Review: A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey

dance like starlight

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Told in the first person by a young African-American dancer, this book shows how dreams can come true with lots of hard work and plenty of hope.  Set in Harlem of the fifties, this young dancer dreams of becoming a ballerina.  Her mother works hard to pay for her dance lessons.  The ballet master saw her pretending to dance and offered her lessons.  She isn’t allowed to dance onstage with the white girls, but can take lessons each day in the back of the room.  Then she learns about Janet Collins, the first colored prima ballerina.  Now she is going to the Metropolitan Opera House to see Collins dance and feast on the hope that that brings to her.

Dempsey’s picture book is in verse that not only shows what the little girl is feeling but also speaks to the time before Civil Rights and the separation that came with it.  It is much more the story of the young girl than of Janet Collins, though it is her inspiration that led a generation of non-white girls to realize that they too could be dancers. 

Cooper’s illustrations are gauzy and beautiful.  When the young girl is up on the rooftop dreaming, his image is breathtaking with the color of the sky shining upon her face.  He unerringly turns her toward light, speaking with pictures of the hope that sustains her.  It is beautifully done.

Inspiring and exquisite, this picture book belongs in the hands of all little girls dreaming of pirouettes and tutus.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel.

2014 American Indian Youth Literature Awards


The American Indian Library Association has named the winners of their 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Awards.  The awards honor the best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians.  Here are the winners:


Caribou Song

Caribou Song, Atihko Nikamon by Tomson Highway, illustrated by John Rombough



How I Became a Ghost

How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story by Tim Tingle



Killer of Enemies

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac




Danny Blackgoat, Navajo Prisoner

Danny Blackgoat, Navajo Prisoner by Tim Tingle



If I Ever Get Out of Here

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth