Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Tanya and the Red Shoes

Tanya and the Red Shoes

Patricia Lee Gauch
Illustrator:   Satomi Ichikawa 
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Penguin Putnam, 2002   ISBN: 978-0399233142

Tanya has danced in her bare feet, in shoes of various kinds, and in her little pink ballet slippers but she has never danced in pointe shoes and she wants to very much. Her teacher says she is not ready to dance “sur pointes” however. “One day, perhaps,” the teacher says. Tanya’s sister Elise says the same thing and poor Tanya is feeling very frustrated. Tanya dreams of wearing red pointe shoes and of performing in the ballet “The Red Shoes.”

Then, at last, the day comes when Tanya’s dance teacher says that the class is now ready to “dance on toe.” Tanya and her mother go to buy her first toe shoes and Tanya is deliriously happy. Alas, she soon discovers that dancing with toe shoes is a painful and awkward business. Tanya no longer dreams of dancing in the ballet wearing red shoes. Where is the magic that she was expecting, where is the grace?

Every young dancer eagerly looks forward to the day when she can use pointe shoes imagining, like Tanya, that she will be able to dance perfectly in the shoes immediately, graceful as a swan in a moment. In reality it takes work to master the shoes, as Tanya discovers. But, when that day comes, dancers surely get a special thrill when they finally master the shoes and are able to stand on their toes with confidence and poise.

With great sympathy and tender humor Patricia Lee Gauch gets inside the mind and heart of this very likeable young girl, capturing the highs and lows of her feelings as she takes this big step in her ballet career. Satomi Ichikawa’s illustrations are, as always, warm, fluid, and full of life, perfectly complimenting the text.