Girl of the Year 2014: Designs by Isabelle

Author: Laurence Yep
Illustrator: Anna Kmet


Rehearsals for The Nutcracker are in full swing now. Isabelle finds herself helping with the designs for on segment. She can hardly believe her good luck! It will be so much fun to work with the costume designer. Of course, she has her dancing to think about, too. Isabelle keeps having trouble with part of her routine, and Renata is always sure to point it out. She wants to ask Jade for advice, but something's still going on with her--Jade's even more moody and withdrawn now. In the room they share, Isabelle reaches out to her, showing Jade the design for her Clara costume (Isabelle wouldn't even let her best friend Louisa see the sketches). Jade appreciates the gesture, but doesn't open up at all. Resigned, Isabelle continues looking the designs, making suggestions on all of them, from simple ones like different colors to more involved suggestions like changing large parts of the design. 

The next day is the biggest rehearsal yet, and none other than Isabelle's idol Jackie Sanchez is watching. Jade does well, until someone catcalls from the audience about her height--so that's what's bothering her! Jade's grown a lot recently, and is worried that she's too tall for her part. The director assures Jade that regardless of height, she's still graceful and a wonderful dancer. Isabelle needs some encouragement too, after Renata's comments get to her and she stumbles. Jackie Sanchez herself gives Isabelle some pointers about brushing off mistakes. 

Later that week, Isabelle is inspired by her friend Gabe's magic tricks. She can use misdirection to help Jade's confidence. Isabelle cuts an old practice skirt of Jade's (with her permission) to make the audience pay more attention to her legs than her height. In return, Jade gives Isabelle some pointers to help with her pirouettes. At the next rehearsal, Jade's back to her usual self, and the director instructs her to have the costume designer alter her performance outfit like the skirt. Isabelle is able to shake off the mean comments from Renata and focus on the positive things Jade and Louisa are saying, and dances her part perfectly. Dress rehearsal goes well, too. Soon it's opening night.

Isabelle and Jade are both nervous. Isabelle's happy to accept the distraction of helping a younger dancer get over her stage fright--and in doing so, earns a look of approval from Jackie Sanchez. Jade practices in her altered costume, and compliments Isabelle's idea. With the ego boost, Isabelle's ready to go. When Isabelle gets on stage, she starts her dance ahead of the music, but with the advice from Jackie Sanchez and an encouraging glance from Jade, she's able to shake it off and get back on track. The rest of the dance goes beautifully. In fact, it goes so well that Jackie Sanchez invites Isabelle to be in her show. Isabelle can't believe it--dancing with her idol!

Real Girls, Real Stories

Sunny L., Aida S., and  Michelle W. learned how much waste is generated from clothing being tossed out, and started a school club where people could drop things off to be mended rather than just thrown out--it fixes all sorts of things from clothes to puppets to upholstered chairs. Phoenix B. started selling her knitted shawls after winning a prize at an art show, and continues to sell things to raise money for causes like a buying a wheelchair for a girl who needed one. Emily G. wrote to American Girl with a making your own design journal using bits of craft supplies left over from other projects. Friends Laura D. and Emma P. started their own fashion journal.


Dedicated to "Peter Brosius of the Children's Theatre Company and especially to the Dragon King, David Furumoto, who dances on stilts." Special thanks to Kristy Callaway, executive director of the Arts Schools Network; and Shannon Gallagher, owner of and instructor at Premier Dance Academy, LLC, Madison, WI.

Isabelle had a carrot cake for her tenth birthday (between books). I've never known a ten-year-old to willing pick carrot cake. I'm of the opinion that vegetables have no place in desserts. Those of you bringing up pumpkin pie, two points: in the first place, pumpkins are technically fruit, being the ovary of the plant, and in the second, I don't like pumpkin pie.

Louisa's older brother Danny is able to get leave from the military to watch the performance.

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