________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 26 . . . . March 9, 2012


The White Ballets: Swan Lake, Giselle and La Bayadère.

Rajka Kupesic.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2011.
40 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-923-8.

Subject Heading:
Ballets-Stories, plots, etc.-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

**** /4



In a country cottage, there lived a lovely peasant girl named Giselle. More than anything, Giselle loved to dance, but her mother worried constantly. "My girl," she'd warn, "please be careful. Your heart. Too much dancing could." But to Giselle, dancing was far more important than a weak heart.

"Giselle" is one of three ballets whose story is told and illustrated by author/artist Rajika Kupesic in her stunningly illustrated picture book entitled The White Ballets. According to the author's introduction to her work, the term ballets blancs refers to the identical white costumes worn by the group of female dancers in the corps de ballet. She notes that the corps is much more than a decorative backdrop for the prima ballerina, but that it is a character unto itself with its power lying in uniformity rather than individuality. Kupesic has chosen the first two ballets, "Swan Lake" and "Giselle", because they were among the first ballets she performed as a young ballerina and later as a graduate of the National Ballet School of Zagreb. She has included a third ballet, "La Bayadère," which she never had the chance to perform because it was long hidden behind the "iron curtain" in the former USSR. According to the author, all three ballets are among the most important works in the Romantic ballet blanc style.

internal art      Rajika Kupesic is a classically trained ballerina whose paintings are often described in terms of fluidity, movement and emotion. The artist declares, in fact, she listens to music - Mozart is her favorite - as she works: "I follow the music," she says. It should not be a surprise that Kupesic finds rhythm in her subject matter. She created the illustrations for Karen Kain's highly praised picture book rendition of "The Nutcracker," published in 2005.

      Kupesic's training and talent in dance and art make her the perfect author/illustrator for this beautiful book. Not only does she tell the tale of each of the ballets in simple, straightforward language with plenty of conversation to enhance its dramatic impact, but she brings each story to life with her paintings which feature beautifully blended brush strokes and a unique handling of detail, colour and mood. "I paint with great emotion" says Kupesic. "My goal is to create movement and beauty." In creating her glowing, richly textured paintings, the artist-author has certainly fulfilled her intention. A bonus for young readers appears in her notes about each ballet, which explain the history of each work and give a detailed commentary on the significance of each painting.

      The White Ballets will likely appeal most strongly to those young readers and listeners who are aspiring dancers or fortunate enough to be taken to ballet performances by an adult. It will make a fine gift for children in this category and should be seriously considered by elementary school librarians who feel strongly about the importance of the two art forms which are so beautifully rendered in Kupesic's handsome book.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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