Angelina and the Princess – Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig

More in the Series – Angelina
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

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

This book passes the Bechdel in that Angelina and Miss Lilly have some dialogue that is about ballet! But that’s the high point really.

You could probably make a case for diversity because there are many mice of different colours, but that’s a bit of a stretch even by my rather low bar in this project, so I’m not giving it. There are certainly no particular cultural markers beyond the colours of the mice to suggest any real diversity going on.

And then there’s the story, which made me twitch a little. Angelina is too sick on audition day to dance properly and ends up with a small part in the show they’re putting on for the Princess of Mouseland (who is nameless). She is, of course, distraught, being as how she is obviously the most important ballerina to ever ballet, but instead of ending up being a story about a little girl setting her ego aside and being happy for her friend Flora who had the main part, this becomes a story about Flora twisting her ankle at the last minute and Angelina swooping in to the rescue, and getting the main part anyway.

It’s… just a bit too Mary-Sue for my taste. Meh.

I don’t recall being particularly impressed with the first book, and this one left me sort of mildly irritated, so I wouldn’t put it on the recommended list. Skip it. There must be better ballet stories if that’s your thing.

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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.