"Ballerinas are always trying to dance like swans,” says New York City Ballet legend Allegra Kent. “Swan Lake, The Dying Swan. I thought to myself, What if a swan decided to become a ballerina?”

Out of that felicitous idea grew Kent’s charming new children’s book, Ballerina Swan, published by Holiday House, which follows swan heroine Sophie as she struggles to master ballet technique. “Initially not everyone accepts Sophie because of her feathered appearance, and her wings make port de bras difficult,” Kent says. “But her beautiful long neck is an asset—and when she does a grand jeté, she’s the only one of the students who can actually fly!”

Kent, who dedicated the book in part to “George Balanchine, who understood unusual casting,” says she and Sophie have some similarities. “The way we both began—I remember my first classes being so hard, and thinking: I don’t know anything, I don’t know what I’m doing!” she says. “Of course, Sophie’s first class feels the same way. And Sophie and I both persisted anyway." She laughs. "I think we have the same exuberance. I hope so!" —MF