Tag Archives: Misty Copeland


Written by: Misty Copeland with Charisse Jones

Illustrated by: Christopher Myers

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Trailblazers, POC-Centric Narratives, Poetry, Ballet, Historical Figure, Historical Events, Art, Growing Up, Hard Work, Inspiration. 

Summary: This book is a beautiful conversation between trailblazing ballerina Misty Copeland and a young hopeful.  Lyrical text and flowing illustrations help capture the long road to becoming a professional dancer.  Copeland is encouraging as she talks about the thousands of repetitions she’s done, perfecting each move and stance before even taking the stage to perform.

Copeland writes to inspire and ensure young dancers of color that they can accomplish their dreams, despite them seeming far off.  She ends the book with a personal letter talking about how she didn’t see herself reflected in ballet books, and hopes that by continuing to dance and publish books, she can help inspire future generations of dancers and be the mirror she needed when she was their age.

Like so many other areas, diversity in professional dance has a long way to go.  Misty Copeland is only the second African American soloist at the American Ballet Theatre.  She strives to be the person she needed when younger, and this message resonates with us.  While we are white, we are LGBTQ and want to be the people we needed to see when we were younger: happy, successful, and making the world a better place.  With stunning illustrations, Myers brings Copeland’s message to life in the most beautiful way possible.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

web_header_inspiredBorn in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen. At fifteen, she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. Misty joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000, joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001, and in August 2007 became the company’s second African American female Soloist and the first in two decades. In June 2015, Misty was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history.

In 2008, Misty was honored with the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, a two-year fellowship awarded to young artists who exhibit extraordinary talent providing them additional resources in order to attain their full potential.  Performing a variety of classical and contemporary roles, one of Misty’s most important roles was performing the title role in Firebird, created on her in 2012 with new choreography by much sought after choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. In December 2014, Misty performed the lead role of “Clara” in American Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker, also choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. In the fall of 2014, she made history as the first black woman to perform the lead role of “Odette/Odile” in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake during the company’s inaugural tour to Australia. Misty reprised the role during ABT’s Metropolitan Opera House spring season in June 2015, as well as debuted as “Juliet” in Romeo & Juliet.

Misty’s passion is giving back. She has worked with many charitable organizations and is dedicated to giving of her time to work with and mentor young girls and boys. In 2014, President Obama appointed Misty to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

Misty is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, Life in Motion, co-written with award-winning journalist and author Charisse Jones, published March 2014. She has a picture book titled Firebird in collaboration with award-winning illustrator and author Christopher Myers, published September 2014.  She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford in November 2014 for her contributions to classical ballet and helping to diversify the art form.

qY71wcZ0_400x400Charisse Jones works for USA Today, is a journalist, and assisted in the writing of Firebird. 








72414356_thChristopher Myers is a multimedia artist, author, and playwright from New York City born in 1974. Myers earned his B.A. in Art-Semiotics and American Civilization with focus on race and culture from Brown University in 1995. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally at venues including MoMA PS1, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Mistake Room at Paos GDL, Akron Art Museum, Contrast Gallery Shanghai, Goethe-Institut Ghana, Kigali Genocide Memorial Center Rwanda, San Art Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, and The Studio Museum Harlem. Myers won a Caldecott Honor in 1998 for his illustrations in the book Harlem and a Coretta Scott King Award in 2016 for illustrating Firebird with Misty Copeland. Myers currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson

Written by: Leda Schubert

Illustrated by: Theodore Taylor III

For Ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Trailblazer, POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Acceptance, Courage, Perseverance.

Summary: This book follows the story of Raven Wilkinson, the first black ballerina to tour with a major American touring troupe.  Raven became fascinated with ballet when she was young, and was gifted lessons at the age of 9.  While attending Columbia University, Raven auditioned several times for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and finally was accepted on her third attempt in 1955.  This company toured for several months at a time by bus.  Raven began touring shortly after the Brown v. the Board of Education ruling that desegregated schools in 1954, and met some resistance from those who felt performance stages should not feature events with both black and white dancers sharing the stage.  In some states, it was even illegal.  In these places, Raven would sometimes lighten her skin with makeup before going onstage.  Raven was courageous and persevered, never denying who she was even when it came to getting kicked out of a hotel or having people rush the stage in Alabama.  During that same tour, Raven and the other dancers were in the hotel dining room when she noticed Klan robes in a booth.  She chose not to perform that evening and instead stayed in her hotel watching a cross burning in the night.  In 1962, Raven left Ballet Russe and joined a convent for 7 months until she was offered a spot in the Dutch National Ballet in Holland.  Raven lived there for 7 years and even danced for Queen Juliana of the Netherlands!  When Raven returned to the USA, she danced until she was 50 with the New York City Opera in 1985, and acted until 2011 when the opera closed.  In 2015, Misty Copeland became the first African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater.  Raven was at Misty’s performance of playing both Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, even joined her onstage at the end of the performance!

This book is a fantastic story of a little-known American hero.  It covers our country’s racism during this time in an age-appropriate manner, and shows that it can be overcome with determination without compromising personal values.  This book is important for students learning about our country’s history, as well as any aspiring dancer!

Reflection Questions:

  • Dancing made Raven happier than anything else.  What makes you happier than anything else?
  • How do you think Raven felt when people judged her on her skin color?
  • Sometimes courage is needed to do something scary or new.  When is a time that you showed courage?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • There isn’t always easy access or representation in some lines of work.  What is something that you might like to do, but don’t see someone that looks like you doing it?  Science, dance, teaching, anybody can do anything!  Research some famous figures doing a job that interests you, and find the diversity within.
  • Brainstorm as a class ways you can make everyone feel included and valued in your classroom.  Every person is both the same and different than other people, but every individual is important.  Make sure when newcomers join your class, they know it is a safe space that values everyone’s interests and personal identities.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

leda schubertLeda Schubert was the school library consultant for the Vermont Department of Education, and she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She is the author of Monsieur Marceau, Feeding the Sheep, Ballet of the Elephants, and other books.


theodore taylor IIITheodore Taylor III is an illustrator living in Richmond, VA with his wife Sarah and son Theo. He works as a front-end web developer by day and illustrates children’s books by night. He studied Communication Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University where he honed his skills in drawing, design and photography. His work is inspired by his love for music, comics, animation, video games, street art and more. He is also a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur. In 2014 he received the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award for his work in When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop. The book also won the Texas Bluebonnet Award. He also recently illustrated three books for Shaquille O’Neal and Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson. You can contact him via email at trtaylor3@gmail.com!