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

Beautiful Black Ballerinas

For the last day in our series on Black ballerinas, we are emphasizing the “picture” in picture book with the illustrious photography of Susan Kuklin in Beautiful Ballerina by Marilyn Nelson.

This book features photographs of four real girls from the Dance Theater of Harlem, accompanied by simple, poetic text. It is in a word, “Beautiful!”  Appropriate for younger children with guidance.

Whether to encourage youngsters to pursue their dreams or to take up dance as a way to get off the couch, Beautiful Ballerina is an inspiring book!

Age Range: 7 – 10 years
Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0545089204
ISBN-13: 978-0545089203

Related Materials

Looking for more background information?

This trailer for an upcoming documentary explains some of the struggles being a Black Ballerina.

Do you follow Instagram? Brown Girls Do Ballet® has more beautiful photographs.

Deborah Amadei has suggestions for activities using some of the featured books at Nonfiction Monday.


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leaf-borderSummary of our posts this week about Children’s Books Celebrating Black Ballerinas:

Monday: Michaela DePrince

Tuesday: Misty Copeland

Wednesday: Debbie Allen

Thursday: Janet Collins

Today:  Beautiful Ballerinas