A title sure to attract ballet aficionados, with added appeal for its depiction of an adoptive family and a ballerina who...

This autobiographical title for newly independent readers will reward efforts with an inspiring story about ballerina Michaela DePrince’s life and passion for dance.

Orphaned as a young child in Sierra Leone, Michaela is a shy girl whose vitiligo causes a loss of pigmentation on parts of her body. This makes her an easy target for teasing, but another child at the orphanage, Mia, befriends her. Another bright spot occurs when she is transfixed by a magazine picture of a ballerina. When an American family adopts her and Mia, their new mother promises that they will study ballet. Michaela’s dreams come true, and she overcomes her shyness in order to perform as a ballerina. The narrative is broken up into chapters detailing her ongoing achievements, and difficult vocabulary is followed by parenthetical phonetic spellings to support decoding. Photographs document Michaela’s life, including images of her time in the orphanage and of her participation in a film entitled First Position, among other highlights. These are interspersed with illustrations that depict ballet positions and Michaela on stage and in class. At its heart is the core message that hard work and determination are the keys to making any dream come true. 

A title sure to attract ballet aficionados, with added appeal for its depiction of an adoptive family and a ballerina who just happens to be black. (Early reader/memoir. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-75516-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014


A lovely vision for small, sensitive existentialists.

Under the desert night sky, Dad helps his child find cosmic comfort.

The vast universe has made a child feel too small despite their close family. Until, the young narrator tells us, they and their father pack their old pickup, driving through the “rubber and french fries” smell of the city and the “sweet and smoky” mountain scent to camp off-road in a remote arroyo. Together they see tiny beetle prints, jump in sand dunes, name birds, build a fire, watch the sunset, and stretch out in the truck bed. A thoughtful, small human, the child admits to being scared of “how big the universe is and how it goes on and on forever.” But equally thoughtful Dad explains that stars, beetles, birds, and even people are made of energy. Angst is not easily tamed, but snuggling and giving the constellations idiosyncratic names help, as does Mom’s back-at-home surprise: glowing stars covering the narrator’s room. In this bed under the stars, this budding philosopher finally feels “at home here in the universe.” It’s a quiet, contemplative tale that might not strike a chord with all readers but will reassure those who share the protagonist’s worries. Delicate, realistic art plays warm orange and brown hues against blues from pale to indigo, balancing (living) warmth and (interstellar) distance. The child and family are light-skinned and redheaded. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A lovely vision for small, sensitive existentialists. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1239-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023


An important reminder that, in the quest for friendship, who you truly are is more than enough.

Ivan, a young Black boy with a big, beautiful Afro, is such a skilled street skater that his friends have nicknamed him Epic.

When he and his family move to a new inner-city neighborhood, for the first time he finds himself without a clique to cheer him on or learn new skating stunts from. “You never landed a new trick on the first try,” his dad reminds him. “Keep an open mind, and you’ll meet new friends.” In an attempt to fit in with the neighborhood kids, Epic tries his hand at various other sports without success. Seeing his discouragement, his parents suggest that he skate down to the bodega for a treat. On his way there, Epic performs a scintillating series of skateboarding maneuvers, unaware that several kids of various ages are observing him with great interest. Only when he arrives at the bodega does he realize that he’s unwittingly found himself a new skating crew. Morrison’s upbeat narrative slides along smoothly, mirroring the energy and panache of its protagonist, and at times slips comfortably into African American Vernacular English. Skateboarding terminology is scattered liberally throughout the text, but readers unfamiliar with the jargon will feel the lack of a glossary. Morrison's illustrations—rendered in oil with their trademark graffiti-inspired, urban mannerist style—use interesting perspectives, silhouetting, and continuous narration to create a free-wheeling sense of Epic’s, well, epicness. Most characters are Black; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

An important reminder that, in the quest for friendship, who you truly are is more than enough. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0592-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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