Ballerino Nate (2006), written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley with pictures by R.W. Alley, tells the story of a young boy named Nate who becomes fascinated with ballet after seeing a student performance. He decides he wants to be a ballerina, but his slightly older brother tells him ballerinas are all pink-dress-wearing girls. His parents are very supportive and enroll him in dance class. All the dancers are girls and although Nate loves dancing, he doesn’t want to be associated with pink and sparkles.
When Nate’s mom learns that he is beginning to doubt boys can be dancers, she takes him to a professional ballet where he learns about the term ‘ballerino.’ Realizing men can be dancers, while also being traditionally masculine. provides young Nate with the confidence to pursue his dream.
This is an interesting book. Although often classified as LGBTQ I wouldn’t characterize it as such. Gender norms are not challenged. In fact, ballet is repackaged as a masculine pursuit. Although it is a sweet book, and there are, of course, girls and boys who want to participate in activities usually associated with the opposite gender who will find the lesson of acceptance presented valuable, gender norms are reified, not challenged in Ballerino Nate. It is a sweet, but not a very queer tale.
This review is part of my “Snapshots of LGBTQ Kid Lit” project. I’m working on a book, The New Queer Children’s Literature: Exploring the Principles and Politics of LGBTQ* Children’s Picture Books, which is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. Part of my research is identifying and interpreting English-language children’s picture books with LGBTQ* content published in the US and Canada between 1979 and 2019. Follow my blog to follow my journey!