Ballerina Swan

Ballerina Swan

By Allegra Kent

Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Holiday House, 2012

32 pages



Allegra Kent's Ballerina Swan is the newest book to add to your list for pre-ballet class or birthday party story-time. Little girls will love the story of dancing swan Sophie, who, after overcoming some bird versus human obstacles, gets to dance in the big performance of Swan Lake.


This is Kent’s first children's book. The former New York City Ballet principal and Balanchine muse is also the author of Once a Dancer..., The Dancers' Body Book and Water Beauty Book, and she often contributes to Dance Magazine.


Like her Ballerina Swan heroine Sophie, who doesn’t fit the perfect ballerina mold and is afraid to attend class, Kent struggled with intimidation. She was first enrolled in a ballet school for only advanced students and fought to keep up. But like Sophie, whose passion for dance kept her going, Kent's determination propelled her past her fears and motivated her to stay in class.


Kent includes a glossary of ballet terms used throughout the book—including épaulement, port de bras and plié—that students can practice in class. Students will also gravitate to the watercolor illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully that portray a realistic studio setting (minus the dancing swan) and capture the vibrancy of ballet class and auditions.

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"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

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"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

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