Swan Lake

Nancy Ellison, Author, Nancy Ellison, Photographer, Nina Ananiashvili, Performed by
Nancy Ellison, Author, Nancy Ellison, Photographer, Nina Ananiashvili, Performed by ABRAMS $19.95 (80p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4192-2
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Photographed on the grounds of Moscow's Kuskovo Palace and featuring prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili and members of the Bolshoi Ballet, this picture book retelling of Tchaikovsky's most famous ballet would seem just the ticket for young balletomanes--and yet serious ballet fans may be the most critical. First, this telling departs from the original, unabashedly letting daylight in upon the magic (the ballet's swans turn into maidens only at night; these swans can also assume human form by the banks of the lake, in daytime). Photos of classically costumed dancers en pointe on grass outdoors may strike purists as more jarring than atmospheric, and the literal-minded staging of the scenes--beside ponds, in gilded state rooms, against palace gardens--overshadows the drama created by the dancers' movements. Disappointingly, several photographs of particularly impressive leaps and poses are bifurcated by the gutter. Meanwhile, the audience for the text is hard to discern. Ephron's storytelling is straightforward enough for young readers, but the cutting-edge type style, with some phrases enlarged, and the book design, with words like ""seduction"" and ""betrayal"" and ""agony"" inserted into the backgrounds, seem geared to the MTV set and may well confuse younger readers. All ages. (May)
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