Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina

Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina

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by Maria Tallchief, Rosemary Wells, Gary Kelley
     
 

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Growing up on the Osage Indian reservation, Maria Tallchief was a gifted pianist and dancer. According to Osage tradition, women are not permitted to dance, but Maria's parents recognized her gifts and allowed her to break the rule. Then when Maria reached the age of twelve, her father told her it was time to choose between her two loves. Maria chose ballet. It was

Overview

Growing up on the Osage Indian reservation, Maria Tallchief was a gifted pianist and dancer. According to Osage tradition, women are not permitted to dance, but Maria's parents recognized her gifts and allowed her to break the rule. Then when Maria reached the age of twelve, her father told her it was time to choose between her two loves. Maria chose ballet. It was a decision that would change not only the course of her life, but the face of classical ballet in America. The fascinating story of Maria Tallchief's rise to become America's prima ballerina will captivate young readers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tallchief's single-minded passion, conveyed in a clear, poetic narrative, will hold appeal and meaning for an audience beyond that of hopeful ballerinas."—The Horn Book

"Kelley's softly focused paintings underscore the lyrical tone, enveloping the characters and settings in gauzy, dreamlike light and concentrating, provocatively, on stillness as opposed to movement."—Publisher's Weekly

" Large, rather impressionistic illustrations evoke period and place as well as Maria's love for her art."—Children's Literature

"The text and artwork combine to make a pleasing introduction to a fascinating person. Wells's personal connection to ballet and Tallchief, explained in the introduction, makes this effort all the more stirring. All told, a simple, lovely offering."—School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite its subtitle, this picture-book biography focuses on the childhood and adolescence of Maria Tallchief, not on her groundbreaking career. The text itself is poetic, almost like a fairy tale in its scene-setting. Tallchief's father, an Osage, "could spot a rattlesnake out of the corner of his eye... and shoot the snake from fifty yards away while still walking." Her mother, of Scots-Irish descent, "was small as a bird, and beautiful. My father loved to give her diamond rings." Oil fields have made the Tallchiefs and the others on their Oklahoma reservation "the wealthiest people on the face of the earth." In metaphorical language, Tallchief and Wells (Mary on Horseback) describe young Betty Marie's twin passions for music and dance, and her mother's role in developing them. The language can be abstract ("The secret of music is that it is something like a house with many rooms"), but the story is gripping. The Tallchiefs move to Los Angeles so Betty Marie and her sister can receive better training--only to discover that everything their Oklahoma teacher has taught them is wrong. Later Betty Marie enrolls in a class given by the sister of Nijinsky ("He was like a god, and so she was the sister of a god"); at 17 she leaves for New York, to join the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, and there the book ends. Her fame is discussed only in Wells's foreword, and comments in the text such as "I became a pioneer for American dance" go unexplained. Kelley's (The Red Heels) softly focused paintings underscore the lyrical tone, enveloping the characters and settings in gauzy, dreamlike light and concentrating, provocatively, on stillness as opposed to movement. Ages 4-9. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
This volume, relayed in what PW called "metaphorical language," follows Tallchief through her adolescence, on the way to joining the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. PW wrote, "Kelly's softly focused paintings underscore the lyrical tone, enveloping the characters and settings in gauzy, dreamlike light." Ages 5-9. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Beginning with her Osage Indian father and Scots-Irish mother, this inspiring, picture book biography tells how young Maria Tallchief developed her talent and love for music and dance, learning how "to be strong enough to dance for hours...," and "delicate enough to break the human heart." Told in the first person, from Maria's point of view, we follow her from her childhood in Oklahoma, guided by an amateur teacher, to her teen years in Los Angeles where she decided to devote her life to dance. Large, rather impressionistic illustrations evoke period and place as well as Maria's love for her art. An author's note is included.
Library Journal
Gr 2-4-A picture-book autobiography of the early years of America's first internationally significant ballerina. Through eloquent words, readers are immediately drawn into this first-person narrative. The story opens with Tallchief's birth on an Osage Indian reservation. Her Scots-Irish mother made sure that Maria and her sister received dance and music lessons, and eventually her father persuaded her to choose between piano and dance. The rest is history. The story ends when, at age 17, Maria left home to seek her fame and fortune in New York. As beautiful as the text is, so too are Kelley's pictures. The large illustrations, several covering double-page spreads, are rendered in soft pastels. The text and artwork combine to make a pleasing introduction to a fascinating person. Wells's personal connection to ballet and Tallchief, explained in the introduction, makes this effort all the more stirring. All told, a simple, lovely offering.-Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142300183
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
10/28/2001
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
611,216
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.10(d)
Lexile:
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

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Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
EGHunter01 More than 1 year ago
Maria Tallchief has rhythm born in her. This book encourages going where your heart and soul feel free. It is a beautiful story with illustrations of following your inner most dream.