BALLET FOR MARTHA: MAKING APPALACHIAN SPRING
by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Ages 9 to 12
Neal Porter Books | Flash Point | Roaring Brook
Martha Graham: trailblazing choreographer
Aaron Copland: distinguished American composer
Isamu Noguchi: artist, sculptor, craftsman
Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan tell the story behind the scenes of the collaboration that created Appalachian Spring, from its inception through the score’s composition to Martha’s intense rehearsal process. The authors’ collaborator is two-time Sibert Honor winner Brian Floca, whose vivid watercolors bring both the process and the performance to life.
For classroom and reading resources, click here.
A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
Winner of the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
An American Library Association Notable Children’s Book
An IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Honor Book
A Junior Library Guild selection
Booklist Top Ten Art Books for Youth 2010
Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books 2010
Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books 2010
School Library Journal Best Books 2010
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
CCBC Choices 2011
A Fuse #8 Production 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2010
Horn Book Magazine 2010 Fanfare
Washington Post Best of 2010: Books for Young Readers
★ The Horn Book Magazine (starred review):
“Using spare, concise sentences, the authors echo Graham's approach to dance: like the movements in her choreography, nothing is wasted, and in such exactness lies the beauty….Floca's fluid, energetic line-and-watercolor illustrations echo the plain boldness of Graham's choreography and make readers feel almost as if they were present at the inaugural performance of Appalachian Spring at the Library of Congress in 1944…[a] remarkable book.” —Chelsey G. H. Philpot.
★ Booklist (starred review):
“In this book…disparate elements come together. Matching the mood of Graham’s moves, the writing is pared down but full of possibilities. Floca’s ink-and-watercolor artwork nimbly shifts from the prosaic (Copland reading Graham’s script) to the visionary (a bride and groom on the open prairie) to the several-spread finale of the ballet itself. The book as a whole beautifully captures the process of artistic creation…what readers will surely want after putting this down is to see and hear Appalachian Spring for themselves.” —Ilene Cooper.
★ Publishers Weekly (starred review):
“Greenberg and Jordan (Action Jackson; Christo and Jeanne-Claude) continue to carve out their art-focused niche with this inspired book about collaboration. The now classic 1944 ballet, Appalachian Spring, serves as a fine model, showcasing three great artists: dancer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and set designer Isamu Noguchi. Readers see the fascinating creative process unfold, from Graham's germ of an idea about American settlers to the ballet's opening night. They will also gain insight into each artist: “The movements are not always pretty. Not everyone likes Martha's new way of dancing. Audiences have booed her performances, but Martha never lets that stop her,” and “Aaron's music suggests the movement, fires the dancers' imaginations, dares them to do more.” In spot art and full-bleed scenes, Floca's (Moonshot) muted, elegantly composed watercolors capture Noguchi's avant-garde set (“spare and angular, like Martha's way of dancing”), and the posture and movement of the dancers. Capturing the drama of dance, music, and stage design in a two-dimensional format is no easy feat, but this team does it with a noteworthy grace of their own.”
★ Kirkus Reviews (starred review):
“Through the use of active sentences in the present tense and brief quotes, the authors convey the excitement and drama of the creative process and the triumph of the ballet. Floca, a multiple Sibert Award honoree for his prowess in depicting the technical worlds of spaceships and lightships, here uses watercolor and pen-and-ink in a glorious depiction of modern dance movement, with its quiet hand gestures, dramatic leg kicks and the swirl of dancers “fluttering, skittering, reaching up to the sky.” A stunning achievement.”
★ School Library Journal (starred review):
“If Martha Graham’s choreography for Appalachian Spring was a “valentine” to the world, as critics wrote in 1944, then this book is a love letter in return. Simple, poetic prose tells the story of the creation of one of the world’s most-loved ballets and compositions, and Floca’s graceful watercolor illustrations take admirers through every part of its development. Written in the present tense, the narrative has a sense of drama that carries readers along as if the events were happening in real time.... Floca varies the illustrations from vignettes to bird’s-eye views to landscapes and expertly capture the fluid movements of the dancers. The page layouts are well planned to create the most movement and interest. The authors researched extensively but found a way to crystallize all of the information into a gem that is approachable for young readers.” Cheri Dobbs.
The Washington Post:
“Like Action Jackson, Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s picture book about the making of a Pollock masterpiece, Ballet for Martha offers a close-up look at the creative process. It's also a rare glimpse into collaboration, since most children's books about artists, dancers and composers focus on a single individual. Greenberg and Jordan clearly value a good partnership, having worked together for many years. Their impressive alliance is further boosted here by Brian Floca's line-and-watercolor illustrations; his expressive portraits and scenes are as appealing as the well-chosen details of the narrative…. Floca manages to capture both the movements of Graham's pioneering choreography and the spare beauty of Noguchi's angular set. Appalachian Spring debuted in Washington in 1944, but the authors make clear that its life goes on, with new dancers continually forging new connections with the piece.” —Abby McGanney Nolan.
Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac:
“Of all art forms, dance, which depends on movement, remains the hardest to convey in a book—particularly a book for children. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan took on this task in Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring and succeeded brilliantly....
Using small vignettes and double-page spreads [Floca] brings both the dancers and the dance to life. They jump and leap and dominate the stage. Floca’s strong portraits of the individual dancers allow readers to feel, for several pages, as if they are witnessing this historic event....
In a tribute to three artists, Greenberg, Jordan, and Floca, themselves a triumvirate, show how creative people work together to fashion something new. If you love the arts, dance, or simply creative information books for young readers ages six through twelve, you will not want to miss this performance. Bravo! All three deserve a standing ovation.” —Anita Silvey. Read the full review here.