Tag Archives: sea creatures

PPBF – The Crab Ballet

Summer holidays are in full swing. So let’s head to the beach to catch a show in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Crab Ballet

Written By: Renée LaTulippe

Illustrated By: Cécile Metzger

Publisher/Date: Cameron Kids, a division of Abrams/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: ballet, the sea, sea creatures, poetry


Welcome. Enter. Sit right there

upon our finest driftwood chair.

Enjoy our sunset seaside show –

our dancers are beyond compare.

Brief Synopsis: Sea creatures perform a sunset show.

Links to Resources:

  • Visit the seashore and see how many of the featured creatures you can find;
  • Synchronized swimming combines dance moves with swimming. Watch some moves and an explanation of the sport here.

Why I Like this Book:

With lyrical language and an AABA rhyming scheme that is a joy to read aloud, LaTulippe transports readers to a seaside show featuring a cast of familiar sea creatures. As an avid snorkeler and lover of ballet, I know I’ll never look at sea creatures again without wondering if they’re performing in “tidal roles.”

I love that the text incorporates French ballet terms as well as information about the sea creatures. For instance, fans “sit stunned” watching an urchin’s en pointe dance, starfish use their “tube feet”, and the dolphins, as they often do, dance as a pair further out in the water.

Metzger’s dreamy watercolor illustrations transported me straight to the sea and are the perfect accompaniment to LaTulippe’s lyrical text.

The Crab Ballet is wonderful for lovers of dance and the sea. Its quieter storyline is perfect to lull children to sleep with visions of dancing crabs swirling through their heads. Its glossary of ballet terms enhances its appeal.

A Note about Craft:

LaTulippe deftly combines two unrelated subjects, dance and sea creatures, to create a magical picture book. She weaves in ballet terms throughout the text, and she pairs the dances with the appropriate sea creatures.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Little Red Cuttlefish

Those of you who know me know that I love fairy tales. Something about the survival of a story through multiple generations of kids, and parents, fascinates me. When a new story appears that retells an old story with one or more fresh twists, I have to share it, as it is, in my view, a Perfect Picture Book:

9781455621460_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Little Red Cuttlefish

Written By: Henry, Josh & Harrison Herz

Illustrated By: Kate Gotfredson

Publisher/date: Pelican Publishing/September 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: fractured fairy tale, cuttlefish, sea creatures

Brief Synopsis: On her way to Grandma’s house, Little Red must outwit a tiger shark or risk losing the crab cakes she’s trying to deliver –  or perhaps even her life.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Like craving comfort foods, kids crave familiar storylines, which helps explain why age-old fairy tales endure. But as evidenced by the popularity of fractured fairy tales, kids, and adult readers, also appreciate new twists to these familiar tales.

Little Red Cuttlefish combines the best of the original story with the twist of a new setting, under the sea, and a new Little Red – a cuttlefish, who uses her natural talents to evade the wolf-like shark.

If, like me, you don’t know what a cuttlefish is, no worries. There’s an afterword that identifies this curious sea creature – a boon for teachers looking to teach a science unit about squid, octopi and cuttlefish (they’re all related – who knew!). The illustrations are a wonderful introduction to the undersea world, too, making this a great picture book addition to the home or classroom with a non-fiction component, too.

A Note about Craft:

For an author wishing to add a twist to a popular fairy tale, the question arises: what to keep and what to change. Is it something as drastic as a plot change – perhaps the main conflict or outcome/resolution? Or do you change the main character or other characters – perhaps the villain? Or perhaps you tinker with the setting – time, place or both? Some of these changes may necessitate others, so a combination of changes result.

Regardless of the number and types of changes made, one thing is clear: enough of the original story must remain to keep the story familiar, and sufficiently believable changes must be made to render it fresh and appealing. I think Henry Hertz and his sons have managed this combination well, making Little Red Cuttlefish a helpful mentor text for those authors wishing to adapt, or fracture, fairy tales. For a helpful Q&A with Henry about fracturing fairy tales, including a list of other mentor texts, see a recent blog post.

As authors think, too, about marketability, the inclusion of a main character from a little-known species is a smart addition, as is the inclusion of back matter that enables the reader to dive further into the subject. See a blog post by Henry Herz that discusses the use of fiction to spur interest in a non-fiction subject. 

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!