Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Review: An Unlikely Ballerina by Krystyna Poray Goddu and Cosei Kawa


Young Lily Marks loves to stand on her tiptoes. When her parents notice weakness in her legs, her doctor suggests dancing lessons to strengthen them. Lily falls in love with ballet—but can this fragile girl ever become a serious dancer? When the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova comes to town, Lily just has to meet her. Maybe Pavlova—small, delicate, and Jewish like Lily—hold the key to Lily's future.

I have been very pleased with the number of picture book biographies published over the past few years. Longer biographies just don't seem to circulate as much any more, unless students are required to write reports. With picture books, however, just enough of a person's story is told to make the reader acquainted with them, and in a story form that will hopefully engage the reader enough to inspire further reading.

Of course, with quantity comes a mix of quality. Some try to pack too much information in, and end up becoming wordy and dry. Others have too little and lack depth. An Unlikely Ballerina strikes just the right balance.

Beginning with a childhood of clunky shoes and the threat of metal leg braces, it tells the story of Lily Marks (later known as Alicia Markova). A doctor who was willing to think outside the box set this frail young lady on a path that earned her worldwide fame and success, although it was her own talent and determination, along with some words of encouragement from another famous dancer, that delivered her there.

An inspiring story that is never saccharine, illustrated beautifully in bright jewel-like colors, featuring early 20th century buildings and costume, and sprinkled with clouds of tiny pictures and symbols that add a touch of the ethereal. An attractive addition to your shelves.

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