Included in the ever-growing demand for graphic novels of any genre is graphic non-fiction. To Dance: Special Edition is an expanded edition of the Robert Siebert Award Honor book from 2007, To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel. The Robert Siebert Award goes to authors and illustrators of “informational books for children.”

The autobiography is written by Siena Cherson Siegel and illustrated by her husband, Mark Siegel. It tells the story of Siena’s early childhood in Puerto Rico, where she dreamed of dancing, and her journey to New York, where she entered the School of American Ballet at age eleven. She studied at the school, founded by George Balanchine, and performed as a child dancer on stage with the New York City Ballet Company alongside the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov.

The memoir is told with a child’s view of the grueling physical work of studying ballet, including injury and sacrifice, but without a trace of darkness. The pure, childlike joy of dance and movement is portrayed with sweet simplicity in the writing and illustrations. The graphic novel shows Siena balancing her home life with her studies–even her parents’ divorce and her eventual career-ending injury—with the peace she found through dance.

Mark Siegel, editorial director of First Second, whose most recent creative work includes the science fiction children’s graphic novel series, 5 Worlds, captures the fluidity of dancers well. The best illustrations feature panel-less layouts that stretch across the page with the elegance and beauty of a prima ballerina.

This book embraces childhood hopes and dreams, without the bittersweet aftertaste of adulthood. Siena Cherson Siegel’s dancing career may have ended too soon, but she continues to embrace the spirit of dance in a way that will enchant readers young and old.

Libraries that don’t already own this book would be smart to add it to their graphic novel collection.

To Dance: Special Edition
By Siena Cherson Siegel
Art by Mark Siegel
ISBN: 9781481486644 1481486640
Simon & Shuster, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 8-14
Series Reading Order: (Wikipedia or Goodreads)

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NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Traits: Puerto Rican

  • Lisa P.

    | She/Her Library Associate in Youth Services


    Lisa is a library professional and part-time comic shop employee in Central Wisconsin.

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