Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring

Ballet for Martha:Making Appalachian Spring
written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; illustrated by Brian Floca
(Roaring Brook Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Ballet for Martha is the story of the collaboration between choreographer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and artist Isamu Noguchi that created Appalachian Spring. The story comes from Graham who wants it to be "a legend of American living." She writes to Copland to ask him to create the music. The two of them write back and forth until they agree on the story. Martha brings in artist Noguchi to create the set and after months of practice, the ballet is ready to be performed publicly. The collaboration between these three artists has created a masterpiece.

Betsy Bird has an exceptional review of Ballet for Martha complete with links to other resources and an eight minute video of Graham performing Appalachian Spring. You should really go read her review. So why am I reviewing this book? My job is to talk about how to use this book in a classroom and I have a few thoughts on this matter. There are many traditionalists who would have you eschew picture books if you are teaching 4th grade and above. Ballet for Martha is a fine example of a picture book that could be used in teaching older students. It is a great lesson about the creative process and how artists work and work to refine a piece. This lesson is needed with students who want to write one draft and consider a piece of writing complete. There is a ton of history in the text and the back matter that could be used in a biography unit. The bibliography and footnotes are excellent models of citing sources. My point is there are several ways that this book would work in the upper grades. Ballet for Martha would be a great addition to your classroom collection. If you read more, you will find a clip of Graham's ballet Heretic which is mentioned in Ballet for Martha.

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