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Dance of Sisters

Dance of Sisters

4.8 10
by Tracey Porter

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I want to stretch to the moon, Delia thought. Far, far away.

Twelve-year-old Delia Ferri doesn't remember her mother or her family the way it used to be. All she knows is that her sister, Pearl, and her father are fighting more and more. Pearl is withdrawn and angry and obsessed with witchcraft. Delia vows not to give her father anything else to worry


I want to stretch to the moon, Delia thought. Far, far away.

Twelve-year-old Delia Ferri doesn't remember her mother or her family the way it used to be. All she knows is that her sister, Pearl, and her father are fighting more and more. Pearl is withdrawn and angry and obsessed with witchcraft. Delia vows not to give her father anything else to worry about.

The only time Delia feels important and alive is when she is dancing for Madame Elanova, a world-famous ballet instructor who calls Delia "destined." Delia relishes the hard work required to be a ballet dancer, but she doesn't see the toll it is taking on her life. As competition for Madame's approval takes over, Delia's weight drastically drops, her schoolwork suffers, and she pulls away from her friends and family. Only then does she begin to understand how fiercely her sister had to fight to find her own truth.

A Dance of Sisters is an intimate portrait of the rigorous world of ballet, and a story of two girls searching for connection. Tracey Porter's beautiful novel explores the many dances of life, and the bond between sisters that sometimes only experience can reveal.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
PW's starred review called this "an absorbing and eye-opening novel about two motherless sisters. Porter, who has first-hand experience with the rigors of ballet, candidly exposes the nightmarish elements behind a girl's dream of becoming a classical dancer." Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This well-written book can be enjoyed by many young adults. It portrays the risks and joys of ballet quite realistically. The characters are believable, and their reactions to events are human. It conveys a strong message that there is a path in life for everyone, but it might take time to find that path. Everyone can enjoy this book, but dancers can especially relate. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins, 288p,
— Kristen Moreland, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Delia, 12, and her older sister, Pearl, struggle with adolescence and the loss of their mother in very different ways. Delia attends a prestigious ballet school headed by a former prima ballerina, and the focus of the story is on her. Pearl, who is into witchcraft, is on her way to getting kicked out of yet another prep school. And their father is still grieving the loss some 10 years later. As the competition at the academy gets tougher and tougher, Delia realizes that it is time to make important decisions about her future. Porter's best passages are about the ballet school and its dancers and she does a credible job of revealing the underbelly of the serious ballet student's world. The text is weak in the passages unrelated to dance and may fail to hold readers' attention. The author's handling of the theme of losing a parent is undeveloped and, ultimately, a distraction. In addition, the relationship between the two sisters is neither compelling nor fully fleshed out, and readers never get the sense of their loss or loneliness.-Elaine Baran Black, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this story of family dysfunction, two sisters attempt in very different fashions to cope with the death of their mother. Pearl, who is older, practices white magic, paints her face white, and wears cut-up black dresses. Delia devotes her body and soul to ballet after enrolling in a Washington school run by a Russian émigré teacher. Their father sends Pearl to a private school where she is assigned the task of training a difficult horse. By the end of the story, she has found happiness and a career--horse trainer. Delia follows a more difficult path. She loves to dance but finds herself in the back row of the corps when a famous former dancer stages a ballet choreographed by a famous Mr. P. (Balletos will perhaps find hints of George Balanchine and his seminal American masterpiece, Serenade.) Madame, who runs the ballet school, tells Delia that she is too fat and too ordinary to attain the status of prima ballerina. At the same time, fortunately, Delia finds meaning and purpose in studying the ghost dances of the late-19th-century Plains Indians and Brazilian dance. The issues of teen rebellion, anorexia, and family communication are treated too glibly while the constant stream of ballet terminology could confuse even an aspiring dancer. The references to New York companies and schools are out of date and too esoteric for most readers, though budding Delias will probably not mind. (Fiction. 12-14)

Product Details

HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.01(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


It was Pearl who gave Delia her nickname Little Moon, and it was Pearl who taught Delia about loss, magic, and change. But even though they loved each other, they circled like planets, one catching light, the other lapsing into darkness, often in view but always distant.

It was spring in Washington, D.C. Thick maples arched overhead. Delia was six. Pearl was ten, dressed as Persephone for her class play about the Greek gods. They held hands as they walked home from school.

"Artemis is the goddess of the moon, and sometimes the Greeks called her Delia. So, I will call you Little Moon, because you are named after Artemis and you are my little sister."

Delia dropped her head with pride, watching her feet on the familiar sidewalk home, each crack and leaf imprint both friendly and strange.

Neighbors watered new lawns, and the two left brief, dark footsteps.

"Little Moon," Delia whispered to herself, learning the rise and fall of consonants, the feel of the words in her mouth.

The air was drenched with sun. It fell from the sky, bounced off the chrome of the cars, and filled forsythia bushes in their front yard with light. Pearl's white costume and blond hair absorbed the glow of the yellow flowers, and for the moment before she opened the front door, she looked like she was spun from gold.

Delia often remembered that day, how their footprints dried so quickly, and how her sister transformed before her eyes. She used to pretend Pearl was her mother. She could not remember her real mother. She died before Delia could talk.

Now it was more than seven years later, a bleak Septemberafternoon, and Delia and Pearl were again a doorway apart. Where was Pearl now, Delia wondered as she waited for her sister to open her door.

"Yes?" Pearl left the chain on the door and opened it a crack. Her face was powdered geisha white and her eyes were lined with black. A sweet scent wafted into the hall. Delia sniffed. Baby oil. Pearl had just worked some into her hair. The comb's teeth cut neat, greasy rows close to the scalp so that it looked like the plastic molded hair of a doll.

"Do you have the sewing box?" Delia asked. "I need to sew elastic on my new shoes before class." She held a new pair of ballet slippers in her left hand.

"Come in," Pearl sang. She unlocked the door and beckoned her in with a little bow. "Sit down." She motioned to the hot-pink beanbag chair and turned down the music.

"Thanks," Delia replied, surprised that her sister had allowed her the privilege of entering. She flopped in the chair and briskly scanned the room while her sister's back was turned. She hadn't been here in a long time. Vases of rotting marigolds in murky water, framed photographs of dead poets and musicians, sugar skulls with tin eyes, candles and incense burners covered the desk. A black Spanish shawl embroidered with red and pink roses hung over the window and blocked the sun. A line of blue sand circled the canopy bed, the same pink frilly one Pearl had slept in since she was three. Great, thought Delia, she's casting spells again.

"I like the shawl," Delia said. It was best not to bring up the sand. Pearl might get angry at her for snooping and throw her out before giving her a needle and thread. Or, she might go into elaborate detail about her latest spell and make her late for ballet.

"Thanks. Twelve dollars at a junk store on Fourteenth Street." Pearl opened the closet door and began picking through a tangled pile of black clothes.

"And when were you on Fourteenth Street?" Their father encouraged them to be city children, to take the subway to the museums, or to walk to Georgetown. But that part of the city was forbidden to them, and as far as Delia was concerned, there was no reason to go there.

"Don't worry, Little Moon. Summer and Locke were with me."

"I'm sure they felt right at home," Delia retorted. She pictured Pearl and her two friends roaming the junk shops and botanicas between the various bars and liquor stores. Summer with her bedraggled black boa around her neck, Locke in his mohawk, Pearl in the dress with the vampire sleeves. "You shouldn't go there. Dad would kill you if he found out." "Well, don't tell him, Little Moon ... " She tossed a black tulle petticoat over her back. It landed in Delia's lap. "Besides, I gotta go. The best botanica in town is there -- Espiritu del Mundo. Madame Congo is ordering a bunch of stuff for me."

"I hope you're not getting any more of those dried lizards. They totally grossed me out." Pearl had taken her to a botanica once. Black, red, and white candles shaped like humans, wands of incense, statues of saints filled the shelves. Along the walls were huge barrels, just like in a candy shop, only these were filled with strange-smelling powders, colored sand, and dried herbs. She shuddered when she saw the packages of tiny bones.

"I'm not into that stuff anymore. I'm into healing, not cursing."

"That's a relief," said Delia. She played with her hair while she waited. She braided it and shook it free. It was thick and dark like their mother's, the only trait of hers that she had. Pearl, their father once said, was her mirror image.

"Eureka!" Pearl exclaimed moments later. She handed Delia the wicker sewing basket, stuffed the clothes and shoes back into the closet, then flopped on her canopy bed.

It was the same basket their mother had used. Inside were buttons made of shell and bone, wooden spools of colored thread, and packages of needles and snaps. When they were little, Pearl taught her how to cut out paper dolls ...

A Dance of Sisters. Copyright © by Tracey Porter. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Tracey Porter is the author of Treasures in the Dust and A Dance of Sisters. Her most recent novel, Billy Creekmore, was named to Oprah.com's Kids' Reading List, compiled by the American Library Association. For the past twenty years she has taught middle school at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.

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Dance of Sisters 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is such a good book. That's all there is to it. I think that everyone should really read this. It may be about dance/ballet, but you really do walk away with lessons in everday life, not just dancing. I most definitely recommend this book to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The witchcraft The book I read was Dance of Sister. It was about two sisters living with their dad. Clara was young about three, and her sister was about ten when their mom died. Clara doesn¿t remember a lot about her mom so she asked her older sister. Clara¿s older sister knows a little bit, but really not a lot so both of them started doing a lot of witchcraft. Then their dad found out, if you want to know what happens next or through out the story then you should read this book. Well really I didn¿t like that it have to start really slow but after the third to fourth chapter it really picked up. That¿s when it started getting good, well at least it seemed like that to me. I really couldn¿t relate to this book because I never tired witchcraft, but maybe you should read this book to see if you relate to it. No, Its not part of a series well that I know of. No, It doesn¿t remind me of a television show or movies. The people that I think would like to read this book or should are people that like books keeping you wondering what will happen even if you find out, you want to know what goes next. No, this book doesn¿t relate to other books or Authors I read. Really this book is great you should read it and find out yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a dancer, and i'm starting pointe next year. I read this book a few months ago and it made me realize how much i loved dance and gave me the determination to go en pointe. The charecters are so realistic as are the situations. This book is a must read for all dancers, and anyone who loves a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is a amazing book. delia is a wonderfull dancer who learns about friendship and the strong relationship of sisters. this is a beautiful book that will keep you reading!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i liked this book very much. i recomend it to those who like to find books where they can learn something. the characters are sometimes disturbing but other than that it was a great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was an amazing story! i recomended it to my friends and they loved it too. I am a ballet dancer and i enjoyed this story. i also understand how she feels about being too heavy even though everyone says im stick skinny.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so good. I'm a dancer & when I read this book it encourage me to try harder to be on pointe. I really recommand this book especailly if you dance. You should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I am somewhat of a picky reader, but I loved Dance of Sisters! i dance ballet also and this made me excited for pointe! (advanced kind of dance) if u like to dance, or like dance stories, then i highly reccomend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The tweleve year old Delia is what Madame Elvona calls ¿destined¿ to be a famous ballerina. Madame Elanova is a world famous ballet instructor who runs the ballet school that Delia attends. Delia¿s older sister ,Pearl, is interested in white wicth craft, where black, and rebelling. All because she strongly misses her dead mother. She and her father ,Mr. Ferri, are constantly fighting untill she is sent away to baording school. Delia is worried that she is to heavy to dance so she goes on a diet. The diet goes a little to far and her outstanding school work drops way below passing. Ballet is taking over her life. Will Delia realise she is losing her grip on life or will she become a ballerina like she has dreamed since she was young? To find out read this great book. Trust someone who has lived true some of this torture.