Portraits: Dancing Through Fire by Kathryn Lasky (Published by Scholastic, October 1, 2005)
Sylvie Bertrand is a young girl who is studying to be a ballerina at the Paris Opera Ballet School in 1870. Due to poverty, her mother had to leave the ballet to marry years ago and now she is living through her hopes and dreams for Sylvie - if she could not become a famous ballerina, then Sylvie must. Although Sylvie likes the ballet, sometimes she wonders if she will ever have a life beyond her mother's dreams. Her older sister, Chantal, hated the way her mother lived through her and decided to rebel, pretending to be lazy so she would be forced to leave the ballet.
When the Franco-Prussian War breaks out and Paris falls under siege, Sylvie gets a glimpse of the real world where there is sickness and starvation. She struggles with how it contrasts with the perfect fantasy world of the ballet. As the situation in Paris worsens, Sylvie decides she must do something to help and in her quest learns even more about the harshness of the real world, but she also learns that ballet is not just her mother's dream but hers as well.
I really loved Kathryn Lasky's books for the Dear America and Royal Diaries series, and this book is just as good as her contributions to those series. This was the first book in a middle grade historical fiction series titled Portraits. Each book was to imagine what the life of a young girl in a famous painting might have been like. This particular book is based on one of the ballet paintings of Degas. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after only two books were published, which was really too bad because I really enjoyed this book and thought that the concept of the series was really unique and interesting.