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Dancing in the Wings

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  434 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Sassy worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream of becoming a star ballerina. So for now she's just dancing in the wings, watching from behind the curtain, and hoping that one day it will be her turn to shimmer in the spotlight. When the director of an important dance festival comes to audition her class, Sassy's fi ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Dial Books
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Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen LevineEllington Was Not a Street by Ntozake ShangePlease, Baby, Please by Spike LeeMoses by Carole Boston WeatherfordDancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen
Best of Kadir Nelson
5th out of 30 books — 25 voters
Bea at Ballet by Rachel IsadoraThe Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. HoffmannColor Dance by Ann JonasBallerina! by Peter SísVampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace
Picture books for young ballerinas
12th out of 73 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 757)
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CH _Kenya  Walker
Sassy! I want to meet this fiery young lady who takes her physical challenges and makes them work for her. In this Delightful story we meet this young dancer who dreams of being the star ballerina or her dance class. However, this seems impossible for Sassy due to her height and long limbs. She is an excellent dancer but does not fit the physical description of ballerina chosen to lead the dance recitals. When a famous choreographer comes to town to work with the dancers for their upcoming recit ...more
I have read this book to my class in the past and will continue to do so for years to come.

Sassy, the main character, is representative of children I have taught in the past. A young African American girl with a dream of becoming a ballerina. Her home life is realistic, bickering with her brother but both love each other in the end. Her mother and uncle support her along the way. For a picture book, all of these characters feel real to me. You might not appreciate the bickering, but brothers an
I wanted to like this one more than I did. Debbie Allen is certainly a star in the dance world and I appreciate the experience and expertise she brings to this book. And it's certainly promoting a good message of doing what you love best and doing what you love even when others tell you you can't or shouldn't. Then again, I just wasn't a fan of the way things were presented--there was too much negativity and name-calling for my taste (even if it was mostly resolved in the end) and the story seem ...more
Dancing in the Wings was one of my childhood favorite books. It follows a young African American girl who is struggling to follow her dreams in becoming a ballerina. She is discouraged by fellow peers in her classes who constantly tease her for her height and long limbs. Her self confidence is at an all time low after she was the last to be called at an audition. Little did she know that the instructor saw great potential and beauty in her height and long limbs and had chosen her for a solo perf ...more
Dancing in the Wings is a picture book for primary readers. The story is about little girl named Sassy who dreams of becoming a ballerina. Unfortunately, Sassy is taller than all of her peers; she has big feet; and she has very little coordination. I really enjoyed this book. The book is written in a way that you actually “feel” Sassy’s emotions. I sympathized with her when she was sad and wanted to celebrate with her when she was happy. The book has a wonderful plot; funny character; a great th ...more
Dancing in the Wings is the story of Sassy, an aspiring ballerina, who doesn't exactly fit the physical profile of a dancer. Her legs are too long, her feet are too big, and she's clumsy. Nevertheless, Sassy wants nothing more than to be a star. She sees her opportunity when a famous director comes to town seeking talent for a dance recital.

The craft of tension is prevalent in this story. Sassy must reconcile her internal conflict which stems from wanting to be a ballerina, but not looking the p
OK I debated between 4 and 5 stars here, but that was because growing up as that 'tallest dancer in the studio' brought back so many memories that I couldn't tell if I loved it because it really is an amazing book, or because it resembled my youth so closely. Sassy is a young ballerina, very tall, with very large feet. Her brother teases her, she teases him back. The surrounding family story definitely rings true to the reader. Inside the studio, she definitely stands out (which by the end she c ...more
Gianni Llano
What an amazing book. Sassy learned to embrace her insecurity and not let it come between her dreams of going on stage!
Kate Merriman
Kadir Nelson is a gifted illustrator - love his stuff!! His characters are detailed but not saccharine, full of expression and energy.

So as a proud auntie of a little African-American niece who loves ballerinas and has HUGE feet, when I saw the plot of this matched with this favorite illustrator, I could not resist!!

And sure enough, niece Elsa just loves this book. Some of the text is a little "older" than she is (4 years old) but I just modified it as I read along since she's not reading yet.
Personal response- The story was beautifully written with a variety of both complex and compound sentences and an inspiring message to follow and conquer your dreams. The book was humorous at times when Sassy, the main character/protagonist and her brother Hughie would bicker at one another like most siblings do. The story revealed how important it is to have a supportive and loving family because Sassy’s mom and uncle helped her continue pursuing ballet after bullied by her ballet teammates. Th ...more
Bailey Scales
Dancing in the Wings is a book near and dear to my heart. This book resonates with me because I used to be a dancer and I could relate to Sassy's determination to be a star. Throughout my dance classes I will always the one that was a lot taller than the other girls, I was un coordinated and was not so gracious. However, I was always inspired by Sassy's perseverance and how much she loved to dance.
This book would be great in the classroom in order to relate to my students that love to dance and
Personal reaction: I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the second I saw the cover of this book I knew I would love the story. I liked this book because it has a very personal connection. Like Sassy, I am a dancer, tall, and I have big feet. I also loved the illustrations of in this book because they made me feel like I was in dance class.

1. Enjoyment/Enrichment
-Children will like this book because Sassy is successful in the end of the story. As children read or
Patricia Ange
I took time out from my regular reading list to read to my 3 year old niece. I told her only one book and this is the one she picked. I LOVED this book not just because of the diversity of the characters but because the main characters in the book were awkward and did not fit the normal perception of beauty/grace/talent. I really doubt my niece got those points but for me after 25+ years of working with kids of all ages I applaud any celebration of the differences that make us unique.
Kim Schneider
Sassy has big feet and long legs and loves to dance. If only her brother and the girls from dance class would stop teasing her. One day when Sassy is particularly down about getting teased her Uncle Redd tells her, "All you gotta do to make your mark on the world is walk into a room." Sassy considers her uncle's words and on the day of tryouts for the summer dance festival in Washington D.C.,Sassy takes action.
Kaley Robinson
Personal Reaction - When I was done with this book I was filled with quite a bit of hope. The main character Sassy is a girl I always wanted to be when I was younger. She would be such an inspiration to young girls. She had a dream to dance and she worked hard enough to get that dream. I liked that each character had something that they contributed to the story. Sassy liked dance, Hughie liked academic, and Uncle Redd liked using his humor to cheer people up. I used to be in dance when I was you ...more
Sassy is a ballet dancer who struggles with her height and large feet. Some of the other girls in her class tease her for even the most minor mistakes so it takes a pep talk from her uncle to convince Sassy that she should prepare for a big audition. On audition day, Sassy makes more than a few mistakes but the director sees something special in Sassy and gives her a chance.

Nice characterization, especially Sassy's extended family. The drama is realistic and the pencil and oil paint artwork capt
I wanted to give this beautifully illustrated book 5 stars but unfortunately, I can not. Here's the problem, the language in the book is something my child could not identify with. I have always taught her not to ever call people names, etc. etc. so when she read it in the book, while I thought it was funny because that is how I grew up teasing my sisters, my sheltered only child was dismayed by this "rude" behavior. She couldn't relate to the character because of this. Also, the goin', gal, and ...more
Katherine Codino
This book was not one of my favorite reads. I believe the author was trying to capture a young independent and strong girl. However, her tone in the book appeared to be rude and SASSY! I was concerned that the author did not use proper English or sentence structure.
Deb Carter
I love this book about accepting who you were created to be. All people at one time look at themselves and wish they were different. This book is great reminder to accept and be okay with who you are.
This is your basic book about accepting diversity - in this case, the main character's height - as a good thing. Indeed, our main character realizes another lesson, which is that it's good to stand out sometimes :)

The artwork is very expressive, and the language is very realistic.

I will note that it's a pretty wordy book and that the characters are often insulting to one another, criticizing each other's appearance, talent (or lack thereof), and just generally having an attitude. Nothing other t
A beautiful story about a young girl from Inglewood, California. Hopefully an inspiration to young girls who dream big, and must overcome the pressures of body image and perfection.
Taylor Milano
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Crystal Jackson
GREAT BOOK!! I've been reading this book since I was a child. This book is great for encouraging children to embrace their differences because their differences is what makes them unique. Teachers and parents can share this with their students and children to promote high self-esteem.
Gorgeous, gorgeous, story. This book is relatable across all backgrounds and ages. I cannot say enough how beautiful this story is.
I enjoyed this book! Anybody can relate to this book, if you have insecurities you can overcome them.
Loved the story itself but HATED all the name calling between siblings. Would not read this story to my kids again.
Debbie Allen does a wonderful job teaching that different is not necessarily bad - sometimes it is a gift. Kadir Nelson's illustrations, as usual, illustrate the story exquisitely.
I read this book when I was a little girl. I adored it and still think of it sometimes.
My childhood book that inspired me to pursue ballet. A real terrific story.
This is currently one of Avi's favorite books. I like the message. It's about a girl with big feet who gets made fun of by the other dancers, and because she's tall she never gets to perform in the recitals. But, what i don't like, is she and the other kids bicker and use language that now my kid knows but doesn't know how to use since she doesn't really bicker...and is a nice kid. Plus there's no positive relationship with another child to offset all the bickering. Without the name calling and ...more
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Actor, director, dancer/choreographer and singer, Debbie Allen's career has touched nearly every facet of the entertainment industry.

Allen's Broadway career as a dancer, singer and actor began in the chorus of "Purlie". She next appeared in "Raisin", then in the 1979 production West Side Story", for which she won a prestigious Drama Desk Award, as well as, her first Tony Award nomination. Allen re
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