January 03, 2007

Dreams of Dance

This book is a finalist for the graphic novels category of the 2006 Cybil Awards.

Big, empty spaces always made me dance…

More and more memoirs are taking advantage of the graphic novel format to relive the events of a life using both visual and written communication. However, you don't see many of these aimed at a middle-grade/young YA audience. To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel does a fine job of targeting a younger age group with a story that's sweet, inspiring, and true-to-life.

Though it might not be appealing to readers who don't have at least a passing interest in dance or the dancing life, it provides a nice, vivid glimpse into the life of the young dancer Siena. Touches of gentle humor offset some of the harsher realities of what it's truly like to train as a dancer—painful feet and legs, nervousness on stage—as well as the background story that hints at problems within Siena's family.

The art style is cute, and reminiscent of the illustrative style of Quentin Blake—simple yet expressive and funny. There are some inconsistencies in the artwork; on occasion the main character was given a more detailed, baby-doll kind of look that I found distracting from the overall narrative. Aside from this very minor quibble, I really enjoyed this piece. Anyone who ever took dance classes as a child and had daydreams—momentary or permanent—will recognize some of the scenes and feelings evoked; and it's hard not to cheer for Siena as her dance career takes some unexpected turns and she comes to realize that dance will always occupy a special space in her life.

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