cover image Coppelia


Margot Fonteyn. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200428-6

Having danced the part of Swanilda herself, the late dancer Fonteyn knew this 19th-century ballet from the inside out. With careful pacing, she recounts the tale of a mysterious dollmaker whose finest creation, a life-size doll named Copp lia, comes between a young woman and her betrothed. Upon Swanilda's first appearance, as she happily thinks of her fianc , Franz (""she could barely keep herself from dancing instead of walking""), Fonteyn foreshadows the fateful dance, in which Swanilda, rejected by Franz in favor of Copp lia, cleverly exposes the illusion and wins back her sweetheart. In an astonishing visual pas de deux, Johnson and Fancher's mixed media artwork gives the pages a rich patina that recalls antique tapestry. Blocks of text are framed in a quilt-like background of fabric scraps that hints at the busy creativity of a dollmaker's studio. The artists carry this theme throughout the book by incorporating brocade and burlap into the illustrations themselves, adding texture and depth alongside bold brushstrokes and scrapework used in applying the oil paint. The European setting, with its half-timbered houses and cobbled streets, is dressed in rich autumnal hues, and an artful use of light and shadow brings a theatrical flair. Balletomanes will appreciate Fonteyn's afterword on the history of Copp lia, along with the artists' homage to a famous Degas painting with Swanilda, dressed as the doll, dancing about and wreaking havoc. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)