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Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova Hardcover – August 18, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 1–4—This tall, graceful picture book captures the artistic spirit, if not the entire biography, of one of the world's prima ballerinas. Pavlova's humble beginnings and early life in 19th-century tsarist Russia are merely hinted at, though spelled out more fully in an appended author's note. The spare, lyrical text instead offers imagery that is more poetic than concrete. For example, when the curtain rises on Pavlova: "She steps onto the stage alone…/and sprouts white wings, a swan./She weaves the notes, the very air/into a story…/Anna is a bird in flight,/a whim of wind and water./Quiet feathers in a big loud world./Anna is the swan." Morstad's artwork—done in ink, gouache, graphite, pencil, and crayon—is stylized and understated, with backdrops that suggest stage sets more than landscapes or domestic scenes. On nearly every page, the lithe and lovely figure of Pavlova appears, usually in motion, always the embodiment of beauty and grace. Even her illness and death are presented in a dramatic, theatrical manner—fitting somehow for someone who lived and breathed the stage. VERDICT An enchanting glimpse of a dancer whose name has come to be synonymous with her most famous role.—Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Review

"In her day, Pavlova traveled the world to bring ballet to new audiences, and today this inspiring entry point brings her to new, even aspiring fans." -San Francisco Chronicle

"Young ballet lovers will be smitten with the story."--Kirkus Reviews

" With beautiful, graceful illustrations and poetic text, this book captures the spirit and charm of one of history's prima ballerinas."--Parents Press

"A masterpiece."--How Does She?

"A tender, delicate recounting."-Publishers Weekly

"An enchanting glimpse of a dancer whose name has come to be synonymous with her most famous role."--School Library Journal, starred review

"As graceful in both visual and written line as the dancer it portrays, it is unrelenting in its depiction of work, inspiration and generosity."--Esme Codell, The Planet Esme Plan

"Captures Pavlova's essence beautifully."-Booklist

"Elgantly captures the meaning of Anna Pavlova's extraordinary life...inspiring."--The San Francisco Chronicle

"Exquisite."-The Horn Book Magazine

"The words feel like a poem, and the artwork is outstanding. It is a seriously beautiful book."--Design Mom
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Lexile Measure: AD380L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 52 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (August 18, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452118906
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452118901
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.5 x 12.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
One of the most beautiful picture books I have ever seen/read. And I have seen/read probably thousands of picture books in my life (no joke). It is unfortunate that this title cannot win a 2016 Caldecott. I believe the incredibly talented illustrator is Canadian (sigh). The text is simply enchanting and the illustrations are swoon worthy. Vibrant, elegant, stunning-perfect for a book about the life of a prima ballerina. I can write pages on how much I adore Swan. It is as good as it gets. Trust me.
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Format: Hardcover
Swan is a beautifully illustrated picture book biography of Anna Pavlova that not only celebrates the amazing life of one young woman but also celebrates the art of ballet. This is a delicate and refined telling that takes the reader from Anna's humble beginnings through her triumphs on the stage and finally to her tragic end. All of this is done with a spare text that creates images that perfectly complement the illustrations, and creates emotion that will reach every young reader. The descriptions of her first moment on the stage, her first appearance as the swan, and finally her poignant end all gave me goose bumps as they were so beautiful in their simplicity.

Anna herself is a delicate almost ethereal figure as she dances across these pages, travelling the world bringing the art of ballet to everyone. Her first appearance as the Swan is of course a highlight, with a full two page spread devoted to Anna with wings, trailing flowers in her wake. I'm sure that it is to this page that young readers will return time and again to experience the magic.

Swan serves as an excellent introduction to one of the ballet world's most beloved ballerinas. The author's note at the end of the book provides more detailed information for those young readers wanting more information, and a bibliography offers even more opportunities for additional learning. Swan captures the magic of ballet and the fierce determination of one young woman devoted to her art. A wonderful choice for any young reader and an enthusiastic recommend.

*This book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Format: Hardcover
Laundry hung on a line in the room as the snow swirled outside the window. There was a dress, stockings, pants, and even pantaloons, but nothing seemed to bother Anna as she peered dreamily through the window. “But one night ... / Anna’s sleigh / slips up the street. / Her face is cold. / The world is dark. / Mama smiles.” Living in a room full of laundry was nothing in comparison to the world that would soon open up to that tiny, frail girl. The snow continued to fall, yet the magic of the lights somehow beckoned her. Fashionable people were heading into the building of lights.

The stage was magnificent, perhaps something quite unlike anything Anna could have ever imagined. “The story unfolds. A sleeping beauty opens her eyes / ... and so does Anna.” She sat in the audience, her face unmoving as she watched the dancers before her. Mama had taken her to the ballet, something she now wanted, something she began to perform in that room full of laundry. She danced as she swept, a girl who could no longer sit still. Anna wanted to dance, really dance on that stage, but she was too small, too tiny to learn how to perform. “Shirt, shirt, laundry. / Shirt, shirt, laundry.” Was there nothing else?

Anna would bide her time, two years was a very long time for a little girl. All the young ballerinas were so much taller than she, but would she be accepted at the audition this time? She swirled and lifted her arms over her head as she auditioned, but this time would be hers. Yes! The work began and Anna was willing, more than willing. She was soon ready for the stage, but she was so unlike the other girls. “Her legs too thin, / her feet all wrong— / and ooh, those toes!” The years began to pass by once again. One, two, three, four, five ...
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Format: Hardcover
We found this one at the public library and my 4 year old daughter immediately claimed it as a favorite, asking for it to be read (sometimes multiple times) every night at bedtime. It is a gorgeous book to look at and read, and I still have yet to get through the entire story without a tear coming to my eye. A beautiful book, and one that will be purchased for our bookshelf very soon.
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Format: Hardcover
Anna Pavlova was born in Czarist Russia. The daughter of a laundry woman she miraculously became a prima ballerina, a woman who transformed ballet, who brought this beautiful art to the masses.

Syder's and Morstad's SWAN is a gorgeous book. Morstad's artwork is so pretty. So touching and sweet. And Syder's verse makes for a very good read-aloud.

SWAN is a book that I would share with girls .AND. boys, and it's a book I suggest you approach bass-ackwards. By which I mean that I think everyone will get more out of the book if they start with the Author's Note at the end.

That brief note sums up aspects of Pavlova's life that readers are going to recognize in the verse and images... and if they are like me and mine they are going to enjoy the book more if approached in this order.

Snyder, for example, relates how Pavlova's body wasn't considered ideal at that time. She was slim and had a bad back. (This is even more fascinating when you consider that Misty Copeland's struggle for acceptance was just the opposite. Copeland possibly having a physique more like the sturdy ballerinas of Czarist Russia before Pavlova.)

Pavlova also had to reinforce her ballet shoes in order to go <i>en pointe</i>. I really think this author's note is worth reading.

~

This is a beautiful book that is a good read-aloud, and if approached correctly there is much to discuss.

Recommend.
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