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)