Angelina Ballerina by Helen Craig and Katharine Holabird: storyboards, dummy book and finished artwork


Angelina Ballerina is a little mouse with a big passion. Spellbound by dance, she dreams of one day becoming a famous ballerina. She sometimes makes mistakes but she always picks herself up and carries on dancing.

Have you ever wondered how a children’s book like Angelina Ballerina is created? The material on display here – from early storyboards to finished artworks – gives a fascinating insight into the creative process.

Where did Angelina Ballerina come from?

In 1982 author Katharine Holabird wrote a story about a young ballerina called Primrose, based on her two ballet-mad daughters. She took the story to illustrator Helen Craig, who drew the dancer as a plump mouse instead of a girl. Can you imagine Angelina without her twitching whiskers and twirling tail? The first book, published in 1983, was followed by a series of over 20 stories.

What can we see here?

Once Katharine Holabird has dreamt up Angelina's adventure, the illustrator Helen Craig works on the artwork. She will sketch many versions until it is perfect and it can take around nine months to complete a whole book!

The first three images are from Helen Craig’s storyboards, where she roughly sketches different scenes from the book and tries out their sequence.

Next is a handmade dummy book (images 4–19), which features rich and detailed pen and ink sketches. Here you can see that the little ballerina starts wearing her characteristic pink bow, but she's still called Primrose. A dummy book is a way to try out how text and images work together. Many of the pages show Helen Craig's notes to herself about making changes to her illustrations, such as in image 6: ‘Hat for Mrs Hodgepodge. More menacing’! Can you see the doodles of pansies in image 2 that belong to the menacing Mrs Hodgepodge?

In the finished artwork (images 20–25) we see that the dancing mouse has found her permanent name: Angelina Ballerina! Despite this change, many of the pictures remain the same. The final double page spread of the grand theatre is very like the earlier versions, except for some small differences. Can you see how the costume storage area has disappeared in the final version? And can you spot the little mouse who is rushing backstage to deliver a bunch of flowers to the dancers?

The creation of Mouseland

Illustrator Helen Craig created Angelina’s world from memories of her own war-time childhood in an English country village. She spent a lot of time working 'behind the scenes' on the details of Mouseland. She mapped out the floor plan of Angelina's home and created Mouseland rules. The first rule is that there's no technology allowed. Angelina won't be getting a mobile phone anytime soon!

Full title:
Sections of different rough storyboards for Angelina Ballerina (Aurum Press, 1983) executed in pencil and pen; Handmade dummy book for Angelina Ballerina, featuring pen and ink sketches and manuscript text; Finished artwork by Helen Craig for Angelina Ballerina.
c. 1983
Original artwork / Dummy book / Sketch / Illustration / Image
Helen Craig, Katharine Holabird
Usage terms

Use for Angelina Ballerina CLASSIC: © c. 1983 Helen Craig Ltd and Katharine Holabird.
Use for Angelina Ballerina CGI: © 2020 HIT Entertainment Limited.
Angelina Ballerina (Classic and CGI): The Angelina Ballerina name and character and the dancing Angelina logo are trademarks of HIT Entertainment Limited, Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig.

Held by
Seven Stories
HCr/01/01/02; HCr/01/01/03; HCr/01/01/05

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