Portraits: Dancing Through Fire

Portraits: Dancing Through Fire

by Kathryn Lasky
     
 

Like the captivating bestseller, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, this exciting new series explores the stories behind the girls featured in some of the world's most dazzling paintings.

Welcome to 19th century Paris, and the world of Degas's dancers. 13-year-old Sylvie is one of the pupils at the Paris Opera Ballet, where tutus must always be starched and pointe shoes

Overview


Like the captivating bestseller, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, this exciting new series explores the stories behind the girls featured in some of the world's most dazzling paintings.

Welcome to 19th century Paris, and the world of Degas's dancers. 13-year-old Sylvie is one of the pupils at the Paris Opera Ballet, where tutus must always be starched and pointe shoes fresh. Sylvie dreams of being a prima ballerina, but her height is a problem: she is too little. When the Franco-Prussian war begins in 1870, Paris is soon under siege and Sylvie is thrown into turmoil and tragedy. Against the fiery backdrop of war, the beauty of the ballet sustains and strengthens Sylvie. Before long, her talent and drive allows her to achieve her goal--and she graces the stage as a star.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

SLJ Nov.
KIRWAN, Anna. Searching for the Past. 182p. ISBN 0-439-71010-3.
LASKY, Kathryn. Dancing Through Fire. 172p. ISBN 0-439-71009-X.
ea vol: (Portraits Series). Scholastic. 2005. pap. $9.99. LC number unavailable.
Gr 4-6–These series titles create backstories for the young women who posed for great artists. Past immediately draws readers into Aurelia's story. Shipwrecked and orphaned at the age of five, she was raised in Boston by an increasingly senile woman and her predatory nephew. Fleeing to Townsend, MA, she finds work with a kind family. Her mysterious past continues to haunt her, though she quickly becomes involved in the community. When Winslow Homer arrives to visit his family, Aurelia's tangled past becomes unraveled. Keeping the many characters straight may be confusing for some readers, but the scenes of Aurelia posing for the artist are beautifully integrated with the plot. The portrayal of town life is deep, compelling, and gently humorous. Fire introduces the model for Degas's L'Etoile. Sylvie, a young student at the Paris Opera Ballet School, grows up amid the uncertainty of the Franco-Prussian War. When bloody battles rage throughout the city, she is drawn into the real world for the first time in her life. After witnessing the horror, she must decide if she can ever return to the magic of the stage. This typical ballet story becomes an exciting coming-of-age tale. Fans of dance will be engrossed, while others may have difficulty getting past the jargon to find the fine work within.–Christina Stenson-Carey, Albany Public Library, NY

Booklist 12/1/05
Lasky, Kathryn. Dancing through Fire. 2005. 160p. Scholastic, paper, $9.99 (0-439-71009-X).
Gr. 4–7. From the promising new Portraits series, this historical novel takes place in the 1870s in Paris, where Sylvie is a “little rat,” or young pupil of the Paris Opera Ballet. She strives to dance well and to grow three-quarters of an inch so that she can join the ballet, while her widowed mother takes in laundry to make ends meet. When war comes to Paris, it brings hardship, hunger, death, and occasionally the closing of the opera house. To Sylvie, this period of upheaval brings challenges and loss but also growth in understanding and independence, as well as inches. The artist Degas makes cameo appearances, and one of his paintings is used on the cover. Though readers may be unfamiliar with this historical period, they will be swept along by the strong story line. Young dancers will particularly enjoy the evocative passages when Sylvie is on stage or in class. Link this to Carolyn Meyer's Marie, Dancing (2005). –Carolyn Phela

Like every other Parisian girl, little Sylvie dreams of becoming a prima ballerina, but she worries that she is too short. Soon there are other things for a 13-year-old to anguish over: The Franco-Prussian War erupts and Paris is under siege. Yet somehow during this period of fear and uncertainty, ballet sustains her. A well-turned pirouette about 19th-century France.
Children's Literature
Following the success of the "Dear America" and "Royal Diaries" series, "Portraits"—inspired by famous paintings—consist of glossily hardbound, paperback-sized books for adolescents to pluck off the bookshelf for a quick read. If they are a quick read, they are also a quick write, but Kathryn Lasky's choice of Degas and his world of ballet opens the parameters a bit. Lasky has chosen to set her story primarily during the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Paris (1870-71). This has the benefit of opening up the claustrophobic world of the her heroine, Sylvie, and the other petites rats who are trying to dance their way up to ballet's higher levels. Degas is vaguely in the background, as is starvation (not nearly enough!) and the communards, but ballet is really the star. Any young dance student will probably relish entering the world of the late 19th century Paris Opera Ballet and its regimen of plies, jetes, and practice, practice, practice. 2005, Scholastic, Ages 8 to 12.
—Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-These series titles create backstories for the young women who posed for great artists. Past immediately draws readers into Aurelia's story. Shipwrecked and orphaned at the age of five, she was raised in Boston by an increasingly senile woman and her predatory nephew. Fleeing to Townsend, MA, she finds work with a kind family. Her mysterious past continues to haunt her, though she quickly becomes involved in the community. When Winslow Homer arrives to visit his family, Aurelia's tangled past becomes unraveled. Keeping the many characters straight may be confusing for some readers, but the scenes of Aurelia posing for the artist are beautifully integrated with the plot. The portrayal of town life is deep, compelling, and gently humorous. Fire introduces the model for Degas's L'Etoile. Sylvie, a young student at the Paris Opera Ballet School, grows up amid the uncertainty of the Franco-Prussian War. When bloody battles rage throughout the city, she is drawn into the real world for the first time in her life. After witnessing the horror, she must decide if she can ever return to the magic of the stage. This typical ballet story becomes an exciting coming-of-age tale. Fans of dance will be engrossed, while others may have difficulty getting past the jargon to find the fine work within.-Christina Stenson-Carey, Albany Public Library, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439710091
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
10/28/2005
Series:
Portraits , #1
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.46(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author


Kathryn Lasky is the Newbery Honor-winning author of over one hundred books for children and young adults. Her beloved Guardians of Ga’Hoole fantasy series has sold more than 4 million copies, and she is the author of the Daughters of the Sea series, the Wolves of the Beyond series, as well as A TIME FOR COURAGE and other Dear America titles. Kathryn has also written a number of critically acclaimed nonfiction titles, such as BEYOND THE BURNING TIME and TRUE NORTH. She lives with her husband in Cambridge, MA.

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