A true story: Ballerina dreams by Michaela and Elaine DePrince

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Faber and Faber, 2017. ISBN 9780571329731
(Age: 7-10) Recommended. At first, with its pink background and cute dancer on the cover I thought this was another ballerina story for young girls but Ballerina dreams is a lot more than that. Written by Michaela DePrince and her adoptive mother Elaine, this story reveals Michaela's amazing journey from being an abandoned orphan in Sierra Leone, West Africa, to an international ballet dancer.
Michaela describes how she felt alone and valueless because as well as loosing her parents she had a skin complaint called vitiligo. Vitiligo made her skin loose some of its colour and she had noticeable white spots on her chest and neck. This made her even more of an outsider.
By chance, Michaela finds a torn page showing a picture of a ballerina, blowing in the wind. Immediately she decides that is what she wants to be. An amazing dream for an orphan with only one friend but this is exactly what happens. She is sent to America and meets her new mother, Elaine DePrince who supports her goals.
The book is aimed for year 2-4 students and the story has been adapted for that age group but I listened to Michaela on a TED talk describe the horrors she saw and experienced before arriving in the USA. Yet her message is clear,
'It doesn't matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer, or a ballerina. Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practise every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.'
The book fits easily into a young hand and has simple but effective illustrations on most pages. It will appeal to young aspiring ballerinas and they will learn a lot about the power of love and conviction.
Watch Michaela dance on YouTube.
Jane Moore