________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 1. . . .September 3, 2010


Rose Sees Red.

Cecil Castellucci.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2010.
197 pp., hardcover, $22.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-06079-0.

Subject Headings:
Ballet dancing-Fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Kay Weisman.

** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.



She moved on to the wicker basket on the floor where I kept every single pair of pointe shoes I'd ever had. Most of the shoes were trashed, but I couldn't seem to throw them away. She picked through them, turning each shoe over to examine the stitching, the shanks, the bend, the wear. It made me self-conscious, like she was reading my fortune. If she looked too closely, she'd know everything there was to know about me. That I wanted to shine, but I didn't.

"Why are you going through my stuff?" I asked.

"Your right leg is stronger than your left. I am the opposite," she said. Her English was not bad, and her accent made her say things in a charming, singsong way.

Right then, something switched. It went from her picking through the things in my room as though it were the most natural thing in the world to this dancer shorthand.


In 1982, Bronx ninth grader Rose struggles with loneliness and lack of motivation. Until recently her best friend was the controlling Daisy, but now that Rose is a dance student at Manhattan's performing arts high school, Daisy has cut her off—and instructed everyone else to ignore her, too. One evening while spending another evening alone, Rose is shocked when Yrena (a next door neighbor from the Soviet Union whom she has only seen from afar) appears at her window. The girls learn they have much in common (both are ballerinas and isolated), and Yrena is anxious to experience teen life in America before her family ships her back to Moscow. Rose decides the two should go into the city to join a party on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Climbing out her window (in order to give CIA and KGB agents the slip), the girls set off on the subway for Manhattan and a little fun. What follows is part travel log, part adventure, and part wish-fulfillment.

     Castellucci, who grew up in Manhattan and attended a performing arts academy there, writes knowingly of New York City landmarks—from the Cloisters to the Staten Island Ferry and all points in between. Amazingly, Rose and Yrena are immediately accepted by a popular group of kids from Rose's school who have easy access to alcohol, pot, money for taxis, and homes with parents who are conveniently away. Although both Rose and Yrena realize they will be in trouble with their parents the next day, the girls never seem in any real danger during their excellent adventure—even from the bumbling spies attempting to track them down.

      Unfortunately, the novel's tone fluctuates between Rose's self-conscious, first person angst and her unrestrained joy in her finding true love and best friends all in one fun-filled night. The book's time frame (October 1982 on the eve of an anti-nuclear march in Central Park) will probably be unclear to readers (despite references to the Soviet Union) who will be surprised to learn this is historical fiction halfway through the book. Castellucci also offers little discussion of the reasons for political distrust between the two super powers. A far better title dealing with the Cold War is Tim Wynne-Jones' Rex Zero and the End of the World (2007), set in 1962 Ottawa and aimed at a slightly younger audience.

Recommended with reservations.

Kay Weisman is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.

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

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