BOOK REVIEWS

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring (Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (Awards)) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-11-05 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 15 user ratings
ISBN:1596433388
LANGUAGE:English

"Title: Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring
Author: Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Illustrator: Brian Floca
Genre: Orbitus Award

Theme(s): Movement, Music, Performance

Opening line/sentence: Sometimes art is made by one artist, working alone, but sometimes it is the result of artists working together—collaborating—to forge something new.

Brief Book Summary: Ballet for Martha tells the story of how Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, Isamu Noguchi crafted the ballet, Appalachian Spring. It tells of the creative process in the making of a show, including the collaboration among the choreographer, composer, and set designer. Illustrations highlight the refinement of Martha’s dance steps.

Professional Recommendation/Review #1:
Sheilah Egan (Children's Literature)
Some people think that three is a magical number. In this case, they are absolutely correct. Originally, the ballet known as Appalachian Spring was written, choreographed, and set designed by three talented people: Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, and Isamu Noguchi. Here we have the inspiration, development and production of the ballet as told by three very talented people: Greenberg, Jordan, and Floca. The entire book reflects Graham s sparse, angular dance style. Every element of its text and illustrations is essential and tells the truth about the scene--an ideal that Graham espoused in every step she perfected. Movement doesn t lie, she famously said. Floca has given flowing life to the illustrations that depict the intense rehearsals and the beauty and grace of the final culmination of everyone s work in the first performance of the ballet at The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. His ability to reflect the dancers moves is balanced with his ability to depict emotions on people s faces through the tilt of an eyebrow or a down-turned mouth. Because Graham s style was so radically new and different, many people did not immediately appreciate her talent; still, Appalachian Spring was recognized for the superb creation that it was and became immensely popular--and it has remained so to this day. The authors were meticulous in their research and include biographies of Graham, Copland, and Noguchi as well as detailed notes and sources. The final acknowledgements reveal the number of people who were consulted as this book was being researched and developed. Fine collaboration created the ballet, and fine collaboration gave us this treasure of a book to share with and inspire future generations of dancers, musicians, and artists. 2010, Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck, $17.99. Ages 8 up.
(PUBLISHER: Flash Point (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2010.)

Professional Recommendation/Review #2:
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 2011)
The collaboration of choreographer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and artist Isamu Noguchi to create the ballet Appalachian Spring melded distinctive individual creativity in a product that pushed the boundaries of the arts. Led by Martha Graham, the trio worked together in bringing to life a story to be told in movement and music about a new home, a new family, a new life. A dance about America. Never willing to settle for anything less than the perfection she imagined, Martha Graham rearranged Copland s music to fit the dance, and spurred Noguchi to craft a set spare and angular, like Martha s way of dancing. The story of the evolution of Appalachian Spring is followed by a description of the performance itself, as seen by audiences in its 1944 premiere. Clean watercolor illustrations and the judicious use of white space create an uncluttered visual accompaniment to the text, well-matched in style and substance. CCBC Category: The Arts. 2010, A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 48 pages, $17.99. Ages 7-11.
(PUBLISHER: Flash Point (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2010.)

Response to Two Professional Reviews: I agree with both the CCBC and Egan’s commentaries that the illustrations by Brian Floca match the angular and focused dance style of Martha Graham. Egan’s review praises Ballet for Martha for including biographical information, photographs, and references in the back of the book, which I would agree is a strength. The point the CCBC makes about Appalachian Spring being a “ballet” about America’s unique pioneer history is important— Martha drew her inspiration and focus for the show from this history and it influenced all her creative choices.

Evaluation of Literary Elements: The watercolor-and-pen illustrations are mostly double spread with smaller, split-page panels when isolating specific dance moves. The text is written primarily in third person narrative with the additions of quotations from correspondences among Martha, Copland, and Nugochi. There are many new vocabulary words in this text, such as: lilt, till, rollick, gallop, strut, swagger, rickety, heretic, and more.

Consideration of Instructional Application: Since I have taken classes of Martha Graham in the past, I can demonstrate the foundations of Martha Graham’s style of modern dance to my class. As a class, we could do an activity with the exercises of Martha and integrate a lesson on vocabulary. For example, students could gallop across the floor, impersonate a rickety bridge, cut the air like a saber, and more. I am anticipating that there will be hesitation in my class for this activity because dancing requires a level of comfort with the body and with others. In addition, there will most likely be students with different abilities that prevent them from fully participating. For students who cannot or will not participate, they could do an activity surrounding a performance of a different type such as a circus, a magic show, or a play.
" said.

"Ballet for Martha was a very interesting story for me to read. The book stars Martha Graham as the main choreographer who dances to the beat of her own drum and doesn’t care what people think. It also stars musician Aaron Copland and artist Isamu Noguchi. I thought the book did a great job touching on something labeled as a classic, that I had never heard of. I thought the little bits of trivia were very interesting like how the ballet earned a Pulitzer Prize. Being a dancer myself, I loved seeing actual ballet steps and correction speech through the book like a pas de deux for the couples dance and a release after a position. One thing I kind of struggle with thought was the exaggerated speech. It was hard to wrap my head around the author saying Martha “has a tantrum” or “throws a shoe” because it seems over done and biased almost. " said.

"This story follows the quest of Martha Graham as she sets out to produce her most famous ballet, the Appalachian Spring. This dance represents a new life in America. Martha wrote the story, with it taking place in Pennsylvania during the spring as a young man and woman get married. It follows the people involved with the creation of the play and all the work that went into it. Opening night ended up being successful, and even today it is still found on stages nation-wide. The illustrations are gorgeous, and it was clear that attention to detail was a priority. There is movement and expression in each one. This book is worth reading for the illustrations alone. I instantly thought of myself when I was young, as I was fascinated with the ballet. This is a great book, especially one that young ballet dancers may find captivating, despite it being base on a true story. " said.

"A picture book history of the making of Appalachian Spring and how Martha Graham, Aaron Copeland, and Isamu Noguchi worked together to create the dance, music, and set. The book also walks readers through the basic parts of the performance.

Make sure you read this where you can easily listen to some of the music too! A great read for music history or arts appreciation. Floca's illustrations are fantastic as always and manage to convey some of the movement of the dance. I like the way it shows how collaboration works to create productions. Short biographies of Martha, Aaron and Isamu are included in the back of the book. Getting kids to sit through the entire Appalachian Spring probably won't happen but they should get sucked into reading this and then be curious enough to listen to some of the music too. Or maybe this will get them interested enough they actually would be willing to sit through the entire performance. Who knows?
" said.

"As someone who had never even heard of the ballet "Appalachian Spring," I definitely enjoyed this book. Readers do not have to come into this with any prior knowledge of the ballet, which can make it enjoyable for any reader. The book is recommended for ages 6-10, but I think children closer to age 10 might enjoy this story more. It is a story about how the ballet was formed, and it may satisfy older children who have an interest in ballets rather than just any audience. The watercolor used throughout the book made me want to just sit and look at the pictures the whole time rather than just read the texts. The strokes that made up the ballerinas's shoes made it seem as if they were dancing on the page. The illustrations in this book fall into the category of realism. If anyone walked into an auditorium, they would see scenes similar to those depicted in the book. The illustrations are in a double page spread, leaving the illustrator plenty of space to accurately depict the scenes of the ballerinas dancing. This book would be a great book to put on a shelf in a classroom for the children to leisurely read. Teachers could learn something about the interest's of their students based on the ones that pick this book to read. " said.

" Magnificent! The double-page spread with Aaron Copeland sitting at his piano and the score in the background is a masterpiece!! " said.

" Done with breathtaking clarity, a masterpiece of explication of creative process in dance, music, and design, in a way that will capture young readers and hold them. Brilliant. " said.

" Spare text conveys the story so well. Well integrated quotes, stunning illustrations. " said.

December 2018 New Book:

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