Monday, November 30, 2009

Portraits: Dancing Through Fire by Kathryn Lasky

Welcome to 19th century Paris, and the world of Degas's dancers. 13-year-old Sylvie is one of the pupils at the Paris Opera Ballet, where tutus must always be starched and pointe shoes fresh. Sylvie dreams of being a prima ballerina, but her height is a problem: she is too little. When the Franco-Prussian war begins in 1870, Paris is soon under siege and Sylvie is thrown into turmoil and tragedy. Against the fiery backdrop of war, the beauty of the ballet sustains and strengthens Sylvie. Before long, her talent and drive allows her to achieve her goal--and she graces the stage as a star.

When I first picked up Dancing Through Fire I thought it was going to be about the girl who posed for the artist Degas, but it was not. It did mention Degas and Marie (the girl who actually did the sculpture posing), instead the story was about a girl named Sylvie who also danced in the Paris Opera Ballet and who was inspired by the unnamed ballerina on the cover. I guess I got Dancing Through Fire mixed up with a book called Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer.

Dancing Through Fire is a short, but very detailed novel of a young ballerina during the French Reign of Terror in the 1870s. I liked this book mainly because it explored historical events and life behind the Opera stage. I danced for several years (had to stop because of a foot injury) and I know all too well the the pains of pointe shoes, fiddling with costumes, and standing still on stage for half and hour. Though ballet hasn't changed much in the past hundred years except for the invention of tights, we have it so much better when it comes to pointe shoes. Ugh. Can you imagine there just being cotton stuffed between your toes and hard block of wood? Now we have all kinds of padding, but of course it does not take the pain away.
The only thing that I disliked about Dancing Through Fire was that Sylvie was a bit too shallow and did not act like she was thirteen but much younger. The other characters though were much more realistic and with the tragic setting you got to see a whole different side of Paris. Forget the sparkling Eiffel Tower; during the Reign of Terror the whole city turned ugly and dangerous. Lasky had a great setting to play with, but I think she was holding back to try to make the story simple for a younger audience. I can understand that and even if some of the characters' personalities were a bit muffled, I still liked reading this book. Plus, the story behind the painting makes it even more intriguing.
Overall, Dancing Through Fire is a great book for historical fiction fans and both teens and tweens alike. 

|Pages: 176|Year Published: 2005|Publisher: Scholastics|
|Genre: Historical fiction, 1800s|
|Series? Yes, Portraits series|Age Group: Ages 11+|Content: Mild sensuality/graphic detail|
|Enjoyed It: 4/5|Content Rating: 5/5|Cover: 4/5|

Other Books by Kathryn Lasky:
Daughters of the Sea: Hannah


1 comment:

The Book Owl said...

Good review! I love historical fiction, so I should take a look at this.

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