illus. by Christopher Myers. 40p. Putnam. Sept. 2014. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9780399166150.
Gr 2–6—A poetic dialogue between an aspiring young dancer and the American Ballet Theater's soloist comprises the text of this stunning picture book. Copeland provides words of encouragement to boost the dreams of an African American girl whose desire to be a ballerina is hampered by her low self-image and lack of confidence. "I was a dancer just like you," Misty tells her, "a dreaming shooting star of a girl/with work and worlds ahead." Copeland's title role in Stravinsky's The Firebird serves as the theme for Myers's signature paint and collage illustrations, which feature full spreads bursting with color and excitement. Elongated forms and slanted geometric shapes are infused with a color palette of browns, yellows, and fiery reds contrasted with cool blues, purples, and splashes of white. Scenes of dynamic action and quiet serenity work together to move the narrative forward, leaving readers with a sense of hope for the future of the young dancer. The author includes a note that discusses her own struggle and need for affirmation, acknowledging those who helped her along the way. A very successful collaboration, appealing to all and particularly valuable to collections on the performing arts.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Think you can simply write off celebrity books? Think again. American Ballet Theatre soloist Copeland is just as graceful with words as she is with her body. Here she addresses the next generation as she imagines a dialogue between herself and a young female African American ballet student who claims she is "gray as rain / heavy as naptime, low as a storm pressing on rooftops." Copeland reassures the girl that she had the same self-doubts, and "darling child, don't you know / you're just where I started." Myers's stunning collages layer strips of thickly painted paper to echo the wings of a firebird (Copeland's signature role), whether they are illustrating the stage curtains or a cloudy sky. His deep, rich colors make even the portraits of the dancers at rest dramatic, and when the dancers are on stage, they seem to fly. The words of the girl appear in italics and the dancer's words in boldface to clearly differentiate between the speakers. In an author's note, Copeland tells us that, as a child, she never saw herself in ballet books; this book encourages today's aspiring dancers of all colors and backgrounds. kathleen t. horning

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