Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Review - Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova


Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

By: Laurel Snyder
Illustrated by: Julie Morstad
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: August 2015
ISBN: 978-1452118901
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 9, 2015

Laundry hung on a line in the room as the snow swirled outside the window. There was a dress, stockings, pants, and even pantaloons, but nothing seemed to bother Anna as she peered dreamily through the window. “But one night ... / Anna’s sleigh / slips up the street. / Her face is cold. / The world is dark. / Mama smiles.” Living in a room full of laundry was nothing in comparison to the world that would soon open up to that tiny, frail girl. The snow continued to fall, yet the magic of the lights somehow beckoned her. Fashionable people were heading into the building of lights.

The stage was magnificent, perhaps something quite unlike anything Anna could have ever imagined. “The story unfolds. A sleeping beauty opens her eyes / ... and so does Anna.” She sat in the audience, her face unmoving as she watched the dancers before her. Mama had taken her to the ballet, something she now wanted, something she began to perform in that room full of laundry. She danced as she swept, a girl who could no longer sit still. Anna wanted to dance, really dance on that stage, but she was too small, too tiny to learn how to perform. “Shirt, shirt, laundry. / Shirt, shirt, laundry.” Was there nothing else?

Anna would bide her time, two years was a very long time for a little girl. All the young ballerinas were so much taller than she, but would she be accepted at the audition this time? She swirled and lifted her arms over her head as she auditioned, but this time would be hers. Yes! The work began and Anna was willing, more than willing. She was soon ready for the stage, but she was so unlike the other girls. “Her legs too thin, / her feet all wrong— / and ooh, those toes!” The years began to pass by once again. One, two, three, four, five...would Anna Pavlova ever be able to realize her dream and become a great ballerina?

This book is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read about the ballerina for young readers. The verse simply echoes the beauty and the elegance of the dancers as it weaves its way through the pages. I loved the flow and the artwork meshes perfectly with this biographical tale of Anna Pavlova. One can almost feel Anna’s emotions as she becomes that ballerina she so longed to be when she was that little girl dreaming by the window. In the back of the book is a brief two-page biographical sketch of Anna that will certainly make readers long for more information about her. There’s a bibliography and quotation sources that can easily serve as a stepping stone for additional research.

Quill says: Swan would be a marvelous addition to any homeschool, library, or classroom shelves!