Bunheads by Misty Copeland

Bunheads

Misty Copeland, Author

Setor Fiadzigbey, Illustrator

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Fiction, Sep. 29,  2020

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes: Misty Copeland, Ballet dancing, Coppélia, Inspirational, Diversity

Opening: “When Miss Bradley announced they’d be performing the ballet Coppélia “Co-pay-lee-ah,” for the recital, everyone in Misty’s class shouted excitedly and gathered around to hear their teacher tell the story of Coppélia.”

Synopsis:

From prima ballerina and New York Times bestselling author Misty Copeland comes the story of a young Misty, who discovers her love of dance through the ballet Coppélia–a story about a toymaker who devises a villainous plan to bring a doll to life.

Misty is so captivated by the tale and its heroine, Swanilda, she decides to audition for the role. But she’s never danced ballet before; in fact, this is the very first day of her very first dance class!

Though Misty is excited, she’s also nervous. But as she learns from her fellow bunheads, she makes wonderful friends who encourage her to do her very best. Misty’s nerves quickly fall away, and with a little teamwork, the bunheads put on a show to remember.

Featuring the stunning artwork of newcomer Setor Fiadzigbey, Bunheads is an inspiring tale for anyone looking for the courage to try something new.

Why I like this book:

A magical and inclusive tale, Misty Copeland’s childhood story will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of young aspiring dancers. Misty falls in love with dance at her first ballet class, when Miss Bradley tells the story of a lonely toymaker who makes a beautiful life-size doll named Coppélia. She is so lovely that a boy falls in love with her and the toymaker hopes that love may bring the the doll to life. Misty is mesmerized by the ballet.

Misty is a natural talent and eagerly practices the positions and movements with her class. She quickly picks up the steps, not realizing that Miss Bradley is watching her graceful movements. The teacher pairs Misty with Cat, a very talented dancer who shows her the dance of Coppélia. The two girls become best friends and learn from each other as they continue to dance together. During the auditions Cat wins the lead role Coppélia and Misty wins the part of Swanilda. As they rehearse their roles, they inspire each other.

Setor Fiadzigbey’s illustrations are stunning. He beautifully captures the joy, energy, and strength of the dancers, and the thrilling emotion and spirit of the ballet performance. This is a perfect gift book and a thrilling read for girls who dream of dancing.

Resources: If you your child hasn’t seen a ballet, take them to a live performance like The Nutcracker.  But with the many COVID restrictions, you can view many Misty Copeland videos on Youtube.

Misty Copeland made history in 2015 when she was the first black woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, one of the most prominent classical ballet companies in the world. She is also the author of the award-winning picture book Firebird. You may visit Misty Copeland online.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library book.

Taking Flight

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Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince, authors

Alfred A. Knopf,  Memoir, Oct. 14, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12-17

Themes: Michaela DePrince, Ballet, War orphan, Sierra Leone, Adoption, Vitiligo, Courage, Hope

Synopsis: Michaela DePrince was born in 1995 in war-torn Sierra Leone and named Mabinty Bangura.  She was born with Vitiligo, a medical condition that causes blotchy spots on her skin. To the villagers she was a curse and called a spotted leopard. However, she had loving parent who taught her to read, write and speak four different languages. When the rebels killed her father and her mother died, her uncle sold her to an orphanage, where she became #27 .  She was starved, abused, and faced incredible dangers from the rebels. One day she found a picture of a ballerina in a magazine which affected her life forever. At four, she and her best friend Mia were adopted by an American family. The family encouraged her love of dancing and made it possible for her to study at the Rock School for Dance Education and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre.  She is now a member of the world-famous Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

What I like about this book:

  • The heart of this story is the strong mother/daughter relationship which translates into a remarkable collaboration and a gripping memoir about Michaela’s journey from Mabinty Bangura, a war orphan in Sierra Leone, to a 17-year-old professional ballerina.
  • The story’s real strength lies in Michaela’s lifelong passion to become a ballerina and her remarkable determination to break through racial barriers to dance classical and neo-classical ballet with a professional company.  She shows great discipline and sacrifice to be the best.
  • The narrative about Michaela’s journey is compelling and unforgettable. Taking Flight is written in such a manner that young readers would be able to handle the details of war and be interested in learning some history about West Africa.
  • The story is simply told in prose, but is filled with satisfying detail. The pacing is perfect and the book is a page-turner.  This book is ideal for any reader, but young black ballet dancers will especially find hope in Michaela’s story.
  • I found Taking Flight a joy to read because of its authenticity and honesty. Michaela thought America was wonderful until she began to notice the bigotry she experienced while living with her white family, especially when they went out in public. But it took true grit to face the racial discrimination and profiling she encountered in the ballet world. She heard comments that “black women are too athletic for classical ballet…to muscular…and aren’t delicate enough to become  world-class dancers.” She still struggles with “the racial bias in the world of ballet.”
  • There is a section of photos in the middle of the book documenting her life — from the African orphanage, her new home and family, to her ballet training and dancing. These photos will help young readers better grasp her life.

Resources:  Michaela DePrince starred in the ballet documentary First Position, which can be found in many libraries.  She hesitated to be featured but decided that it was something that she could do to help African-American children who dream of dancing.  She felt she had a responsibility to write a memoir and share the “hardy dose of hope” she had been blessed with.  Visit Michaela DePrince at her website.