Maria Tallchief

Philomel. (She Persisted). Nov. 2021. 80p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780593115800; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780593115817.
Gr 3-6–This chapter book in the “She Persisted” series chronicles the life of America’s first prima ballerina Maria Tallchief. Readers are introduced to Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief, an Osage girl from Oklahoma. Day (Upper Skagit from the Pacific Northwest), provides details about the Osage tribe and their history to help readers understand Tallchief’s roots. The Indigenous author provides a unique perspective on Tallchief’s story by teaching readers about the land and tribal nations of the regions where the dancer lived. As the book progresses, Tallchief and her family move to California, where she changes her last name from Tall Chief to Tallchief. Then at the age of 17, Tallchief moves to New York City, and her name eventually becomes the one readers know best: Maria Tallchief. The book highlights the fact that Tallchief never forgot her Osage heritage. Black and white illustrations, while few, are impactful. The artwork depicts special moments in the subject’s life, from dreaming about ballet as a young girl to starring in the New York City’s Ballet’s opening night of Firebird, where the crowd cheered and chanted her name. In tandem with the text, the illustrations show Tallchief’s growth and transformation from a little girl to a prima ballerina. The text is interesting, straightforward, and easy to read for the intended age group. Back matter includes, along with references, a list of ways readers can persist and help carry on Tallchief’s legacy.
VERDICT Recommended for all library collections. A great addition to the “She Persisted” series.

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