Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DANCING TO FREEDOM by Li Cunxin Kirkus Star

DANCING TO FREEDOM

The True Story of Mao’s Last Dancer

By Li Cunxin (Author) , Anne Spudvilas (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: July 22nd, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9777-3
Publisher: Walker

Born into extreme poverty in Mao’s China, the author was able, through happenstance, determination and yes, talent, to achieve an amazing career as a ballet dancer in the West. He previously told his story in Mao’s Last Dancer (2003), written for adults, and here retells it for young children. Plucked out of his classroom at age 11, he was taken to the Beijing Dance Academy where he steadfastly practiced and took inspiration from his teacher’s stories. Some years later, the head of the Houston Ballet selected him to dance for his company, and fame and fortune followed. Li does not refer to his defection, only to his joy at reuniting with his parents in the United States as “my heart soared with happiness and I danced the dance of my life.” Spudvilas’s artwork, executed in Chinese ink, watercolor and oil paints, perfectly conveys his close-knit family, his loneliness at school and the triumph and joy of performing ballet on stage. It’s all about a young man far from home keeping stories close to his heart. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)