Baller Ina

Knopf. Aug. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593567098.
PreS-Gr 1–Casal’s debut stars Ina, who loves basketball as much as ballet. The rhyming story illustrates how she uses skills from both sports on the court and on stage. Ina does love ballet—the poses, the warm-ups and the shows—but there is more that she loves to do. Ina loves dribbling, lay-ups, and alley-oops. “Ina pulls out all the stops, ballet slippers or high-tops.” It is easy to love the heart of the story and its message that it’s okay to put heart and soul into different interests, no matter what they are. Casal’s illustrations show diverse characters enjoying the activities equally as the story moves from the ballet warm-ups to Ina getting ready to get onto the court. The action feels more intense on the basketball court than on the ballet stage, and that’s where the majority of the book takes place, with Ina using her ballet skills to help her win the game. Perhaps that is why there is a feeling that it is two different stories put together in one book. Or possibly the ballet background is given to support a basketball story. The transition between the two interests is not smooth, but most children will be happy to see someone like them enjoying varied interests that are usually conventionally gendered in such a fresh way.
VERDICT With the importance of children exploring interests unhindered by stereotypical gender norms, this book sticks the landing.

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