Thursday, 21 July 2011

Why I Commissioned...TILLY TIPTOES

Twitter-style summary: Strange things are going missing backstage at The Grand Ballet. But aspiring ballerina Tilly Tiptoes is on hand to track down the culprit…

Written in the first person, experienced writer Caroline Plaisted brings fresh perspective to the ever-popular pink and sparkly ballet genre. As someone whose parents danced with The Royal Ballet and who spent many hours backstage helping out, Caroline is perfectly placed to bring life behind the curtain to light.

This was a series bought ‘on spec’. This means that we saw sample chapters and proposals for the first few books and contracted the series based on these. What I loved about Tilly was the voice (as always - it's all about the voice, people). Many ballet books for this age group are written in the third person, but in this instance the first-person perspective really animated the activities for me. The narrative is infused with Tilly’s infectious enthusiasm and helter-skelter approach to life, and the stories really sizzle as a consequence. We chose to add illustrations by Hollie Jacobs to bring out certain aspects of the text and her simple, slightly na├»ve line drawings match the tone of the book perfectly.

Tilly Tiptoes and the Grand Surprise is the first in the series, where we encounter vile Veronica – Tilly’s nemesis in her ballet Extras class, held on site at the fictional Grand Ballet – and Jessie the wardrobe mistress with whom Tilly spends most of her time, marvelling at the stunning costumes and lending a helping hand where she can. Plus we are introduced to SPOILER ALERT Giselle the cat who has been stealing clothes in order to nest with her newborn kittens. Guess who ends up taking a kitten home at the end of the book…?

There are plenty of deft touches that ballet fans will appreciate – not only are we given insight into how the ballet actually works on a day-to-day basis but each book in the series is set around a particular ballet, the ‘poster’ for which is featured on the front cover. Throw in some sparky scenes in which Tilly can provide wish-fulfilment for the reader (I’m fond of Veronica’s public shame when she professes to think that the lead male dancer is very handsome only to discover he’s none other than Tilly’s dad – totally mortifying for Veronica and totally gratifying for Tilly) and you’ve a charming, enjoyable read.

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