Monday, January 22, 2007
Ballet of the Elephants
Schubert, Leda. 2006. BALLET OF THE ELEPHANTS. Ill. by Robert Andrew Parker. New Milford: Roaring Brook. ISBN 1596430753 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]
Based on an actual incident, BALLET OF THE ELEPHANTS is the fascinating story of the Circus Polka, composed by Stravinsky, choreographed by Ballanchine, and performed by Ringling’s troupe of fifty ballerinas and fifty elephants which took place in New York City in 1942. Parker’s swirling watercolor illustrations heighten the surreal nature of the spectacle, and Schubert’s text is simple and delicate as she weaves biographical details about the participants, descriptions of the preparations including rehearsals, and the actual performance. Special attention is paid to Madoc, the largest of the Indian elephants and Vera Zorina, the featured dancer.
Extensive back matter gives further factual information about the event, including historical photographs, and includes a full bibliography. Booklist’s review concludes, “[T]his book offers much to talk about: the public circus and the issues of animal rights.”
The issue of animal rights is an important topic worthy of discussion, even for young readers. What do children know about animal rights? What do they think about this issue? Do they think the elephants in this incident were treated well?
Play Stravinsky’s “Circus Polka” ballet music and see how it moves the children. Alternately, they can draw to the music and let it influence their artwork.
Books about the star elephant in this circus:
Helfer, Ralph. THE WORLD’S GREATEST ELEPHANT. ISBN 0399241906
Helfer, Ralph. MODOC: THE TRUE STORY OF THE GREATEST ELEPHANT THAT EVER LIVED. ISBN 0060929510
By Julie Brinker