Book Review: Marie, Dancing, by Carolyn Meyer

marie_dancing_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Have you ever wondered what goes through a ballerina’s mind when she dances?

What could she possibly be thinking about as she takes the audience’s breath away? The spotlight is on her, her and nothing else. For a few seconds, minutes or even hours, it’s as if nothing else exists in the world while dancing. Dancers learn to hide their emotions on stage. You can’t show nervousness, fear, or any type of imbalance. You have to keep tempo, stay with the music, and perform the grand jetés, fouettés, and combinations that you practiced so hard to be able to do. Nothing else matters.

The amazing story of Marie, Dancing is an excellent book written by Carolyn Meyer because of her descriptive language and engaging plot. Meyer has also written Doomed Queen Anne, Jubilee Journey, White Lilacs, and many more. This is another one of her great books that teaches perseverance, honesty, and passion. These were the three most common lessons I found throughout the book.

Marie, Dancing takes place in beautiful Paris, France, mainly around the Seine River at her ballet school called the Paris Opera. The story is revolved around a sculpture called The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, which is actually in the Louvre today sculpted by Edgar Degas. This is what makes this story unique because it is revolved around a sculpture, unlike many stories.

Marie’s goal is to become a famous dancer, but she has a lot of hardships and set backs such as living in poverty and issues with her family. She is in intense ballet training while a world renowned artist; Edgar Degas offers her a job to pose for his new sculpture. Edgar Degas is a bitter and cold man, but an amazing artist: “He didn’t wait for me to reply or to change my clothes but simply walked off, motioning me to follow his command” (4). She agrees, and every week for one year she went to his studio and posed for him. This helped her get a little closer to her dream of stardom. Meanwhile, she has big ballet examinations coming up to determine if she gets to say at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Her older sister ends up in prison for three months, and she is risking her practice time for the examinations by visiting her troubled sister. Will she get that dream of stardom that she is desperate to have? Will she ever dance again? Will she ever forgive her sister for what she has done?

One of the obvious reasons I love this book is because of the main character, Marie. She is an example of a 14 year old dancer in the 1880s who lives deeply in poverty, but has a huge passion for what she does. Three words to describe her are determined, helpful, and kind. I would say that she is determined because she really wants to become a famous dancer, and trains every moment she has. Marie is also helpful because she basically raises her 10 year old sister Charlotte while her mother is off drinking, and her oldest sister is very selfish. She gets payed by Edgar Degas to model, and she uses the money to pay off the rent on their house. “I reached Rue de Douai and climbed the dimly lit and rank smelling stairs” (137). Lastly, I found that Marie is kind. One of the reasons why she is kind is because when her older sister was in prison, she risked her ballet career just to go give her scraps of food.

This book also kept me engaged because I really like how the author wrote very descriptively, and it was easier to paint a picture of the setting and imagine the the plot in my mind. I would recommend this book to middle school students. Although, this book got off to a slow start, it eventually went by faster and it was very enjoyable to read. Overall, this is a book that I would definitely recommend.

-Valentina M., 7th grade

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