For any ballet enthusiasts, budding ballerinas, or fairytale lovers out there, have I got a book for you! The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories, written by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, is a compilation of six famous stories that have been made into classical ballets. Each story is accompanied by a full page of factual information, and the end of the book includes a more comprehensive history of ballet (beginning in 1581, when the first real ballet was apparently staged in France). Marketed as a book for ages 6 and up, Ballet Stories (like its companion The Barefoot Book of Dance Stories) really is a book for all ages.
Although each of the stories (Coppélia, Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and Daphnis and Chloe) has been told many many times before, the book still manages to feel fresh. Part of the reason is the incredible imagery that is sprinkled throughout. Here is an example from Cinderella:
The ball was already well under way. Across the great hall couples were whirling and spinning about. Men in colorful coats and women in sparkling dresses looked as lovely as flowers dancing in a garden when a playful breeze blows through.
The illustrations, by Rebecca Guay, are also particularly captivating. Just look at this exquisite cover illustration, which debuted in 2009 when the book was reprinted (after its original publication in 2004). Each story also has two or three full pages of art, plus a unique artistic border that wraps around the text on every page.
When compared with Dance Stories, Ballet Stories has more text and fewer illustrations. Although I would have loved to see more art, I suppose the book is long enough at 80 pages.
The book also comes with two story CDs narrated by British actress Juliet Stevenson. (There's a neat little article here about how she approaches the narration process.) Each story begins with a short excerpt from the ballet's musical score, and it sounds fantastic. I'm thinking I will have to get tickets to The Nutcracker this holiday season just so I can hear more of the music.
Ballet Stories would actually be great to read before going to see any of the ballets featured in the book. I find it is very easy to get caught up in the beauty of movement during a dance performance and sometimes forget to follow the story. If you are at all like me, then this book will help keep the story fresh in your mind so you can enjoy the performance that much more...
This week only (November 15th through November 21st), I'm hosting a giveaway of the companion book to Ballet Stories. Leave a comment and have a chance to win The Barefoot Book of Dance Stories. Full details here.