Review by Jasmine Lewers
Aisling and Amelia is a charming story about two very different girls who realise that they aren’t so different after all.
In author Eileen O’Hely’s words, they both love chocolate, ladybirds, hopscotch, and, best of all, dancing, even though Amelia has a prosthetic leg.
The magic of ballerina books
Like many little girls, I loved ballerinas, and I remember treasuring my Angelina Ballerina books, poring over the enchanting illustrations and falling in love with the characters.
There’s something particularly appealing to little girls about ballerina books – perhaps the pink colour palettes, the feminine-sounding ballet language, or simply the dancer characters whose elegance makes little girls instantly wish they could be just like them.
Aisling and Amelia is a colourful new addition to the genre with an inclusive message at its heart.
The story follows Aisling, a loveable character who one day forgets a ballet shoe and tries to dance on one leg.
Her ballet teacher introduces her to Amelia, who has a prosthetic leg and always dances with only one leg.
Aisling is amazed at what a good dancer Amelia is despite her disability. As Amelia says about her prosthetic leg, ‘With long pants you can’t even tell it isn’t real’, emphasising that it isn’t such a big deal.
Much to their surprise, they realise they have lots in common and become best friends.
Books are perfect for starting conversations between parents and children, and Aisling and Amelia helps readers understand that people with disabilities are often just like them.
The writing in Aisling and Amelia is playful and sweet, using alliteration and patterns to engage children with language like, ‘On Monday she bourréed before breakfast.
On Tuesday she pirouetted in the playground…’ and so on.
Little girls learning ballet themselves will take pleasure in recognising some of the ballet positions referred to, while others will enjoy matching the fancy words with the gorgeous illustrations.
The alliteration combined with the repetition gives the language a musical feel, which is fun for spoken narration.
Expect a mix of the familiar with the magical: pale pink leotards, bedroom carpets covered in crayons, but also a theatre filled with butterflies – a visual representation of the characters’ fluttery nerves.
The vividly coloured illustrations are dynamic and absorbing, providing visual clues for the trickier ballet language to aid the reader’s understanding.
Aside from helping to normalise disability with Amelia’s prosthetic leg, the illustrations represent a range of ethnicities, another reason why Aisling and Amelia would make a valuable addition to any little girl’s bookshelf.
Reviews for Aisling and Amelia by Eileen O’Hely.
A charming story little girls will love. The playful language patterns and absorbing illustrations help normalise disability, making it a valuable addition to the beloved ballerina genre.Jasmin Lewers, Reviewer