Grand Jeté and Me
Written by Allegra Kent,
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Publisher: Harper Collins (2021)
If you’re lucky, there’s that one relative who takes the time to show you what matters most in life. That one adult who understands that beauty, imagination, art, music, and other concepts are not only as important as a child suspects but are definitely worth preparing for properly. That grown-up who gets you to put on your shoes (preferably red) and head out to the nearest ballet. In Grand Jeté and Me, the newly released children’s book written by Allegra Kent and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, we are all lucky, for that guide to life arrives in the character of Grand Jeté. That’s right, the star of this story is not named Grandma but Grand Jeté (the ballet term meaning to fly though the air with a “big leap”). We meet her through the voice of a granddaughter, who tells a tale filled with discovery and joy when the young girl’s effervescent and chic grandmother shares with her a trip the ballet. Along the way, we are not only transported to the performance, but we also appreciate the transformative effect the arts can have upon a child. You might swear that a snowflake in your eye drifted from the stage at the end of Act One, but more likely it is a tear of elation from having found such a charming and welcome reminder of the unique and extraordinary relationship between a child and grandparent. Grand Jeté is the elegant ballerina grandmother of every young aspiring dance student’s Christmas Eve dreams. Having been a dancer herself, she is an example of the powerful effect of seeing the world through eyes trained to create and appreciate beauty, and she turns the act of attending The Nutcracker into a performance itself. As it should be.
The book is written by one of the greatest ballerinas of all — Allegra Kent — who danced in The New York City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® for many years, no doubt inspiring many young people to “grand jeté” their way home afterwards, with visions of Sugar Plum Fairy in their heads… and their heart and soul forever ensconced in their toes.
A highlight of this book are the glamorous and exuberant illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser. The detailed drawings are so vibrant that they jeté off the pages and create a world any child would wish to visit. There is a special treat for fans of Ms. Kent’s legendary ballet career: look closely at the drawings of photos on Grand Jeté’s Manhattan apartment walls and you’ll see images from Ms. Kent’s remarkable ballet performances.
Grand Jeté and Me has arrived just in time for the holidays and Nutcracker seasons around the globe. There is no better introduction to the experience of attending The Nutcracker than this sumptuous and inspiring story aimed at readers aged 4 to 8. Ballet box offices should be selling it along with the tickets to the performance, for it is a perfect invitation to (and keepsake of) the dance.
What a perfect review and what a pleasure to read! You capture the essence of this magical book and its even more magical ballerina-author. Brava to Miss Kent and bravo to you – and bravo, of course, to Mr Balanchine for giving us The Nutcracker we all love so much.