One Ballerina’s Dream

Kristy Dempsey, illus. by Floyd Cooper. Philomel, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25284-6
Growing up in 1950s Harlem, a girl dreams of being a ballerina, despite the huge obstacles of segregation and poverty. She’s urged on by her hardworking mother, mentored by the Ballet Master (who allows her “to join lessons each day/ from the back of the room,/ even though I can’t perform/ onstage with white girls”), and inspired by Janet Collins, the “first colored prima ballerina,” who makes her debut at Metropolitan Opera while the girl sits in the balcony with her mother. “It’s like Miss Collins is dancing for me,/ only for me,” she thinks as she imagines herself leaping through the air alongside the beautiful, supremely confident Collins, “showing me who I can be.” Although Dempsey’s (Surfer Chick) prose-poem tends to be somber and sentimental, Cooper’s (Max and the Tag-Along Moon) velvety, peach-hued pictures have passion, energy, and even flashes of humor, making the girl feel like a fully lived character. The story covers familiar inspirational territory, but has the benefit of serving as a brief introduction to the pioneering Collins. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Kendra Marcus, BookStop Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/2013
Release date: 01/02/2014
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