A girlhood story by Anna Pavlova
Illustrated with art by Edgar Degas
Publisher - The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Atheneum Books for Young readers
Age group : 4+
I was browsing the bookshelves in our library, when I chanced upon this book. It seemed a precious find even at the first glance. I somehow felt that my 4 year old daughter S, would enjoy this story with the related pictures. Now after multiple readings of this book, both of us have fallen in love with this great book !
As the header mentions, it is the childhood story of Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian Ballerina. To be honest, before I read this book, all I knew about her was that she was a famous ballerina and one of the main inspirations for Rukmini Devi Arundale. This story as narrated by Pavlova herself talks about her childhood and what got her interested in ballet.
Little Anna is taken for a theatrical performance of the Sleeping beauty at the Mariinsky theatre , as a treat for her birthday. Being her first time, she is very excited and looking forward to the surprise. As the performance begins, she is enthralled and mesmerised by the graceful dance movements of the young girls and the legendary Tchaikovsky's music. It is at this very performance that the seed of being an excellent ballet dancer, gets planted in her tender heart. Her dream of becoming a world famous ballerina, does come to fruition (as we read in the epilogue) but after facing lot of challenges along the way.
The illustrations that have been used in this book are the art works of Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917). He was as passionate about ballet as a subject of his art works , as Anna Pavlova was about performing ballet. I was surprised to note from the footnotes in this book that Degas and Pavlova never met each other. Most of his ballet inspired art was much before her time. So this book is very interesting in the sense, that the art works which would best complement the text and the story have been used. They have this ethereal quality about them, which would make you want to go back again and again to admire them.
My daughter so loves this book ! Currently this is her favourite bedtime story. She loves dance and recently she watched a small clipping of Anna Pavlova's dance as enacted by the students in my son's school day programme. Each night as I read this story to her, she gets this dreamy look. May be she is transported to a ballet land full of little girls in beautiful pink dresses and swaying elegantly to the music ! May be she dreams of being an Anna Pavlova some day :-)
Note : The story is drawn from Anna Pavlova's 1922 autobiography, Pages of My Life