Friday, November 21, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Firebird by Misty Copeland

It's Day 21 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. Last night we finished rereading Charlotte's Web to Sprout - his kindergarten teacher read it to the class and he loved it so much, he checked it out from the school library and brought it home to reread. I adore seeing Sprout's fondness for books deepen and grow, and to hear him say, as we finished the last chapter, "I just love that story." Melts this mama's heart!

Tonight's pick is one that also melts my heart, because it's such an important example of representation. Firebird is a picture book by acclaimed American ballerina Misty Copeland. Copeland is the third African American soloist in the American Ballet Theatre, the only one in the past twenty years. She's written Firebird as though she's speaking to a young dancer who dreams of being a professional ballerina, but feels her goals are out of reach. Copeland explains in her author's note that she never saw herself in books about ballet when she was a child, and hopes to change that with this book.

Christopher Myers did the illustrations for Firebird, and as you might expect from Myers, the pictures are amazing. Somehow he's captured the fluidity and light and motion of ballet in static images, using color and texture to set off the figures that fly across the pages. Copeland's text is poetic and lyrical, sure to be an inspiration to young ballerinas. And it's lovely to see ballerinas with gorgeous brown skin, their costuming a match for their incredible athleticism. Major points to Copeland for using her fame to increase representation for young ballerinas of color.

Firebird is a stellar title that belongs on every aspiring ballerina's bookshelf -- while celebrity picture books rarely make my must list, this one deserves its place!

Firebird by Misty Copeland, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons

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