Book Reviews, Bookishness, Mamaishness, Teacherishness

Misty Copeland’s Firebird: Another book for little dancers

A few months back, I shared a few books that the little dancer at my house has loved. Recently, we’ve added one more to that list, so I thought I’d share it today.

Unless you’ve avoided nearly all media outlets, you’ve probably heard of Misty Copeland, who I’d argue is the most famous classical dancer in the world right now. {I think it’s beyond great that a classical dancer is a household name, but that might be a bit of personal bias.} Recently, Copeland was named the first African-American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, and she’s made it her personal mission to involve more children of color in classical dance.


What I didn’t know was that last fall, Copeland published a children’s book called Firebird (IndieBound/Amazon). Illustrated by the amazing Christopher Myers, Firebird is a sort of free-verse poem written from Copeland to an imagined young dancer. Full of encouragement, the text uses the Stravinsky ballet Firebird as a frame for the advice Copeland would give a young girl whose life hasn’t always followed the easiest path.

darling child, don’t you know
you’re just where I started
let the sun shine on your face
your beginning’s just begun

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that my children (ages 3.5 and 5.5) would really like this book. Its intended audience is clearly older, and the style is far from narrative. Something clicked, though, and they’ve asked to have it read repeatedly. Myers’ bold illustrations help move the story’s idea along in a somewhat narrative way, and that may have made the difference for my little readers. As I’m writing this with the book on my lap, the 5.5 year old is singing “Firebird! Firebird!” and dancing around the house, so there’s a ringing endorsement.

The book ends with a letter from Copeland to the reader, where she shares that she wanted to give young dancers a book in which they could see themselves. With Firebird, she has achieved that goal, and probably set in motion more dancing dreams than she realizes.

This four-minute news story contains both an interview with Misty Copeland, and some footage of her dancing. The dancing portion includes some scenes from Firebird, including pictures nearly identical to those Myers used in the book.

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