a red-striped ‘swoosh’-mark (“VVVVOOOOOoom”), with a multi-limbed Ada—tongue sticking out in concentration—flailing in all directions. Comics-style sound effects scatter across the pages (“Bop!” “Swat!” “Kick!” “Punch!”) as the other ballerinas are flung beyond page-range. A series of spot images show Ada’s second attempt at a pirouette (“Swat Swat Kick”), as she spins herself out the door and smacks into the teacher from the karate class across the hall.

The idea of understanding and appreciating our unique attributes and abilities—without reference to gender stereotypes—culminates when Ada is invited to join the (mostly masculine) karate kids. (‘Wowza!” “Where did she come from?” “Awesome!”) The final image shows a beaming Ada practising high kicks with the karate class.

  •  

    What is the meaning of cranky? What makes you cranky? Why do you think the ballerina is cranky?

  •  

    Watch how Ada’s facial expressions change depending on her activities. Identify how she is feeling as she goes through the day.

  •  What are some of your favourite activities? Act out your favourite pastimes and have your friends guess what you are doing.
  •  

    As a class, brainstorm common activities and organize them in two columns: Like and Don’t Like. Learn the English names of the activities.

  •  

    Examine the first double-page spread. What can we infer about Ada just by looking at her bedroom?

  •  What is the boy thinking at the end of the story? Suggest new activities for him. Reuse the new vocabulary you learned in the first activity.
  • To construct his/her identity
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Physical Education and Health