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Zuri Ray Tries Ballet

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For fans of Fresh Princess, Fancy Nancy, and Lola Dutch comes the first book in a charming picture book series about a spunky girl with big ideas and an even bigger heart.

Meet Zuri Ray!

She’s always willing to go the extra mile for family and friends, and is up for any challenge. At least, that was before her BFFD (best friend from diapers), Jessie, asked her to join a ballet camp.

Now Zuri isn’t sure if she’s up for everything. Ballet calls for pointed toes, tight hair buns, and frilly tutus. And while Jessie can’t wait to chassé and plié on the dance floor, that doesn’t sound like Zuri at all! But she can’t let her friend down. Maybe classical ballet just needs a new spin . . .

40 pages, Hardcover

First published June 15, 2021

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Tami Charles

21 books268 followers

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5 stars
42 (16%)
4 stars
98 (37%)
3 stars
103 (39%)
2 stars
13 (5%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,034 reviews48 followers
January 26, 2022
Zuri Ray loves to try everything new. Her new dream with her BFF, Jessie, is to try Ballet.
There's one downside....Zuri Ray is really not good at ballet.
How can she overcome this when she has to try everything new And be good at it?

Fun cheerful illustrations accompany the growing Zuri Ray and her journey through her passion in dance.

Just Dance!
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,345 reviews17 followers
August 6, 2021
This is putatively a feel-good story, showing a diverse cast of kids and adults. At the center is Zuri and her best friend from diapers (BFFD). The illustration is colorful, lively and feels computer generated and a bit plastic-y. We are told Zuri has the laudable trait of loving to try new things, so she goes along with her friend to a ballet for beginners class. unfortunately Zuri does not enjoy ballet or have an immediate knack for it, so while she decides not be a quitter she does in fact stop trying to learn a new thing and changes ballet into soccer-style interpretive dance. This shift is supported by the teacher who states "dancing is all about imagination."
Ok, this is beginning ballet within a kids picture book but I do not feel the message serves the child reader well. In fact ballet is not about imagination - at all. It is not true that a child that changes every activity to suit her perceptions of what she likes and is already good at, can be said to 'love trying new things.' A fond parent may expect a camp instructor to shift the lesson plan to accommodate their child's proclivities, but it hard to believe that that will turn out well going forward.
I have no problem with stories that model resistance to conformity, or show kids how to problem solve to discover activities that match their interests, but it is is problematic to celebrate re-imagining ballet to assuage one kid's discomfort at not effortlessly excelling.
Profile Image for Beck.
155 reviews
August 2, 2021
A nice picture book about friendship. Zuri is a mixed-race child and her best friend seems to be of Latinx background (last name Colón). Diverse side characters throughout, and acceptance of differences is encouraged at dance class.
Profile Image for Pam.
1,211 reviews
September 2, 2021
Zuri doesn't like ballet but her bestie does so she gives it a try. Zuri finds that they can each do things their own way.
Profile Image for Jaidab.
1,654 reviews6 followers
October 13, 2021
I appreciate the diversity. I liked the message of doing your own thing. My 5-year-old said this book deserves 5 stars.
Profile Image for Jo Oehrlein.
6,275 reviews9 followers
August 16, 2021
When her best friend chooses ballet camp for the 2 of them to do together, Zuri isn't sure. After 3 days, she's miserable and wants to quit. The teacher says dance is all about imagination, so Zuri decides to go to class as herself (not dressed in leo & tights with her hair in a bun) and put her own spin on the exercises.

If I were a ballet teacher, then I don't know that this is what I'd want my future students reading.

BUT, I find it weird that they learn pirouettes so soon -- that isn't realistic, either (unless they're much older than they appear).
Profile Image for Great Books.
3,019 reviews55 followers
June 22, 2021
Sometimes having friends with different interests can be really hard. Zuri Ray loves soccer and being creative, when her BFFD (Best Friend From Diapers) convinces her to join a ballet summer camp. Zuri learns that sometimes you just have to put your own spin on things in order to learn how to have fun and enjoy yourself.

Reviewer #18
Profile Image for Rebecca Anne.
414 reviews
July 22, 2021
"Dancing is all about imagination." Zuri doesn't like ballet until she's given the chance to make ballet what she wants it to be. Will the other students and especially her best friend understand?
Profile Image for Pinky.
6,551 reviews14 followers
March 23, 2023
Zuri learns to get her kicks in at ballet camp.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Melanie.
242 reviews2 followers
August 25, 2021
Cute, but I also have a hard time believing in a ballet teacher that chill. /joking, please don't come for me ballet teachers
31 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2021
Zuri Ray Tries Ballet by Tami Charles; Illustrated by Sharon Sordo

Zuri Ray Tries Ballet is a picture story book that describes the experiences Zuir has while trying something new, ballet. The story begins with the description of Zuri as not "your average kid", because she and her BFFD ( Best Friend From Diapers) Jessie love trying new things. The story goes on to the two friends going to ballet class. Jessie is natural at ballet however, Zuri struggles to have pointy fingers and toes. She try to give up, but she is reassured by her family and ballet teacher that she can indeed do it! The ballet teacher Madame Adele explains that dancing is all about "imagination". From there Zuri wears what makes her confident making the rest of her ballet experience amazing. The story full of many life lesson that are good children to hear while reading. One of those being that you don't always have to do the same thing as others, but to try and find other thins you may be better at. The main character Zuri is biracial making the story related to all audiences. This book is heart warming story of Zuri finding who she is. Recommended for ages 4-7.
Profile Image for Aolund.
1,303 reviews8 followers
November 30, 2021
I wasn't wowed by this story, but it certainly wasn't terrible--just kind of unrealistic. Zuri and her best friend Jessie take a ballet class, but ballet is just not Zuri's thing. The accommodating ballet teacher tells Zuri that dance is about imagination, and allows her to dress and dance as she wishes. While the friends are frustrated to not like the same thing for once, they reconcile through coming to understand that friends don't always have to like the same thing-- a great lesson. Also, in the final scene, the friends agree to take an art camp together and Zuri dresses up as Frida Kahlo. From the text of the book, we have no way of knowing whether Zuri has any Mexican heritage, but it's certainly not impossible either. Just felt worth mentioning since this is such a potentially a questionable and appropriative costume choice. Zuri is depicted as multiracial, with warm brown skin and curly hair (Mom is Brown and Dad is White), Jessie is Latinx, with paler brown skin and long straight black hair.

Themes: Try New Things, Friends
Age range: Toddler-Kindergarten
Profile Image for Ellon.
3,402 reviews
July 16, 2021
This was great!
First of all, wonderful representation! Zuri is a biracial girl with an (appears to be) African American mom and White dad. Her friend (appears to be) Hispanic. I also liked the boy in the ballet class.
The book has a great feel with how Zuri treats her family and friends and there is a great message in there about trying new things and being yourself.
My only pause is that ballet definitely doesn't work like that haha (I've been watching Dance Moms this week). But maybe a teacher who is doing just a week long beginners class might do exactly what the teacher in this book does in order to inspire the kids.
I still highly recommend this book.
7,167 reviews26 followers
August 13, 2021
Zuri is always happy to try new things. She's adventurous and outgoing. Her best friend, Jessie, and she take turns choosing camps and activities for summer. Jessie chooses ballet camp. Zuri tries but she doesn't get the movements and doesn't match the others in the class. The ballet teacher tells her to use her imagination and find her rhythm. She does so and finds movements and steps that work - even if they are unique and perhaps not quite ballet positions. I love the teacher's explanation that ballet and soccer require some of the same skills.
Charles captures the joy and spirit of adventure and will encourage young readers to try new things themselves.
Profile Image for Amy Sands.
171 reviews
October 24, 2021
I liked this book. It is a cute story about trying new things. It teaches kids that you and you best friend will not always love the same thing and that it is okay.
However, it not realistic about ballet. Ballet is a discipline. It is a dance that has a long history and this book saying, "dancing is all about imagination" and make it your own is okay, is doing a disservice to kids who read it.
Profile Image for Roben .
2,076 reviews6 followers
July 2, 2021
A fun book about BFFD (Best Friends from Diapers) learning that they don't have to love doing the same things in order to be best friends. And that it's always best to be yourself - and not try to be someone else. Also - just because something is hard doesn't mean you have to give up.
Cute and funny - kids will relate to not always being great at an activity that a friend loves.
Profile Image for Molly Cluff (Library!).
2,363 reviews31 followers
September 30, 2021
Two little friends love picking new activities to try together. When they both join ballet, Zuri isn't sure it's for her. While the illustrations were cute and the idea of dressing to be yourself was spunky and fun, I didn't really get the idea of going to a ballet class if you'd really just rather play soccer? I was a little confused.
Profile Image for Andrea Librarian.
158 reviews1 follower
November 8, 2021
I like that this is about trying something and realizing that it's NOT for you. I feel like a prevailing narrative is that you just need to stick with things even if you don't like them and there's something to be said about knowing yourself and knowing what works for you. I don't know that the author was very succesful in getting this message across, but I think it's a start.
285 reviews1 follower
July 30, 2021
Zuri Ray is an outrageously fun character who just isn't quite the same as everyone she knows. Though she and her best friend fit so well together when they play, is it going to be okay when Zuri Ray doesn't quite love what she thinks her bestie thinks she should?
Profile Image for Colleen.
798 reviews6 followers
August 11, 2021
I loved this book. It shows that best friends don't have to like or be good at the same things and that there are different ways to enjoy an activity. Delightful with beautiful illustrations. Perfect for Ages 4-8.
Profile Image for Rebecca-Lynn.
47 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2022
Zuri and her best friend, Jessie, love to try new things together. When Jessie chooses ballet camp for the two friends to try, Zuri is hesitant to go. Through encouragement and love the friends are able to see that they can still be themselves while finding new activities.
Profile Image for Melanie H..
3,805 reviews39 followers
January 24, 2023
Best friends, Zuri and Jessie, take turns choosing activities to try together. When Jessie picked Ballet Zuri became nervous. Zuri was all for trying new things but Ballet turned out not to be her thing.

Not great, not realistic...at all. Not recommended.
Profile Image for LaQuisha Hall.
Author 10 books29 followers
June 28, 2021
Beautiful message by a phenomenal author of additional books I love! Loved the illustrations too!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews

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