Swan: The Life And Dance Of Anna Pavlova (Laurel Snyder)

Hello, everybody! Today’s book is Swan: The Life And Dance Of Anna Pavlova, written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad, a picture book biography of the noted turn-of-the-century ballerina.

Born to humble beginnings in a cold, dark, and snowy country, Anna is very small while the world is very big. One day, Anna’s mother brings her to the ballet, and Anna feels her spirit grow. She is possessed by the desire to dance, working tirelessly despite her small size. She becomes a world-famous prima ballerina, performing for dignitaries and royalty. But Anna came from small beginnings, and she wants people like her to experience the wonder and beauty of dance. So Anna travels the world, dancing for rich and poor, in cities and villages, for princely sums and for nothing at all. And even when she grows sick and weak, the will to dance still burns within her, until she leaves the world wishing for one last spotlight, and one last turn as her most famous role, The Dying Swan.

This is an undeniably gorgeous book. The art is breathtakingly beautiful, capturing the light and delicate grace of Pavlova’s style of ballet, the fashions of the time, and the transformation of a dancer in their role. The text has a poetic rhythm, forgoing the basic statement of fact present in most biographies for spare, lyrical prose that definitely fits the ambiance of the book. Still, I might not recommend this for very young bookworms like JJ: the longer length, muted color scheme, and the accurate but rather depressing ending (Pavlova died as theatrically as she lived, but tragically nonetheless) make it a bit of a downer, and JJ clearly wasn’t feeling it by the end. Older bookworms, however, are sure to be enchanted by the phenomenal art and story, so we can still call this one Baby Bookworm approved!

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