It looks like a children’s book. In some ways it is. Kids who take ballet classes will love it especially, although younger ones might need some help with the vocabulary used by the precocious 6-year-old Lilly Nilly in her off-beat thoughts and observations of life in and out of the ballet studio.
But Nancy Paris’ Pardon My French: It’s the Language of Ballet will equally delight adults too, particularly those with aspiring ballet dancer children or experience of ballet themselves. It’s just as well it’s only 40 pages, because I couldn’t put it down. I think I laughed or smiled knowingly on every page.
“According to my mom, when I was a baby, I didn’t talk much… But once I discovered that my brain was attached to my mouth, my world changed. I had so many questions, but not enough quality answers. People! “Because” is not a QUALITY answer.”
Young children are rather more perceptive than they are often given credit for. They also have a habit of speaking the truth and telling it as they see it. That’s certainly the case with Lilly, a seriously smart young lady, even if she is of the opinion that, “When I was little, I was supercute. But when I hit six, things went south.”
Lilly casts her ever-enquiring and critical eye over her teachers (particularly funny and yes, I’ve met them all too!), her school’s owner, her classmates and ballet dress. Among the burning questions Lilly addresses along the way are, ‘Why can’t you hang upside down on a ballet barre if it looks just like an ordinary bar?’ and how to deal with a ‘wedgie’. There are many more.
“If bras means arms in French, then what do French moms wear under their shirts? ARMS??”
Her stories (not all about ballet) are often hilarious, always relatable to real life. Anyone who has ever set foot inside a ballet studio, at any age, will recognise the characters Lilly introduces us to. That it should be so is perhaps no surprise as they spring from the author’s own experience as a young dance student, and later, after graduating from New York City’s Julliard School, as a professional dancer, teacher and choreographer across the US and Canada. Adults will relish her wit, spirit and eternally optimistic outlook on life.
Along with her words of wisdom, Pardon My French – It’s the Language of Ballet comes complete with illustrations drawn by Lilly, with a little help from Paris.
“My mom always tells me that I put two and two together and get five. I say one person’s five is another person’s four. And if I turn out to be wrong — well, I’m six.”
Pardon My French – It’s the Language of Ballet is a little gem. Like all the best ballets, leaves you demanding more. So, it’s great news that Paris (who says she loves writing and drawing because she can do it sitting down!) has promised at least another two books in the The Adventures of Lilly Nilly series.
Pardon My French – It’s the Language of Ballet: The Adventures of Lilly Nilly
Paperback (21cm x 21cm)
Available from Amazon.co.uk (at the time of writing for £9.67)