"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Monday, December 25, 2006

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel

To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel
Author: Siena Cherson Siegel
Illustrator: Mark Siegel
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 0689867476

To Dance is one of the most beautiful, evocative and stunning pieces of writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. It’s as elegant and graceful as the ballet it tells about. Husband and wife Siena Cherson Siegel and illustrator Mark Siegel have teamed up to produce a gorgeous memoir.

To Dance is the heartfelt story of Siena Siegel’s following her dream of becoming a dancer. It begins with the six year old dreaming of dancing and dance classes while seeing a doctor about her flat feet. The story that follows is a delightful one, with tribute paid to famous ballets, ballet companies, dancers and everything about the ballet. It is also the story of a mother who supports her daughter in her dreams, who even moves to the U.S. from Puerto Rico so that her daughter can attend the School of American Ballet in New York. There are chapters like My First Toe Shoes, Back to the Barre and The Dying Swan.

Text copyright © 2006 by Siena Siegel
Illustration copyrignt © 2006 by Mark Siegel

The story progresses with Siena as she grows older and advances her both her classes and proficiency. Scattered along the way in the story are illustrations of her nursing her aching toes which give a sense of how hard she worked, how hard it is to dance and how much she loves it. I am an Aztec dancer and know just how painful dancing can me so those little illustrations of Siena bandaging her toes really hit home.

Throughout the book is her love of the dance, her profound respect for other dancers of talent, of the icons of her field like Baryshnikov and George Balanchine. It portrays the feel of what it is like as a dancer to view a ballet as part of an audience. It truly gives the reader an insight on what is like to be a ballerina. Not only that, but it shows how important it is to follow your dreams and do what you love.

Each illustration by the Mark Siegel eloquently accompanies the writing and captures the grace and beauty of the dance with flowing lines, lovely movement and a dreamy color palette. I fell in love with the way the chapter names are written on what appears to be a ribbon from a ballet shoe. It’s wonderful. The range of emotions shown on characters faces is just amazing. The whole book flows like a dance and is a little uncanny how it almost moves. I was touched by its elegance and mobility. Simply stunning!

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