E. B. White Read-Aloud winner Mac Barnett celebrates individuality in a story told with tenderness and subtlety.
It’s John’s big day at school today—a performance for Sharing Gifts time. His bag is carefully packed and prepared, his classmates are ready, and the curtain is waiting to open. John is nervous, looking out at all the other children staring back at him. But he takes a big breath and begins. Mac Barnett’s compassionate text and Kate Berube’s understated and expressive art tell the story of a kid who finds the courage to show others his talent for dancing.
Mac Barnett is a New York Times bestselling author of over 22 children’s books, including Leo: A Ghost Story, The Skunk, and The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, as well as the Brixton Brothers mystery series. He lives in Berkeley.
Kate Berube is a children’s book author and illustrator whose work includes Hannah and Sugar and The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read. She has yet to talk to the moon but she often talks to her one-eyed dog, Sugar. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Barnett and Berube offer a sensitive story about a boy grappling with stage fright and insecurity. . . . Barnett and Berube bring mastery of craft as well as an understanding of human nature to offer a fresh take on a familiar trope.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
Berube’s warmly colored illustrations capture how John’s apprehension turns to confidence and even elation as he dances; his facial expressions and body language are spot-on. Much of this perfectly paced book is devoted to John’s performance, including five elegantly and economically composed, almost wordless spreads. . . . John faces down his fear to share his gift with determination, beauty and a style that is all his own. A true gift, indeed. —BookPage (starred review)
The quiet text tells the story simply, though during the lively, eight-page dance sequence featuring images of John in motion, two words suffice: ‘He danced.’ Berube’s sensitive drawings, created with ink and paint, capture the look and ambiance of the elementary-school setting as well as John’s emotions. A respectful, wonderfully childlike introduction to ballet. —Booklist
Berube’s simple ink-and-paint illustrations have minimal background details, allowing readers to focus squarely on John and his emotions. It is truly wonderful to see a boy character in a children’s book so enthusiastic about, and accomplished at, ballet. Any child, though, who has a talent to share or struggles with performance anxiety will find a role model in John. . . . A lovely, empowering book about having the courage to express one’s individuality. —Kirkus Reviews
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