On Our Shelves Now or Recently
E. B. White Read-Aloud winner Mac Barnett celebrates individuality in a story told with tenderness and subtlety.
It’s John’s big day at school today—a performance for Sharing Gifts time. His bag is carefully packed and prepared, his classmates are ready, and the curtain is waiting to open. John is nervous, looking out at all the other children staring back at him. But he takes a big breath and begins. Mac Barnett’s compassionate text and Kate Berube’s understated and expressive art tell the story of a kid who finds the courage to show others his talent for dancing.
About the Author
Mac Barnett is the author of numerous books for children, including A Polar Bear in the Snow, illustrated by Shawn Harris; Just Because, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault; President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen; and several books illustrated by Jon Klassen, including Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, which received a Caldecott Honor and an E. B. White Read-Aloud Award; The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse; and the shape trilogy. Mac Barnett lives in California.
Kate Berube is the author-illustrator of Hannah and Sugar, which won the Marion Vannett Ridgway Award and the Oregon Book Award for Children’s Literature, and Mae’s First Day of School, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award for Children’s Literature. Kate Berube lives in Oregon with her family.
Employing sweet humor and sensory detail, Barnett (What Is Love?) and Berube (Second Banana) convey the unexpected beauty of a school performance. . . in a breathlessly kinetic, wordless sequence, spreads show John turning, leaping, and landing, light as a feather. . . The story’s collective, omniscient voice and graceful illustrations, wonderfully reminiscent of The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, portray a community that stays open and curious—and a child who shares their effort with brave vulnerability.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Barnett and Berube offer a sensitive story about a boy grappling with stage fright and insecurity. . . . Barnett and Berube bring mastery of craft as well as an understanding of human nature to offer a fresh take on a familiar trope.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
Berube’s warmly colored illustrations capture how John’s apprehension turns to confidence and even elation as he dances; his facial expressions and body language are spot-on. Much of this perfectly paced book is devoted to John’s performance, including five elegantly and economically composed, almost wordless spreads. . . . John faces down his fear to share his gift with determination, beauty and a style that is all his own. A true gift, indeed.
—BookPage (starred review)
The quiet text tells the story simply, though during the lively, eight-page dance sequence featuring images of John in motion, two words suffice: 'He danced.' Berube’s sensitive drawings, created with ink and paint, capture the look and ambiance of the elementary-school setting as well as John’s emotions. A respectful, wonderfully childlike introduction to ballet.
Berube’s simple ink-and-paint illustrations have minimal background details, allowing readers to focus squarely on John and his emotions. It is truly wonderful to see a boy character in a children’s book so enthusiastic about, and accomplished at, ballet. Any child, though, who has a talent to share or struggles with performance anxiety will find a role model in John. . . . A lovely, empowering book about having the courage to express one’s individuality.
Dappled textures and simple lines of the ink and watercolor art play well with perspective. . . Viewers who struggle with stage fright and embracing their hobbies may gain some confidence from John’s journey and the book’s welcoming, inclusive tone.
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
This wonderful children’s book is filled with tender illustrations and a lovely story about a boy who is waiting for his turn at Friday Assembly where they have a “Sharing Gifts” portion. I just loved this book, especially the ending.