Sunday, August 21, 2016

“Tina The Ballerina”

“Let me tell you the tale of Tina / Who became a great ballerina.” And so begins a bedtime story told by Carol Gray to her two young daughters back in 1967.

The original Tina was a stuffed elephant who was befriended by a baby doll named Betsy Anne. Gray “painted backdrops, constructed sets, and tailored costumes” for the characters, then “photographed her scenes and bound them into an album with the story’s text.”

Though the album has faded with time, and the daughters have grown, now Chico resident Gail Stone and her sister Lisa Stone of Paradise have brought the story to a wider audience.

“Tina The Ballerina” ($18.95 in hardcover from True Blue Innovations), by Carol J. Gray, features glorious full-page illustrations, based on the original album, by the incomparable Steve Ferchaud of Paradise. The book is available locally from Made In Chico, the Rabobank branch on Forest Avenue in Chico, Gallery Interiors in Oroville, My Girlfriend’s Closet in Paradise, and at

Tina’s elephant days are just too routine. “‘Surely life should not be so empty and boring, / Perhaps it will change if I go exploring.’” Soon, Tina meets a little girl named Betsy Anne who quickly incorporates her into Betsy’s family.

But Tina is forlorn. “Jumping rope was not such a treat. / Said Tina, ‘I seem to have too many feet!’ / Betsy said, ‘Try it. It’s really quite fun. / And don’t be discouraged, you’ve only begun. / If you try there’s nothing you cannot do, / Especially if someone has faith in you.’”

Betsy’s mother “sewed a blue dress with a frill” so Tina could go off to school with Betsy Anne. Tina is welcomed with great cheer, and joins Betsy in dancing class as they practice for a show. But more discouragement: “Before the mirror, on the eve of the dance, / Poor Tina surveyed her figure askance. / She noted each bulge and turned slightly green, / ‘But I’m positively elephantine!’”

Yet Tina didn’t want to let Betsy down, and persevered, and what happens next is the stuff of dreams.

Friends giggle with delight in the book, and readers will find the joy infectious.

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