Michaela & Elaine DePrince
Faber Children, 2017
80pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Many a young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and so it was for Michaela DePrince after she saw a picture of a girl in a tutu in a magazine. Sound familiar? Probably. But life for Michaela was very different than that of many of the girls we know. She was an orphan living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents were killed in the war and teased unmercifully by the other children because she suffered from vitiligo, a condition that affects the pigment of the skin. They called her Spots and “the devil’s child”!
How does a little girl from such a background become a leading dancer in a world that valued a different sort of beauty to hers? Currently the Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company for the 2016-2017 ballet season, Michaela tells her story in this specially adapted version of her memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and hope, a message which she constantly shares with other disadvantaged children in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.
Perfect for those who dream of being ballerinas, it is also a story of following your dreams and being willing to put in the hard work that it takes to achieve them. Ideal for newly independent readers, with short chapters, larger fonts and many illustrations, it can also introduce autobiographies to young readers showing them that there is much to learn, enjoy and inspire in this genre.
Just after she was adopted and living in the USA she watched a video of The Nutcracker; when she was eight she auditioned for and won a role as a polichinelle girl in the ballet, and vowed that one day she would be the first black Sugar Plum fairy. She achieved that in 2015.
As Michaela writes, “It doesn’t matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer or a ballerina. “Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practice every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.”