FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. Ballerina Maria Tallchief describes her childhood on an Osage reservation, her love of dance, and her rise to success as a ballerina.
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Maria Tallchief was America's first major prima ballerina and also the first Native American prima ballerina. She was born in Oklahoma in 1925. When the choreographer George Balanchine founded what would become the New York City Ballet in 1946, Tallchief became the company's first star. She was vaulted to international fame in 1949 for her performance in The Firebird. Her role as the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker turned that ballet into America's favorite. After retiring from dance in 1966 she was active in promoting ballet in Chicago. Besides being a patron of the arts, she was also a champion of Native American culture and remained closely tied to her Osage history until her death. In 1996 she received a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievements. Maria Tallchief died in 2013.
Rosemary Wells is the author of 120 books for children, including more than 40 about the beloved bunnies Max and Ruby. She travels all over the country as a tireless advocate for literacy. Wells was born in New Jersey to a playwright father and ballet dancer mother who encouraged her artistic bent. She worked as an art director and designer before illustrating her first book. She is the mother of two grown daughters, Victoria and Marguerite, and grandmother to four girls.
Gary Kelley received his degree in art from the University of Northern Iowa. He began his career as a graphic designer and art director before becoming an illustrator in the mid-1970s. He has received awards from the New York Society of Illustrators, the National Booksellers Association, Print Magazine, the New York Art Directors Show, the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators, the Bologna Book Fair (Italy), and others. His clients include The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Atlantic Monthly, Time, Newsweek, GQ, Franklin Library, CBS Records, the NFL, the Santa Fe Opera, and many others.In addition to his professional work, he has lectured at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, the Society of Illustrators, the San Francisco Academy of Art, Ringling School of Art, and Syracuse University, to name just a few.
In picture-book format, Tallchief's story begins with her childhood on an Osage Indian reservation in Oklahoma, where she took her first piano and dance lessons. After moving to Los Angeles, her parents found excellent teachers for the young dancer, who loved expressing the music with her body and worked hard to fulfill her aspiration to dance with the best, the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. The book ends with 17-year-old Tallchief leaving for New York to follow her dreams. In addition to the people and places remembered from childhood, Tallchief discusses the gift of music, which she and her parents recognized early as a driving force in her life. The joint authorship may cause some readers to wonder whose words are whose, yet the voice of the text speaks with great clarity, dignity, and power, occasionally lit by flashes of imagery and memory. Equally powerful and well crafted are the illustrations in heavily applied pastels. Gary Kelley grasps forms with a cubist's awareness of the solidity of people and objects, then arranges them to make an effective representational picture in two dimensions. Despite the book's large format and many illustrations, the length of the text and sophistication of the artwork indicate an older readership than the usual picture-book audience. A stirring choice for children (and perhaps some adults) who take their ballet seriously. Carolyn Phelan
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