Skip to main content

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea

Bob Shea is a very funny guy. He is also a very funny guy who gets kids. Best of all, he can blend his humor with his  grasp of a child's psyche and translate it onto the page in pictures and words, which is not easy. Way back in 2010 I loved and reviewed Dinosaur vs. the Potty when it came out and read it over and over at story time. While I've been keeping up with reading Shea's books, it's been too long since I reviewed one. That said, Shea's new Ballet Cat series is the perfect place to revisit his work!

Besides being a superb expression of Shea's manic, kid-centric humor, the Ballet Cat series is perfectly positioned as a step up for new readers who have conquered Mo Willem's Elephant & Piggie books. In the first book in the series, The Totally Secret Secret, we meet Ballet Cat and her friend Sparkle Pony at the start of a play date. Ballet Cat tells Sparkles to pick what to play. Ballet Cat is happy with everything Sparkle suggests, but also always finds a problem. Crafts are out because you can't leap with scissors. Checkers is out because kicks might knock over the board. And selling lemonade is a no-go because it might spill when they twirl.

In defeat, Sparkle woefully agrees that playing ballet is the only thing left to do. But Ballet Cat notices that something is wrong. After all, a "ballerina can tell these things." She tries to draw it out of Sparkle, but Sparkle says it's a secret. A secret secret. Shea captures Sparkle's anxiety and sadness perfectly and draws it out over a few pages with humor and sensitivity. Finally, despite being convinced that Ballet Cat will not want to be friends anymore once she knows the secret, Sparkle divulges the truth, ending with, "I'm not a pony. I'm a phony." Ballet Cat seems stricken at first, but reveals that she also has a secret secret. Happily, her secret is that she loves Sparkle even more than ballet!

Shea's characters and illustrations are exuberant - and anxious. His illustrations are vibrant and full of movement. The play between Ballet Cat and Sparkle is perfect, maturing past the manic panic of Elephant and the Zen calm of Piggie. I can't wait to see where Ballet Cat's pirouettes take her next!

 Coming February, 2016!

Written by Bob Shea & illustrated by Lane Smith:

 The fantastic Dinosaur vs. Series:

 Also written and illustrated by Bob Shea:

Illustrated by Bob Shea:



 Source: Purchased


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…