|Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad.|
Little Sis received Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova for her eighth birthday. It is the only book about a dancer I have to share with you this Women's History Month, and it's so, so beautiful, it warrants its own post.
The book begins on a snowy evening, as Anna's sleigh arrives at the theatre. The ballet is Sleeping Beauty. Anna is mesmerized. "Her feet wake up! Her skin prickles. There is a song, suddenly, inside her."
Anna dances all the time. She tries to go to ballet school, but is too young. Anna must wait two years. "Shirt, shirt, laundry. Shirt, shirt, laundry. Even the squirrels lose interest."
At last she begins school. It is hard work, but she finally takes the stage. "It shouldn't be that she should be this good. Her legs too thin, her feet all wrong - and ooh, those toes!"
However, "Anna was born for this."
Anna becomes a sensation, the beautiful swan.
Anna takes her dance all over the world. Her goal is to bring the beauty of dance to all people, rich or poor. During her travels, her homeland changes. It isn't the city she remembers. "There has been a war there, a wall. Everything is changed... Anna builds a new life, a different fairy tale."
Then one night, Anna is outside a train, no boots or mittens. She coughs. It will not go away. She will never dance again.
The book is told in spare, poetic language. Some of the gaps - the wait to attend school, her final illness - are better filled by the "From the Author" note at the end of the book.
Julie Morstad's art speaks for itself, of course. The endpapers, even the back cover are perfect. As always, my weak photography cannot begin to do it justice. Just check the book out for yourself.
If you love ballet or gorgeous art, this one is a treasure.
As for its subject: you can read more about Anna Pavlova at Wikipedia or Biography.com, or watch this video from the Royal Opera House's "Ballet Evolved." I'll leave you with a few grainy films I found on YouTube.