Sunday, November 10, 2019

Review: To Dance by Siena Cherson Siegel

by Siena Cherson Siegel
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Atheneum Young Readers
Middle Grade Graphic / Memoir
88 pages 
ages 8 to 14

A beautifully refreshed and expanded special edition of the Sibert Honor–winning graphic memoir about the dreams and realities of becoming a ballerina.

Ballerinas are young when they first dream of dance. Siena was six—and her dreams kept skipping and leaping, circling and spinning, from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico, to dance classes at the School of American Ballet, to her debut performance on stage with the New York City Ballet while working with ballet legend George Balanchine.

Part family history, part backstage drama, this beautifully updated graphic memoir—which features a refreshed design and a brand-new scrapbook of Siena’s mementoes—is an original, firsthand look a young dancer’s beginnings.


Ballet lovers are in for a treat in this touching and grabbing recount of a young ballerina's life, while training with the School of American Ballet.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Siena loved to fill every space with dance. When the doctors diagnosed her with flat feet, her mother enrolled her into ballet classes. Siena's love for dancing caught wings, and she found herself more and more often in New York to take classes. When she auditioned for the School of American Ballet and was accepted, her life of dance switched into high gear.

This tale of a young ballerina's life is simply well done. Starting when Siena was younger, the story pulls readers in and allows her dreams to connect with their own. She's a normal girl who wants to dance—so easy to sympathize with! Her recounts are never overly detailed but rather bring across moments young readers will relate to. The pacing is wonderful, and while it's clear she's talented, she's never placed in a special light, but rather stays as normal as possible. Her love of watching others dance and desire to participate in ballets comes across with tons of heart, leaving no room for jealousy, extreme ambition or anything negative in any way. It's clear she put it tons of hard work, suffered injuries, made friends, and loved to dance.

The illustrations really bring life into the tale. Siena's hard work and struggles come across clearly as well as her joy and the beauty she see in dance. There's never a boring moment, and the entire read draws in, making it impossible to put down until the last page. At the end, there's a type of scrapbook which shows real photos of Siena, newspaper clips, ticket stubs and such. This was fun to flip through and made it hit home that Siena was a real girl and not just a character in the tale.

Anyone who loves ballet or who harbors dance aspirations of their own is sure to enjoy this book. Even those who don't dance will be drawn in and gain a lovely respect for dancers and the ballet.

And here they are...

The Author...
Siena Cherson Siegel is an author and former dancer who trained at the School of America Ballet. to Dance is her story.

The Illustrator...
Mark Siegel is the author and illustrator of several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including To Dance, Moving House, and Sailor Twain. His latest project is the collaborative graphic novel series 5 Worlds, an epic science fiction story for young readers. In addition to writing and illustrating, Mark is also the founder, and creative and editorial director of First Second Books, Macmillan's graphic novel house The Siegels live in Tarrytown, New York. Visit Mark at

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