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Review of Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

snyder_swanSwan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
by Laurel Snyder; 
illus. by Julie Morstad
Primary, Intermediate   Chronicle   48 pp.
8/15   978-1-4521-1890-1   $17.99

In this exquisite introduction to ballet great Anna Pavlova (1881–1931), the impressionistic text begins the night young Anna goes out into the big city to see The Sleeping Beauty performed. Like the dancer onstage, Anna is awakened; consumed, she “cannot sleep. Or sit / still / ever.” Anna auditions for ballet school, is rejected, and auditions again two years later. This time she is accepted, and “the work begins.” Subsequent spreads follow Anna through her training; her roles, particularly her iconic Dying Swan; her growing fame; and her determination, as she tours the world, to make ballet accessible to everyone, everywhere. The rhythmic text lends her life the fairy-tale feeling of the ballets in which she performed. Delicate mixed-media illustrations are perfectly suited to Anna’s grace, capturing her expressiveness with abstracted swan imagery that matches the text’s lyricism. A muted palette gives the art a slightly vintage quality befitting the historical setting. An author’s note provides more straightforward biographical information, including the circumstances of Pavlova’s birth and death and the lengths she went in order to overcome the limitations of her frail build, weak back, and severely arched feet; it also highlights her legacy as an artist of the people. A bibliography encourages further reading about this remarkable prima ballerina.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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