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by Adèle Geras & illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-86233-226-6

The four ballets retold in this series are the most beloved and enduring of the classical and romantic repertory. Their music, choreography, and mime continue to transfix audiences and envelope them in a world of fairy dust, love, and heartbreak, and the mercurial achievements of the human body as it performs classical ballet steps unchanged for hundreds of years. Capturing this in mere words is difficult, and Geras is too absorbed in the artificiality and stilted quality of her telling to succeed. There is no attempt to convey the emotional intensity of gesture, mime, and the beautiful musical scores. In Giselle, Prince Albrecht remembers his brief love affair with the doomed Giselle. Unfortunately, the text omits the fact that Giselle is fragile and warned by her mother not to exert herself. The sequence of events in the first act is disjointed, and the description of Albrecht being forced to dance to his death by the Wilis (avenging spirits of those who die betrayed by love) in the second act is inaccurate. These are essential elements of the ballet. Sleeping Beauty (1-86233-246-0) is retold by its principal characters (dancers), but omits mention of the quintessential Rose Adagio. The Nutcracker (1-86233-226-6) is Clara’s story and is a pedestrian version of the annual Christmas favorite. Swan Lake (1-86233-231-2) resembles a Halloween tale: good battling evil, with nothing of the stirring visions of the second- and fourth-act choreography. Each title contains the same introduction, different afterwords, flowery border decorations, and pretty little color illustrations. Fans of the ballet will not be served by the poor writing and the odd choice of making the stories into memoirs or first-person narratives. In addition, only Petipa is credited as a choreographer for Swan Lake, with no mention of Lev Ivanov. Listen to recordings or find a copy of Violette Verdy’s Of Swans, Sugarplums, and Satin Slippers, illustrated by Marcia Brown. (Picture book. 4-8)