Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring

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Overview

Martha Graham : trailblazing choreographer

Aaron Copland : distinguished American composer

Isamu Noguchi : artist, sculptor, craftsman

Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan tell the story behind the scenes of the collaboration that created APPALACHIAN SPRING, from its inception through the score’s composition to Martha’s intense rehearsal process. The ...

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Overview

Martha Graham : trailblazing choreographer

Aaron Copland : distinguished American composer

Isamu Noguchi : artist, sculptor, craftsman

Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan tell the story behind the scenes of the collaboration that created APPALACHIAN SPRING, from its inception through the score’s composition to Martha’s intense rehearsal process. The authors’ collaborator is two-time Sibert Honor winner Brian Floca, whose vivid watercolors bring both the process and the performance to life.

Winner of the 2011 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
A 2011 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Greenberg and Jordan (Action Jackson; Christo and Jeanne-Claude) continue to carve out their art-focused niche with this inspired book about collaboration. The now classic 1944 ballet, Appalachian Spring, serves as a fine model, showcasing three great artists: dancer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and set designer Isamu Noguchi. Readers see the fascinating creative process unfold, from Graham's germ of an idea about American settlers to the ballet's opening night. They will also gain insight into each artist: "The movements are not always pretty. Not everyone likes Martha's new way of dancing. Audiences have booed her performances, but Martha never lets that stop her," and "Aaron's music suggests the movement, fires the dancers' imaginations, dares them to do more." In spot art and full-bleed scenes, Floca's (Moonshot) muted, elegantly composed watercolors capture Noguchi's avant-garde set ("spare and angular, like Martha's way of dancing"), and the posture and movement of the dancers. Capturing the drama of dance, music, and stage design in a two-dimensional format is no easy feat, but this team does it with a noteworthy grace of their own. Ages 6-10. (Aug.)
Horn Book Review

Starred Review

Using spare, concise sentences, the authors echo Graham's approach to dance: like the movements in her choreography, nothing is wasted, and in such exactness lies the beauty….Floca's fluid, energetic line-and-watercolor illustrations echo the plain boldness of Graham's choreography and make readers feel almost as if they were present at the inaugural performance of Appalachian Spring at the Library of Congress in 1944…[a] remarkable book.
Booklist

Starred Review

In this book…disparate elements come together. Matching the mood of Graham’s moves, the writing is pared down but full of possibilities. Floca’s ink-and-watercolor artwork nimbly shifts from the prosaic (Copland reading Graham’s script) to the visionary (a bride and groom on the open prairie) to the several-spread finale of the ballet itself. The book as a whole beautifully captures the process of artistic creation…what readers will surely want after putting this down is to see and hear Appalachian Spring for themselves.
From the Publisher

“This splendid behind-the-scenes story succeeds on all counts….Intelligent and inspiring, [it] makes tangible the glory of true collaboration.”  —San FranciscoChronicle
 

Ballet for Martha" offers a close-up look at the creative process. It's also a rare glimpse into collaboration...Greenberg and Jordan clearly value a good partnership, having worked together for many years. Their impressive alliance is further boosted here by Brian Floca's line-and-watercolor illustrations; his expressive portraits and scenes are as appealing as the well-chosen details of the narrative.” — The Washington Post

“Using spare, concise sentences, the authors echo Graham's approach to dance: like the movements in her choreography, nothing is wasted, and in such exactness lies the beauty….Floca's fluid, energetic line-and-watercolor illustrations echo the plain boldness of Graham's choreography and make readers feel almost as if they were present at the inaugural performance of Appalachian Spring at the Library of Congress in 1944…[a] remarkable book.” —Horn Book Review (STARRED)

“In this book…disparate elements come together. Matching the mood of Graham’s moves, the writing is pared down but full of possibilities. Floca’s ink-and-watercolor artwork nimbly shifts from the prosaic (Copland reading Graham’s script) to the visionary (a bride and groom on the open prairie) to the several-spread finale of the ballet itself. The book as a whole beautifully captures the process of artistic creation…what readers will surely want after putting this down is to see and hear Appalachian Spring for themselves.” —Booklist  (STARRED)

"Through the use of active sentences in the present tense and brief quotes, the authors convey the excitement and drama of the creative process and the triumph of the ballet. Floca, a multiple Sibert Award honoree for his prowess in depicting the technical worlds of spaceships and lightships, here uses watercolor and pen-and-ink in a glorious depiction of modern dance movement, with its quiet hand gestures, dramatic leg kicks and the swirl of dancers "fluttering, skittering, reaching up to the sky." A stunning achievement." Kirkus (STARRED)

"Greenberg and Jordan continue to carve out their art-focused niche with this inspired book about collaboration.... In spot art and full-bleed scenes, Floca's muted, elegantly composed watercolors capture Noguchi's avant-garde set and the posture and movement of the dancers. Capturing the drama of dance, music, and stage design in a two-dimensional format is no easy feat, but this team does it with a noteworthy grace of their own." —Publishers Weekly (STARRED)

"If Martha Graham’s choreography for 'Appalachian Spring' was a 'valentine” to the world, as critics wrote in 1944, then this book is a love letter in return. Simple, poetic prose tells the story of the creation of one of the world’s most-loved ballets and compositions, and Floca’s graceful watercolor illustrations take admirers through every part of its development...The authors researched extensively but found a way to crystallize all of the information into a gem that is approachable for young readers." —School Library Journal (STARRED)

“The dancers all read the advance copy of Ballet for Martha and were charmed, thrilled, blown away, delighted, etc, etc! We all love it!” —Janet Eilber, Artistic, Director of the Martha Graham Center

              

School Library Journal
Gr 2–6—If Martha Graham's choreography for "Appalachian Spring" was a "valentine" to the world, as critics wrote in 1944, then this book is a love letter in return. Simple, poetic prose tells the story of the creation of one of the world's most-loved ballets and compositions, and Floca's graceful watercolor illustrations take admirers through every part of its development. Written in the present tense, the narrative has a sense of drama that carries readers along as if the events were happening in real time. Fascinating details about the collaboration among Graham, Copland, and Isamu Noguchi (set design) are well documented in the lengthy "curtain call," notes, and resources pages, which read like a fantastic set of liner notes. Floca varies the illustrations from vignettes to bird's-eye views to landscapes and expertly capture the fluid movements of the dancers. The page layouts are well planned to create the most movement and interest. The authors researched extensively but found a way to crystallize all of the information into a gem that is approachable for young readers. More than anything, this work emphasizes the value of collaboration and celebrates the work that Graham, Copland, and Noguchi did to bring together the performing and visual arts. Readers may be inspired to go to Russell Freedman's Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life (Clarion, 1998) and should be encouraged to check out one of Leonard Bernstein's definitive recordings of "Appalachian Spring" and a video of the ballet.—Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI
Kirkus Reviews

Appalachian Spring, the modern dance that celebrates the wedding of a Pioneer Woman and her Husbandman, is a brillantly conceived and enduring paean to American frontier life. It premiered in 1944 with choreography by the innovative Martha Graham, music by Aaron Copland, a child of Eastern European immigrants, and sets by Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese-American sculptor who voluntarily went into a World War II internment camp.The award-winning Greenberg and Jordan tell the story of this collaboration, which began when Copland composed music he entitled"Ballet for Martha." Through the use of active sentences in the present tense and brief quotes, the authors convey the excitement and drama of the creative process and the triumph of the ballet. Floca, a multiple Sibert Award honoree for his prowess in depicting the technical worlds of spaceships and lightships, here uses watercolor and pen-and-ink in a glorious depiction of modern dance movement, with its quiet hand gestures, dramatic leg kicks and the swirl of dancers "fluttering, skittering, reaching up to the sky." A stunning achievement. Archival photographs embellish the biographical notes at the end--a lovely touch. (bibliography, notes) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Abby McGanney Nolan
…a rare glimpse into collaboration, since most children's books about artists, dancers and composers focus on a single individual. Greenberg and Jordan clearly value a good partnership, having worked together for many years. Their impressive alliance is further boosted here by Brian Floca's line-and-watercolor illustrations; his expressive portraits and scenes are as appealing as the well-chosen details of the narrative.
—The Washington Post
Jennifer B. McDonald
…introduces Graham with reverence and finesse, recounting how she worked with Aaron Copland and Isamu Noguchi to create not just any "ballet," but a modern-dance classic…Brian Floca's watercolors, in browns, grays and blues, evoke land and air and beautifully capture the dancers in motion: their purity of line, their powerful stillness, their distinct relationship to gravity.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596433380
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 8/3/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 260,731
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

JAN GREENBERG and SANDRA JORDAN are the authors of many distinguished books about art, including ACTION JACKSON and CHRISTO AND JEANNE-CLAUDE: Through the Gates and Beyond. Ms. Greenberg lives in St. Louis, MO. Ms. Jordan lives in New York, NY.

BRIAN FLOCA has written and/or illustrated over a dozen books, including MOONSHOT: The Flight of Apollo 11 and LIGHTSHIP (Sibert Award Honor Books). A native of Texas, Brian lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 2, 2011

    Great nonfiction book for children!

    Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, the Orbis Pictus 2011 winner written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and illustrated by Brian Floca, is a children's picture book about the collaboration of Martha Graham: trailblazing choreographer, Aaron Copeland: distinguished American composer, and Isamu Noguchi: artist, sculptor and craftsman to produce the American masterpiece ballet, Appalachian Spring. "Together they created a ballet about a new home, a new family, a new life - a dance about America." Beautiful watercolor pictures bring the story to life and convey the beauty of the story behind the ballet. The illustrations are simple but effective and the colors are very "spring like" throughout. This book would be useful in a classroom to teach how a theatrical production comes to fruition and also about life in Appalachia in the 1800's. This book could inspire students to learn more about both aforementioned topics and to explore other books about collaborations between other artists. It could also lead to a student wanting to read more about the lives and careers of Martha Graham, Aaron Copeland, and Isamu Noguchi. This book also has biographical information about the aforementioned artists and has an extensive bibliography. This book appeals to a wide range of readers and could be read well by even second graders, in my opinion. Visually stimulating and highly informative, but in a nontechnical format, it is a delightful book to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2011

    Highly Recommend!!!

    The collaboration of the different artists is told beautifully in Ballet for Martha. Even when the artists' ideas are different from each others' they work hard to make the performance work. The story show how hard work and determination would be rewarded. Martha is determined to let her version to come to life and her hard work pays off in the end. The illustrations capture the dancers' movement perfectly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    Not only for children, but for anyone who has seen Appalachian S

    Not only for children, but for anyone who has seen Appalachian Spring, danced it, or wished to have do so, this is a beautiful book for preserving the memory. 

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    Posted October 9, 2012

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    Posted October 14, 2012

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