Siegel, S.C. (2006). To Dance: A ballerina's graphic novel. New York: Richard Jackson Book.
Appetizer: This middle grade graphic novel is a memoir of Siena Cherson Siegel's desire to become a ballerina. The story follows her as Siena moves from Puerto Rico to the U.S. and back, realizes she wants to be a ballerina and makes sacrifices to achieve her dream.
Throughout the background of Siena's ever increasing number of dance practices, her parents struggle to make their marriage work, at times living in separate countries.
The illustrations throughout the graphic novel are nice. When the protagonist imagines dancing or watches dancing, Mark Siegel illustrated the story to include a lot of curved and flowing lines.
My favorite panel of this story is early in the text. After seeing Maya Plisetskaya perform, nine-year-old Siena breaks the fourth wall of the text and looks directly at the reader. Her eyes are determined, her expression series. The text reads "I wanted to be a ballerina." I liked it!
"Big, empty spaces always made me dance.
A long hallway or a parking lot just begged for dance...like it wanted to be filled...and I wanted to put dance in it. A big empty space was always an invitation."
"I wanted to be a ballerina."
"I took more and more ballet classes, even on the weekend, which meant missing my Saturday morning cartoons. But I got to perform in The Nutcracker."
"Here, some of the greatest ballet dancers in the world walked around and took classes with some special teacher. Little girls and big girls...I had stepped into a whole different world."
To Go with the Meal:
This graphic novel has a very specific target audience--DANCERS! A teacher can give this story to novice dancers, who might be interested in learning about some famous dancers and ballets. It can also be a great read for students who want to devote their lives to dance, who need to see the sacrifices and difficulties that come with that commitment.
A teacher could also use this book to discuss the Russian influence upon American ballet and to explore the way dance has historically been presented in the media. Another option would be to explore the connection between dance and athletics. (Siena reflects on how she found a dance in the moves of a Miami Dolphins game that she watched)
It's important to note that this is not a graphic novel that teaches dance steps. This is the story of one girl's journey to becoming a professional dancer. A teacher could focus on how Siena used dance to escape her parents' fighting and divorce. After sharing this story, a teacher could encourage a student to express their feelings through dance or another art form.
Since the story references A Very Young Dancer, a teacher can also make certain that a young reader can have access to that book to read too (of course, I recommend trying a library first as all the prices on Amazon.com are a little ridiculous).
Tasty Rating: !!!