Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Swan: the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Publish February 9, 2016

Swan: the life and dance of Anna Pavlova chronicles the life of the Russian ballerina in lyrical, sparse verse. Anna, the daughter of a poor laundress, discovers the majesty of music and dance through the ballet, Sleeping Beauty: “A sleeping beauty opens her eyes / …and so does Anna. / Her feet wake up! / Her skin prickles, / There is a song, suddenly, inside her.” Now she must dance, and bring this beauty to those who haven’t yet heard the music. Laurel Snyder writes books for children – most recently Seven Stories Up – and poetry for adults. Here, her playful use of language evokes our sense of wonder. When Anna dances alone in her room, even the snow and squirrels are moved: “Now the snow skitters / just so at the window, / Now the squirrels stop to watch.” And when Anna steps alone onto the stage in the ballet The Dying Swan, kids will read phrases that seem to twirl just like Anna: “Anna is a bird in flight, / a whim of wind and water.” Julie Morstad, illustrator of This is Sadie, conveys Anna’s elegance through her mixed media illustrations, with a palette of pink, light blue, and browns. One particularly breathtaking double-page spread shows the dancer in her swan costume, on pointe, with a cascade of flowers around her. Additional biographical details and sources are found in the note from the author. Swan is a book sure to inspire young dancers and dreamers alike.

Swan: the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Laurel Snyder
Illustration EN: Julie Morstad
Chronicle Books
ISBN 13: 978-1-4521-1890-1

Jen Bailey
Jen Bailey Jen Bailey is an Ontario-certified teacher who holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Jen’s other book reviews have appeared in Quill & Quire and Canadian Children’s Book News.

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