________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 6. . . .October 8, 2010


Curtain Up! A Book for Young Performers.

Dirk McLean. Illustrated by France Brassard.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2010.
40 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-899-6.

Subject Headings:
Theater-Juvenile literature.
Theatre-Production and direction-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

***½ /4


Amaya loves to perform, and that desire is felt strongly on the first few pages of this beautifully illustrated story.

Amaya loved to sing, she loved to dance, and she loved to act. This was the first time she had tried for a big play—a musical. She wanted so much to be a part of this story about a girl celebrating her birthday in a Park.

Hopeful girls crowded the hall, but when it was her turn to audition, Amaya stood alone in front of the director and stage manager.

     As Amaya competes with other youngsters for the lead through several rounds of auditions, readers sense her nervousness and excitement. Her audition goes well, and she is chosen for the lead role. The author then takes the reader on a detailed journey with Amaya through the process of preparing for a musical production, and Mclean's direct theatrical experience shows. Readers witness Amaya's many rehearsals, her increasing confidence as she memorizes her lines, her practice of the dramatic gestures with the help of her supportive mother, and readers even see Amaya's momentary stage fright. A highlight of this story is that Amaya meets the many people behind the scenes and sees their roles in the production of a live show, including the set designer, the costume designer, the choreographer and the stage manager. This young performer learns that hard work and team effort are needed in mounting any production.

internal art     The book, itself, is designed to mimic the parts of a play, being divided into "acts," with a prologue, an epilogue and a listing of the cast of characters. McLean, author of two previous children's books, Play Mas'! A Carnival ABC and Steel Drums and Ice Skates, has focused his attention on theatre since 1978 and has published plays and screenplays as well as hosted playwriting workshops. This intimate knowledge of live productions transfers well into defining the roles of those involved in understandable language for young people, and the detailed glossary helps shed further light on theatre terms.

      The beautifully-rendered paintings, with their great attention and detail given to facial expressions, are well suited to the story line. The personality of Amaya and her fellow aspiring thespians is captured with great flare.

      Star-struck students with a desire to perform on stage will warmly welcome this title as a unique resource for exploring all aspects of producing a play.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is a former instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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