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The Picture Book Buzz

Lena's Slippers - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Quick announcement - Erik Ammon is the winner of a signed copy of Gayle Krause's Once Upon A Twisted Tale!

While there are a number of ballet picture books on the shelves, I haven't found a book like this one. Sure, it's about a little girl who wants to dance in her school's recital, but it is also provides a peek into an unspecified country whose citizens are struggling with poverty and hardships. And it includes boy ballet dancers.

Even if you never experienced such financial hardship, I'm fairly confident that many can empathize with the desire to want something so badly with all your heart and have it seem impossible to attain. No matter what you tried, it just brushed your fingertips; you couldn't quite grasp it.

This book is a beautiful tribute to heartfelt wishes, creativity, imagination, and determination.

Lena's Slippers

Author/Illustrator: Ioana Hobai

Publisher: Page Street Kids (2019)

Ages: 4-8



Ballet, individuality, economic hardship, perseverance, creativity, and determination.


Lena can’t wait to twirl and leap onstage at her school dance recital, but her family does not have the money to pay for new ballet slippers. As the day of the recital draws closer, Lena struggles to come up with a creative solution to reach her shining moment on stage, learning along the way that what you do is more important than what you wear.

Lena’s passion for performing will inspire readers and aspiring ballerinas everywhere to never give up. Parents will love the story's value of individuality over artificial, materialistic ideals. With lovely illustrations, this heartwarming tale highlights the power of perseverance and the joy of creativity.

Opening Lines:

The school dance recital was almost here! Lena swirled

and twirled

and jumped.

What I Love about this book:

Oh my gosh, I was hooked when I saw the cover reveal - just look at the joy radiating from Lena as she soars across the stage, with such a curiously sad background image. We immediately see how much Lena loves to dance; it's an integral part of who she is.

© Ioana Hobai, 2019.

When her teacher announces that the class needed skirts or shorts in a specific yellow color, white shirts, and white slippers, Lena worried. While last year's shirt fit, more or less, her slippers didn't. When everyone had to stand in line for hours to buy anything, and money was tight, how could her parents afford the fabric for the skirt and white slippers.

© Ioana Hobai, 2019.

Turns out the only yellow fabric was not quite right shade, and the ballet shoes sold out, when Lena was fifth in line. Unfortunately, white socks were unacceptable. Her gruff teacher was more concerned with conformity, then individuality or reality.

© Ioana Hobai, 2019.

Her father surprised Lena with a pair of "hand-me down" slippers from a co-worker's daughter. But that didn't quite work either; they were brown. Lena ingeniously tries numerous ways to make the slippers white. Her eventual solution enabled her to avoid her teacher's wrath and escape being banned from the performance for the wrong color slippers. But the solution is hysterically short-lived. Be sure to check out the author's note, as this is roughly based on a memory from her childhood in Romania.

The pastel illustrations are so delicate and expressive, perfect for a book about a determined and creative girl. I also enjoyed that Ioana included the class boys throughout the story and in the ballet performance. This a perfect book for young ballet students, for talking about hardships and feeling excluded, and showcasing persistence and creativity.


- learn a bit about ballet and movement with these games -(;

- watch how they make ballet shoes in National Geographic's "Ballet Shoes: The Craft Before the Dance-Short Film Showcase" (;

- make your own popsicle stick ballerina (; or

- read New Shoes by Susan Lynne Meyer and compare and contrast Lena and Ella Mae's desires, economic circumstances, and outcomes.

Please come back for Ioana Hobai's interview next Wednesday.

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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