The Picture Book Buzz

The Crab Ballet - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I love spending time at the beach, exploring tide pools, and snorkeling. Some of my fondest memories with my grandparents involve hunting for treasures and scrambling around tidepools. I was so excited when my friend, Renée M. LaTulippe, announced that she'd created a book combining poetry, ballet, and sea creatures. I can't wait to introduce you all to this stunning, creative, and joyful picture book.

The Crab Ballet


Author: Renée M. LaTulippe


Illustrator: Cécile Metzger


Publisher: Cameron Kids (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction/Poetry


Themes:

Sea creatures, crabs, poetry, and ballet.


Synopsis:

When the tide goes out, the curtain goes up on this clever tale of a sunset seaside show starring the dancing crab divas and their aquatic corps de ballet.


A fantastical rhyming text ushers readers through one sea-foam-dreamy act after another, from a gentle seahorse pas de deux to dramatic dolphin leaps beyond the spray.


Delicately illustrated in sea-washed watercolors by Cécile Metzger, The Crab Ballet is a two-act spectacular full of salt, sea, sand, and French ballet terms. Mais oui!


Opening Lines:

Welcome. Enter. Sit right there.

upon our finest driftwood chair.


Enjoy our sunset seaside show---

our dancers are beyond compare.


What I LOVED about this book:

In addition to combining sea creatures, ballet, and a fun rhyme scheme, Renée M. LaTulippe frames the story within the context of a theater performance. Accompanying this enticing opening stanza is a stunning sunset scene at the edge of the surf. If you look closely, the rock almost appears to be a castle.

Text © Renée LaTulippe, 2022. Image © Cécile Metzger, 2022.


Once the dancers warm up, the ocean (as the orchestra) begins its "rolling score" - can't you just you hear the crashing waves and bubbling tide? As the curtain rises, anemones sway, squid "balancé," turtles spiral, and seahorses glide in "[a]n elegant marine routine."

Text © Renée LaTulippe, 2022. Image © Cécile Metzger, 2022.


After they "scamper, skip, and soar/a pas de chat across sand floor," the main attraction (the corps dancers) -the crabs - takes the stage. With wonderful skill and finesse, Renée weaves ballet terms (some in French, some in English), nonfiction features of the sea creatures (tube feet of a starfish and tiny spines of an urchin), sensory details, and exciting analogies throughout the stanzas. For instance, in describing the beginning of the crabs' performance:

Pas de bourrées! Leaps in midair!

Landings soft as mermaids’ hair.


Dramatic fish dives finish low,

then pointed feet sweep round, à terre.


Cécile Metzger's stunning and ethereal, softly-hued watercolor illustrations do an excellent job of demonstrating and helping kids understand the ballet terms and joyful movements. As well as highlighting special characteristics of the ballet dancers (just look at the gorgeous jellyfish below) and their seaside habitat.


In a gorgeous and fun spread, Renée and Cécile Metzger, not only place us squarely into a theater performance, but remind us that we are on the seashore.... [No spoilers]

Text © Renée LaTulippe, 2022. Image © Cécile Metzger, 2022.


After sunbeams speckle spotlights on a troupe of starfish and an urchin and a jelly fish perform solos., "two dolphins dance in relevé./ They leap great heights in twilight’s glow—/a pas de deux in glistening gray." As the sun "begins to kiss the shore," the crabs perform a final encore routine as they dip and dive back into the sea.


This book is a masterclass in rhyme and rhythm. Not only is each stanza made up of two couplets, in an aaba rhyme, but the third lines all rhyme. Using fun, multisyllabic words the text avoids being sing-songy, yet swoops and flows like the dancers. It also uses the rhyming pattern to help inform the pronunciation of many of the ballet terms - such as "barre...superstar....repertoire." Additonally, a fun glossary further helps with the pronunciation and understanding of the ballet terms. Overall, this is a delightfully imaginative look at ballet, theater, and marine wildlife. It's sure to be hit with beach lovers and ballet fans.


Resources:

- make your own crab ballet dancers (https://iheartcraftythings.com/cupcake-liner-crab-craft-kids.html).

- can you think of other animals who could perform in a ballet? Draw a picture or write a story about your animal ballet.

- learn some basic ballet positions (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A03FxLFHg2o&ab_channel=NANINANIKIDS).

- check out Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Dance the Stories - "an up-on-your-feet story time that introduces kids to basic ballet steps and movement concepts."


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Renée LaTulippe (here).


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.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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