a book on ballet


30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Twenty-One: Tallulah’s Tutu

by Marilyn Singer, illus. by Alexandra Boiger.

Clarion Books, 2011

Tallulah is convinced that she will be a great ballerina, all she needs is a tutu. Her mother thinks that perhaps lessons wouldn’t hurt, and so Tallulah goes to ballet class. Things go well until she discovers getting that tutu is going to take longer than she thinks.

Tallulah's Tutu cover Boiger

This picture book is timely as I am just home from a dance performance at Natalya’s school. A benefit to having a child in an art school is that school programs are incredible. A big reason why they are so great is that these artists is that they are dedicated to their craft, they understand the value of hard work and put in the time–they’ve learned what Tallulah must in Tallulah’s Tutu: you have to work to become great in your craft. She has to earn that tutu. And she has to focus. She needs to mind her teacher. The merging of fantasizing and the reality of the work is portrayed in a way that argues for the balance of the two.

tallulahs tutu page

And after all: Tallulah is Tallulah. [oh, but I do love that name.]

Marilyn Singer also captures how the artist isn’t just in it for the daydream ambitions of greatness. Their art is in their blood–and like Tallulah demonstrates, it saturates every part of your life; she sees ballet everywhere.

TallulahsTutu_2nd pass-large (1)

I realized that I’ve been reading a lot of spare text picture books of late, so the switch to longer sentences and paragraphs, and she said, her teacher said, Tallulah said to herself, it was an adjustment. Fortunately, Alexandra Boiger provides plenty of visual interest to accompany all the text.

This is one of those books for the dancer in the family. Singer touches on the vocab, the positions, and Boiger illustrates them. Your dancer will love to show them off as you narrate.


I picked up Tallulah’s Tutu for her name, and my growing familiarity with Alexandra Boiger’s work. It’s pretty and fun. She has a delicate way without diminishing presence. I really enjoy the way she handles the illustrations of what Tallulah is imagining. The thoughts are very much a part of her landscape. When she “sees” ballet everywhere, it is, somewhat normalized (yet not lost) in the setting. That ballerina in tutu she sees in the mirror is there, that truck broken down in New Jersey is broken down.

There are three more Tallulah books in the series, Tallulah’s Tutu being the first book: Tallulah’s Solo (2012) and Tallulah’s Toe-Shoes (2013)–and the very newest, Tallulah’s Nutcracker. I don’t know if I will get to these, but it isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the first book. I love the illustrator, the lesson is a good one, and Tallulah is a delight.

If you have a young dancer who is dreaming and just starting out. This is a good book to read together.


Another children’s ballet series to consider: Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird. check out Krystin Crow’s Zombelina and Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo.  For your older gradeschooler: Angelfish by Laurence Yep; Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes (and series); Middle-school+, Natalya loves Bunheads by Sophie Flack

{images belong to Alexandra Boiger}

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