TO DANCE: Special Edition
Written by Siena Cherson Siegel
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Atheneum Young Readers 10/1/2019
88 Pages Age 8—14
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoirs
Themes: Ballerinas, Determination, School of American Ballet
Siena dreamed of dance.
Despite being told she had flat feet, Siena was determined to fill any space with movement and tell stories through spins and leaps, pirouettes and pliés. Her dreams propelled her from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico to training at the School of American Ballet in New York. But dance was not always performance and beauty—it was hard work, and it demanded complete commitment. Between strict expectations and a stressful home life, Siena discovered that her dreams were as challenging as they were magical.
This is Siena’s story, a remarkable graphic memoir set in the world of professional dance. This expanded special edition features a refreshed design and additional pages of brand-new art, including a scrapbook of Siena’s personal photographs and memorabilia. (from jacket flap)
Big, empty spaces always made me dance. A long hallway or a parking lot just begged for dance . . . like it wanted to be filled . . . and I wanted to put dance in it. A big empty space was always an invitation.
Why I like this book
Since she was at least six-years-old, Siena Cherson loved to dance, but a doctor put a knife in her dreams when he said she had flat feet, and nothing could fix it. He also said, “No, no, that [dance] won’t help. Forget it.” But Siena and her mother refused to “forget it.” Little Siena wanted to try dance classes and her mother fully supported her daughter. Seeing the Bolshoi Ballet sealed Siena’s desire to become a ballerina. At age eleven, Siena auditioned for the School of American Ballet—and got in! Her journey to become a ballerina had officially begun.
Siena loved taking ballet classes and performing. It became all consuming, as passions tend to become. And it was a lot of hard work. Siena had exciting moments as well as heartache. She lets readers into her life, her home, and her schooling. As a young dancer, she see s more experienced dancers and wants to emulate them, whether it is a Japanese robe to wander around unquestioned, or wanting to learn Russian, which many at the school spoke.
If you are curious as to what the School of American Ballet or the NY State Theater are like, Siena takes readers backstage and through the halls. But her life was not all about ballet. Siena wanted to be a normal teen and do “what other teenagers do.” But home became stressful when her parents fought. Siena missed her father, who still worked in Puerto Rico. He flew home when he could, but it wasn’t enough for Siena, who also missed her brother, (away at school). Still, Siena saw most everything through the eyes of a ballerina. At a Miami Dolphins football game, she saw ballet in the players’ movements.
Mark Siegal’s illustrations give the reader a sense of movement and flow throughout the pages of To Dance. He conveys emotions just as easily. When little Siena joined her first dance class, at age six, her shyness is seen when, on the first day, she hides behind her mother. His ballerinas move gracefully whether soaring through the air or fluidly working on the barre.
The graphic novel might seem like an odd genre to use for a memoir, but one look and it is easy to see how this genre is the perfect one in Mark’s capable hands. Each section, each page, is an illustrated moment from Siena’s recollections. Siena’s words give readers her experiences. Mark’s art makes those experiences come alive. Together, her words and his art give readers a unique look into the world of dance.
To Dance is about Siena’s journey to become a ballerina, and her joy in that process. Anyone who loves dance will enjoy this memoir. While reading To Dance, young girls, and boys, might become inspired to dance, or turn their passion for dancing into a passion for ballet. If you love wonderful art in children’s books, then To Dance is also for you. Whatever you do, make shelf space for To Dance—it’s a keeper.
Since so much about To Dance is movement, I’ll give my favorite scenes. Oddly, or maybe not, if you know me, I like the inside covers. The front shows a very young Siena on the beach, dancing. The back also shows Siena dancing on the beach, this time with a baby in her arms. Behind them is her husband, lugging an umbrella, chairs and towels. I think this is the perfect way to begin and end To Dance. The covers show Siena’s journey from young girl to young mother. Everything between are her memoirs of that time.
After To Dance, Siena’s Scrapbook contains some of the items she kept in her scrapbook; programs, pictures, and mementos.
Illustrations: Rendered in watercolor and ink.
To Dance is a 2007 Sibert Honor Book.
Available at Amazon
To Dance. Text Copyright © 2006, 2019 by Siena Cherson Siegel. Illustrations copyright © 2006, 2019 by Mark Siegel. Published by Atheneum Young Readers / Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.
Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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