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Children's Fiction Greek & Roman

Swallow's Dance

by (author) Wendy Orr

Pajama Press Inc.
Initial publish date
Nov 2019
Greek & Roman, Ancient Civilizations, Disasters, Survival Stories, Fantasy & Magic
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 10 to 14
  • Grade: 4 to 10


Now in paperback, a USBBY Outstanding International Book set in the myth-rich culture of Bronze Age Crete. When a volcano cuts short the coming-of-age training of a young priestess, she must find the strength within herself to ensure the survival of her family.

Leira is about to start her initiation as a priestess when her world is turned upside down. A violent earthquake leaves her home—and her family—in pieces. And the earth goddess hasn't finished with the island yet.

With her family, Leira flees across the sea to Crete, expecting sanctuary. But a volcanic eruption throws the entire world into darkness. After the resulting tsunami, society descends into chaos; the status and privilege of being noble-born are reduced to nothing. With her injured mother and elderly nurse, Leira must find the strength and resourcefulness within herself to find safety.

A thrilling new Bronze Age survival story from the award-winning author of Dragonfly Song and Nim's Island.


About the author


Award-winning author Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Alberta. The daughter of an Air Force pilot, she has since lived around the world, including several years in Colorado, France, and England. She now lives in Melbourne, Australia, but returns to North America yearly to visit her family. Wendy's many books for children have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Prominent among them is Nim's Island, which was made into the 2008 film of the same name; a 2013 sequel, Return to Nim's Island, was loosely based on Orr's book Nim at Sea. Orr's 2017 novel Dragonfly Song is a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books selection, and a finalist for the prestigious TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, among others. Its 2018 companion Swallow’s Dance earned three starred reviews and was a USBBY Outstanding International Book and a School Library Journal Best Middle Grade Book.


Wendy Orr's profile page


  • Commended, USBBY Outstanding International Books List – Grades 6-8 selection
  • Commended, School Library Journal Best Middle Grade Books selection
  • Commended, CBC Books "13 Canadian middle-grade books to watch for this fall" selection

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Swallow's Dance

2018 School Library Journal Best Middle Grade Books selection

2019 USBBY Outstanding International Books List – Grades 6-8 selection

2019 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Starred Selection

2018 CBC Books "13 Canadian middle-grade books to watch for this fall" selection

★ STARRED REVIEW "[Orr's] mixture of prose and free verse to tell Leira's story is lyrical and magnetic—and devastating. Not for readers searching for a simple or happy journey, this is a beautiful song of a book that shows that life isn't always fair, but change is always constant."—Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

★ STARRED REVIEW "Leira's lyrical first-person narrative advances the story along beautifully with a fitting sense of urgency, and free-verse songs clue readers in to her emotional development. Immersive historical fiction."—Booklist Starred Review

★ STARRED REVIEW "Some chapters written in verse make the more emotional plot lines sing. An eye-opening look at how difficult it is when one's status changes in life, and how attitude can shape outcome. VERDICT Beautiful writing and a fast-moving plot will give young historical fiction fans much to love."—School Library Journal Starred Review

"Leira's protracted fall from grace is effectively punctuated by seamless narrative shifts among prose, verse, and song, which fans of Orr's Dragonfly Song will recognize. What she endures—the uncertainty of her family's fate and becoming a servant herself—makes for a gripping exploration of privilege during her journey toward womanhood."—Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books

"Swallow's Dance is a sweeping tale of courage, fortitude, hardship and perseverance against all odds. It is also a coming of age story, an intimate glimpse into the life of a young girl adjusting to puberty at a time when her family, friendships and her understanding of her place in the world are brutally torn apart. Wendy Orr has crafted a sympathetic, memorable heroine whose struggles and challenges transcend time from the Bronze Age to modern day....While suitable for middle grade students and a wonderful introduction to mythology and discussions surrounding puberty, spirituality, class, mental health, death and disaster, Swallow's Dance is one of those rare books that is also just a great story, an epic tale for all ages. Highly Recommended."—CM Magazine

“This stunning middle-grade novel is poetic, lyrical, and interspersed with elegant free-verse through which readers walk in Leira’s footsteps and share her many heartaches....Fascinating author’s notes entice readers to seek further information about the Santorini archeological dig. Captivating throughout, this story reverberates long past the turning of its last page.”—Historical Novels Review

"Top notch historical fiction for those who like it ancient!... The scenes of devastation – earthquake in Santorini, tsunami in Crete – are riveting to experience through the lens of a survivor."—Youth Services Book Review


"Orr's attention to character development is extremely well done....Swallow's Dance could be used in conjunction with the grades-five-to-eight Language Arts or Social Studies curriculum and would be great to teach students how to incorporate symbolism and imagery through free verse and poetry. In addition, Swallow's Dance could also be used to teach students about family, culture, history and the importance of the role of women in society. A fantastic novel to use as a read-aloud or novel study!"—Canadian Children's Book News

"Rating: G...The story is related in a combination of prose and free verse, in keeping with the historic saga style."—Resource Links

"Both a fascinating account of a real but forgotten society, and an exploration of a young woman's resilience and courage in the face of adversity, this is a highly recommended novel for nine- to 12-year-old readers."—Winnipeg Free Press

"Rating: Outstanding...Orr brings to life an imaginative story from the Bronze Age through prose and free verse. This creative novel would appeal to fans of Shannon Hale....This original story weaves a tale of strength, loyalty, and resilience."—Brigham Young University, Children's Book & Media Review

"This book is written in a very interesting way–the story is told both in prose and in verse. The poems seem to be Leira's direct thoughts on what is happening around her, which made it feel like the reader was a part of the story."—Julia, Age 8, Kids' Book Buzz

"[A] wonderful mix of survival and a coming of age story."—Log Cabin Library

"The sections in verse are particularly descriptive and lyrical. This reinforces the Greek atmosphere...a beautiful and powerful story. I loved it!"—Jill Jemmett

"Each month we post an annotated bibliography of books that were rated 'Outstanding'...An unusual historical novel set in Minoan Greece, Swallow's Dance used descriptive language and sections of blank verse to create the voice of its young heroine, Leira..."—ACL BayViews


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