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by Marcus Pfister ; illustrated by Marcus Pfister ; translated by David Henry Wilson

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-7358-4469-8
Publisher: NorthSouth

An old, movement-averse walrus disrupts the status quo when he decides to learn ballet.

From the creator of The Rainbow Fish comes an underwhelming parable about the value of hard work in the face of closed-mindedness and tradition, set against a backdrop of ongoing environmental crises. Franz-Ferdinand, who at 42 has already surpassed the average walrus life span, lives on the east coast of Greenland, where he surreptitiously observes the rehearsals of Madame Flamenco’s troupe of flamingo ballet dancers (they have been displaced by climate change). After practicing in secret, the head bull walrus requests an audition. No one expects Franz-Ferdinand to succeed at ballet, a fact underscored by a questionable subplot in which he, in need of a “suitable piece of clothing” that isn’t “too feminine,” constructs a tutu out of literal ocean trash that fits his “big fat tummy.” Yet, despite this equation of his large body with garbage, his performance is so impressive and his speech so surprisingly “cultured” that Madame Flamenco falls “madly in love” with her new student, leading to the creation of a walrus ballet company. While the stylized illustrations successfully convey the anthropomorphized animals’ emotions via expressive faces and body language, they omit any visual evidence of walruses’ practicing (as opposed to performing) ballet, which contradicts the book’s heavy-handed message of perseverance. The lengthy text impedes the narrative, while its playful tone downplays human complicity in climate change and ocean trash and elides any context or resources for the environmental and social issues it vaguely references.

Disappointingly shallow.

(author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)