Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition)
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition)
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Annotation: The first female African American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history recounts her road to stardom, from her first ballet class to her rise through the professional ranks while dealing with a challenging home life.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #130039
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Publisher: Aladdin
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition Date: 2016
Pages: 186 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-481-47979-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-481-47979-0
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2016036841
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Copeland brings her adult memoir to a middle-grade audience with this young readers edition. Much of the nation has been captured by her power and grace as a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), an incredible accomplishment made all the more notable because she's the first African American to hold the position. The challenges of being a person of color in the traditionally white classical ballet world occupy much of the book, but just as resonant are the personal stories she tells of growing up with little money in an unstable home. Even with amazing natural ability and the "perfect" ballerina's body, Copeland still had to work unbelievably hard to achieve her dream of joining the ABT, and the descriptions of hours-long rehearsals and painful injuries drive this home. Devoted to equal opportunities within the arts, the petite ballerina continues to make a sizable impact both on and off the stage. Dancers in particular will be drawn to Copeland's story, but everyone will be inspired by her soaring spirit, caring heart, and fierce determination.
Horn Book
With Brandy Colbert. In this adaptation of her adult autobiography, Copeland chronicles her path to becoming a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre--the first-ever African American ballerina to achieve that distinction. Engaging prose frankly details obstacles to her hard-won success: poverty, family strife, body shame, injury, and, most significantly, racism. An inspiring, approachable memoir of an extraordinary dancer committed to making ballet accessible to all.
Kirkus Reviews
A ballet milestone was reached when Copeland was named the first African-American principal ballerina at American Ballet Theater. Copeland begins her memoir with her difficult childhood of many stepfathers and little money. Recognized by local dance teachers as someone with great potential, she was encouraged to take lessons, apply for summer studies, and pursue what ultimately became her realized dream: a career as an elite dancer. Copeland is open about her mixed-race family's difficulties and how "Dancing was my escape." She is frank about discussing her enormous talent along with her conflicted feelings about her mother's role versus those of her teachers who took her in and provided for her, leading to a court battle for emancipation. Famous black performers sought her out and were a source of strength and comfort; she even performed with Prince. Always present, of course, is the fact that the world of ballet is "full of ivory-skinned dancers." Skin color, hair, and makeup needs set African-American ballet dancers apart, resulting in many instances of prejudice both overt and subtle. In this young readers' edition of her 2014 memoir of the same name and with Colbert's assistance, Copeland writes in a conversational tone. She devotes much space to her innate abilities, her ABT career, and her overwhelming desire to succeed and be an inspiration. As Copeland fiercely reminds herself, "This is for the little brown girls"—and any reader in need of inspiration. (Biography. 11-16)
School Library Journal
Gr 4&11;7&12; Although Copeland didn't begin her ballet training until the age of 13, she transcended the competition in just five years' time and became a professional dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. Despite Copeland's extraordinary natural talent, her dance career has not been an easy one. In this young readers edition of her 2014 autobiography, she relates her experiences growing up in a low-income, single-parent family and recounts the custody battle between her mother and her dance teacher. Copeland goes on to describe the challenges of her life as a professional ballerina, most notably her isolation as a black artist in a predominantly white field. She writes that "some people still notice [her] skin color before they notice [her] talent" and that others "simply don't believe brown girls have a place in classical ballet." While Copeland's overall tone is conversational, her frank discussion of race is serious and relevant to tween readers. She expresses gratitude for her numerous friends and supporters and recalls her delight at certain opportunities and roles, such as her collaboration with Prince and her landmark performance as the Firebird in 2012. Copeland closes her book by saying that she wants young dancers to "look at what I've accomplished and realize they can achieve this dream, too." VERDICT Copeland's story will interest, inform, and inspire budding ballerinas and deserves a place in every library that serves middle grade readers.&12; Magdalena Teske, Naperville Public Library, IL
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
ALA Booklist (11/1/16)
Horn Book (8/1/17)
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal (12/1/16)
Wilson's Children's Catalog
Wilson's Junior High Catalog
Word Count: 35,230
Reading Level: 6.4
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 6.4 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 186104 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.7 / points:11.0 / quiz:Q69944
Lexile: 890L
Life in Motion

chapter 1

FOR AS LONG AS I can remember, I’ve led a life in motion.

When I was two years old, I rode a bus from Kansas City, Missouri, to our new home in Southern California. I was the youngest back then, with two older brothers, Doug and Chris, and an older sister named Erica. Mommy moved us away from our father to a sunny suburb of Los Angeles called Bellflower, where we would live with her new husband, Harold.

I don’t remember the bus ride, but when I think back to those years, I always remember my time with Harold. He liked jokes and he had a great laugh, one that would make everyone around him laugh too. My baby sister, Lindsey, was born after we’d lived with Harold for three years, so I wasn’t the youngest anymore. But even with five of us kids to look after, Harold would find time to spend alone with each of us. I loved when I’d sit on the couch with him, eating sunflower seeds.

But when I was seven, Mommy decided we needed to leave our home again. Without Harold. And Lindsey was coming with us. This was the second time Mommy had packed us up and moved us to a new place, and we didn’t know why. We loved Harold. Later, she would tell us he drank too much. He was an alcoholic. He mostly hid it from me and my brothers and sisters. But when I remember Harold, I don’t think of the beer cans that always sat on the nightstand he shared with Mommy. I remember how kind he was and how he made waffles for Lindsey and me on Saturday mornings while we watched cartoons.

This time we moved only about twenty miles away, to a community in Los Angeles called San Pedro. Even though we were in a big city, San Pedro felt like a storybook town, where we had bonfires on the beach and took school field trips to a lighthouse. Part of the Port of Los Angeles is located in San Pedro, where goods like furniture, clothes, and car parts are shipped in.

Our new house was close to the Pacific Ocean, with a big front yard and a view of Catalina Island. It also had a new stepfather, named Robert. We missed Harold, and it didn’t take long to notice the differences between Mommy’s old husband and her new one. Robert was stricter. He made us do chores around the house, and we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the dining room table instead of on the couch in front of the TV.

Robert called me “little Hawaiian girl” and said I looked like his family. Like me, he was of mixed ancestry. His family had roots in Hawaii, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, and Japan. Mommy had been adopted by an African American couple, but her biological parents were Italian and black. Our father, whom we left in Missouri, was also biracial, with a black father and a German mother.

I guess I did look a bit more like Robert’s family than my brothers and sisters, but I didn’t think about that when we were together. I loved them, and we were a united force. Still, the way I looked mattered to Robert, and especially to his family. Everyone knew I was Robert’s favorite, and soon it became clear that his family felt the same way. I went over to his parents’ house in the summer, where Grandma Marie taught me how to sew clothing for my dolls. But Doug, Chris, Erica, and Lindsey almost never came with me. And Robert’s father, Grandpa Martin, would hide in his bedroom when all of us visited. I don’t remember him ever speaking to me or my brothers and sisters.

Robert was strict about us kids helping clean up around the house. We would get in trouble if we didn’t follow his rules. He made us stand in the corner without talking. Doug and Chris were punished more often than us girls, though. They’d have to stare at the wall for at least an hour, and sometimes Robert would make them stand completely still as they balanced a thick book on their heads. I didn’t like when they were being disciplined, especially when Robert was particularly mean. Like when he dragged Chris across the house by his ear. Or worse, when Robert got so mad that he hit Chris with a frying pan.

But he didn’t stop there. When Chris and Doug would argue with each other, Robert made them work it out by boxing in the backyard. “Since you guys can’t agree, you’ll have to fight it out,” he would say.

We all became so scared of him that we tried our best to make sure the house was always in perfect order when he was home. We avoided him as much as we could. My big sister, Erica, slept over at her friend’s house, and I would spend a lot of time with Doug and Chris in the room they shared, listening to music by our favorite hip-hop groups. But no matter how hard we tried to stay out of his way, Robert would find a reason to be mad at us. And he was almost always mad at our baby sister.

Lindsey resembled her father, Harold, and her African features were more pronounced than the rest of ours. Robert didn’t like this, and he blamed her for everything. I was shocked the first time I heard him call her the N word. But soon the slur would flow so freely from his mouth that none of us were surprised.

Mommy was scared of Robert, too. She’d complain about him when he wasn’t around, but when he was being terrible to us, she wouldn’t say anything. She didn’t shield us from him, but she didn’t protect herself, either. After a while, our mother couldn’t hide the bruises Robert would leave on her skin.

Mommy’s adoptive parents had given her a good home, but she was still young when they’d died. She’d had a hard childhood, moving a lot to stay with different family members. Sometimes we wondered if that’s why she moved us around so much.

One day, after we’d been living with Robert for about four years, Mommy told us we were leaving him forever. “We’ve got to get out of here,” she said, so scared that she whispered even when he wasn’t around. “Robert can’t have a hint that we’re leaving. When it’s time, I’ll let you know.”

Knowing that we were leaving him soon made it easier to deal with Robert’s anger and unpredictable moods. And then, one day, it was time to go. Robert left for work in the morning, like usual, but instead of leaving for her job, our mother stayed home. She flung open the door to the room I shared with Erica and said, “Today’s the day.”

By that time, we had a baby brother, Cameron, Mommy’s son with Robert. We all rushed around the house, cramming our suitcases with as many of our belongings as would fit. A strange car pulled up to the house then, driven by a man we didn’t know. He didn’t look anything like Robert. He was a tall white man with brown hair and glasses.

We quickly learned he was there to help, and he began loading our bags into his car. Mommy told us his name was Ray. He was our mother’s new boyfriend.

Excerpted from Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina Young Readers Edition by Misty Copeland
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

A bestselling and prize-winning memoir by African-American ballerina Misty Copeland, Life in Motion is the vividly told story of her journey to the world-class American Ballet Theatre—and delves into the harrowing family conflicts that nearly drove her away from ballet as a thirteen-year-old prodigy.

Determination meets dance in this New York Times bestselling memoir by the history-making ballerina Misty Copeland, recounting the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. When she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers . A true prodigy, she was attempting in months roles that take most dancers years to master. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life, she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider’s passion, Misty opens a window into the life of an artist who lives life center stage, from behind the scenes at her first classes to her triumphant roles in some of the world’s most iconic ballets. A sensational memoir as “sensitive” and “clear-eyed” (The Washington Post) as her dancing, Life in Motion is a story of passion, identity and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

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