Review: Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illus. Julie Morstad
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: August 18, 2015 by Chronicle Books
The world is big.
Anna is small.
The snow is
and all around.
But one night . . .
One night, her mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. Anna finds a beauty inside herself that she cannot contain.
So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her: the brave, the generous, the transcendentally gifted Anna Pavlova.
There are times when you read a book and, upon finishing, you hold the book close to try and hold that feeling. You want to capture the words from the pages in a jar, like fireflies, and you want the world to be decorated with the illustrations you have just seen. Upon finishing Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad’s glorious picture book Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, I held the book close and experienced that exact run of sentiments.
Canadian illustrator/animator/designer Morstad, as ever, continues to amaze with her illustrations. Morstad’s work never reads as trying to impress or astonish with profusions of colour or scale and noise, but her drawings always light up and arrest the eye and heart. Snyder’s text here is just about flawless in its poetry and movement: in tandem with the rippling illustrations, Snyder’s words seem to float and dance across, around, and up and down the pages. This is the first of Laurel Snyder’s work that I have read, and having been so moved by her writing here, I am making it a plan to read her other children’s work.
Overall, I highly, highly recommend Swan. I cannot express enough just how beautiful, moving and full of life the words and drawings in this biographical picture book are. Readers who enjoy non-fiction or biographical picture books such as Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings or The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse might especially love this title. Moreover, readers (both young and old!) who adore the ballet, ballerinas, or have interest in Anna Pavlova’s incredible life and famous performances will undoubtedly be taken in with this stunning and quiet homage. We are now more than halfway through the year, and I think I can safely say that Swan will hold a place on my best of 2015 book lists.
I received a copy of this book from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.