An abstractly autobiographical story, Copeland, the first African-American ballerina to become a principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater, uses the story of her own rise to encourage a young dancer struggling with confidence. The girl believes that Misty’s success and talent are an unachievable goal for someone like her. Misty denies this, relating that she once stood in the girl’s ballet slippers, and that hard work, dedication, and belief in herself is what made her great. She shows the girl that with these qualities, she too will shine bright as a Firebird, and inspire the next generation of dreamers that follows.
This book was fabulous. On the surface, it’s a classic lesson in achieving through work and perseverance, made all the more authentic due to its author. More than this, though, it is a wholly unique ballerina book that injects a little style and color into a well-worn genre. As Copeland notes in her afterward, while there are plenty of books about ballerinas, there are very few about ballerinas who look like her, and she wanted to write a book for them. The stylistic, lyrical text and bright, vibrant hues of the illustrations join the story in celebrating dancers of color (including boys in the final pages, a lovely surprise!) in a way that departs from the prim, pastel images of most ballet books, giving it a vibrancy that these stories can lack. The length was great for little ones, and JJ adored the story and art. If you’re looking for a ballerina book that breaks the mold, this is it. We loved it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!