The Children's Bookshelf: Black Ballerinas - January 24, 2022
Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy written by Misty Copeland, the first female African American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, and illustrated by Salena Barnes, a talented Berlin based artist is beautifully researched and exquisitely illustrated. This book celebrates the stories of 27 Black ballerinas born between 1917 and 1998. It includes how they first became aware of the ballet, when they were hooked by the ballet, how they handled discrimination as a Black ballerina and where they each made their contributions to the art form.
Within the stories of these 27 ballerinas the reader is given specific ideas of how Copeland heard about each or met some or was mentored by some or, as in the case of Erica Lall, how Copeland became a mentor herself.
Every story is accompanied by a quotation from that ballerina about what ballet means to her. Francesca Hayward says, “Ballet is healing for the soul.” Ashley Murphy Wilson calls ballet “a way to discover what it is to be alive.” “It’s another kind of beauty,” says Virginia Johnson. And, Lauren Anderson says, “What’s wonderful about being a ballerina is being able to tell a story without saying a single word.”
The 27 illustrations by Selena Barnes are awesome. This skillful artist presents each ballerina in an amazing dance position and poised to take the next step right off the page.
Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy written by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Salena Barnes is a beautiful and honest resource for readers 10 years of age and UP (Aladdin / an imprint of Simon and Schuster, 2021).
The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.
Activity Questions for Black Ballerinas
The illustrations in this book are exceptional. Select 10 of the pictures of the ballerinas that are your favorites. Be sure to study facial expressions, the position of arms, legs, feet, fingers and the look of the costume. With this visual information give each of your ten selected illustrations a name. Let your imagination fly!