Synergy apparent in collaborations in Ballet for Martha

March 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca; published by Roaring Brook Press, New York; 2010.

The synergy of collaboration is the theme in this multiple-award winning book.  American composer Aaron Copland, choreographer Martha Graham, and artist Isamu Noguchi worked together to make Martha Graham’s concept of capturing America’s spirit in dance a reality.  The resulting ballet, Appalachian Spring, has become an American classic!

Just as the three visionaries worked together to capture the American spirit in art, so the writers and illustrators have collaborated to capture the process of creating Appalachian Spring.  From the robin’s egg blue end pages, through the storytelling, images, and resources at the end, the synergy of this book is remarkable.  Words and pictures drew me into the story of the artists as well as into the tale of a springtime wedding between a farmer and his bride.  It was no surprise to learn that Ballet for Martha was recognized with multiple awards (2011 Robert F. Sibert Honor book, 2011 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, 2011 ALSC Notable Book List) and starred reviews.  Collaborating is not easy, but to do so successfully twice (in creating Appalachian Spring as well as writing about it!) is remarkable.  And just like the pieces of the ballet–the music, dance and set–work together to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, the book has done the same.  Part history lesson, part interpretation of music and dance, and part biography, Ballet for Martha tells the story of a collaboration that sums up the American experience.

During my tenure in an elementary school library, fulfilling book requests from the music teacher was a chore.  There were very few books to offer her.  I would enthusiastically recommend this book to her now, and include the links to the YouTube videos that captured a television performance of the ballet.  In any library, I would include this book in a family story time, and maybe only show part 3 of the YouTube videos (recognize that first song?).  Any spring displays would have to incorporate this book with a CD of Copland’s inspired score.

If the book has piqued your interest about the ballet, please watch the 4 part videos!  I’ve embedded them here so that librarians, music teachers, or anyone interested in watching this American classic can do so from this location!


Entry filed under: ALSC Notable Winner, NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Non-fiction, Non-fiction or Informational, Picture Book, Robert Sibert Informational Book Medal or Honor Book, Starred Review Book (Horn Book, Booklist. School Library Journal, Kirkus or PW). Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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a librarian's library of plans & resources for storytimes, programs & readers' advisory
Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that sometimes books are received for review for free by publishers or authors. All books (ARCs, galleys, library or purchased) will be reviewed fairly; no special consideration is given to anything reviewed on this blog. In addition, I make every attempt to avoid spoilers. Sometimes they happen inadvertently or because they are important to defend a review; not all spoilers have been removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement included as a warning to readers.

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