From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3–Dogs can have big dreams, too. Not just doggie dreams of slow, fat cats, but of a grander life. And so it is with James. His parents go to the ballet company each day. So does James. The dancers practice their moves. So does James. Maybe some don't recognize that he has a dancer's soul, but he is not deterred from his goal. He wants to perform in the spotlight. When a wolfhound is chosen for the part of the hunting dog in Giselle, he is devastated. However, when the animal gets stage fright, James is ready. Based on a real dog who worked at the National Ballet of Canada, this is a delightful story of determination, hope, and being prepared when opportunities arise. Children will love James and sympathize as he doggedly pursues his dream. Johnson's cartoon ink-and-watercolor illustrations are light-filled and add detail and humor to Maybarduk's charming story. The text is well paced and well spaced, creating a book that leaves children with a lovely, sweet aftertaste. Combine it with Patricia Lee Gauch's Presenting Tanya,the Ugly Duckling (Philomel, 1999) and Elizabeth Winthrop's Dumpy La Rue (Holt, 2001) for a trio of heartwarming books about unlikely animals with dreams of dancing.–Mary Hazelton, Warren Community School, ME
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PreS-Gr. 3. Maybarduk, who danced with the National Ballet of Canada, builds a story around a real dog that came to the studio daily and befriended the company. James the dog works hard, practicing plies and jumps in class. He longs to dance on stage, though "his dancer's soul stayed wrapped in a beagley body." When an elegant wolfhound is chosen as the dog in the hunting scene of Giselle, James aches with disappointment, but on opening night, the wolfhound's stage fright paves the way to James' triumph. The ending is a bit predictable: a grand jete of a climax, followed by a cascade of flowers from the adoring audience. But long before that point, the grace and wit of both the story and the ink-and-watercolor illustrations will have drawn most children squarely into James' corner. Johnson's artwork, reminiscent of Quentin Blake's style with its lithe figure drawing and blithe spirit, ably captures both the dancers' bodies and the dog's emotions. A pleasing picture book that is as light as a leap yet as down-to-earth as a beagle. Carolyn Phelan
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