Along with the raving reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly, Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins has received another starred review from Shelf Awareness!
“In steady, simple verse, Michelle Meadows tells the story of Janet Collins, ‘the first African American prima ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera House.’ Opening with a beaming, young Janet, the text introduces the reader to the dancer: ‘This is the girl, who danced in the breeze.’ Her family supported her desire to dance and her mother made costumes to pay for lessons. But ‘this is the time/ way back in the day,/ when dance schools turned/ black students away.’ Janet persevered. She found private trainers and, when she was told she could not dance professionally, she danced anyway, learning from trailblazers like Carmelita Maracci, Lester Horton and Katherine Dunham. By the time she was hired by the Metropolitan, she was already a ‘versatile, award-winning performer.’
Writing in verse is no easy talk, and Meadow’s text almost never stumbles, keeping metronomic time with Ebony Glenn’s illustrations of soaring, spinning Janet. Glenn’s digital art is full of movement, the dancers sketches in long, sinuous lines, the earth-toned shades of their clothing blending out into the background as they move. Where the other dancers wear whites and pinks, Janet’s clothing pops in bold reds and yellows and elegant black, alaways keeping her, her struggle and her talent the focal point. And when the verse does not make the full story clear (such as when ‘the dancer/who found her way in…learned she would/have to lighten her skin’), an author’s note gives detail, rounding out Janet’s incredible story. (Janet ‘could only join the Ballet Russe on the condition that she paint her skin white.’ She refused.) An enchanting biography.”
—Siân Gaetano, children’s and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
On another happy note, Kirkus Reviews featured Brave Ballerina today on their website with the article “Women Who Broke the Rules” by Julie Danielson. Feel free to read by clicking here.
What a great way to begin black history month!