Get out the Kleenex! Ballerina Dreams (Fiewel and Friends, $16.95) by Lauren Thompson is such a charming, heartwarming, bittersweet book that you cannot fail to be moved. Physical therapist Joann Ferrara wanted to help children with cerebral palsy and related conditions to experience a rite of passage for many young girls: a ballet recital. Four years ago, she began teaching a ballet class as a supplement to her physical therapy. Ballerina Dreams follows Abbey, 4; Monica, 5; Nicole, 3; Shekinah, 5; and Veronica, 7, from practice to stage perfection. Despite displaying the hearts of prima ballerinas, their physical challenges in balance, strength, and coordination are daunting. Though each girl has her own (dressed in black) helper who aids her in her stretches, extensions and twirls, each one worked hard to be able to do things like stand independently, even for a moment. The performance centers on celebrating each dancer’s unique personality and achievements. Winning photos by James Estrin, silky prose by Thompson, all are designed to give you a backstage pass to a very special performance. If you live in New York City, you can see the girls free at a special rehearsal at Mary Louis Academy 176-21 Wexford Terrace, Jamaica Estates in Queens. The performance is at 10 a.m. on November 11. The Today Show is filming a segment at that program as well.
Even for a crybaby like me, it’s hard to go from smiles to tears in the course of a picture book. But it does happen. My short list: The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, That Summer by Tony Johnston, and Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. What makes you weep?