Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins
Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins
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Annotation: Presents the story of a remarkable pioneer, who was the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, in a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #181417
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Illustrator: Glenn, Ebony,
Pages: 32
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-250-12773-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-250-12773-0
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2018020972
Dimensions: 29 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Told in verse, this picture-book biography of Janet Collins joins a growing number of books highlighting African American ballerinas. Most of the four-line stanzas begin with the words "This is" ("This is the girl / who danced in the breeze / to the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, / of towering trees"). The text touches on the discrimination Collins had to overcome in order to realize her dream ("This is the dancer / who found her way in / but learned she would / have to lighten her skin") and the acceptance she eventually found: "This is the class, / a welcoming place, / that focused on talent / regardless of race." Earth-toned illustrations depict the fluid dance movements of ballerinas. The final spread shows Collins on stage at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1951, a real triumph. A tribute to a determined woman who, despite being met with resistance, went on to accomplish what she set out to do. An author's note, sources, and further reading materials are appended.
Kirkus Reviews
This ode to dancer Janet Collins showcases her diverse talents as well as her achievements."These are the costumes / her dear mama made. / Costumes for lessons— / that's how they paid." With spare rhymes and "The House That Jack Built" rhythm, the words tell of the ups and downs of Janet Collins' dancing life, from her precocious youth through her arrival as the first African-American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in 1951. Each spread highlights an item or people who had a role in spurring her on to success, from her pointe shoes to her family, from the dance school that turned black dancers away to the day she was accepted in a dance company only to be told she would have to paint her skin white to blend in. Collins danced Spanish and other ethnic styles and finally found a ballet class that welcomed her. "This is the dancer / who went back for more / when her tender toes ached / and her muscles felt sore." The digital illustrations have the look of pen drawings, rendering a graceful dancer's body with glowing brown skin and a self-possessed face. After the passion and hard work she displayed throughout the story, the final spread feels triumphant: Collins smiles at the audience with roses at her feet on the stage.A celebration of one black woman's achievements that underscores the passion and purpose that the human spirit has to offer. (author's note, sources, websites) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)
Publishers Weekly
Writing in gentle verse that calls to mind -This Is the House that Jack Built,- Meadows introduces Janet Collins, a New Orleans-born ballerina who pursued dance in the 1930s and -40s. With her family-s support, Collins perseveres despite being told to lighten her dark skin: -This is the girl/ with a broken heart./ But she bounced right back/ and made a new start.- Glenn illustrates in warm yet muted digital art; dynamic spreads show Collins dancing in a red flamenco dress to the sounds of a jazz ensemble. In a final spread, Collins dances at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1951-becoming the first African-American prima ballerina to do so. Meadows offers readers an affectionate biographical story that emphasizes her subject-s passion and determination. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
PreS-Gr 2 Young dancers will find inspiration in the first picture book biography written about groundbreaking dancer Janet Collins. In tidy four-line stanzas, Meadows tells Collins's life story, describing her path to stardom as the first black prima ballerina to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. Each page begins in a similar fashion, setting the scene and continuing in rhyming verse. ("This is the audience, lined up in rows, cheering her on as she danced on her toes.") Though the format is constrictive, there is not an awkward word or rhythm to be found. Collins's story is told masterfully, with additional background information in an author's note. Glenn ( Mommy's Khimar ) fills each page with the strength and beauty of dance, focusing on the graceful movement of Collins and her emotive expressions. VERDICT This book radiates with the joy of dance. A first purchase for most collections. Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
School Library Journal Starred Review (12/1/18)
ALA Booklist (12/1/18)
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 317
Reading Level: 3.3
Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.3 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 502614 / grade: Lower Grades
Lexile: 570L

Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, this is the story of a remarkable pioneer. For fans of Misty Copeland's Firebird and Javaka Steptoe's Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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