Black Ballerinas by Misty Copeland

Back in 2015, we did a series of review posts of picture books about black ballerinas.

Imagine our delight when we discovered the middle grade collection of biographies, Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy by superstar ballerina Misty Copeland and illustrated by Salena Barnes.

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Unlike most nonfiction biography collections, Misty Copeland’s approach is a very personal one. Told in the first person, each biography reflects how twenty-five different black ballerinas have influenced her career (“My Journey” in the title). In many ways it is Misty Copeland’s memoir.

Misty Copeland didn’t have a lot of exposure to ballet or prominent black dancers as a child. She was in her late teens when she saw black ballerina Lauren Anderson on a magazine cover for the first time. Seeing Lauren  inspired Misty and showed her that she wasn’t alone, that her dream to be a ballerina wasn’t impossible. Black Ballerinas was conceived to allow other youngsters see themselves as dancers.

The illustrations by Salena Barnes are equally inspiring. She captures the motion, the grace, and the magic of ballet on the page, while at the same time revealing the unique person who is the ballerina. Gorgeous! Beautiful! Breathtaking!

Black Ballerinas is a must have for young black dancers and aspiring ballerinas, but also would be lovely for anyone interested in music and dance to enjoy.


You can see more about Misty and the book in this interview:

Wise words to live by:  “Be open to guidance and advice. ”

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 10 years and up
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Aladdin (November 2, 2021)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1534474242
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1534474246

Children’s Books About African-American Ballerinas: Michaela DePrince

This week the spotlight is on children’s books featuring African-American ballerinas.


Why choose books about African-American ballerinas? First of all, because there are a lot of great reasons to read diversely.

10-reasons-to-read-diverselySecondly, because a lot of good things can come from studying ballet, but not everyone is exposed to it at a young age. Personally, I discovered ballet when I went to college, when it was way too late to dream of becoming a dancer. Regardless, taking ballet classes reduced the stress of attending college, made me stronger, more coordinated, more self confident, and gave me a life-long appreciation for ballet. Studying ballet takes also takes a great deal of commitment and hard work, which are skills that apply to many avenues in life.

Finally, the featured books are likely to inspire children to explore their passions fully, no matter what those passions are.

To start the week, we have two books about the amazing true story of Michaela DePrince.

Young readers will enjoy Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer (Step Into Reading, Step 4) by Michaela and Elaine DePrince and illustrated by Frank Morrison.

Left an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela suffered bullying because she had a skin condition. While still at the orphanage, however, Michaela found a photograph of a ballerina in a magazine and it made such an impression on her that she carried it with her wherever she went. After Michaela and her friend Mia were adopted by Elaine DePrince and moved to America, her new mother recognized Michaela’s interest in ballet and arranged for her to start dance lessons. Now Michaela dances with the Dutch National Ballet.

The book is illustrated with a mix of period photographs and Frank Morrison’s warm, creative paintings.

Ballerina Dreams is a marvelous introduction to biographies for young readers. It is a must read for aspiring dancers, as well.

Age Range: 7 – 9 years
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0385755155
ISBN-13: 978-0385755153

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerinaby Michaela DePrince and Elaine Deprince

In this memoir written for an older audience, Michaela tells her amazing, inspiring story in deeper detail.

This video book trailer says it all:

Taking Flight deserves a wide audience. Who wouldn’t be moved by this wondrous story?

Age Range: 12 and up
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0385755112
ISBN-13: 978-0385755115

Disclosure: Both of these books were from the library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

leaf-borderVisit our other posts about Children’s Books Celebrating African-American Ballerinas:

Tuesday:  Misty Copeland

Wednesday:  Debbie Allen

Thursday:  Janet Collins

Friday:  Beautiful (African-American) Ballerina


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

The Iron Butterfly

Way back in June I read The Iron Butterfly: Memoir of a Martial Arts Master by Choon-Ok Harmon with Ana María Rodríguez for the 48 Hour Book Challenge.
It is a powerful book and I wanted to tell you more about it. Because I normally review children’s books, just be aware that some of the events in Harmon’s life are traumatic, including a sexual attack, and it is for more mature readers.

The Iron Butterfly is a memoir by a woman who, against great odds, became a master of the Korean martial art, Kuk Sool Won. Born during the economic turmoil of post-war Korea, Choon-Ok survived an impoverished childhood where her family had to scrounge for food to have one meager meal per day. She was not allowed to attend school because her family had no money to pay the fees. When her family moved to the city, she wanted to study martial arts. She had an opportunity to learn when her sister married Chief Master of a school. Eventually she came to the United States via an arranged marriage to an American who studied the same form of martial arts. Yes, the two of them corresponded by mail and had only met once before she came to the United States to be married!

Once married, the two continued to hone their martial arts skills and also developed and still run adojang (a school) for Kuk Sool Won. Despite many obstacles, Choon-Ok Harmon was promoted to Ninth Dahn in 2008, making her the highest ranked woman in her field of martial arts.

The book is illustrated with numerous black and white photographs. Also included is a an appendix with “Favorite Korean and American Recipes,” more information about Korean female divers or Haenyo (Choon-Ok Harmon’s mother was one of these special divers), and suggestions for further reading.

Curious about the martial art Kuk Sool Won, I found this video. Based on the photographs in the book, it appears that both Choon-Ok Harmon and her husband are in the video, although they are not identified.


This memoir is an inspiring testament to the strength of one woman’s spirit that will stick with you long after reading it.

For more videos :
Interview with authors

Demonstration of Kuk Sool Won by the Harmons

Iron Butterfly book trailer

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Pelican Publishing (February 8, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781589808904
ISBN-13: 978-1589808904