As more attention is given to racial equality, many book enthusiasts have created lists highlighting works by black authors, illustrators, and poets. While it is important to read books about the shameful atrocities of our nation’s past, we cannot limit our reading experience of the black community to slavery and Jim Crow laws. Children should be able to find books that feature black children doing the things many children love to do.
Beautiful Ballerina is such a book, celebrating young black dancers. Poet Marilyn Nelson’s lovely, lyrical verse matches with Susan Kuklin’s expressive photographs of young dancers from Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Here are three things I like about this book:
- Nelson’s words are as graceful as the ballerinas pictured. I love her repetition of “Beautiful ballerina, you are the dance.”
- Kuklin expertly captures photographs of ballerinas in motion, which I have to believe is not easy to do, especially in children who may not have quite achieved the body control of adult dancers. The solid color backgrounds accentuates the dancers’ presence, beautiful poses, and long lines.
- Although Misty Copeland’s success has opened doors for young black ballet dancers, there is still a lingering stigma black girls don’t fit the profile of the ideal ballerina. This book turns that ridiculous notion on its head.
Beautiful Ballerina is a celebration of grace, strength, and beauty and makes one marvel at how ballerinas do what they do. My own ballerina loved this book. I recommend this book for all readers, and it will especially inspire young female dancers (alas, there are no male dancers in this book) between ages four to ten.