A beautifully illustrated, timeless story about ballet, effort and rewards, and a special relationship between a girl and her teacher.
SIMON MILNE began his career in music videos, directing clips for a number of artists including Spandau Ballet, Elton John and Duran Duran. He has art-directed a number of web and print projects, most recently Don't Leave Childhood Without for the Children's Specialist Booksellers. He currently works in the book industry. This is his first picture book.
CHANTAL STEWART was born in Paris, where she studied at the School of Applied Arts and commenced her career as a graphic designer and illustrator in the advertising and publishing world. After moving to Melbourne she realised her dream of illustrating children's books. Her many books include collaborations with author Joan van Loon, such as Smelly Chantelly (shortlisted for three consecutive years in the YABBA award), Teaching the Teacher and - with recipes by Gabriel Gate - Anyone Can Cook and The Chocolate Lovers.
Miss Sylvie runs a dance school where you can learn ballet, hip hop, jazz and tap. Miss Sylvie loves teaching and the students know this. One day Isabelle ventures into the studio and asks Miss Sylvie if she can be a ballerina. The reader then follows Isabelle's journey as a ballerina right up until she begins teaching at the dance school herself.
This book will capture many little girls (and older dancing girls too) with its cover and its story. The cover asks you to touch it and the sparkle brings joy and a reminder of your own performances. The illustrations continue to entice the reader with its bright colours. A feeling of happiness bounces off the page with subtle colours and joy on the faces of the characters. The illustrations convey as much of the story as the text. The journey Isabelle takes is very realistic and many dancers will recognise their own journey in the pages. Isabelle's dog appears throughout the story and this adds a fun element.
The book introduces the names of the ballet steps to the reader. This could be the first time the names of the steps are seen in writing. This might be a great way to introduce a second language to students. If sharing this book with the class then Isabelle's journey could teach persistence and striving for your goals in a very gentle but positive way. It shows the sacrifices you may need to make to achieve your goals but also shows the enjoyment and joy when you reach them. The cycle of life is also beautifully handled and this could be tied into children's movies with the same theme.
Roxanne Steenbergen, Windermere Primary School, TAS
This book celebrates a little girl's love of ballet and her desire to learn and put in the hard work to aspire her dream of becoming a prima ballerina.
It simply portrays the development of a special lifetime relationship between dance teacher and ballet student. Miss Sylvie runs a dance studio where she teaches ballet, hip-hop, jazz and tap. After passing through the initial junior ballet classes most students want to move on to hip-hop or jazz classes. But Isabelle's desire is different. When her friends opt for the other dance styles and other life distractions, Isabella insists she wants to follow her initial dream "I want to be a ballerina". Isabella soon realises that to be a ballerina requires lots of practice and devotion which often means that she has to give up other life specialities like going to birthday parties. But Isabella is serious about her dream and with hard work and true devotion she gains entry into the Dance Academy followed by the Corps de Ballet and finally becomes a prima ballerina. Miss Sylvie follows her career with admiration and pride and with great joy she welcomes Isabella home as the circle of life turns and Isabella wants to follow in her teacher's footsteps and takes over the dance studio.
Chantel Stewart's beautiful and graceful illustrations are intrinsic to developing the celebration of dance with their delicate palette and fluidity. This is an inspirational story that will enchant little girls aspiring to be dancers. As it fuels their desire, it simply introduces the basic terms and steps of the ballet and the stages a ballerina advances through to reach her ultimate goal of Prima Ballerina.
The Dance Teacher, a narrative with accompanying illustrations introduces the reader to two characters, a teacher named Sylvie and a keen student Isabelle. Isabelle dreams of being a ballerina. In almost a photo story style the story illustrates to the reader how Isabelle does become an accomplished ballerina by her determination and continued practice with Sylvie as her teacher. It is a straightforward text. Graceful movement suggested in its salient illustrations of shape and colour, are skilfully created to accompany this lovely story .The illustrations of soft and flowing costumes and dancers, gives the story it’s more creative and entertaining quality. The little dog’s antics illustrated throughout is an endearing feature, the continuation of the narrative beyond the book and Isabelle’s predictable progress throughout the story and the perspective of the reader as behind the scenes, also capture the reader.
This picture book resounds in connections to creative dance and other dance styles, and themes of dedication and determination to pursue what you love doing. The flowing narrative with language features for readers five years and above would appeal to students contemplating dance. A book for everyone.
Suggestions for classroom use of this picture book:
Before reading: Ask what students know about ballet. Have they attended any dance performances? Make a class list of classes/activities outside school that children attend.
During reading: Look at the text that is italicised and explain that this text indicates use of a different language. List the language of dance used throughout the book. Make labels for pictures drawn of different positions in dance. The different language is used the way the teacher would instruct the class. Try learning some of the positions. Make predictions before turning the page. On the page where the text ‘then.....’ is used, predict what will happen. Is there a passing of time in the story? How does the illustrator show this? Does this story have an ending?
After reading: Can you describe the students who attend Miss Sylvie’s dance classes?
Helen Latimer, Lakenba Public School, NSW
When I read The Dance Teacher by Simon Milne I get a warm feeling all over. It is such a special book about a little girl’s determination, hard work and perseverance to follow her dreams to become a ballerina with the help and support she receives from an encouraging teacher. The pictures display a gentle rhythm and movement. The flowing lines are truly representative of a ballerina’s dance across the page and through life. I can’t help smiling when I look at the expressions on the characters faces. You can see that they live and breathe and love dancing. The excitement on Miss Sylvie’s face when Isabelle returns is priceless. The circular nature of the plot gives a sense of wholeness and completion as the journey continues. It lovingly explores the close bond that can develop between teacher and student and the importance this relationship can play in a young person’s life. Students can investigate the function of role models in society both positive and negative and compile a digital story of a positive role model in their life. The students could write a letter to their role model thanking them for the impact they have had in their life. In class the students could also continue the story of the new little girl who enters the story at the end of the book.
Margy Heuschele, Teacher Librarian, Concordia Primary Campus, QLD
As soon as I received this beautiful book, i knew the children in my kindergarten class especially the little girls would adore the story. We have many little ballerinas and dancers in our class. The illustrations are very colourful and the dancers expressions and movements are captured in their illustrations really well. The Dance Teacher is about a little girl , her name is Isabelle and she loves to dance. Isabella practices her five dance positions over and over again, so she can one day be a famous ballerina. Isabella attends Miss Sylvie's dance school and tells Miss Sylvie that she wants to be a ballerina. With determination, practice and Miss Slyvie's encouragement and help, Isabella achieves her dreams and travels all over the world and becomes a prima Ballerina.
This story encourages others to embrace the love, joy and inspiration of dance and how just one incredible teacher can change our lives and help us follow our dreams. This story is great for children aged 3 and up. The class asked for this story to be read many times and each time the children often danced afterwards. As a class we talked about the different types of dances and put on a concert for the other class in our group. We also talked about teachers a dhow they help us and made a thankyou cards to the other teachers, to show our appreciation.
Claire Evans, Sun Kids Palmwood, Kindergarten
I must confess to being not into pink, and not into dance and usually don’t bother buying ballet stuff for our library unless specifically asked. BUT the front cover caught my eye with Chantal’s quirky-style drawing and I started to look forward to reading it.
Isabelle loves to dance. She practises her ballet positions over and over. Her friends move on from junior ballet classes to jazz and hip-hop, but Isabelle chooses to continue her ballet lessons with Miss Sylvie, hoping one day to be a prima ballerina. Isabelle does well under Miss Sylvie’s tutelage and then Isabelle is accepted into the Dance Academy in the city. Miss Sylvie is one proud teacher when Isabelle achieves her dreams.
The Dance Teacher is a celebration of the way teachers can encourage their students to reach for their dreams. Any child aspiring to reach the top in a dance limit will be inspired by the way Isabelle commits to her practice routines and has long-term goals.
When Isabelle knows it is time to ‘retire’ from the stage she becomes a dance teacher, buys the studio that was Miss Sylvie’s. One day there is a face peering in the window and there is a sense that the teacher/pupil cycle has come around and here is a girl who aims high too. Chantal Stewart’s enchanting illustrations capture the movement and grace of the world of ballet.
Claire Cheeseman, Laingholm Primary, NZ
For every little child who has ever lived to dance, this delightful picture book will find resonance. The cover sparkles and shimmers with textural pleasure for the holder. The endpapers invite closer inspection for added humour and glee in the poses and expressions. The simplicity of Simon Milne’s words is perfectly accompanied by Chantal Stewart’s gentle illustrations. which might make you want to stand up and point your toes, try a pirouette and definitely pop on a tutu.This is a book which will appeal to girls mainly as all the illustrations are of little girls dancing. However as a text for male dancers it will also find resonance and they may just find it a springboard for writing their own version! Anyone who has danced will enjoy this little book and it could be used in many areas of English curriculum as a discussion starter for exercise, hobbies, interests, jobs or growing up. The concept of change is well incorporated into the story. It is a very Anglo observation of dance but needs to make no apology for that. It works very well in its own skin. There is a little white dog that makes appearances and adds its own bit of fun. From dragging the ballet slippers, to attempting a leap to being curled up in a basket fast asleep, we also follow its journey through the dance teacher’s life. Overall a delightful book which will find a place in home, school and public libraries.
Ruth Jones, NT
The Dance Teacher is the charming story of Miss Sylvie, a dedicated dance teacher, and the impact that she has on the life of one of her students, Isabelle. Isabelle dreams of being a ballerina, and joins Miss Sylvie's classes. Along the way, Isabelle learns that dedication, hard work and practise is what is required to become a ballerina. As the story progresses, Isabelle reaches her goal, becoming a ballerina, all the while staying in contact with the teacher who inspired her.
This is a great story to highlight the importance of those people who teach us over the course of our lives - be they dance teachers, school teachers, or any of the countless people who impart knowledge, wisdom and skill over the years. As a book about dancing, it will appear to all the little girls who dream of pointe shoes, leotards and tutus, but it's message is timeless and beautiful and will delight young children.
Suggestions for classroom activities:
Stefanie Galvin, Prep/1 Classroom Teacher
Before I even opened The Dance Teacher, I thought of numerous little girls who would delight in borrowing this book. The sparkle and glitter of the cover is very enticing, and the image of the enthusiastic and happy dancer would be enough to make any one of the little girls I thought of, grab it in delight! The Dance Teacher is a lovely circular story, beginning and ending in a similar place and stage. As Isabelle grows and changes, we see the natural sequence of accomplishment in the ballet world, coupled with determination and hard work.
The illustrations add great strength to this story, inferring so much more beyond the text. Chantelle Stewart has captured the dance posture beautifully, and her ability to convey emotion in her character's faces draws the reader in. As I read this to the children, our excitement built as Isabelle moved through the beginning stages to reach her goal. Our collective desire was to know which path Isabelle would take. In fact it almost drove us to race through the book! The use of ballet terms gives authenticity to the story, introducing new language to the reader.
This book could be used to create time lines over a lifespan. The storyline lends itself to pondering about future dreams, and making the connection between dreams, hard work and encouragement. It is a celebration of key people in our life, showing the impact they have on us and our future. The relationship between Isabelle and Miss Sylvie has a mutual tenderness that spans over a long time, and there is a real sense of poignancy towards the end as Isabelle returns to her mentor and friend. I find it interesting that the title "The Dance Teacher", is an almost anonymous title. To me this reinforces the notion of thinking beyond the story to people who are in our own lives for a time, and the impact and effect they have on the direction we take.
Not only is this book a winner, with its combination of little girls, ballet and soft illustrations, it also gives room for deeper discussions and concepts. There is the truth within its pages, that inspiration and encouragement from others spurs us on. It also reveals the reality that life goes on beyond our goals, and that the realisation of this, can give birth to new dreams. And so, the story ends as a new one begins with a little girl peering through and having the initiative to grasp an opportunity.
Katharine York, Teacher Librarian, Chairo Christian School, VIC
This is a really delightful story! Congratulations to both author and illustrator who together have captured the essential balance of the inspiration and dogged commitment that characterise the life of the professional ballerina. Reminiscent of Li Cunxin and Anne Spudvilas’ Peasant Prince, which is based on Li’s extraordinary transformation from a life in rural China to stardom with the Houston Ballet, The Dance Teacher is a simple story. We learn, in a completely non-didactic way, that the path to the top is one of dedication and hard work — Holly no longer has time for ballet and Sarah joined the hockey team — but Isabelle, single-minded and focused, achieves her goal and enjoys its heights for many years.
But the story’s realistic about the termination of the dream too, and Isabelle retires from the stage in time to take over the dance academy from Miss Sylvie, her own first dance teacher. The full colour drawings complement the text perfectly and to some degree the non-racially specific faces help reinforce the idea of the universality of its themes of continuity, perseverance and renewal. “Teaching is the best job in the world,” says Isabelle as she settles into her new post-stardom role, repeating exactly Miss Sylvie’s words earlier in the story.
The 18pt Berkeley Oldstyle font is a very suitable fit for this large format hardback book. The publisher’s blurb promises that The Dance Teacher will enchant readers young and old — precisely! Highly recommended.
The Dance Teacher is a beautifully crafted story which centres around a dream very close to most little girl’s hearts - the dream of becoming a prima ballerina. It encompasses the themes that dreams really can come true; that there can be reward for one’s efforts through hard work, and that it only takes one other person to be interested enough to inspire us to achieve greatness.
Our little heroine, Isabelle, is a determined young lady who, through persistence, dedication and passion, sets out to achieve her goal in the very competitive world of ballet. The story outlines Isabelle’s devoted journey to become a prima ballerina - from her first day at ballet school, through the inevitable peer pressure of her best friends losing interest in dancing, to sharing the heartwarming experiences of watching Isabelle dance on the world stage. Her dance teacher, Miss Sylvie, shows us how one individual can encourage and inspire a child to do their best, by positive reinforcement and showing them how much enjoyment can be found if you follow your heart in what you truly want to do with your life.
This very simple story will be a priceless resource in a classroom setting, particularly when discussing the issues of resilience, determination, peer pressure and being responsible for one’s own destiny. It is also an ideal book to show to young girls as a tool to promote self esteem and empowerment. Teachers, in particular, will thoroughly enjoy its message!
Karyn Verity, Library Technician, Wheelers Hill Primary School
The gorgeous cover of this book with its beautiful illustration complete with sparkles, first captures children & draws them in. The book is about a little girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina. The story takes you through the girls life as she grows up & achieves her dream.
The book provides a wonderful example of how if you really want something, if you put in the effort over time you can achieve it. The story also explores how friendships & dreams can change over time. As the little girl grows up, her friends who trained & dreamed of being ballerinas with her decide to explore different things. But the girl still dreams of being a ballerina & continues to work towards her dream.
Capturing many little girls dream of becoming a ballerina this book is sure to be a favourite. Boys can enjoy the story too (my four year old boy loves the story) and children can be encouraged to think about how this might apply to other dreams eg becoming a soccer player, an acrobat or a musician. Students could write or draw their own dream.
Sonja Topping, Graduate Teacher