LIFE IN MOTION

AN UNLIKELY BALLERINA

As Copeland fiercely reminds herself, “This is for the little brown girls”—and any reader in need of inspiration

A ballet milestone was reached when Copeland was named the first African-American principal ballerina at American Ballet Theater.

Copeland begins her memoir with her difficult childhood of many stepfathers and little money. Recognized by local dance teachers as someone with great potential, she was encouraged to take lessons, apply for summer studies, and pursue what ultimately became her realized dream: a career as an elite dancer. Copeland is open about her mixed-race family’s difficulties and how “Dancing was my escape.” She is frank about discussing her enormous talent along with her conflicted feelings about her mother’s role versus those of her teachers who took her in and provided for her, leading to a court battle for emancipation. Famous black performers sought her out and were a source of strength and comfort; she even performed with Prince. Always present, of course, is the fact that the world of ballet is “full of ivory-skinned dancers.” Skin color, hair, and makeup needs set African-American ballet dancers apart, resulting in many instances of prejudice both overt and subtle. In this young readers’ edition of her 2014 memoir of the same name and with Colbert’s assistance, Copeland writes in a conversational tone. She devotes much space to her innate abilities, her ABT career, and her overwhelming desire to succeed and be an inspiration.

As Copeland fiercely reminds herself, “This is for the little brown girls”—and any reader in need of inspiration . (Biography. 11-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7979-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

SHIPWRECKED!

THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF A JAPANESE BOY

The life of Manjiro Nakahama, also known as John Mung, makes an amazing story: shipwrecked as a young fisherman for months on a remote island, rescued by an American whaler, he became the first Japanese resident of the US. Then, after further adventures at sea and in the California gold fields, he returned to Japan where his first-hand knowledge of America and its people earned him a central role in the modernization of his country after its centuries of peaceful isolation had ended. Expanding a passage from her Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (1985, Newbery Honor), Blumberg not only delivers an absorbing tale of severe hardships and startling accomplishments, but also takes side excursions to give readers vivid pictures of life in mid-19th-century Japan, aboard a whaler, and amidst the California Gold Rush. The illustrations, a generous mix of contemporary photos and prints with Manjiro’s own simple, expressive drawings interspersed, are at least as revealing. Seeing a photo of Commodore Perry side by side with a Japanese artist’s painted portrait, or strange renditions of a New England town and a steam train, based solely on Manjiro’s verbal descriptions, not only captures the unique flavor of Japanese art, but points up just how high were the self-imposed barriers that separated Japan from the rest of the world. Once again, Blumberg shows her ability to combine high adventure with vivid historical detail to open a window onto the past. (source note) (Biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17484-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

THE WORLD AT HER FINGERTIPS

THE STORY OF HELEN KELLER

Born in 1880 in a tiny backwater in Alabama, Helen Keller lived a life familiar to many from the play and movie The Miracle Worker, as well as countless biographies. There’s no denying the drama in the story of the deaf and blind child for whom the world of language became possible through a dedicated and fanatically stubborn teacher, Annie Sullivan. But Helen’s life after that is even more remarkable: she went to high school and then to Radcliffe; she was a radical political thinker and a member of the Wobblies; she supported herself by lecture tours and vaudeville excursions as well as through the kindness of many. Dash (The Longitude Prize, p. 1483) does a clear-sighted and absorbing job of examining Annie’s prickly personality and the tender family that she, Helen, and Annie’s husband John Macy formed. She touches on the family pressures that conspired to keep Helen from her own pursuit of love and marriage; she makes vivid not only Helen’s brilliant and vibrant intelligence and personality, but the support of many people who loved her, cared for her, and served her. She also does not shrink from the describing the social and class divisions that kept some from crediting Annie Sullivan and others intent on making Helen into a puppet and no more. Riveting reading for students in need of inspiration, or who’re overcoming disability or studying changing expectations for women. (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-590-90715-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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