Portraits #1: Dancing Through Fire

 
9780439814812: Portraits #1: Dancing Through Fire
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Welcome to 19th century Paris, and the world of Degas's dancers. 13-year-old Sylvie is one of the pupils at the Paris Opera Ballet, where tutus must always be starched and pointe shoes fresh. Sylvie dreams of being a prima ballerina, but her height is a problem: she is too little. When the Franco-Prussian war begins in 1870, Paris is soon under siege and Sylvie is thrown into turmoil and tragedy. Against the fiery backdrop of war, the beauty of the ballet sustains and strengthens Sylvie. Before long, her talent and drive allows her to achieve her goal--and she graces the stage as a star.

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About the Author:

KATHRYN LASKY's many books for young people have received such honors as the Parents' Choice Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and a Newbery Honor citation. Her picture books include The Emperor's Old Clothes, illustrated by David Catrow; A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain, illustrated by Barry Moser; and Marven of the Great North Woods, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Review:

SLJ Nov.
KIRWAN, Anna. Searching for the Past. 182p. ISBN 0-439-71010-3.
LASKY, Kathryn. Dancing Through Fire. 172p. ISBN 0-439-71009-X.
ea vol: (Portraits Series). Scholastic. 2005. pap. $9.99. LC number unavailable.
Gr 4-6 These series titles create backstories for the young women who posed for great artists. Past immediately draws readers into Aurelia's story. Shipwrecked and orphaned at the age of five, she was raised in Boston by an increasingly senile woman and her predatory nephew. Fleeing to Townsend, MA, she finds work with a kind family. Her mysterious past continues to haunt her, though she quickly becomes involved in the community. When Winslow Homer arrives to visit his family, Aurelia's tangled past becomes unraveled. Keeping the many characters straight may be confusing for some readers, but the scenes of Aurelia posing for the artist are beautifully integrated with the plot. The portrayal of town life is deep, compelling, and gently humorous. Fire introduces the model for Degas's L'Etoile. Sylvie, a young student at the Paris Opera Ballet School, grows up amid the uncertainty of the Franco-Prussian War. When bloody battles rage throughout the city, she is drawn into the real world for the first time in her life. After witnessing the horror, she must decide if she can ever return to the magic of the stage. This typical ballet story becomes an exciting coming-of-age tale. Fans of dance will be engrossed, while others may have difficulty getting past the jargon to find the fine work within. Christina Stenson-Carey, Albany Public Library, NY

Booklist 12/1/05
Lasky, Kathryn. Dancing through Fire. 2005. 160p. Scholastic, paper, $9.99 (0-439-71009-X).
Gr. 4 7. From the promising new Portraits series, this historical novel takes place in the 1870s in Paris, where Sylvie is a little rat,” or young pupil of the Paris Opera Ballet. She strives to dance well and to grow three-quarters of an inch so that she can join the ballet, while her widowed mother takes in laundry to make ends meet. When war comes to Paris, it brings hardship, hunger, death, and occasionally the closing of the opera house. To Sylvie, this period of upheaval brings challenges and loss but also growth in understanding and independence, as well as inches. The artist Degas makes cameo appearances, and one of his paintings is used on the cover. Though readers may be unfamiliar with this historical period, they will be swept along by the strong story line. Young dancers will particularly enjoy the evocative passages when Sylvie is on stage or in class. Link this to Carolyn Meyer's Marie, Dancing (2005). Carolyn Phela

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9780439710091: Dancing Through Fire (Portraits #1)

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