What happens when you merge the illustrative and narrative talents of Robin Preiss Glasser and Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman?
When I read about the upcoming release, I couldn’t help but immediately reach out to and congratulate Robin, a dynamic personality that I had the honor of meeting when I interviewed her about Grand Jeté and Me. Her energy radiates from her laptop screen through to mine as if I could see her smile in person: “So great to hear from you!!!!,” she beamed.
I mentioned that I’d love to get to know Jacquie a bit, too, to get her feedback on this sisterly collaboration. I wasn’t sure what to expect; the bar was set high by my experience with Robin. I was greeted with warmth, a clear admiration for her sister, and a loving humor to boot:
“I’m a bit younger than Robin – she was already a pre-teen by the time I was conscious….”
“I spent my childhood looking up to my big sister the dancer, and though I saw both the joys of that life as well as the heartaches, as an observer, the magic always stayed with me. I was thrilled when Robin asked me to help her write this story, and we began with exploring early memories of the days when the dream of being a dancer was still ahead of her – when the words, ‘to dance is to live’ was not just something she painted in groovy 1960s lettering on a poster she made for her room when she was 11, but it was her reality. (She was always making art!)”
About Gloria's Promise
This latest publication by Random House Studio and American Ballet Theatre is targeted to 4-7 year-olds, but Robin assures me that these numbers are quite elastic.
“Although picture books are usually for young kids, this book is also for the older student. The title uses the double meaning of ‘promise,’ (talent plus commitment) which is the book’s theme. This is an experiential ballet story, but we feel that it’s a jumping off point to talk with all kids about the process and effort it takes to becoming proficient at the thing you are good at and love to do!” Robin explains.
“It took me 10 years to become a professional ballet dancer, and when that career ended when I was 30, it took another 10 years to be good enough at art and the craft of book illustration to get published. My experience with transitions in life is one I like to share with older kids and adults, who tell me it gives them hope to keep pushing when they feel discouraged!”
Gloria has a very big dream: to be admitted to a summer intensive at American Ballet Theatre. The day of the audition arrives, and Gloria couldn’t be more excited! She can’t wait to dance and show the world what she can do. Once inside ABT’s studios, Gloria gets a glimpse into glorious rooms filled with pointe shoes, ballet dancers getting fitted for tutus, and an awe-inspiring Company rehearsal. She can barely believe her eyes! During the audition, Gloria strives to make an impression by pushing herself to be her best. But when she falls in front of the teacher, she wonders if her determination will be enough.
Jacquie adds, “Our hope was to bring our readers into that rarified world in which all young dancers dream of being. We show glimpses of the dressing rooms, rooms filled with costumes and pointe shoes, the corridors where young dancers rub shoulders with the older ones, and the studios where the work is done. This is truly the world of ballet, not just what’s presented on stage.”
Taking Gloria's Promise Into the Community
An illustrator’s work doesn’t end when her book is published, and for anyone who follows the creator of Fancy Nancy on social media, Robin shares her passion directly with her readers.
“We are challenging kids online, to try and do some of the steps in the book. I want kids to see how athletic ballet dancers are, but also the hard work dancers do helps them to have grace, feeling, form- all which makes ballet dancers some of the BEST athletes in the world!”
Robin is basically a rock star, touring ballet schools rather than stadiums, to encourage young ones to become actively involved in the story. Along with coloring and activity sheets, she has initiated a campaign titled “Gloria’s Challenge” where she teaches her readers how to do a grand pas de chat (the ballet step illustrated on the cover).
“I’m tired of being told that ballet books are too niche! The kids were totally enthralled. It was a BLAST!”
Join the “Gloria’s Challenge” fun on Instagram using the hashtag #grandpasdechatchallenge for pictures of you doing a grand pas de chat!
Robin Preiss Glasser is the national bestselling illustrator of many books for children, including the Fancy Nancy series, written by Jane O’Connor; Lambslide and Escape Goat, written by Ann Patchett; and Grand Jeté and Me by ballerina Allegra Kent. Robin is an alumna of the American Ballet Theatre School scholarship program under Patricia Wilde and later danced professionally with the Pennsylvania Ballet, now called Philadelphia Ballet. She lives in California with her husband.
Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman is the author of several books for children, including the award-winning You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum and its sequels, created in close collaboration with her sister Robin Preiss Glasser. Her most recent books are Superhero Joe and Superhero Joe and the Creature Next Door, illustrated by Ron Barrett. Jacqueline lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, with her husband, writer Larry Weitzman.
Featured Image illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser from the endpapers of Gloria’s Promise.
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