Prather’s Pick: A picture book written by a ballerina
In “Firebird,” this week’s picture book for children, ballerina Misty Copeland draws from her own experiences to help a young girl, an aspiring dancer, reach her goal.
The young dancer sees herself as “gray as rain, heavy as naptime,” but through dedication, hard work, and guidance from Misty Copeland, the young girl is on her way to being a ballerina herself, perhaps one day even the role of firebird. The story is told all in verse.
According to her brief biography in the book, Misty began her work in ballet at the age of 13. In just a short time she became a soloist at the American Ballet Theatre, “only the second African American soloist in the theatre’s history and the first in more than two decades.” Her most important role to date is the title role in “The Firebird,” thus the name of this week’s book.
Misty knows firsthand what it takes to become a ballerina — in fact, what it takes for boys and girls to reach their dreams. She credits others for helping her reach her dream so now her mission is to give back by mentoring children. She has been honored with induction into the Boys & Girls Club National Hall of Fame.
The book’s artwork by Christopher Myers is truly spectacular. Since I don’t have a background in art, it is hard for me to describe the illustrations. Misty and the young dancer appear to have been painted on collage-like backgrounds. The collages were perhaps made by “cutting and pasting” papers of a variety of colors and textures on a background. In two cases, night-time city scenes were produced from by using cut-outs of buildings from photographs.
Especially striking is an illustration of Misty as the firebird as she dances in front of a dark background.
Christopher Myers has received several awards for his work. He is the award-winning author and illustrator of Caldecott Honoree “Harlem.” (The Caldecott award is given to a book for illustration.) He has also received two Coretta Scott King honors, three Boston Globe Horn Book Honors, and a “New York Times” Best Illustrated Award.
The book ends with a letter to the reader from Mist Copeland. It’s an inspirational message for boys and girls about empowerment, about the importance of finding ones voice.
“Firebird” is a must read for children and adults with a love for ballet, but it’s also a book with a message for everyone.
The book is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an Imprint of Penguin Group, 2015. The hardcover book costs $17.99 or you can find the book in the Children’s Room at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries.
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