Music Boxes by Tonja Drecker Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
“I only desire your talent...”
Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay's biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who’s a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame Destinée, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can't believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in the school’s exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something’s not right...
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame Destinée’s growing collection. If Lindsey doesn’t discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.
**Music Boxes was recommended by The Barnes & Noble Kids Blog as one of the 5 Spooky New Middle Grade Books for Campfire Chills!!**
“Excuse me, darling. I’m afraid my dog isn’t as friendly as he appears.” A tall, slender woman stepped up from behind, unhooked the dog’s leash, and lifted him into her arms.
“Oh, sorry.” Lindsey said without looking up.
A boy in a purple cape darted past in a row of amazing turns. Behind him, two girls in pink reveled en pointe, and then stretched their legs out behind them into a pair of perfect arabesques.
“They are spellbinding, aren’t they?” the woman asked.
Lindsey nodded, not wanting to look away. Not for a second.
“I’m Madame Destinée. I own this dance school.”
When a slender hand appeared next to Lindsey’s face, she turned and stumbled to her feet. The second she saw the woman, the statement about owning the dance school hit full force. The dark blue leotard perfectly matched her skirt and tights. Her black hair parted down the middle of her scalp and was pulled so tight into a bun on the back of her head that it must have hurt.
She gazed down, batting long eyelashes over a pair of bright red lips. “Do you dance, darling?”
Lindsey started to nod but stuck out her hand to return the shake. The woman’s fingers were boney and icy-cold, but that was no wonder considering it was freezing outside. “I’ve been taking ballet lessons since I was six.”
“Oh my. You must be good. Perhaps you’d like to take lessons here. I bet you’d fit right in.” She waved her arm toward the window and the dancers inside.
Lindsey peered back. The studio was amazing, so much better than the one she’d attended in Nebraska. And the dancers were fantastic! Each movement flowed as if they’d been practicing for years. A girl in red spun by the window. Her skirt swung out like a budding rose. So beautiful! Even if Lindsey was allowed to take classes here—and she already could hear Mom’s flat “no”—the dance school owner was wrong. She’d never fit in. She was talented. Sure. But these dancers were genius. It’d take years before she caught up to them.
“Your school looks great, but I’m already signed up for classes somewhere else.” It was a good excuse. Too bad it was also true.
“Might I inquire where?”
Lindsey dug her fingernails into the inside of her gloves. “The Community Center,” she mumbled.
“Ah, Mr. Lagunov! He’s a fine teacher.”
Lindsey blinked. Wow. The woman knew him. But he had been famous once, so it probably wasn’t super surprising. “My mom said he danced for the Russian ballet.”
“That’s true. He was extremely talented. How lovely that he’s giving classes to the community now. A shame, too.”
“His lessons are...umm...let’s say lacking. The Community Center simply doesn’t have the funding needed to nurture true talent. My school is the finest in the city. I’d say the best in the world, but that would be a bit presumptuous, and we don’t want to appear arrogant, do we, darling? You should know that I only accept the best.”
On the other side of the window, the girl in red leaped through the air like a shooting comet. So high…she practically flew! Lindsey’s heart sank. She definitely couldn’t dance as well as that girl. Even if she wanted to go to this school, once Madame Destinée saw her dance, she wouldn’t accept her anyway.
“You mustn’t worry about the cost. I’m not interested in money. I only desire your talent.”
“You think I’m talented enough to come here?” Lindsey had to have misunderstood. Madame Destinée hadn’t seen her dance a single step.
“Yes, darling, I know you are. Your posture speaks for itself. Why don’t you come in for a quick trial lesson?”
After finishing her BA in International Studies at the University of Denver, Tonja Drecker spent many years in Europe devouring chocolate, cheese and wine while investigating the birth places of myths, legends and mysterious tales.
Currently residing somewhere in the back woods of the Ozarks, she writes away while tending to chickens, cows and her family of six. Her stories have been published in several collections and magazines including In the Shadow of the Eagle's Eye in REAL GIRLS DON'T RUST (Spencer Hill Press, 2013), A GLOWWORM (Black and White Publishing Company, 2017) and Meringue, Murder and Marzipan in FULL DARK (Obsidian Books, 2017) . She's an avid book reader, professional children's book reviewer, outdoor addict and always in search of a new adventure (based in reality, the imagination, or otherwise).
As an author, it’s probably not surprising that I am and have been an avid reader for most of my life. I love escaping to other worlds, facing impossible odds, falling in love, shedding tears, battling all-powerful beasts and bringing the bad guy to his/her knees. And fairy tales…well, that’s where dreams take flight and wishes come true.
Living in Europe for over twenty years, I had the opportunity to see and experience the areas where some of these tales were told. It’s not a secret that many of our favorite fairy tales aren’t as rosy and cheerful as modern versions have made them out to be. And after being in Europe and exploring castles, forests dimmed by fog and moss-covered shacks, I’ve learned that many fairy tales didn’t really begin there but reach further back into history. Cinderella has roots in Egypt. Hansel and Gretel in Russia…or perhaps, older than that? Asia harbors ancient secrets as well. Some hold lessons for children, some moments of history and culture, and yet, others were written simply for the joy of telling a good story. Music Boxes is a fairy tale. A modern one with perhaps hints at other tales, but that was more accidental than anything else. I wanted to build a tale, which reflects current times with modern hopes and dreams, while keeping that spark of hope, possibility and dash of the impossible, which only magic can guarantee.
Follow the tour HERE for special excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!