Perfunctory and disappointing, this retelling of a classic fairy-tale ballet falls short.

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THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

From the Story Orchestra series

One of the ballet world’s most enduring and endearing productions receives a picture-book staging.

Tchaikovsky composed three great ballet scores, and that for The Sleeping Beauty is certainly beautifully enchanting. Productions fill the stage with sumptuous sets and costumes, and the dancers perform every range of steps from delicate to bravura. Unfortunately, none of this is evident in this version. The retelling of the classic fairy tale, told in the present tense, lacks poetic nuance. The mixed-media illustrations, albeit showing a diverse cast, are cartoonish and busy and do not portray anything much resembling ballet steps. The “Rose Adagio,” when the 16-year-old princess dances with four suitors and performs audience-thrilling balances, is only hinted at in the illustrations. Likewise, the very entertaining fairy-tale characters of the wedding scene are here just part of a crowded double-page spread. The fairies are often depicted floating overhead while barefooted. The gimmick of the book, a musical accompaniment, is actually 10 bursts of tinny sounds that are too brief to be of lasting value. At the end of the book, the author does describe the instrumentation for many of the scenes, but this information is inadequate.

Perfunctory and disappointing, this retelling of a classic fairy-tale ballet falls short. (note on Tchaikovsky, glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78603-093-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Swans abound and good defeats evil in a simplified retelling.

SWAN LAKE

From the Story Orchestra series

A look-and-listen (albeit briefly) adaptation of a favorite ballet story.

A diverse cast of dancers fills the pages of this very basic retelling of a Russian classic of the ballet repertoire. The spread-spanning illustrations are busily filled with lakeside swans sporting fancy, feathery costumes along with many trees, deer, foxes, and rabbits. The palace is pink and glittery and replete with chandeliers, curtains, and fancily costumed guests. There, Odile, malevolent-looking daughter of the evil sorcerer Rothbart, dances with Prince Siegfried and tricks him into believing that she is the lovely Odette, the enchanted swan, who looks bereft. The audience-pleasing national dances of Act 3 are not mentioned in the text nor depicted in the illustrations. Stagings of Swan Lake have always had various endings, some happy and some not so, as Prince Siegfried and his beloved Odette are united only in the afterlife. This version has them living happily ever after on Earth. The gimmick of this title is the 10 brief (10 seconds or so) sound clips that barely hint at the very beautiful score. Adults taking children to a performance may find this useful as an introduction, but listening to a suite of the music would be a better idea. The refreshingly inclusive casting—Siegfried, Odette, and Odile have brown skin, and there are many courtiers of color—does not mitigate the book’s flaws.

Swans abound and good defeats evil in a simplified retelling. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book/novelty. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4150-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Raindrops are delightful and danceable musical melodies.

SINGING IN THE RAIN

Movie happiness is now picture-book joy.

The title song from the classic 1952 movie musical is a song-and-dance salute to joie de vivre—as is this book version. It opens with a cheerful double-page spread of a brown-skinned child in perfectly matched yellow rain gear perched on a lamppost as musical notes in the same cheerful yellow stand out against a blue rain-splattered background. Homage to Gene Kelly? Of course! On the following pages, children in equally colorful rainy-day outfits join in the fun as they dance and march along. They watch from the observation deck of the Empire State Building as clouds fill the sky and the same bright yellow notes appear. Close-ups of the smiling, multiracial cast follow as they watch flowers grow or a reflection in a puddle and then happily splash away to other landscapes filled with tropical birds and lush green foliage. Sing the lyrics or recite the words “based on the song” and have a really good time. Hopgood’s digitally rendered collages of watercolor, pencil, and ink add depth, texture, and buoyant spirit to the package.

Raindrops are delightful and danceable musical melodies. (illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-12770-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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