Fearless Heart: An Illustrated Biography of Surya Bonaly

Triumph. Jan. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629379340.
K-Gr 3–This illustrated biography of French figure skater Surya Bonaly is told in poems (“Her Dawn,” “Her Dream,” “Her Rise,” etc.), with artwork as vibrant and glittery as an Olympic routine. Bonaly, who is Black, was adopted and renamed by white parents at 18 months. She showed early talent as a figure skater and worked hard to become the French champion and European champion. However, at the highest levels, it seemed, “The judges didn’t want a/ Black figure skater,/ skating the way she wanted./ And, maybe,/ they didn’t want a/ Black figure skater/ at all.” Refusing to accept second place, Bonaly learned to skate how the judges wanted, but ended her Olympic career by landing a defiant backflip on one skate, a move that has not been attempted before or since. Perhaps due to the poetic nature of the text, some details are unclear, although back matter includes more, along with photographs. Williams’s painterly digital art infuses the dynamism of live figure skating into the spreads; she shows Bonaly in a variety of athletic poses, including her trademark backflip, and wearing different costumes, hairstyles, and makeup. Certain active words in the text are accentuated for their meaning and contribute to the sense of movement the illustrations create.
VERDICT A tad uneven, but with standout illustrations; a good choice for libraries where books about groundbreaking athletes such as Raven Wilkinson (Leda Shubert’s Trailblazer) and Misty Copeland (her own Firebird) are popular.

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