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When you purchase an item from MY STORE, 10% of your purchase price will be donated to my favorite animal charities;Last Chance Animal Rescue and Horses Haven, both in lower MI. Which charity the donation goes to, will depend on the item purchased and I will love you forever from the bottom of my little black heart. ...and even if you don't purchase anything from me, you can go to their site and make a donation! They deserve a chance too!
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My two girls and I have tickets to see the Maryland Youth Ballet's version of The Nutcracker this weekend. It's become a bit of a family tradition, and this will be our third year going. We're all very excited!
In anticipation of the weekend, we started reading Nutcracker picture books last night. Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza and Don Tate was the first on our list, and we have three more lined up for the rest of the week. I'm guest posting about all four books today on Dance Advantage (a wonderful online dance resource for dance students, parents, and educators). I hope you'll check it out!
Have you ever been to a performance of The Nutcracker? Do you have a favorite Nutcracker picture book you'd like to share?
We've been living and breathing Nutcracker these past few weeks and months. My daughter performs the part of a Party Girl and a Mirliton in our local Nutcracker production this December. My son plays a smaller role, but he's super cute nonetheless as a Tiny Tot in the party scene. They've both spent a lot of time both back stage, below stage and on stage during rehearsals. Now that the performances have started, we've been spending even more quality time at the theater.
Participating in the Nutcracker production has provided both of my kids with a valuable opportunity to witness first hand all that goes on behind the scenes during a live performance. Most audience members remain blissfully unaware of hustle and bustle of activity back stage. Make-up and hair, costumes, props and set, lighting, warm-up - the magic begins long before the curtain opens.
As I was researching Nutcracker themed children's books, I came across a wonderful picture book title by Rachel Isadora that provides a unique look at the Nutcracker ballet from a performer's point of view. Lili on Stage follows a young girl named Lili as she gets ready to perform as a party girl in Act I of a Nutcracker production. She and her friends warm-up, put on their make-up and costumes and wait in the wings until finally they walk on stage and join the fabulous party scene, watching as Drosselmeyer gives the gift of a nutcracker. Off stage, as she heads back to the changing room, Lili sees all the dancers who will perform in Act II - Marzipan, Dew Drop, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and more - dressed and ready to dance.
Isadora beautifully captures all the preparation, awe and excitement a young dancer experiences when getting ready to perform in a ballet production. Her lovely watercolor illustrations suit the theme particularly well, realistically and expressively illustrating the dancers. Both boy and girl dancers are portrayed, and Isadora also shows racial diversity of the cast in her depiction of the performers. Isadora herself was a professional dancer before she began a career in children's books. Her first-hand knowledge of ballet and the dancer's life is evident in every single page of this book. Ballet instructors may want to read the story aloud to students before a performance because the book offers plenty of helpful advice for performers: no speaking on stage, hold your head high, don't eat or drink while in costume. Isadora provides readers with a short summary of the Nutcracker story in the beginning of the book.
Mirliton - Dance of the Reed Flutes
My daughter loves this book because it shows all of the different character dancers in Act II of the Nutcracker ballet. She performs as a Mirliton (a.k.a. Marzipan or Shepardess) during the Dance of the Reed Flutes, and surprisingly we've had a hard time finding this particular piece depicted in Nutcracker children's books. Luckily, Isadora included the divertissements, although she uses some different terms for the characters than we are used to -- the Russian (Trepak) I believe is depicted as Candycane?!
Lili on Stage is part of Isadora's "Lili" series, a picture book series perfectly suited for young ballerinas. The book is currently out-of-print, but can be found at a reasonable cost used. Other books in the series include:Lili at Ballet and Lili Backstage.
Lili on Stage by Rachel Isadora. Putnam (October 1995); ISBN 9780399226373; 32 pages Book Source: Personal copy
This December I plan on reviewing several different versions of E. T. A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker. Before I start with the book reviews, I've decided to highlight something a little different, an awesome Nutcracker storybook app that happens to be available for free today on Apple itunes! If you're a fan of the Nutcracker ballet and enjoy the music and the story, this is an app you must absolutely download!
The Nutcracker Musical Storybook is an animated, interactive app based on the ballet version of the Nutcracker. This app by Mouse King Media combines excerpts of Tchaikovsky's music with a short, picture book format story featuring artwork by Yoko Tanaka. The app can be played as either a storybook or movie version.
Illustrator Tanka channels some of the Sugar Plum fairy's magic and beautifully captures the fantasy elements of the Nutcracker in her lovely, enchanting illustrations. It's a splendid treat to interact with this app -- Clara, the Nutcracker, the seven-headed Mouse King and all the dancers magically to spring to life right on the screen. The scenes in The Land of Sweets are incredible, particularly the Russian Dancers scene. The story is not narrated, like other storybook apps, so children will need to read the words themselves or have an adult read aloud the story.
I purchased The Nutcracker Musical Storybook on Amazon for our Kindle Fire last month. Since both my kids are performing in the Nutcracker this holiday season, I thought they might enjoy an interactive version. I highly recommend this app. Even if you can't get it free, it's still a bargain at $2.99. The app provides a nice introduction to both the music of the Nutcracker and also the basic storyline.
4StarsDance Class #2: Romeo and Juliet
No. of Pages: 48 Ages:7 and up
The girls from Dance Class: Julie, Alia, Lucie, and Carla, are getting ready for their production of "Romeo and Juliet," which may be the wackiest version ever produced! Of course, Julie lands the coveted role of Juliet, which makesCarla very jealous. But who should play Romeo? Well, would you believe a hip-hop dancer named Tim? And will Tim and Julie actually fall in love, just like Romeo and Juliet?
The Dance Class Series are graphic novels with humor laced through each page. Each page is like a one-line joke, or an arc, ala soap operas. It does add up to a complete book that makes absolute sense, in its own wacky, fun way. The ballet troupe returns for dance class and play practice. On each page, the reader enters one of the dancers’ moments, usually comically timed, with a punch line in the last bubble.
In one vignette (above), Alia is stretching and studying her math book. Julie and Lucie say it would be nice if it were possible to study dance while in math class. Alia thinks about it and figures out how to do just that.
Girls will loves this graphic book of ballet dancers and the antics of their days learning and rehearsing for the big production play of
Romeo and Juliet. The usual suspects are there, the three best friends Julie, Alia, and Lucie, and their main nemesis Carla.
A new student, hip hopping Tim, is casted as Romeo and the four girls compete for his affections and the role of Juliet. When Carla misses out to Julie, she goes into revenge mode, and the modern update of the Shakespeare classic becomes a comedy of errors, due to teen jealousy.
The illustrations are colorful, lively, and expressive. If you read book one of the Dance Class Series, you know that the book was larger than this one. In the world of children’s publishing, the smaller the book, the older the intended reader. Who knew? Apparently, Papercutz, and their parent company Macmillan, understand the psychology of children’s books.
The writer and illustrator team of Beka*and Crip are the French artists who conceived these graphic gems. As I write this review of Book 2, Book 3: African Folk Dance Fever is hitting bookstore shelves. I hope to get a copy and review it here soon.
Girls ages six to sixteen will love Dance Class: Romeo and Juliet. The story revolves mainly around the actions and emotions of teenage girls. I doubt many boys will find this one interesting, though there are always exceptions.
The Dance Class books are good reads for reluctant readers. The text is clear and not at a lower reading level than one would expect. The story is manageable at 48 pages, engaging and connects with the illustrations to make for one complete read.
One key to getting a reluctant reader to read is finding a story about something they are passionate about or love doing. For these reasons and more, The Dance Class Series is perfect for reluctant readers. It is also perfect for kids who like graphic novels, a good story, humor, and dance.
*Beka is short for the writing team of Bertrand Escaich and Caroline Rogue
An almost wordless, non-fiction accordion book, High Times: A History of Aviation takes you on a journey from Icarus via Leonardo da Vinci, to the Wright Brothers, through the Second World War on to Concorde and the Space Shuttle. Key dates and inventions are picked out and briefly explained in the book’s wrap-around cover, which acts as a key for details to spot in the exciting and broad landscape presented as the book opens out.
Ping Zhu’s Swan Lake, which takes the same format, is entirely wordless. One side of the book shows the audience watching a performance of the ballet, whilst on the reverse you can see behind the scenes as the ballerinas prepare themselves to go on stage.
Both books are wonderfully tactile to hold and interact with. Printed on heavy-weight card these are books you really want to feel between your fingers.
Swan Lake‘s illustrations reminded me of 1960s illustrations, and the girls really enjoyed exploring the audience and making up stories about the different characters they could see, from the bored looking lady with a pearl necklace to the rather mysterious animals who have somehow snuck in to the theatre (they made me think of a Finnish illustrator I like, Hannamari Ruohonen, who also creates fabulous wordless picture books).
The printing technique and bold colour scheme of High Times ensures the book feels both retro and modern. Again, there is lots of fun to be had looking for details, from the family going on holiday with their rubber duck, to the zoo animal being transported by Boeing 747. This book is a great example of how science (in this case, engineering and inventions) can also be explored through art. Team it up with The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith, illustrated by Eva Montanari (which I reviewed here) and The Story of Inventions, by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Adam Larkum (which I reviewed here) and you’ve got a terrific trio of books to inspire the next generation of flying machine inventors.
But these books are not just for the young. Both NoBrow books are immensely stylish, and as such, will no doubt appeal to adults as well as children. I can easily imagine them unfolded and on display in beautiful, architect designed houses. And why not?
Displaying stories and illustration on your walls is great way to integrate books into your lives, and at £10 a pop I can’t think of a cheaper way to get some eye catching, discussion-inducing art up on your walls.
Inspired by the idea of displaying an illustrated story, the girls set about making their own “mural book”. I blu-tacked a length of fax paper (yes, such a thing still exists, I got mine from Rymans) up our staircase and the girls took turns to illustrate a story chinese-whisper style.
M would illustrate a stretch of paper, then J would take over the story and add her twists and turns. Because I was nervous about pen marks going on the wall I illustrated a simple border along the length of the paper and explained that the girls had to draw inside the border. This worked really well and The HWA (Humane Wall Association) can confirm “No walls were harmed during the making of this book”.
The story grew and grew…
The narrative was somewhat complex, with lots of free association going on, but some of my favourite cameos were these:
“Zeus sent down thunderbolts onto the dinosaurs escaping by bicycle.”
“The dragon and the unicorn came to the magic castle.”
The girls’ mural book is still up on the wall and it’s the first thing anyone sees when we open our front door. I rather like how a story welcomes people into our home.
Whilst we were all illustrating we listened to
Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky (although dancing on stairs is not to be encouraged…)
Hey, happy Sunday! Here's something fun about Sunday— this cute new t-shirt I designed and submitted to Threadless. But here's the sticky part— it has only been submitted, not approved for voting (..yet, I hope). Your help here could make a big difference! If you click this page, and "social share" the design to your favorite online places, it might help to get my latest Threadless submission approved for voting! It's a mystery to me how they do things over there, but I know that social shares usually help everything (I can't help but think of Mary Poppins' "spoonful of sugar" helping the medicine go down. I must revisit that movie again soon!). So if you like the t-shirt, if you could picture your 4-year old niece loving it and wearing it (I can certainly picture my 2-year old niece in it!) then please Share it thorough the links on this page. I would be SO grateful. :D
FYI, I put a kibosh on the rest of the polls this week and instead, I will add additional prize drawings to Friday's bigger drawing. All you have to do to enter to win is "LIKE" my Facebook page. Please feel free to tell your friends about Ballet Week, too. It's fun to win cute stuff!
Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?
Bloomsbury revealed the cover for Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black yesterday. I like the how the lack of background distractions draws your eye to the model and her weird, red, flower petal imploding costume. At least, I think they are flower petals. The book sounds interesting, so I’m curious about whether or not it will live up to my expectations, which are, admittedly, high. Are you looking forward to Dance of Shadows?
In stores December 2012.
Curtains up on a deliciously dark new YA trilogy!
Vanessa Adler isn’t so sure she really belongs at the School of American Ballet. But dance runs in her family. It’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother and mother were prima ballerinas, and her older sister Margaret was, too. That is, until Margaret mysteriously disappeared from school three years ago. Vanessa is heir to the family’s gift and the only person who can fulfill her sister’s destiny. She has no choice.
But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, Josef, isn’t just ruthless with his pupils, he guards a sinister secret, one in which the school’s dancers—prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline—become pawns in a world of dark, deadly demons.
Ella Bella is a young girl (I imagine her to be 6 or 7) who takes ballet classes in a gorgeous old theatre with the grand but kind Madame Rosa. At this particular class Madame Rosa introduces her students to the music of Swan Lake, telling them some of the key elements of the ballet’s storyline whilst they dance to music created by Madame Rosa’s wind-up musical box (complete with a spinning ballerina). When the class ends Ella Bella is so entranced by the music and the fairytale that she continues in her own reverie, dancing and imagining herself alongside Princess Odette as the story of Swan Lake plays out: when the prince is deceived by Odile, Ella Bella tries to warn him and when Odette flees the palace Ella Bella helps the prince to fine Odette.
Creating an illustration for Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake. Image: James Mayhew
Ella Bella’s daydream ends just as the prince and his princess find each other and live happily ever after; Ella Bella’s mother is waiting for her and, having been utterly transported, this budding ballerina splashes “in the puddles all the way home, just like a baby swan.”
This story worked so well for us: it showed the girls how Swan Lake is not just a tale, but a ballet; it appealed to so many little girls’ idea of heaven – dressing up and being a ballerina, it put Ella Bella (and by extension my own girls listening to the story) at the heart of the action making is seem alive, and it showed how listening to music can sweep you up and take you to new and wonderful worlds. All these facets added up to making this book a great stimulus for imaginative play and really listening to the music.
Tickets are still available (with better availability at the later concert), so if you liked the sound of yesterday’s Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake and you live in SE England why not head to this treat of a concert. I’d love to be taking M and J to hear it!
Last week I wrote about the picture books we’ve been reading as a way into enjoying the music of Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. As in the past I found the easiest way to get the girls to become familiar with the music was to play them clips from YouTube. The advantage of using these clips, apart from them being free, is that they tend to be short (5-10 minutes, which is great for ensuring kids don’t get bored), and that there is something interesting to look at whilst the music wafts over you.
Here are some of our favourite clips:
This clip shows Odile and the prince dancing at the ball, performed by the Kirov Ballet.
This clip shows the Pas de Quatre, peformed by the Bolshoi Ballet. My girls particularly like this and tried immediately to copy what they had seen!
Once M and J had seen the Bolshoi’s Pas de Quatre, I showed them Matthew Bourne’s Pas de Quatre. They were amazed to see men dancing ballet!
This was perhaps my favourite clip (I watched it 5 or 6 times with the girls and each time it brought tears to my eyes!). It shows the spectacular finale to Swan Lake by the American Ballet Theater.
This clip, from the Great Chinese State Circus, isn’t one for ballet purists, but my girls just adored it – they were amazed by the acrobatics.
Having listened to lots of shorter clips of music it was then easier to put
I love to write. I have such a great idea for a romantic young adult story that I've been doing research on Ballet, dancers, ballet clothes, shoes and etc. Obviously, this will take place in the world of ballet and dancing and how can it not be romantic, right? I mean, c'mon, ballet is romantic! I have my male main character name. But I'm stuck on my female lead's name. I want something simple, but that's not over done. I liked Anna, but lately Anna is in a lot of books. I like Catherine, but then I think too many people will compare to Flowers in the Attic's Cathy. So I'm stuck. So this brings me to Grapemo. This is a yearly thing that Jeannine Garsee does every February. I think for the past 4 years I've said I do it and I've crashed and burned horribly. Sometimes my writing mojo works and other times, I get so frustrated with myself. But I've been doing some homework and I want to write a really good chapter. Yes, one really good chapter for Grapemo. It doesn't have to be a whole book in 28 days, just stick to your goals and you survive Grapemo. I can do this. I know I can. I'm totally stoked for my idea and I want it to be brilliant. I've linked Grapemo above. Join if you want!
I'm not getting any younger and my goal is to write a damn book. Ever since I was 5 reading Little House on the Prairie, my goal was to be a writer. I've been living in the writing world for about 5 years know and I've seen the ups and down of writers getting rejected time and time again. And writers getting representation and then getting a publishing house to buy their work. I know the words are in me and I just have to dig deep down inside to bring them up. I always seem to get my great ideas right before I fall asleep. I swear I can write a full chapter right before I fall asleep. And of course those words are brilliant and by the time I wake up in the morning, they are just a faded memory. It's so flipping frustrating!
Now February is also my Jane Eyre Readathon. I'm so excited to read this too. So I'll be reading and writing at weird hours. I will post a check in on Jane Eyre on Monday's. Remember to read this at your own pace. There is no time limit. If you are a first-time reader of this story, you are really in for a treat. You know how some people will ask what book would you like to read again for the first time? Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice would totally be mine. Since February 1 starts on a Tuesday, our first check-in will be on February 7. I've set up my google calendar to remind me. So February will be a busy month and I hope I can manage it all! Laura takes deep breaths!
I’d argue our Black Swan“fever” peaked at Jim Carey’s SNL performance, but we might see a resurgence this weekend at the Oscars. In anticipation I contacted Roland John Wiley, author of Tchaikovsky and Professor of Music at the University of Michigan, for his thoughts on his subject’s recent omnipresence. Turns out, Tchaikovsky hasn’t always been taken seriously in the academic community. Here, Wiley explains the trappings of music snobbery – and why Tchaikovsky’s popularity among the “muggles” is no reason to discount his brilliance. Oh, and, he dishes on the original Swan Lake ballerina. (Dra-ma!)
An even more recent take on Tchaikovsky - Jim Carrey dances "Black Swan" on Saturday Night Live (c) NBC
Me: How do members of the academic community (like yourself) feel about Tchaikovsky’s resonance in popular culture?
Wiley: I may be different from most ‘members of the academic community.’ Not only does Tchaikovsky’s music speak to me, I also find the conceptual and technical aspects of it operating at a very high level. He was a very fine composer, an assessment that my academic colleagues increasingly acknowledge. Were we to go back 40-50 years, especially in light of the fashion then for early music and the influence of German musicologists who emigrated to this country after World War II (without which our musicology would be much the poorer), we would find a distinctive aloofness about Tchaikovsky in academic circles, which I sensed myself as a graduate student.
Me: Is his popularity with the general public what makes him taken less seriously in academia (sort of the way an indie band loses credibility when it becomes popular)?
Wiley: In a word, yes. But this is changing with the flourishing of popular studies in academia, which are having the effect of implying that so-called serious music is elitist.
Me: And are we (the general public) misusing or misconceiving his work in any way? For example, is a film like Black Swan blasphemous to a true Tchaikovsky fan, like yourself? And what does the academy say?
Wiley: I sense no misconception in the public acceptance of Tchaikovsky, but the need for fairness in distinguishing a truthful aversion to his music from a purely snobbish one. The misconception is that it’s correct to persist in the latter. I don’t think academia as a corporate entity has an opinion about Black Swan. To me it seems, like any other artwork, the product of its creators’ fantasy, and as such owes nothing to the mundane truth.
Me: Black Swan is all about the behind the scenes rivalries. What about the original Swan Lake
Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig is the story of Gwendolyn and Omar--two pigs with very different dreams who find common ground and friendship through dance. I was so intrigued by author David Ira Rottenberg's creative marketing strategy for this self-published picture book that I tracked him down for an interview. Via email from his home outside of Boston, Massachusetts, David was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about his approach, which incorporates ballet into author events at bookstores! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, David!
I love it that you integrate dance into your author events. How did you come up with such an innovative marketing strategy?
When it came time to market the book, events in bookstores were an obvious avenue to try, but I didn’t think kids would have much interest in me or in me reading my book. Then, I thought if I had a ballet dancer read the book, the kids (and their parents) would be a lot more interested. Over time, I’ve grown confident enough to read my book in bookstores, so now the dancers do more of a performance/dance demonstration.
How do you go about setting up these events? Is it a lot of work?
2 Comments on David Ira Rottenberg: Author to Entrepreneur, last added: 8/6/2011
Well? Have you? If not, it's probably because René Blum’s lifelong career in the arts has been safely hidden from the history books. Only his brother Léon Blum, the first Socialist and Jewish Prime Minister of France, received enormous attention. But Judith Chazin-Bennahum knows why René Blum deserves to be remembered: because he was an extraordinary man. Chazin-Bennahum’s book introduces the reader to the world of the Belle Epoque artists and writers, the Dreyfus Affair, the playwrights and painters who reigned supreme during the late 19th century and early 20th century period in Paris. Below she provides us with just a few of his most impressive accomplishments.
I'm really enjoying Picture Book Month, which is the first annual celebration of my favorite kind of book. As part of the celebration, I want to share with you a new book from Tiger Tales--a small independent publisher that happens to only make picture books.
Naughty Toes, written by Ann Bonwill and illustrated by Teresa Murfin, was actually first published in April 2011 by Oxford University Press in the United Kingdom. Tiger Tales then published it a few months later, in September 2011, in the United States. Here's the cast of characters from the book:
Chloe is the narrator and main character. She dances with gusto...but not with much grace.
Belinda is Chloe's big sister. She's a natural ballerina.
Madame Mina is the girls' ballet teacher. She makes Belinda the star of the ballet show and casts poor Chloe as a rock!
Mr. Tiempo plays the piano during ballet class. Chloe and her creative spirit make him smile again and again.
"Float like clouds!" says Madame Mina, and I spin around the room like a dust cloud, clap like a thundercloud, whoosh like a rain cloud...SMACK! straight into Anthony. "What were you thinking?" asks Madame Mina. "I was a cloud with gusto," I say. Before I hang my head, I think I see Mr. Tiempo smiling.
2 Comments on Good Toes or Naughty Toes?, last added: 11/21/2011
When Igor Stravinsky's ballet, “The Rite of Spring,” premiered on May 29, 1913, at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Tonto Fielding’s grandfather (Hieronymus Fielding) was more shocked than the audience, which responded to the performance with a din of hisses and catcalls.
Vaslav Nijinsky's shocking choreography was obviously stolen from Fielding’s ballet, The Professor’s Maid, that tells the story of Ludvig Bager Nissen Kragballe and his maid, Misse Jørgensen, who is celebrated for her award winning sauerkraut and sausage recipes. The ballet had already earned a reputation for being physically unnatural to perform. This was one of Fielding’s hallmarks.
As for the music, Fielding’s masterpiece, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at Le Chabanais, had already premiered with a musical theme without a melody, and only one loud, pulsating, dissonant chord with jarring, irregular accents. Hieronymus Fielding fought Stravinsky in the courts for years, but was never compensated. He did though have the last laugh, when he called in a marker and had Stravinsky and Nijinsky banned from the famous French Brothel, the subject of his not so famous ballet score.
Thanks to Holiday House (the publisher of the new picture book Ballerina Swan), I have a very special interview to share with you today! I recently had the pleasure of speaking on the phone with the book's author, Allegra Kent, about her experiences both as a children's author and as a prima ballerina.
Ms. Kent joined the New York City Ballet when she was just 15 years old and danced many famous roles created for her by choreographer George Balanchine over the years. She retired in 1981 but has stayed active in the dance community, most recently teaching ballet at Barnard College in New York City, where she resides.
Although Ballerina Swan is her first book for children, Ms. Kent is not new to the publishing world. After she retired from the New York City Ballet, she wrote two books for adults--The Dancer's Body Book, which was published in 1984, and her autobiography Once a Dancer, which was published in 1997 and re-released in 2009. I hope you enjoy the following excerpts from my conversation with the sweet, lovely, and legendary Allegra Kent...
In addition to your wonderful career as a dancer, you are quite an accomplished author. What similarities, if any, have you found between dancing and writing?
When I write, I try to make my sentences pirouette. Words can create an atmosphere or scene, and writing actually has a lot of movement and musicality in it. It should sound like music. It ha
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The Australian Ballet is staging a favourite as part of its 50thanniversary year. It has been 16 years since the Australian Ballet last staged John Cranko’s Onegin.
Originally created by Cranko in 1965 for the Stuttgart Ballet, of which he was artistic director, Onegin is based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1837 verse novel and on Tchaikovsky’s opera. It is one of the great 20th century dramatic ballets.
Onegin is the tale of Tatiana, an innocent young girl who meets a weary aristocrat bored with life, seeking distraction in the country.
The costumes are staggering, based on the original designs by Jurgen Rose in 1965. The Australian Ballet collaborated with Jurgen and the wardrobe department of the Paris Opera Ballet with spectacular results.
The final pas de deux during which Tatiana finally rejects Onegin for the safety of her marriage is exquisite. It is the transformation of Tatiana from an innocent country girl to a sophisticated married woman of St Petersburg.
Onegin will always remain a favourite for its dramatic storyline, beautiful music and complex characters.
The Australian Ballet has staged a dramatic ballet with mesmerising charm.
So many great picture books have passed my desk lately. Here are a few:
Joose, Barbara. 2012. Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats. Ill. by Jan Jutte. New York: Philomel.
Each night, Old Robert counts "his regular things in their regular place"
Clean socks a clock my ship in the slip at the dock. One dish one spoon a slice of the silver moon.
Things are always the same until the night a cat asks to come in. There was no room for a cat on Old Robert's boat,
And yet ... and yet ... Old Robert said yes ... ... and the cat came in.
This is a delightfully, quirky story about Old Robert, his boat, and how one small decision can change a life (or two, or three, or ...). Illustrations by the Netherlands' Jan Jutte, give Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats a salty and silly air reminiscent of old comics (think Popeye or original Tin Tin) touched with whimsy. Comforting, repetitive refrains make this a great read aloud.
There is just something irresistible about Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats.
Elya, Susan Middleton. 2012. Fire!¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos. Ill. by Dan Santat.New York: Bloomsbury.
My husband has had a long and wonderful career in the fire department, so I'll admit some partiality to firefighter books, even ones that feature firefighters rescuing cats from trees. For the record, professional firefighters don't rescue cats from trees. They will, however, rescue animals from fires, and in Fire!¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos, a house fire traps a poor kitty on an upper floor,
Climbing up la escalera, KITTY, KITTY, COME AFUERA. Coaxed by food in small pedazos, kitten jumps to outstretched brazos.
See how easy that was? You're speaking Spanish. Even without the brightly colored double spread illustration of a firefighter on a ladder, hand extended with cat treats, you knew what it meant, and kids will too! The story rhymes, the meter's fine, and if you need help with pronunciation, it's all in the Glossary. All bias aside, I like it!