Friday, October 7, 2011

The Little Ballerina

A few years ago, my sister came across this book in the storage room at my parent's house. I have the very fondest of memories of reading it when I was young and I know my sister did too. With the hope that she would enjoy it as much as we did, she set it out for Sophie. I've had it since then, but only recently introduced it into the reading rotation because I was worried that it would be too long or detailed for her. When I finally did bring it out, she absolutely fell in love with it. She asks me to read it every day before bedtime and naptime. She prances around the house doing the ballet moves described in the book.

Unfortunately, the book is more than 30 years old and has been much loved. The pages have fallen out and it is only my careful handling that keeps it together. I can't leave it in her room anymore because she doesn't have the most gentle hands and on more than one occasion I have come in to find its delicate pages strewn about her room.

So I got on Amazon to see if I could find a new one. I'm not sure if I expected it to still be in print, but the answer is that it is not. Which isn't surprising, it is a VERY dated book, a la Fun with Dick and Jane. Amazon does have some copies for sale, but they are in the same age range, or older, as my copy and are now considered historic pieces* and are quite expensive.

When I did a search for the book, I found another book of the same name by a different author. Based on the description, it looks to be similar to my book although not quite the same, but I thought "hey, maybe this one will do." So I scanned down to the reviews. The top review was from a woman who says that what she loves about this book is that the titular ballerina doesn't get the lead and dance in toe shoes, that books with that sort of stuff give kids unrealistic expectations.

The more I think about it, the more that bothers me, because I feel like that sort of attitude is an epidemic these days. Why is telling stories about children who do wonderful things setting them up with unrealistic expectations? True, not every child will be the lead in the recital, but does that mean it's wrong to teach them to dream for that? I just don't understand this attitude. Maybe it's Ayn Rand-y of me to say, but why is teaching excellence bad?

So while I can't quite talk myself into spending $50 for an authentic replacement of my book, I simply can not buy this book that tells my daughter that all she should hope for is mediocrity. Maybe that's good enough for some kids, but not mine. Nobody ever achieved big things by dreaming small. Whether she actually achieves them or not isn't really the issue for me. I just want my daughter to try.

* I also recently saw a toy that I LOVED as a kid in a museum. True story. My age is showing.


  1. I agree with you on this one, Cara. I can't stand the current mentality of never letting your kid suffer disappointment, either. Every team gets a trophy, whether they win or lose, just so no one gets their feelings hurt. Grrr...that is NOT what real life is about.

    How awesome that Sophie loves your old book! What great memories you must have while you read it to her :)

  2. I completely agree with you, and with Heather. I HATE the mentality that we can't inspire our kids to reach for the stars, because somehow we forgot to teach them that sometimes we don't make it all the way, but we always try our best.

    And aren't walks down memory lane lovely>?????

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  4. I hate that teaching mediocrity the standard so EVERYONE feels better about themselves. All that does is make everyone feel bad. Excelling is what pushes people to innovate and create.

    Have you tried the website It's an online aggregator of book stores. I did a small search for the book to see if anyone has it. Looks like they do. :) Hope it helps.

    I tried to put the link but it didn't work.

  5. "I simply can not buy this book that tells my daughter that all she should hope for is mediocrity." Love it, friend.

    I may have read that old book too, as a kid. I hope you can find an affordable copy some day.

  6. Sabreena has a book called the Little Ballerina, I don't remember the story but apparently she does and wishes she still had it. All I do remember is it described the positions in detail. I wonder if it's the same.

  7. Completely agree. But I have found it hard to instill in my girls the knowledge that there's nothing wrong with failing at something... as long as you've tried it and given it your best shot.

  8. My daughter haaaaaaaaates losing. I fear the other book was written for kids like her. And Rand McNally Giant Books? Love them. I still have my Raggedy Ann and Andy one.

  9. I do not remember that one, but I would have loved it. I used to watch the PBS version of the Nutcracker over and over (this would have been when I was 5 or so since we were like the first people ever to have a VCR, but I was already in kindergarten and...oh dear, I think I am old too!

  10. Never encountered that book, but I'm sure I would have loved it. I've been searching for years for my favorite Little Golden Book. Don't know the title, but the opening is, "A rainy day, a rainy day, but we have something new to play. We've found a great big treasure trunk. In the attic, see the junk." I wish I could find it.

    Back to the topic at hand though, it seems like it's part of our job as parents to get our kids to dream big while also giving them the example (or hard work, creative thinking, consistency, learning from mistakes) and the opportunities to achieve those dreams.

  11. Agreed! For sure! And LOL on the toy in the museum! OMG, that's wild!

    I'm not sure I can offer advice on the Ballerina book, cuz I know I wouldn't plunk down a 50 on one either. Maybe you could copy the pages and sorta bind them yourself for her, gosh I don't know. Good luck. By the time you figure it out, she'll be way over the book, :o)

  12. I think we need to teach our kids to dream big. Blah on the people who think we're setting up our kids with unrealistic expectations.

  13. Thank for the wonderful post.
    I totally agree w/ you...
    "Nobody ever achieved big things by dreaming small"


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