Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, Julie Morstad (illustrator)


Hardcover, 52 pages
Expected publication: August 18th 2015 by Chronicle Books
Source: Publisher

This book, you guys, is so very beautiful. If picturebooks are usually not your thing, I insist that you pick this up at the library or a bookstore and just look at it. The naked hardback, the end pages, and the illustrations are all very superb. We’ll talk more about the illustrations later but kudos to Kirstine Brogno for designing such a beautiful book.

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, as is evident from the title, is an accessible biography of Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballerina who is still thought to be one of the best ballet dancers who existed. This picturebook details, with wondrous art and sparkling prose, the life of Anna Pavlova from her humble beginnings to the pinnacle of her career. We witness the desire to dance burgeon inside Anna after she attends a show and we see her disappointment when she is turned away for being too young. We see her triumph and fail and finally attain her goals. We accompany her as she dances in front of kings and queens, presidents, and other famous people. We accompany her in her travels to India where she dancers for village children in her attempt to bring dance to everyone no matter their social status and fiscal reach. We even see her tragic end which is done with a lot of sensitivity and heart.

Snyder’s prose though barred from embellishment by the need for historical accurateness is charming and engaging. What could have been a dry narration of facts becomes a story about a girl with a big dream. Morstad’s illustrations are brilliant as always; she manages to capture in some mysterious way the grace of the real Pavlova. I love that Snyder includes a note at the back detailing her research and details that didn’t make the book. Also included is a bibliography which can work as resources for anyone wanting greater information about Anna Pavlova and her life. Teachers can use this in classrooms to teach history or as an introduction to the arts. This can be a resource for kids doing history projects (age appropriately, of course). For students who like dance, this book will be a treasure. For everyone, this book is a lesson about dreaming and working to achieve your dream.