Children's Literature Bookshelf

“Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird,” by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2014, 32 pages, K-3.

“Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird,”
by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers. 
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2014, 32 pages, K-3.

“You Should Meet: Misty Copeland,” by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Monique Dong. 
Simon Spotlight, New York, New York, 2016, 48 pages, Grades 2-4.

The United States was founded by people striving to achieve their dreams. Many of these people had to overcome great challenges to reach their goals.
Sometimes these obstacles included a lack of money, a limited education or even racial discrimination. But these inspiring souls refused to have others determine their future. They took the talents given to them by God and nurtured them. This meant hard work, perseverance and the humility to accept help from people trying to assist them.

The two books listed above are accounts of a young girl overcoming both the hardships of poverty and the limited views of a black child becoming a famous ballerina. Both tell the story of Misty Copeland, the prima ballerina of the American Ballet Theatre.

The first text is a dazzling picture book showing Misty Copeland dancing and teaching a young child the possibilities of her learning ballet. In what must be an autobiography, Misty takes this poor, unsure girl and helps her learn the many facets of ballet. As the child grows in confidence, we see her dancing with Copeland in rising leaps and pirouettes.

Christopher Myers’ paintings draw readers into the magic and powers of this beautiful form of dance. Misty Copeland soars through the pages of the book with grace and beauty. The paintings are exquisite, and readers see the caring mentoring of the young girl by Copeland as she grows from a shy child into a beautiful ballerina.

The second book is an early reader. It is a biography of Misty Copeland’s life. Laurie Calkhoven tells the unlikely story of Copeland’s rise to superstardom. The Copeland family was torn by divorce, poverty and racial issues. Though Misty was superbly gifted gymnastically, she never studied ballet until she was 13 years old.

So poor was her family that they once lived in a hotel for long periods of time. Ballet was not part of their world. But fortunately, Misty went to a dance class at 13 years old. There, her immense talents were quickly recognized and a number of people began assisting her in the arduous process of becoming a world-class ballet dancer. After years of hard work and overcoming serious injuries, Copeland became the principal ballerina of the American Ballet Theatre.

How did Misty Copeland become so successful? What positive character traits did she need in order to achieve this great accomplishment? Who helped her along the way? Why does she so much want to help others today? To find out the answers to these questions, go to the library and check out these fine books about a remarkable American, Misty Copeland.

Misty Copeland is one of the very few famous African American ballerinas in the world. Her enormous success is due to her talent, hard work and ability to accept assistance from dance instructors. Misty Copeland’s story is inspirational and can serve as a model for anyone striving to achieve a goal. She stretches herself and develops her gifts which reveals her amazing personhood.

Copeland will dance in Lincoln with the American Ballet Theatre Feb. 16, the day this review is published. She will perform as the lead dancer in the famous Russian ballet, “Firebird,” written by Igor Stravinsky. She is a remarkable woman and one capable of inspiring all of us.

Terrence Nollen




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