Goodreads: Bad Day for Ballet
Series: The Nancy Drew Notebooks #4
Published: January 1, 1995
Nancy and her friends are practicing for the big ballet recital. They’re so excited–and nervous, too. Especially Bess. She loves her beautiful mermaid costume, but she can’t seem to learn the steps. And now the girls may not get to perform at all!
The tape with the special music is missing, and almost everyone blames Bess. Nancy has just two days to find the tape, help her friend, and save the ballet!
Bad Day for Ballet is definitely a book for young readers. At a quick 75 pages, it has a simple plot and jumps into the thick of the mystery, immediately introducing several characters with motivations to cancel the ballet recital. While the writing is heavy-handed for an older audience, the book would be a great introduction for younger readers to learn the conventions of mystery and how to spot the suspects.
Despite the assumption the readers will be very young, the book does oddly assume a prior knowledge of Nancy Drew. This series definitely isn’t The Baby-Sitters Club; there’s no long intro about who each character is or overviews of mysteries that have been solved before. There’s some minor situating for the reader, as the author notes that George and Bess are cousins and Nancy’s best friends and that Hannah is Nancy’s housekeeper, but overall the book seems to think the readers will have all this knowledge down. I’m not sure why, since the readers of this series likely will not have progressed to the reading level of the original Nancy Drew books, but maybe Book 1 in this series did all the introductions?
The book also might not have aged well for young readers. It was originally published in 1995, which means that a mystery about a missing cassette tape of original music was probably a real disaster at the time. Today’s young readers might have difficultly imagining a world where music wasn’t backed up with all kinds of digital copies, so parents might have to provide some background information for this story to work.
Bad Day for Ballet is a cute read, but I think its pros are pretty evenly balanced by the cons. Older readers who like and are familiar with Nancy Drew won’t find the story particularly compelling, while very young readers might not know enough about Nancy to care and may be confused by the very ’90s mystery. A Nancy Drew series for young readers isn’t a bad idea, but I would like to see it done a little better.