Synopses & Reviews
Marie van Goethem, a fourteen-year-old ballet dancer in the famed Paris Opéra, has led a life of hardship and poverty. For her, dancing is the only joy to counter the pain inflicted by hunger, her mother's drinking, and her selfish older sister. But when famed artist Edgar Degas demands Marie's presence in his studio, it appears that her life will be transformed: He will pay her to pose for a new sculpture, and he promises to make her a star.
As Marie patiently stands before Mr. Degas each week, she dreams about supporting her family without being corrupted like most young dancers. She dreams about a life as a ballerina on the stage of the Opéra. And she dreams about being with her true love.
In this deeply moving, historically based account, Carolyn Meyer examines the life of the model for Edgar Degas's most famous sculpture, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.
Includes an author's note.
"As with her Young Royals series, Meyer's ability to sweep readers to another time and place while bringing historic figures to life once again results in a mesmerizing novel. Here she offers an imaginative rendering of Marie van Goethem, the impoverished young dancer who inspired Degas's famous sculpture, Petite danseuse de quatorze ans. Marie's widowed mother earns a meager salary as a laundress and drowns her sorrows in alcohol. Her one dream is that her three daughters will become accomplished enough as dancers to attract the attention of wealthy men. Already, Marie's older sister, Antoinette, has received several gifts from gentlemen. Disgusted by Antoinette's flirtatious ways, Marie chooses to take a different path by agreeing to model for the famous artist Degas. Inside the artist's studio, Marie glimpses a new world filled with beauty and mystery (and makes the acquaintance of American artist Mary Cassatt). Degas promises to make Marie famous by immortalizing her in a statuette, but meanwhile, Marie's family life becomes increasingly desperate, threatening to interfere with her career as a dancer. Using words in place of brush strokes, the author paints a harsh and honest portrayal of a dancer's life in Paris during the 1800s. Marie's brief encounter with fame is overshadowed by the many hardships she endures and the sacrifices she must make in order to keep her family together. Heart-wrenching and enlightening, this gritty story celebrates artistic accomplishment even as it reveals the human suffering often required to achieve it. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Mesmerizing . . . Heart-wrenching and enlightening, this gritty story celebrates artistic accomplishment even as it reveals the human suffering often required to achieve it."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The life, dreams, and struggles of the fourteen-year-old dancer who posed for Degas's most famous sculpture
This moving, historically based account examines the life of Marie van Goethem, a 14-year-old ballet dancer in the famed Paris Opera who was the model for Edgar Degas's most famous sculpture, "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen."
About the Author
is the award-winning author of more than forty books for young people, including White Lilacs
and Mary, Bloody Mary
. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.