Friday, September 2, 2016

September Spotlight on #OwnVoices: Lola Levine and the Ballet Scheme

By Monica Brown. Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 978-0316258449. Click here to purchase.

Lola Levine and the Ballet Scheme
by Monica Brown, illus. Angela Dominguez
In the third book of the beginning chapter series featuring her name, Lola Levine is left out of the girly girl in-group at school. Things get worse when her buddy Josh doesn’t want to be her partner for “Twin Day.” At least she has soccer to look forward to and her Diario entries (Lola has a Peruvian-Catholic mom and an American-Jewish dad) in which she can express herself. When new-girl Isabella joins the class, Lola is curious and asks about her hobbies and Mexican heritage. When she learns that “Bella” is obsessed with ballet and all-things-pink, Lola can’t hide her irritation. The two skirmish with paint during a project for “Tie-Dye Day” and end up in the principal’s office. When their mothers meet, they develop a plan for the kids to get along. The girls are forced to stretch themselves and spend time together: first Bella at Lola’s soccer practice, then Lola at ballet. As Lola and Bella experience new environments side by side, they bond and begin to challenge the idea that a soccer player and ballerina can’t be friends.

As a text for emergent readers, this book features short chapters, a larger font size, and illustrative typefaces representing “handwritten” communication. The first-person story is direct, engaging, and it stands alone start to finish. While some characters likely popular in other parts of the series (including Lola’s friend Josh and little brother Ben) don’t get a lot of airtime, the spotlight on Lola and her friendship with Bella allows for the girls’ backgrounds and interests to be normalized and affirmed. Dominguez’s comforting digital illustrations (which show up in grayscale on full pages and between pieces of text) offer readers scaffolding, furthering representation of plot points as well as the characters’ identities and emotions.

Reviewed by Elisa Gall

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