Marking the centenary of the Russian dancer's birth, Brighton (Five Secrets in a Box) did her homework impeccably, traveling to Leningrad to study the setting of Nijinsky's life and art, and inspecting first-hand the great Leon Bakst's original designs for costumes worn in the dancer's signature roles. Her paintings re-create a world of imperial grandeur and everyday deprivation with a rich, dignified palette: ornate interiors are crossed by the gray light of a Russian winter; the stage blooms with topsy-turvy magic; during summer's ``white nights,'' children frolic and fall asleep under the serene enormity of birches. From this dark opulence emerges the childhood of Vaslav, the son of itinerant Polish dancers who, with his sister Bronislava, revolutionized ballet in the 20th century before he became insane. Simply told, the story follows the fortunes of a family whose children learned dance early from their parents, were abandoned by their father, struggled against reduced circumstances but found an artistic home at the Imperial Ballet School. Closing with the child Vaslav's performance for the czar, Brighton arranges the book in scenes, as from a ballet, framed by a luxuriant ``proscenium'' of ornaments and borders. Though written without the poetic minimalism of Brighton's Five Secrets in a Box , the book raises an unforgettably vivid curtain on a life of heroic proportions. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989 Release date: 08/01/1989 Genre: Children's
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