Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 9.02.15 Swan


I am excited to join Alyson Beecher and other friends in this weekly challenge.  Finding great nonfiction picture books isn't a challenge anymore, there are so many wonderful books to be read now!  The challenge is sharing them with as many people as possible so they can find this wealth of literature to share with our young readers.  Thanks to Aly for starting this weekly link-up and thanks to all who join in!  See all of the posts at kidlitfrenzy.

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
Written by Laurel Snyder
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Published by Chronicle

Many young kids get to have the experience of being on stage.  Whether it's through dance or singing or playing in the band or acting, there is something about being on stage that appeals to many youngsters.  For me, it was dance.  You practice and rehearse for a year.  Getting the toe points just right, the hands and fingers pointed to perfection.  And don't forget your stage presence - who are you on stage?  Are you becoming a different character?  The lights shine down and you begin.  You can see just the first few rows in the audience, the rest get blurred out by the bright lights.  You perform for them.

Now, I have the pleasure of seeing my daughter perform on stage.  I love how she transforms into a ballerina or a jazz dancer on stage.  Ever since her first time when she was four years-old, her smile lit up the stage as soon as those lights came on.  I've gone from the crying with joy mama, to one who just beams as her daughter performs.  She loves performing - showing what she knows and dancing before an audience.

Not everyone has that opportunity and many have to fight for it.  We live in a time and place where it's just a matter of fitting it into our schedule.

Reading Laurel Snyder's new picture book biography of Anna Pavlova took my breath away.  Maybe it was because of Anna's story.  How her passion for dance was so strong.  How she fought for so many to have the opportunity to dance.  Maybe it was because the writing was so powerful.  In short, brief sentences, Laurel captures the elegance of dance and the desire inside Anna's heart.  The writing is simply glorious.  I've read many of Laurel's middle grade books and I can tell you her writing is simply gorgeous in this picture book.  My heart rose and fell with Anna's successes and ultimately her untimely death.

The illustrations are phenomenal.  Julie Morstad captures the feelings of the book and the color palette really brings out the art of the dance.  There are small little details on each page that drew my eye to them, causing me to pause and relish each page.

This is a book that had me rereading it multiple times.  I read it through the first time, without reading the author's note, just appreciating the story.  Then came Laurel's Nerdy Book Club post, which absolutely gave more background on the writing of the story.  The next time I approached the story, I read the author's notes first.  This gave me more appreciation of Anna Pavlova.  Finally, I went back and reread the story having the background of the writing and of the person.  This time there were even more details I noticed within the text and illustrations.  

When I think of Anna Pavlova's contributions to dance, I think to dancers now.  How my daughter is able to dance, even though she has a physical disability.  How dancers are still continuing to work hard and have their dancing recognized.  This reminded me of the beautiful book Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers.

This would be a wonderful book to use when looking at a character's determination.  A wonderful addition for your classroom or library!


  1. I included this one in my list today, too. Your review is much more thorough than mine was! ;-) I thought it was a wonderful book. Loved your connections to it!

  2. Now you've made me want to read Swan all the more, Michele. It's a lovely review. 60 Minutes had a piece about Misty Copeland recently, very inspiring to hear that story, too. Thank you!

  3. I'm excited to see this book on another list, it's definitely going on my holds list! I love Julie Morstad's work, and not just because she lives in my hometown (though that doesn't hurt - hometown pride!) :) Picture books can be such a creative medium, and it's inspiring to see authors and illustrators explore picture books in exciting new ways.

  4. This looks like a beautiful book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

  5. I can't wait to read this book! Thinking of giving it to my daughter who LOVES to dance as a gift. Julie Morstad's illustrations are incredible.