Dionne, Erin. Balletball. Gillian Flint, Illus. Picture Book. Charlesbridge, 02/2020. pp. $16.99. 978-1-58089-939-0. OUTSTANDING. PRE-3.
Nini loves ballet, and when dance class ends and baseball season begins, she’s upset and doesn’t want to play. Nini’s mother encourages her to honor her commitments, and her coach attempts to help her find a love of the game by highlighting the commonalities between the two. Balletball encourages its young readers to try new things and to be team players. Although Nini’s coach and team get frustrated with her at points, they hold her accountable for her choices rather than tease or belittle her, and they all celebrate her successes in the end. Gillian Flint’s charming watercolor illustrations are inclusive of children of different races and abilities: Nini and her coach are illustrated as dark-skinned with dark curly hair, and her mother is dark-skinned with straight hair. Nini’s co-ed baseball teammates all have different skintones and body types: some are pale with freckles and some are tan or darker skinned. Some children are thinner, and some have more round figures. The inclusivity in Nini’s team also shows one girl with glasses, and a blonde boy with hearing aids. The background characters are also illustrated in a diverse manner, and figures in the crowd include a woman in a hijab and a same-sex male couple with an infant. Balletball would be a great book to use in a storytime, or paired with a discussion addressing gender norms or celebrating the beginning of baseball season in the spring.
Solia Martinez-Jacobs, Bret Harte Middle School