Reviews for Amiri and Odette : A Love Story

Booklist Reviews 2008 December #1
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. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #2
The acclaimed author uproots the 19th-century classical ballet Swan Lake from its enchanted world of mist-filled lakes and palaces and plunks it solidly down into the dark, danger-filled Swan Lake Projects. The courtly Prince Siegfried morphs into the basketball player Amiri, and the beautiful Odette, turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer in the original, is now under the thralldom of Big Red, the local drug dealer. Myers tells the tale in rap-inspired verse, which appears on the page in different sizes and colors placed for their design values and not for ease of reading. The result strains with the necessity of maintaining narrative symmetry; verse that tries to soar in beat with Tchaikovsky's memorable score is reduced to a plethora of overwrought phrases--"O muffle the drum and mute the horn, / From love's demise, despair is born!" Perhaps Myers would have been better served by Romeo and Juliet, frequently rewritten but more manageable and logical. However, Steptoe's collage-on cinder-block paintings are powerful, haunting and worthy of multiple viewings. His Odette is truly luminous. (Picture book/poetry. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 November #3

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.)

[Page 57]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 January

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

[Page 114]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2009 October
Amiri is treated like a prince in the Swan Lake Projects. His mother wants him to find a nice girl with whom to settle down, so she throws him a party to meet several eligible ladies. She warns Amiri to choose wisely. He sees Odette one day while playing basketball. She is beautiful but somehow scarred. Odette is not allowed to love freely because of Big Red. She belongs to him--she is trapped. Amiri must find a way to break the spell Big Red has over Odette before it is too late. This interesting re-telling of the Swan Lake story is set against the backdrop of the projects. Myers takes a classical ballet and puts an urban spin on it. His writing flows, like lyrics to a rap song, across the page. The paintings in this poem add to the grittiness and realism of the setting. Steptoe uses acrylic paints on huge slabs of asphalt. He then embellishes the paintings with newspaper, feathers, plastic bags, and other items to give them a threedimensional quality. Both English and drama teachers may wish to use this slim, picture book while introducing material about Swan Lake. Teachers might also be able to use this book in conjunction with other units, for example, Romeo and Juliet, fairy tales, and Greek mythology. Art teachers could to draw inspiration from the book because of Steptoe's innovative style of collage development. It is a definite must-have in any school or public library.--Jonatha Basye. Illus. 5Q 3P M J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.