Ballet Bunnies

Ballet Bunnies: The New Class
Ballet Bunnies: Let’s Dance
Ballet Bunnies: Millie’s Birthday

Swapna Reddy, illustrated by Binny Talib
Oxford University Press

This series for newly independent readers will definitely appeal to a certain sector of readers; these are the first three of what will eventually be six books starring young Millie and the four tiny magical bunnies residing at Miss Luisa’s School of Dance that she attends. Each one has a wealth of cute full-colour illustrations by Binny Talib.

In the first story we meet six-year old Millie who excitedly attends her first lesson, only to receive an almost instant put-down from the star of the class, Amber. As the class continues Millie’s despondency grows as she finds herself unable to accomplish the perfect-looking, graceful steps of her fellow classmates and at the end of the class she’s left alone to wait for her mum to collect her.

Suddenly she notices a moving shadow behind the stage curtain and discovers to her surprise, Dolly, Trixie, Fifi and Pod the miniature dancing bunnies. Perhaps these friendly little creatures can make all the difference to her time at the ballet school.

Swapna offers an encouraging voice to youngsters feeling somewhat disheartened by a new challenge especially when some classmates are less than kind. Support and warmth are powerful forces in the face of anxiety.

In Let’s Dance, Millie and her entire ballet school are to dance at a gala performance. Moreover, they’re to perform with props and the theme is ‘The Garden’: Millie’s class will be flower fairies. Teamwork is essential but not every class member is a hundred per cent co-operative. What will happen on performance night?

The third book begins on the last day before the holidays at ballet school with Millie’s birthday fast approaching. As she helps clear up, she shares with the bunnies her anxieties about the large number of people invited to her party to celebrate her, as her furry friends point out.

The bunnies agree to accompany Millie home to help her cope with the ballet-themed party; but can she keep them hidden from her mum and will it be a Happy Birthday when Millie turns seven?

Two Sides / Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise

Two Sides
Polly Ho-Yen and Binny Talib
Stripes Publishing
Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise
Swapna Haddow and Alison Friend

To help bridge the gap between picture books and assured fluent reading of chapter books Stripes Publishing are creating a short fiction series with a colour illustration at every page turn; these are the first two titles. Both are beautifully designed and illustrated.

Two Sides explores a friendship between total opposites, Lenka and Lula. Born on the same day, the former is neat and tidy, a cat lover and enjoys drawing; her best friend is a dog enthusiast, messy and something of a chatterbox.
A perfect twosome it seems and so it is until the fateful morning when Lula oversleeps after which everything goes terribly wrong.

Lenka’s forgotten pencil case containing the coloured pencils she needs to complete a competition entry, but now lying on Lula’s bed and a rejected present made by Lulu for Lenka lead to a fierce row and by the time their bus reaches school, a special friendship has fractured.

School feels a totally different place; the two girls sit far apart in the classroom but then their teacher allows the class a play stop en route for the library.

An opportunity for the rift to be healed perhaps …

The author acknowledges that even the very best, closest of friendships can have their ups and downs; and words said in the heat of the moment can really hurt. This is something young readers will definitely acknowledge as they lap up Polly Ho-Yen’s story with Binny Talib’s expressive scenes of the girls.

Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise opens with a bored Little Rabbit whose Mama, siblings and friends are all too busy to play with her. But then her grandfather invites her to become his assistant for the day and the young rabbit is in for surprise.

Instead of merely spending all his time with his friends, Big Rabbit devotes himself to altruistic activities, the first of which concerns Mole’s dark tunnel and Little Mole’s imminent birthday party.

Next comes a visit to Granny Hedgehog who is suffering from a bad case of the snuffles.

Dormouse too is in need of help: his little ones are hungry and their nest isn’t big enough to accommodate them all.
And then there’s Squirrel. She’s injured her paw and so can’t forage for food for her children.

It’s all in a day’s work for Big Rabbit but by the next morning it seems that Little Rabbit’s been infected by her grandfather’s enthusiasm for helping others and her friends too are willing to lend a hand.

Celebrating kindness, Swapna’s gentle telling in combination with Alison’s adorable woodland watercolour illustrations make for a delightful read alone, or a read aloud to younger children.
Readers will close the covers of both books with a boost of confidence having enjoyed a longer story: thoroughly recommended for home reading and for classroom libraries in KS1 and early KS2.