Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Review: Tiny Dancer by Siena Cherson Siegel

Today, I'm taking a look at a memoir for teens, which focuses on a ballet dancer and what happens when everything she's hoped for and dreamed about suddenly seems to become impossible. Not only did the cover on this one catch my eye, but I had to take a look, when I discovered it is in graphic novel form. Memoirs have rarely been my thing (I tend to like action, intrigue, and such), but I suspected that throwing it into a graphic novel might spruce things up a bit.

Ready to see if I was right?

by Siena Cherson Siegel
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Atheneum Books
Young Adult Contemporary / Memoir / Graphic
272 pages

OCTOBER 26th!!!

A teenage ballet dancer struggles to find her next step, and her place in the world, in this exquisite graphic memoir—a follow-up to the Sibert Honor–winning To Dance.

All her life, Siena has dreamed of being a ballerina. Her love of movement and dedication to the craft earned her a spot at the School of American Ballet, with hopes of becoming a member of George Balanchine’s world-famous New York City Ballet company. Siena has worked hard for many years to be a professional ballet dancer, but injury and doubt are starting to take their toll.

Maybe it’s time to look beyond the world of dance—but Siena’s whole identity has been shaped by ballet. When you have spent your entire life working toward something, how do you figure out what comes next? And how do you figure out who you are without the thing that defined you? This is a moving and beautifully drawn memoir of a dancer struggling to find her next step—and a young woman finding her true footing in the world.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON    /     B&N    


Especially teens, who have dedicated their lives to something they love only to discover they won't be able to follow them, will find encouragement and a ray of hope in these pages.

Since her first ballet lesson, Siena loved to dance. As her family's situation changed, ballet was the one thing she constantly adored. And she was good at it, too. Finding her way to the top ranks of her classes, she gained acceptance into the top schools in New York. With her friends, she dreamed of her future and could picture nothing else but ballet. But when an injury made her step back for awhile, she lost her momentum and, with every passing event, lost her drive and belief in herself more and more...until she no longer knew what to do.

This memoir is the follow up to another book, one I haven't read. But that definitely doesn't make a difference when picking this one up. This is the story of the author's own journey as she gives her all for one dream during her teenage years, only to have it suddenly fall away, leaving her with no idea what to do next. I do know a few teens, who would benefit from this memoir as they have gone are going through similar experiences themselves, and don't always see a light at the end of the tunnel, yet. 

The graphic novel form is well done, especially since it invites to a more relaxed and quick read. The illustrations allow the emotions to stay front and center, giving the entire portrayal an almost poetic atmosphere for the eye. The words float along, sometimes bold and sometimes dimmed, to let feelings hit with more emphasis. By keeping this in the illustrated form, it also circumvents the usual heaviness a written description might have, while still keeping the atmosphere very clear. In other words, this is well done.

The text stays short and quick. This isn't a memoir with much dialogue, but rather, the author describes each moment and leads the reader through this timeframe of her life with many direct statements. I realize this is a memoir, but it still wasn't as engaging as I like and felt as if the reader were viewing a slide show of the life. Luckily, the illustrations make up for this and add the needed emotions.  The message is very clear and powerfully done, and will strike a note with the right reader.

And here they are...

Siena Cherson Siegel is an author and former dancer who trained at the School of American Ballet. To Dance and Tiny Dancer are stories from her life.

Mark Siegel is the author and illustrator of several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including Tiny Dancer, To DanceMoving 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

1 comment:

Heather N. Quinn said...

That's the sort of thing that often happens to teen athletes too. I'm sure a lot of kids will relate.