We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.
We have just launched our new reading theme for July – August: Diversified – Rainbow Colours of Literature.
I am excited to share these multicultural picturebook biographies on fabulous women dancers for our Diversified reading theme.
Written by: Misty Copeland Illustrated by: Christopher Myers
Published by: G. P. Putnam Sons, 2014
Bought own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
Fairly recently, Misty Copeland was in the news as she became the first African American woman named principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre Company. I thought that this is as good a time as any to revisit this gorgeous picturebook that is Misty Copeland’s open letter to an everygirl who dreams of finding her voice.
Unlike other PBBs that are filled with factual information, this is Misty’s response to a dispirited young girl who seems to feel that her dreams are a universe away:
me? I’m gray as rain
heavy as naptime, low as a storm pressing on rooftops
I could never hope to leap
the space between
Misty reaches out through the pages to let this young girl know that one does not grow to be a firebird overnight. She wrote feelingly about how a girl with big dreams can eventually “spread an arabesque of wings” with dedication, patience, faith.
This is a book that speaks to the heart of every young child who has the universe in her eyes and music in her veins. In her Author’s Note, Misty also wrote about what prompted her to write this picturebook:
… when I opened up ballet books, I didn’t see myself. I saw an image of what a ballerina should be, and she wasn’t me, brown with tendrils sweeping her face. I needed to find ME. This book is you and me. I want to expand the idea of beauty and art.
And this is what diversity in children’s literature is all about. Here is a youtube link on how Misty Copeland changed the face of ballet.
A Dance Like Starlight
Written by: Kristy Dempsey Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper
Published by: Philomel Books, 2014
Bought own copy of book. Book photos taken by me.
This book seems almost like a response to Firebird, they are great companion texts about dreamers and dancers layered in starlight. While not technically a picturebook biography, this is a fictional story inspired by true events surrounding Janet Collins’ performance at the Metropolitan Opera back in 1951, at a time when only White people were allowed to perform on stage.
This young girl dared to dream and was determined to flit and fly on stage:
Mama says wishing on stars is a waste anyhow,
says you don’t need stars in the sky
to make your dreams come true.
Hope can pick your dream up, she says,
off the floor of your heart,
when you think it can’t happen,
no how, no way,
though unlike wishing
is hard work.
For young dreamers like this girl, seeing the “first colored Prima Ballerina” Janet Collins perform on stage is not just inspiring, it is a promise of what the world has in store for her.
A lot of young people take for granted that the things they enjoy now simply happened as a matter of course. It is good to be reminded of the struggles that pioneer dancers/artists had to face to pave the way for young artists to realize their dreams.
Here is a youtube clip of Janet Collins and her story:
Firebird: Winner of the 2015 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, Received the 2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award New Writer Honor , An NPR Best Book of 2014
A Dance Like Starlight: Booklist 2014 Top 10 Books for Youth, Arts; New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2014, Picture Books; Booklist Top 10 Multicultural Fiction for Youth, 2015; ALA Notable Books for Children 2015, Younger Readers; 2015 Golden Kite Winner, Picture Book Text