Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake

Written and Illustrated by:James Mayhew

Before Reading

When Ella Bella arrives at dance class one day, she finds herself in the story of Swan Lake and she must help Odette find her prince. Peruse the lovely cover with your child and discuss what s/he notices about the illustration. Throughout this guide, there are several questions and prompts that you can use as you read, so feel free to spread them out across multiple readings. Ask questions like:

What do you notice on the cover?

Where do you think this story will take place? (Discuss the concept of a story's setting and use clues in the illustrations)

What do you think this story will be about?

Who do you think Ella Bella is?


Activate Prior Knowledge

Does your child know anything about the story of Swan Lake? If so, ask him/her to tell you about the story. Otherwise, discuss other stories that s/he knows that feature ballerinas, princesses and curses. Tell your child that this story has all of these things and more!

As You Read

Build Language

Whether you're reading the story or your child is reading it him/herself, take time to stop whenever s/he comes across a new word. Read the word slowly several times as you underline the word with your finger. Then, ask your child what s/he thinks the word might mean. Instruct him/her to use the words and illustrations surrounding it to try and glean the meaning. Work together to discover the word's meaning, and then try to integrate it into your daily conversation to help reinforce these new vocabulary words. Examples of new words in Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake include:



Monitor Comprehension

Discuss different aspects in the story including character motivations and how different parts of the story are related. Ask questions like "Why do you think the sorcerer doesn't want Odette to be with the prince? Why do people in stories throw balls? What do you think this ball is celebrating? What do you think will happen next?" Always be open to discussion during storytime and feel free to do a brief recap of what you've read to get back into the story.

After Reading

Make Connections

Help your child look at the story as a whole once you've completed your read-through by asking/discussing questions like:

Did you like that story? What happened?

How did the sorcerer trick the prince? How was the spell broken?

What would have happened if the sorcerer had been successful in tricking the prince? (You can discuss other alternatives to the story as well.)

Ella Bella's hobby is ballet dancing. What hobbies do you have? (Discuss what a hobby is and what your hobbies are as well!)

What did Ella Bella and the other characters learn in this story?

Extending the Story

Snowflake Ballerinas!


 Source: Krokotak

Source: Krokotak

Looking for a fun craft to go along with this story? Follow these simple instructions and create these beautiful snowflake ballerinas simply using paper and a pair of scissors. You can use it as a decoration for your child's room or as props for a small scale ballet that you can put on together! 


Check This Out

Watch this wonderful performance of the Dance of the Four Little Swans from Swan Lake and discuss what your child sees! Talk about how the dancers are acting like graceful swans, and how they are able to dance together in this manner. Also talk about the strength and determination it takes to be a ballet dancer, and discuss things that your child loves to do that require strength and/or determination like a sport or an instrument. You can create a list to compare and contrast ballet with your child's hobbies, like whether or not they are both team efforts, if they both require costumes, etc.