Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Laurel Snyder
Illustrator:  Julie Morstad 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle Books, 2015   ISBN: 978-1452118901

One snowy night Anna’s mother takes her to see a ballet performance. There sitting in the dark, as she watches the ballerinas on the stage, Anna feels as if “There is a song, suddenly, inside her.” When she goes home the magic of the ballet still fills Anna, and she dances around the apartment. Anna goes to see if she can join the ballet and become a dancer, but she is too young and she is turned away.

Patiently Anna waits, helping her mother launder clothes in their little apartment. She stretches and dances until at long last, two years after she saw the ballet performance, she is accepted at the ballet school. Then the work really begins. Anna repeats ballet positions and exercises over and over again building up her strength, flexibility and dancing skills.

Then, one night, Anna comes onto the stage. She is small, her legs are very thin, and she looks so “frail,” and yet when she dances she is a dream in motion. It is clear to all who see her that “Anna was born for this.”

Five years later Anna performs The Dying Swan for the first time and her performance catapults her into the limelight. She is famous and travels the world to dance for kings, queens and other dignitaries in foreign lands. However, this is not enough for Anna, who has not forgotten what it was like to be a poor, little girl who lived in a small apartment and laundered clothes to make money. Anna feels that ballet belongs to everyone and she sets about making sure that she reaches as many people as she can; all kinds of people who came from all walks of life. Her ballet is for everyone to enjoy.

This incredibly beautiful picture book tells the story of one of the most famous ballet dancers of all time. Anna Pavlova was the daughter of a Russian laundress, and it was not easy for her to get accepted by the Imperial Ballet School. She achieved her goal because her “hunger to dance was fierce.”

As we turn the pages, taking in the lyrical text and the exquisite illustrations, we come to appreciate that Anna Pavlova was not just a great ballet dancer. She made sure that she shared her art form with others, and she was an inspiration for countless dancers. Her art even touches the lives of young people who choose the ballet life today, many years after Anna Pavlova danced her last dance.