At first glance, Emma and Julia Love Ballet looks like a little girl’s dream…all pink and purple and tutus and toe shoes. However, this is book is not a fantasy; it is a detailed account of the daily life of two dancers. Emma is a young girl who takes ballet lessons, and Julia is a principal dancer in a professional ballet company. The story follows the two throughout the day and ends in the evening when Emma attends Julia’s performance.
Barbara McClintock actually took ballet lessons before she wrote and illustrated this book, and her careful attention comes through in the illustrations, which are very detailed. I love that my daughter can study a dance company warming up at the barre and understand the sequence of movements that create an impressive leap. I also love that the book shows that Emma can achieve her dream of dancing on stage like Julia does…with hard work. Julia’s whole day is focused on practice and rehearsal—not just her performance.
This book presents diversity as the norm. Emma is white and Julia is African-American, and they both dance with boys/men and people from a variety of backgrounds. I wish more books were like this.
Emma and Julia is a wonderful companion book for Firebird, the debut picture book from ballerina Misty Copeland (with illustrations by Matt Christopher). Like Emma and Julia, Firebrid emphasizes that hard work brings reward and is encouraging for young girls.