Angelina Ballerina – Katharine Holabird

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

I think this is the first book we’ve encountered that is absolutely packaged and presented as a “girl’s books” and it gave me great pleasure that my very male kid barely twitched an eyelash about that. 🙂 I must be doing something right.

It passes the Bechdel, perhaps unsurprisingly, since Angelina speaks with her mother (who is actually named! Mrs Mouseling), and her dance teacher, Miss Lily. It’s a decent tale about following your dreams and working hard to get what you want, and also, from a parent’s point of view, about channeling your children’s talents and energy into something positive. So that’s all good.

Unfortunately it also falls into all the gender stereotypes you’d expect of a story about a little girl who becomes a ballerina. I mean, there couldn’t have been even one boy in her ballet class? Really? All the characters fall neatly into the prescribed gender binary, up to and including the boys who chase Angelina on the playground (and who, after she has stopped dreaming all the time about ballet and therefore become more engaged with other aspects of her life (which is a positive!), she now lets catch her ‘sometimes’ (*facepalm*)).

I mean, it’s a cute story and all, and there is some positive in there. I just really wish it wasn’t so… well… binary.

C loved it though. He has always been interested in dance, and we’ve had many a conversation about why boys can totally be ballet dancers if they want to (and more than one YouTube ballet video rabbit hole as a result), so it’s not that big a surprise. I’m just glad he’s not even remotely put off by all the glitter and sparkles, nor by, and this is the big one for me, female protagonists.


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