Meet Canada’s ‘hyperactive’ illustrator, Elise Gravel

There’s little chance that the National Ballet of Canada will stock copies of Elise Gravel’s latest picture book, The Cranky Ballerina, in its gift shop. The cover of this gender-stereotype-thwarting story of a girl who hates, hates, hates to dance shows a tutu-clad Ada, arms crossed in obvious displeasure, proclaiming that “ballet stinks.”

Inside, when she arrives at her class, she declares that “arabesques are grotesque” before wiping out her fellow students while disastrously attempting a pirouette. The book ends – spoiler alert! – with Ada taking up karate.

The author sympathizes with her diminutive reluctant dancer; like Ada, when Gravel was young, her parents enrolled her in ballet lessons. She still seems traumatized by the experience.

“It was awful,” Gravel says on the phone from Vancouver, where she was vacationing with her family on the eve of The Cranky Ballerina’s publication.