Review: Brave Ballerina by Michelle Meadows

brave ballerina the story of janet collins by michelle meadows

Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (9781250127730)

This biographical picture book shares the story of Janet Collins, the first African-American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House. Growing up in the 1930s, Collins ran into segregation and racism as she followed her dream to be a dancer. Though she was excluded from some dance schools and also asked to lighten her skin, she found her way to a school that accepted her thanks to her immense work ethic and talent. Collins became a principal dancer in 1951 after being noticed by the ballet master from the Met when he saw her perform.

Meadows has written a picture book biography that reads like a story book. She uses a repetitive structure that echoes that of folklore tales to make the book very readable and approachable for young children. Each new stanza in the book starts with “This is…” and shows a point in Collins’ life. Within each stanza there are also rhyming couplets that add to the spirit of the book. The structure works to make a book that shares aloud well and invites readers fully into this historical tale.

The illustrations by Glenn are digitally rendered. They range from dramatic images of Collins on stage or streetcars at night to more ethereal images of dancers and times with her family. The illustrations place the story firmly in mid-century America.

A well-written nonfiction picture book that tells the story of one remarkable artist. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt.