Bad News Ballet #1: The Terrible Tryouts by Jahnna N Malcolm4 out of 5 stars
I went to a book fair for my 2 youngest sisters' school district recently and walked out with a plastic bag full of old-school goodies. And I must confess: I haven't put them up on my shelf yet, they're still in the bag on the floor. :( But look at the goodies! I never find any Sweet Valley books at HPB so I snatched up all that I could find there. Plus I got several for giveaways woot. But the ones I was most excited about were these ballet books. When I saw the cover for the first one, I immediately said "Oh my gosh! I remember these!!" I had completely forgotten about them, so it was a pleasant surprise. Have you ever had a book moment like that? You pick one up and the cover triggers a memory and you can remember everything about that moment when you first read it? Yeah, that was me lol.
Anyway, they had a couple but I only picked up the first 2 because I wasn't sure how good they would be. Now I'm wishing I had gotten the rest though, especially when I found out there were only 10. Boo. (I found the list of books on this blog called CliqueyPizza and if you are a child of the 80s, you should go check it out! Lots of trips down memory lane, like this other series I'd forgotten about, Camp Sunnyside Friends!) I also found out they were rereleased in the 90s (not successfully, obviously) under the name Scrambled Legs, which ugh, does not work at all.
Okay, so how are the books themselves? Well, the first is the best probably. (I'd say out of the whole series, even though I haven't read the rest.) The late 80s was a time when they were churning out middle grade series left and right (kind of like dystopian trilogies now!) and some of them worked (ahem, BSC) and some didn't. This was one of the average, middle-of-the-road ones and it's probably a good thing it didn't last too long. Following the formula of the time, this is a series about a specific activity, ballet, a group of friends (usually girls, usually 10-12 years), and their trials and tribulations.
"McGee, Gwen, Mary Bubnik, Zan, and Rocky are five misfit ballerinas." I'm not sure why they call Mary Bubnik by her full name all the time. So, these 5 girls don't really have anything in common, except they were all forced to join a ballet class by overbearing parents. They band together in class when a group of snotty "bunheads" makes fun of them. None of the girls are quitters, so they decide to stick it out, even when they get cast as the rats in the Nutcracker. Lots of hilarity ensues as the girls deal with new steps, ugly costumes, and mean girls. And of course, in the end, they are successful in their performance and the best of friends.
The second book, Battle of the Bunheads, continues to follow the girls at ballet school where they have to deal with their arch-nemesis Courtney Clay and her Bunhead followers. The best part of this story for me though was the side story of Gwen, the chubby redhead, being forced by her mother to buy a bra. "Brassiere. The ugliest, most embarrassing word in the entire English language and Gwen's mother had just said it out loud." Ah, the very special episode of the 80s lol. Remember when Punky Brewster had to ask Henry to get one? They don't really do that special very often anymore, do they? The rest of the girls decide to help Gwen out and go with her to buy one, because that's way less embarrassing than going with your mother. I really liked Gwen's reason for not wanting one though:
"It meant she would have to become a whole different person. First she would have to wear a bra. Then she would get taller. Pretty soon she'd be wearing high heals and nylons and having her hair done once a week, just like her mother. She'd never be able to be just a kid again."
When the girls go to the department store, poor Gwen drags them all over the place, making them hide in the purses, not letting them get off on the "unmentionables" floor when a man gets in the elevator with them, and finally just freaks out when they actually make it to the "foundation garments". It's pretty hilarious. (Again, Punky & Henry in the dept store hah! About 4 min in) But these 5 girls stick together and they help each other out, even if that means wearing an uncomfortable support garment. ;)