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Review of Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland 
Shows a Young Girl How to 
Dance like the Firebird

copeland_firebirdFirebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance like the Firebird
by Misty Copeland; 
illus. by Christopher Myers
Primary   Putnam   40 pp.
9/14   978-0-399-16615-0   $17.99   g

Think you can simply write off celebrity books? Think again. American Ballet Theatre soloist Copeland is just as graceful with words as she is with her body. Here she addresses the next generation as she imagines a dialogue between herself and a young female African American ballet student who claims she is “gray as rain / heavy as naptime, low as a storm pressing on rooftops.” Copeland reassures the girl that she had the same self-doubts, and “darling child, don’t you know / you’re just where I started.” Myers’s stunning collages layer strips of thickly painted paper to echo the wings of a firebird (Copeland’s signature role), whether they are illustrating the stage curtains or a cloudy sky. His deep, rich colors make even the portraits of the dancers at rest dramatic, and when the dancers are on stage, they seem to fly. The words of the girl appear in italics and the dancer’s words in boldface to clearly differentiate between the speakers. In an author’s note, Copeland tells us that, as a child, she never saw herself in ballet books; this book encourages today’s aspiring dancers of all colors and backgrounds.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kathleen T. Horning About Kathleen T. Horning

Kathleen T. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books and teaches a popular online course for ALSC on the history of the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

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Comments

  1. Wonderful and passionate review of an absolutely stunning book. The visceral art takes up with our protagonist in fanciful flight. The rich and textured collages are almost three-dimensional. The story is inspiraing and as you say this book should encourage all aspiring dancers from all colors and background. This is the second extraordinary book about ballet this year. A DANCE CALLED STARLIGHT by Kristy and Floyd Cooper is another extraordinarily beautiful and inspiring book. Difficult to favor one over the other, but suffice to say both deserve to be among the finalists for this year’s Caldecott Medal and Honors in an admittedly very crowded year.

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