Friday, May 20, 2016

Swan, The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlola by Laurel Snyder & Illustrated by Julie Morstad

This is a gorgeous book! Delicate, fairy like drawings, and the sparsest, simplest prose. It is one of my favorite picture books of last year.

Oh these endpaper pictures! I can just feel the yearning.

Anna Pavlova was born the daughter of a laundress in Soviet Russia. There was very little of magic and delight in her life. Until one night, her mother and Anna go to the ballet. "You are going to enter fairyland," her mother tells her.

In the audience, a young Anna Pavlova has an awakening.

Back in their little apartment, Anna dances to the music still playing in her head. 

After a few years of dancing to that music, she tries out for the ballet. She is turned away. 

Two years dance by, and Anna tries again. 

But this time, oh? Oh yes!

Then begins the work. 

She works and works.

Until one night she takes the stage....
Anna becomes a glimmer, a grace. 
Everyone feels it, and the lamps shine brighter. The room holds its breath. 
It shouldn't be that she should be this good. 
Her legs too thin, her feet all wrong--and ooh, those toes!
She is only a girl--so small--so frail--

see her face, her flutter?

Anna becomes famous for her swan.

Kings and dignitaries entertain her.

Anna believes firmly that ballet belongs to everyone, not just the rich. She travels the world, dancing in bullrings and in local dance halls to share ballet with the masses.

The various roles of Anna.

Anna helping young girls

And then, in 1931, Anna gets out of a stalled train to see why it was stopped. She catches a cold that quickly moved into pneumonia. 

Her fever climbs higher and higher. She calls for her feathers, to do the Swan one last time, but dies before it is ever danced. 

Her last words--"Play that last measure very softly."

Everyday must end in night.
Every bird must fold its wings
Every feather falls at last and settles.

Oh, thinks Anna. If only every dance could end in such sweet applause.

Isn't that the most beautiful way to deal with death you have ever seen in a children's book? It is. 

Oh, this is such a beautiful book. 

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