Saturday, February 14, 2015

Firebird Bursts with Theme:PB 14:14 in 2015

I am a newbie at this blog challenge that writer Christy Wild put together, but examining picture books from Christie's list of 10 essential elements is a great exercise to sharpen our craft! Be sure to check out the other blogs to learn even more. There are some excellent writers on this blog hop.
My choice for today is THEME. My process of creation usually involves either a pithy title or a theme. I write with the bigger, overarching idea in mind first. Theme informs plot and gives a story heart. Heart is quite appropriate for our kickoff today, Valentine's Day! Universal themes tug at our hearts and add emotional heft to our stories. 
Title: Firebird
Author: Misty Copeland
Illustrator: Christopher Myers
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons (An Imprint of Penguin Group)
Year: 2014
Word Count: 393 EST
Top 10 Element: Theme
FIREBIRD, 2014 winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, exudes theme. The illustrations blaze and jump off the pages, echoing the theme of a firebird and the energy and determination needed by young people of color to make it in the world of dance, just as Misty Copleand did. This story resonates with the theme of seeing others like us so we can dream and achieve, too. 

Author/principal dancer for ABT, Misty Copleand, extends the theme in her letter to the reader in the back matter. She speaks of her struggle, of how there were no mentors in the rarified world of ballet then for her. From the PB, Misty says so eloquently,"We'll make the night sky our starry curtain/the moon our silver spotlight/as we spin 
across the planets/pirouetting tightly as the curls on our heads."
Now the young girls who read FIREBIRD WILL see ballerinas who look like them as evidenced by this stricking photo of Misty as the firebird herself. The photo of a black ballerina speaks to the accomplishment of what Misty wished for when she was a young dreamer. Also, the dust jacket illustrates the theme- on the front cover we have Misty as the Firebird, and the back shows the young dancer on her own stage.
The symbol of the firebird is comparable to the phoenix, the mythical bird who regenerates after overcoming injury, even death. What better main character for the theme of overcoming obstacles in the world of dance?
From a web site on Russian folklore I found the following which really informs the theme of this picture book: "The Firebird is known to many as the Phoenix. It is a mythical bird that lives in five hundred year cycles, which is able to regenerate from injury and is therefore, immortal. With plumage of red and gold that illuminates its flight, the Phoenix is as much a symbol of divinity as it is of fire and many legendary tales have evolved around its existence. Its most spoken about quality, that has inspired stories of encouragement or been compared to adversities that have been overcome, is that the Phoenix, nearing the end of its life cycle, builds a nest where he sets himself and the nest on fire. From the ashes left behind, a young Phoenix rises, to take the place of the older."
Word choice is another element that carries the through line of theme here: "you are air," "hope to leap the space between," "your beginning's just begun," "fireworks of costumes," and "even birds must learn to fly like me." Theme breathes in these poetic lines.
Our young dancer has plenty of support to make her dreams a reality and to burst forth with success. Christopher Myers color pallet is fiery and full of the warmth of ambition and determination, too. The illustrations and words dance together to make this book a true performance in theme.


22 comments:

  1. Wow...that's all I can say, Kathy! A newbie blogger? Get outta here!
    Beautiful blog...beautiful post...beautiful book choice!
    So glad you hopped aboard Christie's PB 14:14 challenge. I think this will be an excellent way to re-study the important story elements of picture books. ;)

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    1. You inspired me, Vivian. I go where you go, friend.

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    2. So glad you did!

      When do you want that website, chick? You know I'm ready! Any closer to a "sale" yet?

      Good luck with your house hunting!

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    1. Oh, thank you, Miranda. I really love hits book being a former dancer.

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  3. Wow! What Vivian said, Kathy! Lovely post and so filled with life!

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  4. Loved your post Kathy and review of this truly theme-full story! It's always so beautiful when illustration and story combine and support one another. The colors! Rich. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

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    1. Damon, I thank you for stopping by . It is a rich book.

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  5. What a perfect review for Valentine's Day!

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  6. What a perfect review for Valentine's Day!

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    1. Yes, and awesome ebook. Great to see you here.

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  8. Hi Kathy, what a beautiful book. I think boys might enjoy it too especially with the gorgeous colours. Ballet was something I dreamed of as a child and so desperately wished to learn. It was not to be but I certainly read my ballet stories and I am sure I would have enjoyed this one. Thank you for your review.

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    1. Cecilia, I did take ballet as a child and in my 30s. This tory speaks to me and yes, boys may like it.

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  9. Kathy,

    You know this is one of my favorite books. The sparse text and illumination illustrations draw the reader into this dream turn reality. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. The more I read this book, the more it speaks to me, Jackie.

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  10. At only 400 words, it is indeed sparse. Great write-up for theme! I agree with your statement here:

    "Theme informs plot and gives a story heart...Universal themes tug at our hearts and add emotional heft to our stories."

    I also really love the quotes you shared for the lyrical word play, what I like to call associated words/language/phrases. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  11. wow, I can see why this book won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. The photos and illustrations look awesome (and the story sounds good, too)

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  12. Great review, Kathy! So glad to have connected with you through Susanna Leonard's class! Gorgeous book!

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