Bad News Ballerinas: Tiny Pretty Things

Charaipotra, Sona, & Clayton, Dhonielle. Tiny Pretty Things. Narrated by Imani Parks, Nora Hunter, Greta Jung. HarperTeen, 2015. 13 hours and 12 minutes. (438 pages). Hardcover $15.44, ISBN978-0-06-234239-3; PLB $15.56, ISBN 978-1-51812-929-2; TR $8.54, ISBN 978-0-06-234240-9;  Audio $26.45

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older readers

Genre: YA/Realistic Fiction/Ballet!

Part of a Series? Yes — duology; Shiny Broken Pieces is the sequel

Plot Summary:

Life at the American Ballet Conservatory is cutthroat. The book opens with new girl Cassie reflecting on her good luck to be a young dancer with a solo part in the show … only to have her suffer a fall that injures her so badly that she must leave the conservatory.

The story picks up the next school year. Gigi is the new girl in school, fresh from California. Also the conservatory’s only black dancer, she immediately feels ill at ease, missing the camaraderie of her California studio. Bette Abney knows that this is her year to take all of the solo roles, and June Kim realizes that her mother’s ultimatum — a solo or she must go to public school — is for real. When Gigi earns the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Bette is left reeling, things get tense. Bette will stop at nothing to be the best … and June is finding herself more and more motivated to do just the same. Who will be the prima?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a lightning-fast story. Each narrator has secrets, motivations, and needs that keep the reader going. For readers who enjoy some serious drama (with startling consequences!), this book has a lot to offer.

One note: the audiobook gets tough when actors need to do accents for the Russian teachers.

Trigger Warnings:

  • eating disorders
  • violence
  • drug abuse
  • harassment

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:


Grade Level: YA (9-12)

Awards and Starred Reviews: n/a



Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Swanson, James L. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. Scholastic Press, 2009. 198 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-439-90354-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-0-329-87737-8


TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? Yes


Genre: Nonfiction (history)


Part of a series? No.


Plot Summary:

Written much like a thriller, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer immerses readers in the days leading up to and immediately following the assassination of President Lincoln. Even as an adult who should remember from history class how the event turned out, I was completely absorbed and had to know what happened next. Swanson writes dramatically about Booth’s confidence, his charisma, and his Confederate sympathies as he plots the murder of the president of the United States and several important members of his administration. Action jumps from assassination to assassination attempt, leaving readers with some cliffhangers until we return to those people. The information about Booth’s hideout, trip across the river, and firestorm/shootout in the tobacco barn unfolds like the climax of an action film.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Some of the language was a bit too dramatic, and the author takes some liberties assuming the attitudes or mindsets of different people throughout the account, but overall the book was an exciting look at this moment in American history.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I definitely recommend this book to young history enthusiasts or someone working on a project – this could be a “fun” read that would be of assistance during a Civil War assignment. Students looking to research Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, and the end of the Civil War will enjoy having this book on hand.


Grade Level: 5 and up (SLJ)


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Publishers Weekly starred 1/12/09

School Library Journal starred 1/1/09


Review referenced:

Owens, P. A. (2009). Chasing Lincoln’s Killer: The search for John Wilkes Booth (Review of the book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer). School Library Journal, 55(1), p. 130.