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Amiri and Odette: A Love Story

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Overview


In this modern retelling of the Swan Lake ballet, acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers explores the sweet/sharp spark of love between two teens.

A boy searches for his newfound love among the city streets, to find that, unwarily, she's been caught in the arms of an evil street lord who means her harm. It is only through perseverance and undying love that the girl is returned to the safety of her one true love. Lyrical text and stunning mixed media artwork make for a powerful ...

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Overview


In this modern retelling of the Swan Lake ballet, acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers explores the sweet/sharp spark of love between two teens.

A boy searches for his newfound love among the city streets, to find that, unwarily, she's been caught in the arms of an evil street lord who means her harm. It is only through perseverance and undying love that the girl is returned to the safety of her one true love. Lyrical text and stunning mixed media artwork make for a powerful recasting of the classic ballet Swan Lake.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Myers's (Sunrise over Fallujah) and Steptoe's (In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall) concept, recasting Swan Lake as hip-hop, may sound unlikely, but in their hands it largely succeeds: the ultra-cool, emotionally hot setting gives the story new power. Swan Lake is a housing project, Rothbart represented as Big Red, a drug lord, and Odette an addict; Amiri tries to save her, but fails. Myers's words carry the force of blows; Steptoe's collages teem with bodies colliding and overlapping. The language swings from pop lyric to Shakespearean, sometimes in the same breath: "Amiri, be my man!/ Save me if you can!/ If not, let my last pure breath/ Pledge my love to you in wretched death." Steptoe gets gritty, working directly on slabs of asphalt, a street effect intensified by the graffiti-like use of multicolored and multisize fonts in the text. His figures are shadowed with ghostly blue; they leap, ward off blows, embrace, argue. It's easy to imagine them as dancers. The momentum yields at the end, where, in contrast to the stark immediacy of the rest of the work, abstract language softens the tragic conclusion. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Jonatha Basye
Amiri is treated like a prince in the Swan Lake Projects. His mother wants him to find a nice girl with whom to settle down, so she throws him a party to meet several eligible ladies. She warns Amiri to choose wisely. He sees Odette one day while playing basketball. She is beautiful but somehow scarred. Odette is not allowed to love freely because of Big Red. She belongs to him—she is trapped. Amiri must find a way to break the spell Big Red has over Odette before it is too late. This interesting re-telling of the Swan Lake story is set against the backdrop of the projects. Myers takes a classical ballet and puts an urban spin on it. His writing flows, like lyrics to a rap song, across the page. The paintings in this poem add to the grittiness and realism of the setting. Steptoe uses acrylic paints on huge slabs of asphalt. He then embellishes the paintings with newspaper, feathers, plastic bags, and other items to give them a threedimensional quality. Both English and drama teachers may wish to use this slim, picture book while introducing material about Swan Lake. Teachers might also be able to use this book in conjunction with other units, for example, Romeo and Juliet, fairy tales, and Greek mythology. Art teachers could to draw inspiration from the book because of Steptoe's innovative style of collage development. It is a definite must-have in any school or public library. Reviewer: Jonatha Basye
Kirkus Reviews
The acclaimed author uproots the 19th-century classical ballet Swan Lake from its enchanted world of mist-filled lakes and palaces and plunks it solidly down into the dark, danger-filled Swan Lake Projects. The courtly Prince Siegfried morphs into the basketball player Amiri, and the beautiful Odette, turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer in the original, is now under the thralldom of Big Red, the local drug dealer. Myers tells the tale in rap-inspired verse, which appears on the page in different sizes and colors placed for their design values and not for ease of reading. The result strains with the necessity of maintaining narrative symmetry; verse that tries to soar in beat with Tchaikovsky's memorable score is reduced to a plethora of overwrought phrases-"O muffle the drum and mute the horn, / From love's demise, despair is born!" Perhaps Myers would have been better served by Romeo and Juliet, frequently rewritten but more manageable and logical. However, Steptoe's collage-on cinder-block paintings are powerful, haunting and worthy of multiple viewings. His Odette is truly luminous. (Picture book/poetry. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590680417
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Series: Amiri And Odette Series
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Walter Dean Myers is the 2012 - 2013 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He is the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author an award-winning body of work which includes, SOMEWHERE IN THE DARKNESS, SLAM!, and MONSTER. Mr. Myers has received two Newbery Honor medals, five Coretta Scott King Author Awards, and three National Book Award Finalists citations. In addition, he is the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Javaka Steptoe is the award-winning artist of many books for young people, an NAACP Image Awards nominee, and winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. He is also the artist of the highly acclaimed books DO YOU KNOW WHAT I’LL DO by Charlotte Zolotow and A POCKETFUL OF POEMS by Nikki Grimes. Son of the late award-winning author/artist John Steptoe, Javaka draws inspiration from the multifaceted colors and shapes of Brooklyn, NY, where he lives and works.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    Fabulous modernization of a classic story!

    I can't unknow the story of Swan Lake, so I am not a good judge of how clear that story in in Amiri & Odette to the non-balletomane. I can, however, say that there are a lot of little touches that hark back to the ballet in beautiful ways, such as Odile's (who is never actually named in the book) black mask at Amiri's party, but nifty connections to the ballet are not the strongest part of this telling. What Myers does fantastically is really make this a story that isn't about princes and magic; he makes it real. The curse is drug addiction and the evil wizard, a dealer. This makes the cause and effect of Amiri's profession of love for Odile a bit nonsensical (Odette's addiction and debt to Big Red will not magically go away if Amiri loves her and only her, nor will she be trapped in that life with no possible means of escape if Amiri doesn't love her), but it also leaves room for non-magical consequences. There is no but-the-spell-said moment that makes Amiri's mistake irreparable. Just because the deal is broken, doesn't mean that the curse is everlasting or that Odette is doomed. Myers' telling makes way for a change in the ending.

    The artwork in Amiri & Odette is fabulous. It is dark and gritty and portends doom in a way that dozens of classical white tutus never could. The artist's note says that the collages that make up the illustrations were painted on slabs on asphalt. They are large and hardcore; each a complete work of art on its own. The texture of the asphalt shows through and Chinese food menus, feathers, pieces of jewelry and other street flotsam are used throughout. The feathers surrounding Odette as she tells Amiri about her entrapment make her look like both an angel and a beast, much like the swan-woman Prince Siegfried is initially afraid of in the original story, even if all the audience sees is a ballerina in white. Or a girl watching a basketball game.


    Book source: Philly Free Library

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  • Posted January 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by LadyJay for TeensReadToo.com

    Amiri is treated like a prince in the Swan Lake Projects. His mother wants him to find a nice girl to settle down with, so she throws him a party to meet several eligible ladies. She warns Amiri to choose wisely. <BR/><BR/>He sees Odette one day while playing basketball. She is beautiful, but somehow scarred. Odette is not allowed to love freely because of Big Red. She belongs to him - she is trapped. Amiri must find a way to break the spell Big Red has over Odette before it is too late. <BR/><BR/>AMIRI & ODETTE: A LOVE STORY is an interesting re-telling of the Swan Lake story. Set against the backdrop of the projects, Myers has taken a classical ballet and put an urban spin on it. Myers' writing flows, like lyrics to a rap song, across the page. <BR/><BR/>The paintings in this poem add to the grittiness and realism of the setting. Javaka Steptoe has used acrylic paints on huge slabs of asphalt. He then embellished the paintings with newspaper, feathers, plastic bags, and other items to give them a three-dimensional quality. The affect is absolutely stunning! <BR/><BR/>This is a great addition to Myers' already long list of writing accomplishments!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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