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Back from a surprise and unintentional break, I have not one, but two books to share today. They are adorable, hilarious, glittery, and have sweet messages about friendship, with a side of ballet. Disney-Hyperion sent me these books and a surprise plush friend, and they are also providing a prize pack for one lucky winner! So stay tuned for details at the end of the post.

I’m just starting to come around to the Beginning Reader category of books, not having needed them yet for my own kids, and never really finding them appealing. But, I have a daughter who loves ballet. And these are quite fun, as well as not painful to read. Ha! Early readers are obviously not intended for 100% adult reading so they often are dry, boring, and preferably avoidable unless the child is learning to read. But nothing Bob Shea puts out is ever boring! I appreciate the cleverness and simplicity put into this cute little series about a cat who loves ballet, but her friends even more.

Let’s talk about Ballet Cat in her book from last year, Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea, 2015; and also her newest book just out this February 2, Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants! by Bob Shea, 2016.

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First up is Ballet Cat’s first story from last year, and in all honesty – my reigning favorite.

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The storyline is simple and familiar. Ballet Cat and her friend Sparkles the Pony are trying to decide what they should play. Sparkles comes up with several ideas, all of which Ballet Cat initially loves, but then she realizes they would be dangerous when combined with a ballet move. Ballet Cat apparently cannot conceive of playing anything sans ballet.

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Sparkles gives in and plays ballet, but Ballet Cat astutely deciphers that something might be wrong with her friend. It turns out that Sparkles has a secret. And worst of all a secret secret! It is something Ballet Cat will not want to hear.

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But then the twist comes that Ballet Cat has a secret secret too! It is a classic scenario in any friendship, young and old. A story of compromise, different interests, and friendship love.

Every time I read this story, I just smile. It makes me laugh. It makes me remember childhood. And I groan at the already ensuing friend issues with my growing toddlers. I love the way Bob Shea handles the story, using only dialog and exaggerated expressions on simple characters. It is a sweet story with a very important message about what truly matters in friendship.

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And now, to make this post truly epic, let’s talk about Bob Shea’s newest Ballet Cat story: Dance! Dance! Underpants!

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If you aren’t sold on this book from that title alone, I’m not sure what else I can tell you.

In this story, Ballet Cat is playing with another friend, Butter Bear. They initially start out happily doing ballet together, but Ballet Cat likes extreme ballet with incredibly high leaps. And that’s where she starts to lose her friend.

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Butter Bear, it seems, would rather refrain from super-high leaps in favor of classy toe-points. Ballet Cat attempts to understand, but Butter Bear continues to give reason after reason which are all much too practical and random. The chandelier is too close, she is hungry, she is thirsty, she has to pee… soon Ballet Cat is frustrated.

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But Ballet Cat shows great maturity in trying to help her friend, and even when she gets very frustrated, she works hard to get her friend to communicate. Finally, Butter Bear admits she has a secret. And yes, it involves underpants.

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So, I’m going to be totally honest here and say that I don’t love this part of the book. I was all in until this part; but I fully recognize that I’m not a great candidate for this book’s particular humor. I’m a mom, of girls, and I happen to be quite paranoid about my young daughters flashing their panties while playing. It is a pet-peeve of mine. Even though I like certain kinds of underwear humor!

But I get it. It is funny. Underpants are a low-hanging fruit, comedic moment, especially in potty-humor loving aged kids. Some will and do absolutely love this book. So let’s move on.

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The ending is humorous. It involves underpants and sticking by your friend even through their embarrassing moments.

Ballet Cat is a fun new character in the Beginning Reader category of books. My girls love the animals, and the colors, and the tutus, and the glitter. I’m a big fan of the endearing moments, and the simplicity, and especially Bob Shea’s surprising challenging words thrown in here and there. These are worth checking out. And on that note…

Dance! Dance! Giveaway! {closed}

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion I get to give one lucky reader both books and a darling, pink, plush cat!

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My girls are obsessed with Ballet Cat in huggable form. She fits in perfectly with their love of animals and pink and pretty things – especially the pearls and tiara. Some girls just naturally love that stuff and mine eat it up. And this plush Ballet Cat is adorable, soft, and made really well!

If you are excited to add these to your own collection you can run to the store for yourself right now, or you can try your hand at this giveaway. Leave one comment below by Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 11:59pm, with something as little as “Ooh, me!” or a longer form of your thoughts on these books and I will pick a winner on Monday, February 22, 2016. U.S. residents only. Thanks for visiting and commenting. The winner is Christine!

Happy reading, dancing, and good luck!