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Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781743318454

Over 140 years ago, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky brought a story about first love, betrayal, loss, and good versus evil to life through a musical score he called Swan Lake. and on March 4 1877 through the choreography of Julius Reisinger and a few years later that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that music was interpreted through dance, laying the foundations of one of the most loved and enduring of the classical ballets.

Now, in 2017, it has been reinterpreted through the stunning artwork of Anne Spudvilas.   

With a synopsis of each act to explain what the reader is going to experience, the story unfolds in pictures that echo the dark, hazy, haunting mood that permeates the story – the lake at midnight, the malevolence afoot at the Grand Ball,  the storm that accompanied Siegfried’s battle with the Sorcerer and the final tragic ending. Dramatic in their composition and demonstrating how many shades of grey there really are, Spudvilas has captured the essential elements of the story while also portraying the atmosphere that the music and choreography bring to the experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swan Lake as a ballet it is a complete sensual experience in itself; for those like me (and Spudvilas) who have been entranced with it since childhood, it is yet another layer adding to the wonder and love of the original. 

Definitely one to add to the collection for a range of reasons – at its basic level it is the story behind a classic ballet and its  interpretation in pictures;  but at a deeper level there is so much to explore and interpret such as  the creation of mood through a monochromatic scheme; the use of imagery and colour to identify emotions or portent…

While the long-ago LP record cover that took me into a lifelong love of ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular has disappeared forever, this new interpretation will be a suitable substitute and will join the other members of my treasured collection that brings back such happy memories. And even though I know I will only ever be Odette in my dreams maybe it will spark a dream for my granddaughters!

Watch this for in the 2018 awards lists…

Dance With Me

Dance with Me

Dance with Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance with Me

Penny Harrison

Gwynneth Jones

EK Books, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781925335231

The ballerina lived in a little wooden box and every day she stood straight and tall and danced for the little girl who would laugh and clap her hands and dance like the ballerina herself.  But as the years passed, the little girl grew up and the ballerina danced for her less and less, until, eventually, she danced no longer.  

So one day she jumped down from her box, skipped out the windowsill to find a new dance partner.  But the bee in the flowers was too busy; the turtle on the seashore wasn’t a dancer; and the leopard on the island wanted her for his lunch! So the ballerina hurried home to her box and danced one last time for the little girl.  But sadly, it was not enough and the lid was closed and the box stored away for many years.  Until one day another little girl opened the lid…

This is a poignant story about growing up and the treasured keepsakes we grow beyond as we do so.  For while it is the story of the ballerina wanting to do what she loves, it is also the story of those things that we always think of when we think of our childhood and which we know we will pass on to our own children in the hope they will get similar joy.  Gwynneth Jones’s illustrations are charming – gentle pastels while the ballerina is happy dancing for the girl and a bolder palette as she gets bolder – and feed right into the vision we have when we think about musical boxes with their magic tucked inside.

A great opportunity to talk about memories with our children as well as what they love enough to want to keep for their children, creating bonds across generations.  

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cranky Ballerina

Elise Gravel

Katherine Tegan Books, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062351241

Ada does not look forward to weekends, particularly Saturdays, because Saturday is ballet day and she HATES ballet.  Her leotard is too tight and her tutu too itchy and as for the moves she is forced to do and practise and practise…as she says, “Arabesques are GROTESQUE”. As for pirouettes – well! Even with her little monster sidekick who tries to offer support and encouragement, she just doesn’t like it. For Ada, it is definitely NOT a case of “practice makes perfect”. 

But one Saturday morning when she is trying to please Miss Pointy she pirouettes right out the door and into a whole new world, one where she fits perfectly.

Across the world, Saturday mornings see young girls and boys going off to do things like ballet and music and sport and so on because their parents think they should, or they should enjoy them or the parents are reliving their dreams, but how many are like Ada and have no aptitude or passion for the activity?  Many were the freezing mornings I cycled many miles to piano lessons thinking of excuses for not having practised until my long-suffering teacher told my mum she was wasting her money. Based on the creator’s one disastrous attempt at ballet when she was four, this story will resonate with those whose abilities, talents and interests lie beyond those that they are expected to do.  

The illustrations are very expressive – even the youngest non-reader can tell that this is a story about an unhappy child who seems to have a permanent scowl and for all their apparent simplicity, the feelings of Miss Pointy and the other girls are very obvious.  With a predominantly gentle colour scheme, lime greens and bright reds punctuate Ada’s discomfort along with speech bubbles and onomatopoeia giving it a fast pace that will encourage young readers to read it for themselves independently without much trouble. The final page is perfect.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Sharing this with a class could enable a discussion about the sorts of things that the students do on weekends and their feelings about those activities.  There may be a number of Adas uncovered who will be grateful for having their feelings legitimised and perhaps even have the courage to talk to their parents about what they would really like to be doing and lerning.

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Dance, Bilby, Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Tricia Oktober

Ford Street, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.95

9781925272130

Baby Bilby would love to dance.  Everything around him seems to do so, even the ants on the swirling leaves and the willy-willies.  Even Bilby’s shadow dances.  Will he be able to?  He’s doing quite well and delighting in the shadows he makes until a big scary shadow looms over him…

On the surface this is a most charming story beautifully illustrated by one of my favourite illustrators, perfect for preschool with its simple text, colour and movement. But it has the potential to be so much more if the reader starts to explore the concepts of movement, wind patterns and shadows and how they change.  The ending also offers scope for discussion.

One of the reasons I love Oktober’s illustrations is her eye for detail and these are no exception.  Bilby is very appealing yet very realistic while the meticulous detail of the contents of the willy-willy contrast perfectly with the ballet shoes on the emus!

Can’t wait to share this with Miss Nearly 5.

Silver Shoes (series)

Silver Shoes

Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhythm and Blues

9780857989079

 

Studio Showdown

9780857989093

 

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Random House, 2016

pbk., 144pp., RRP $A14.99

 

Three or four times a week, Eleanor Irvin and her friends attend the Silver Shoes Dance Academy to learn to dance. Jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, ballroom, lyrical – whatever the style it’s on offer and each girl has her favourite genre although they are also challenged to go beyond their comfort zone and take on new challenges.

This is particularly true for Riley in Rhythm and Blues when Riley takes on the role of being Miss Caroline’s personal assistant.  Having sprained her ankle playing tennis and forced to take a break from dance, Riley finds sitting at home on the couch really frustrating so this new position will at least get her back into that realm again.  But trouble is brewing because she finds she has access to private information and power to use it that threatens her friendships. On top of that, she is so determined to get back to dancing that she risks making her injury worse and causing permanent damage.

Similarly, Paige is challenged in Studio Showdown when she is asked to choreograph the Under8/9s’  item for the end-of-year concert with her friend Ellie.  The theme is ‘Hollywood glamour” and while Paige is intent on it being jive-based, Ellie has different ideas.  Rather than letting the younger dancers shine, she wants to be able to be the star with a support group.  It looks like the team is going to be 90% Ellie and 10% Paige and Paige has to dig deep to find the confidence to have her voice heard.

As usual each book has information about the featured genre and a full glossary and because the author is a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer herself you know they have authority.

Miss 9 was especially excited that Santa had managed to get his hands on some advance copies of these two new additions  and it is certainly a series that never stays on the shelves.  The reserve list for new titles is always long. Even though dance of some sort is the second most popular sport in Australia with over 4 000 000 participants, not all who would like to get the opportunity to dance, so this series continues to fuel their dreams. 

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

Click here for others in the series

Click here for others in the series

Silver Shoes (series)

Silver Shoes

Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broadway Baby

9780857989031

 

Lights, Camera, Dance

9780857989055

 

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Random House, 2015

pbk., 144pp., RRP $A14.99

 

Broadway Baby and Lights, Camera, Action are the latest additions to the Silver Shoes series which follows the early dancing days of a group of friends at the Silver Shoes Dance Studio.  Each girl has her favourite genre and this time it is the turn of Ellie and Ashley to shine again. Since her success in And All That Jazz, Ellie has been taking singing lessons and now she is determined to wow them in a Broadway musical and become a ‘triple threat” – one who can act, dance and sing.  However, her strength is jazz ballet not tap dancing and there are those who are better than she also auditioning.

Meanwhile, in Lights, Camera, Action hip-hop lover Ashley is now inspired by reggae and is desperate to impress an agent looking for the star of his next music video.  But, as with the others in this series, there are those who are determined to be better than the heroine so like Ellie, Ashley has to dig deep into her inner self to persevere and test herself. 

Dancing remains one of the most popular sports for Australian children and so it’s no wonder that this series has been a hit with so many of the young girls I know.  Once again, the author’s expertise shines through and while the key focus is on the dancing element, she still holds a mirror to the life of this age group who are branching out into new ventures and friendships as they try out new independence.  Each reader sees herself as the lead character on the stage but can also relate to the challenges that have to be faced to get there. 

I know these will be snapped up as soon as they appear – here’s hoping there are more in the pipeline!

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

 

 

Dinosaur Disco

Dinosaur Disco

Dinosaur Disco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Disco

Deborah Kelly

Daron Parton

Random House, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780857981363

It’s Saturday night and there is a great sense of anticipation in the line-up at the door of the disco.  The doors, open, the crown surges, music starts to pump… and the dinosaurs surge into the hall!  Each has their own unique style – styracosaurus salsa, corythosuarus crumps and maisaura moonwalks across the shiny floor – but it doesn’t matter because each is having fun and loving what they are doing.  With the disco ball and lights flashing, the conga line snakes across the floor until the music stops, the ground begins to shake, there’s an eerie silence and some of the little dinosaurs dive for cover.  What could have cast such a pall of gloom over the fun and frivolity?

If you looking for a raucous, rollicking book that young dinosaur lovers can really get into, then this is perfect.  In their amazing way, they will get their tongues around the difficult and unfamiliar names and will move and groove with the dancers.  They will hold their breath when the intruder arrives but delight in the ending, joining in with great gusto.  

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Dinosaurs are perennial favourites with young readers – and they can never get enough of them. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, old and new titles are eagerly sought and this one combines the best of both worlds as there is a pronunciation guide as well as some fast facts about the champions in the book. Bright illustrations add to the appeal and while somewhat stylised they are close enough to the child’s perception of each species, they will delight in being able to identify them.  Definitely one for the collection but it needs to have some loud music going to get the atmosphere happening for a memorable storytime. 

Silver Shoes (series)

silver_shoes2

Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance Till you Drop

9780857983725

Breaking Pointe

9780857983749

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Random House, 2015

pbk., 144pp., RRP $A14.99

 

Silver Shoes Dance Studio is a dance academy where 10 year-old Eleanor Irvin and her friends go three or four times a week to learn to dance.  Jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, ballroom, lyrical – whatever the style it’s on offer and each girl has her favourite genre.  In the first two titles in this series – And All that Jazz and Hit the Streets – the focus was Eleanor and her love for jazz ballet and then Ashley and her desire to excel at hip-hop.  The latest two additions to this popular series focus on ballroom dancing and ballet.

In Dance Till You Drop Paige struggles with trying to meet her mother’s expectations that she will be the best dancer ever and pushing her into extra classes and her body and head telling her she needs to take a break.  It’s not till she doesn’t turn up at class and her friends find her hiding that things come to a head, particularly when Ellie asks her “What’s more important?  Your mum being a bit upset when you tell her or you being like a zombie all the time and running away from class?”  It takes a while but her love to dance is questioned and answered in a story many will see themselves in, in one way or another.

Ballet is the focus of Breaking Pointe and Riley has to make choices between her love of it as well as her love of all sports, including athletics and basketball, especially when she finds she has a clash of commitments.  This is another situation familiar to many young people as they try new things to find their passion and begin to understand they can’t do everything.

This series has proven very popular among the girls at my school who are fascinated with all things dance and it is perfect for moving them on beyond the heavily illustrated early chapter books as they continue their reading journeys towards independence.  They are going to be delighted to see these new additions to the series and know that there are two more coming in October!

Silver Shoes

Silver Shoes

Click here for a review of the first two in the series.

 

Silver Shoes (series)

Silver Shoes

Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Shoes (series)

And All That Jazz

9780857982627

Hit the Streets

9780857982641

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Random House, 2014

pbk., 144pp., RRP $A14.99

 

Silver Shoes Dance Studio is a dance academy where 10 year-old Eleanor Irvin and her friends go three or four times a week to learn to dance.  Jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, ballroom, lyrical – whatever the style it’s on offer and each girl has her favourite genre.  For Eleanor it’s jazz and in the first in this new series And All That Jazz, the focus is on an up-coming competition where the studio not only competes against other studios but the girls also compete against each other in the individual section.  Eleanor is very passionate about dance – “Sure, a dance can only go for a few minutes but you create bit of magic in that time.  The dance has these little fingers that go reaching out to find all the little happys that make one big happy- one tiny moment that’s somehow full of all these good things” – and at times her intensity gets in the way of her relationships, particularly with newcomer Ashley who has joined Silver Shoes from its arch rival Dance Art.

Hit the Streets focuses on Ashley’s desire to learn hip-hop but as she gradually convinces the Silver Shoes girls that she’s not a spy for Dance Art, she hits some personal problems that threaten to crush her dreams.  There was a hint of there being more to Ashley’s story than meets the eye in And All That Jazz and readers now learn what that is.

This is a great new series for this age group that loves to dance and Miss 8 enjoyed these first two episodes immensely.  With each girl having their particular passion (in Breaking Pointe Riley loves ballet and in ballroom dancing is the focus of Paige’s story in Dance till you Drop –both out in April) the series has a broader appeal. The characters are very real – they could be any little 10-year-old girl you know and they’re not always likeable.  Eleanor makes a point of trying to paint Jasmine (Jas-mean) black but there were times when she could have been holding a mirror to herself – and that’s the nature of this age group as they dart to negotiate independent friendships and relationships. It is also made clear that dancing is not all glitter and glam and pretty costumes – the thing that often attracts in the first place – and that it involves hard work and long hours and learning that you’re not always going to win.  There are insights and lessons here that aren’t necessarily dance-focused.  Not only does the author’s expertise in dance show through but also her knowledge of this age group.

Each book has a bio of its main character as well as instructions for how to perform a particular move and a full glossary.  Even though dance of some sort is the second most popular sport in Australia with over 4 000 000 participants, not all who would like to get the opportunity to dance, so this series will at least fuel their dreams.  

 

silver_shoes2

Click here for a review of the next two in the series.