cover image Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina

Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina

Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illus. by Ra%C3%BAl Col%C3%B3n. Marshall Cavendish, $19.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-7614-5562-2

Bernier-Grand's (Diego: Bigger than Life) free-verse picture-book biography follows one of 20th-century ballet's most gifted%E2%80%94and steeliest%E2%80%94ballerinas, tracing her climb to the rank of prima ballerina assoluta and her battle to continue dancing as she loses her sight. Spiced with the Spanish of her native Cuba and full of poignant detail (her husband-to-be, seeing her dance, decides on the spot to study ballet so he can be her partner), Bernier-Grand's account does not flinch from Alonso's complex relationship with the Cuban government ("Why do you find killings by Castro/ more acceptable than killings by Batista?" picket signs read), nor from the physical punishment that is the reality of dance ("Dry blood has glued her toe shoes to her feet"). Col%C3%B3n's (Play Ball!) portraits have the dramatic scale of Depression-era murals; they capture Alonso's grace and celebrate her strength, too. There's little frilliness; Alonso's will to live and to dance seems like a force of nature, and the story, which follows her from childhood through her professional career and into retirement, has the scope of an adult work. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)