This book is stunning. Every turn of the page reveals another dramatic illustration stretched across both pages, pulling you into the story of the classic ballet, Swan Lake. Just like a ballet, the book has been divided into acts. The words are limited to just one page at the start of each of the three acts, allowing the story to unfold through the glorious illustrations.
The tale begins at night, with the Prince out hunting and the illustrations are dark and foreboding. Then the swans sweep onto the water and transform into young women. They are graceful, magical. The Prince and the Swan Queen fall in love – and suddenly the dark pages turn light and bright and the characters could almost dance off the pages.
Illustrator Anne Spudvilas lives on the confluence of the Murray and Darling rivers in New South Wales and her pictures were inspired by the riverscape. Throughout the book, she uses a restricted palette of black and white, with shades of grey. There’s an occasional burst of colour, such as the muted flowers surrounding the Swan Queen, conveying her sweetness and innocence, and the bold red on the false Swan Queen, warning of danger. I’m not an expert on art, but I believe many of the illustrations have been created using printmaking techniques, sometimes overlaid onto paintings. In any case, they are beautiful and so emotive. I can’t decide whether my favourite is the couple dancing when they first fall in love, or embracing as they sink beneath the water to their deaths.
This is a beautiful book to gift to a young dancer, a lover of ballet or anyone who appreciates beautiful books.
Swan Lake is written and illustrated by Anne Spudvilas. It is published by Allen and Unwin, October 2017, 48pp, RRP $29.99 (hbk).
You can buy a copy of Swan Lake from your local book shop or online with free worldwide shipping.