'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 29 October 2017

Review: Swan Lake

Many youngsters are mesmerised by the figures that twirl and leap across a stage in a ballet production.

The author and illustrator, Anne Spudvilas was just like them. As a child she loved her mother's book Stories of the Ballets by Gladys Davidson, especially the ballet of Swan Lake. Now it is Spudvilas' turn to enchant readers with her retelling of the ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

What makes the book, Swan Lake, so special are Spudvias' illustrations that are dark, haunting and beautiful.

Viewing the illustrations for the first time gave me a real  physical reaction, a shiver ran up my spine and I broke out in goose-bumps, or maybe that should be swan-bumps.

The story is told by presenting each ballet act in words on one page which are then followed by a series of double page spreads telling the story in dramatic illustrations.

In Act 1 we meet the Prince and the Swan Queen who fall in love. The Swan Queen tells the Prince of the Sorcerer's curse, that she can only be in her human form between midnight and dawn. The Prince promises that at the upcoming ball he will choose her as his bride.

The retelling of the heartbreaking story in Act 2 moved me to tears. On the night of the ball the prince is bewitched by the Sorcerer's daughter, who is disguised as the Swan Queen and announces her as his bride. The Swan Queen sees the Princes' betrayal from the window and beats on it with her wings. Heartbroken she runs away to the lake.

In Act 3 the Prince realises his mistake. Like all classic fairy tales he overcomes the evil Sorcerer and breaks the curse but cannot undo his promise of marriage. The story ending is the classic romantic tragedy.

The reader will notice the darkness of the colours used on the endpapers and title page to create the haunting mood in this book. The illustrations are mostly black and white with shades of grey that sometimes include pops of colour.

The careful selection of colours add to the dramatic illustrations, creating emotions entwined with the characters and their actions. Pastel flowers in the hair of the Swan Queen show a warm loving, gentle, sweet and beautiful young woman. While the of colour blood red is used in the illustrations associated with the evil Sorcerer and his daughter, representing danger, passion and desire.

I highly recommend Swan Lake as a must have book for your Anne Spudvilas collection, which should already include The Peasant Prince and Our Village In the Sky.
Title: Swan Lake
Author/Illustrator: Anne Spudvilas
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $29.99
Publication Date: 25 October 2017
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781743318454
For ages: 10+
Type: Picture Book