Ballerina Dreams ISBN: 9789780571320
Published by Faber & Faber, 2017
This is a true story about a child from Sierra Leone in West Africa, who lost her parents, then lived in an orphanage, had to make a dangerous escape with the 27 other orphans, was taken to the United States to be adopted, and, finally, became an international ballet star. If that was not enough in her dramatic life, she also suffered from vitiligo, a condition that means she has white spots on her dark skin. In this short chapter book with large print, perfect for children beginning to feel confident about reading, we learn much about Michaela's early life, her sadness in losing her parents, the finding of a magazine cover with the picture of a ballerina on it and her subsequent longings to become one, her time in the orphanage with her best friend, Mia, and being laughed at by the other children because of the vitiligo, their dangerous journey through jungle and mountain, and the lovely meeting with their new mother who happily takes both girls home to America. There, once she and Mia have learned English, they are able to have ballet lessons, and Michaela shows early promise. We get some details about the ballet lessons and her worries that because she is black she may never be able to become a professional dancer. However, all that is in the past, and she is now recognised world-wide to be a prima ballerina. It's a lovely story, all the lovelier because it is true, and Michaela and her mother have written it. Her adoptive family loved their two daughters so much that they have subsequently adopted four more girls from West Africa, after having five sons of their own! What a wonderful family! Told in Michaela's own words, the prose is straightforward and clear, and there is no sense of misery in spite of what must have been a highly difficult early childhood, and the pictures are gentle and perceptive. Ballet loving little girls will enjoy it tremendously, and at the same time, will learn lots that is positive about children with a disability who have grown up in a difficult situation.