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Ballet of the Elephants Hardcover – April 4, 2006

5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Hardcover, April 4, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-4-This fascinating historical vignette traces the paths of three famous men-circus-owner John Ringling North, ballet-master George Balanchine, and composer Igor Stravinsky-and shows how their lives intersected to create a one-of-a-kind event. The Circus Polka, a ballet featuring 50 elephants and 50 dancers, all in pink tutus, took place in New York City in 1942. In a smooth storylike narrative, Schubert weaves biographical details about the participants with descriptions of the preparations, rehearsals, and dazzling performance. The book ends with an author's note and black-and-white photos, one of which shows a long line of costumed elephants with their feet resting on one another's backs. Presented on single pages and full spreads, and using variations of bright and muted colors, the watercolor-and-ink illustrations capture the movement and vitality of this creative undertaking. For the most part, the paintings focus tightly on the performers, providing close-up glimpses of Madoc, a large Indian elephant, and Vera Zorina, the featured dancer. Scenes that depict the full company in action include only two or three pachyderms, and, in one spread, the animals become a backdrop for the ballerinas. Children can best appreciate what the elephant corps de ballet looked like by viewing the photo, which shows most of the stage area. Clearly written and vividly illustrated, this book provides a unique introduction to three interesting individuals and a look at a curious moment in musical history.-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

K-Gr. 3. Like Ralph Helfer's The World's Greatest Elephant (2006), Schubert's book tells an astonishing true story about circus elephants in the U.S. John Ringling North dreamed up his elephant circus act in the 1940s, Igor Stravinsky wrote the music for it, George Balanchine choreographed the steps, and 50 elephants with ballerinas on their backs danced the Circus Polka for dazzled audiences. The words are simple and lyrical ("they let the audience see the music and hear the dance"), and the beautiful, freely sketched double-page ink-and-watercolor art celebrates the excitement of the animals' dance. Schubert's lengthy afterword, accompanied by a few photos, supplies information left out of the story, including the fact that circus animals were sometimes mistreated and that Balanchine and Stravinsky may have regarded the ballet as a farce. Images of the great animals in fluffy pink tutus and jeweled headbands will jar some children, but the book offers much to talk about: the public circus, and the issues of animal rights. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 34 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596430753
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596430754
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write books for children, read books for all ages, and teach at Vermont College of Fine Arts' MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I live in North Central Vermont with my husband and two large dogs: Pogo (very good boy) and Pippa (slightly insane). Reading, dogs, and traditional music are my passions. I do not like to cook.

You can find out more about me and see assorted photographs and lots of book information on my website. www.ledaschubert.com

I also blog there on occasion. www.ledaschubert.com/blog.htm

Come visit!

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it for children and adults alike. This true story is simply and poetically described, giving very clear and interesting background on historical figures Stravinsky, Balanchine, and John Ringling North. The descriptions and illustrations of the elephant ballet are beautifully done, allowing the imagination to run wild at the thought of circus elephants in tutus, dancing a ballet. A truly magical book.
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Format: Hardcover
BALLET OF THE ELEPHANTS by Leda Schubert is a charming book telling the story of three talented men and fifty performing elephants. In April 1942, a unique show opened: Circus Polka, the brainchild of three men with very different backgrounds: John Ringling North, George Balanchine, and Igor Stravinsky. The book briefly describes the individual lives of the three men, the collaboration between the three men in the creative process, the training of the elephants in preparation for the show, and the show itself. The book concludes with background notes from the author which adds even more interest to the book. For example, the author notes that during her research she learned that "the elephants, even when they retired, so loved the ballet and were so well trained that they performed it all by themselves, without music." There is also a black and white photograph of the real performance!
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Format: Hardcover
Gigantic elephants dancing in elegant pink tutus along with human ballerinas sounds like pure fantasy--but it's all true. Considering the great showman, choreographer and composer involved in creating the actual circus show, it couldn't escape being an amazing production. Now it's all documented in a fascinating book, worthy of being appreciated by young and old.

BALLET OF THE ELEPHANTS is well-written and exquisitely illustrated with dream-like art.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book arrived on time and in great condition. This book is a wonderful TRUE story about the Ringling Bros.Barnum Bailey Circus 50 elephant ballet that took place in April 1942 near Madison Square Garden. Absolutely a fabulous unsung story.
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