School Library Journal
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Gr 7 Up-Born from Myers's musings on the underlying violence in Swan Lake, this story is a riff on that ballet with tones of West Side Story, Shakespeare, and hip-hop. In the projects, Amiri's mom is going to throw him a party in the hope that he'll find the right girl and settle down. But that night on the courts, Amiri meets Odette-and though she is promised to Big Red, a crack dealer, they proclaim their love. "And thus the pact is set, the bargain sealed,/Both agony and love revealed./But are solutions so easily discovered?/Happy endings so readily recovered/Among the castaways and rejects/Of the teeming Swan Lake Projects?/Is happy chance alone gladly greeted/And Big Red so easily defeated?" There follows the evil twin, the betrayal, the forgiveness, the fight-and a happier ending than in most versions of the ballet. Myers's verse is almost overwrought-as it should be to suit the story, and the intensity of teenage love. The melodrama combines with an energy and beat that-heightened by dynamic text design-makes this ideal for performance. Steptoe's collage-on-cinderblock illustrations have a roughness, darkness, and density that suit the tone. This selection will broaden any teen collection.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Myers's (Sunrise over Fallujah) and Steptoe's (In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall) concept, recasting Swan Lake as hip-hop, may sound unlikely, but in their hands it largely succeeds: the ultra-cool, emotionally hot setting gives the story new power. Swan Lake is a housing project, Rothbart represented as Big Red, a drug lord, and Odette an addict; Amiri tries to save her, but fails. Myers's words carry the force of blows; Steptoe's collages teem with bodies colliding and overlapping. The language swings from pop lyric to Shakespearean, sometimes in the same breath: "Amiri, be my man!/ Save me if you can!/ If not, let my last pure breath/ Pledge my love to you in wretched death." Steptoe gets gritty, working directly on slabs of asphalt, a street effect intensified by the graffiti-like use of multicolored and multisize fonts in the text. His figures are shadowed with ghostly blue; they leap, ward off blows, embrace, argue. It's easy to imagine them as dancers. The momentum yields at the end, where, in contrast to the stark immediacy of the rest of the work, abstract language softens the tragic conclusion. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Myers' introduction is an essential part of this moving, contemporary retelling of the classic Swan Lake ballet story of beauty and grace that is threatened by violence. His setting is the Swan Lake Projects, where the street dangers are like folkloric evil spells and the basketball moves are as agile as dance steps. Young Amiri and Odette fall in love, but Odette is already involved with dangerous Big Red. With a rhyming rap beat ( A fight for three so vicious / A victory for love delicious ), Myers tells the tale in four terse acts that climax in Amiri's triumphant standoff with Big Red, who is armed with knife and gun ( as cold steel flashes, a sharp blade slashes ). The book design, with colored type on dark backgrounds, is too busy, but Steptoe's collage-on-cinder-block paintings, touched with magical realism, offer beautiful overviews of the neighborhood streets, the buildings, and the basketball court.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2008 Booklist