The Children’s Book Review | February 19, 2016
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe TAKING FLIGHT: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina?
Michaela DePrince: I have borrowed the five words that I think may best describe TAKING FLIGHT from readers’ reviews. The words readers used to describe it are inspirational, triumphant, moving, heart-warming, and compelling.
Can you share one special moment from TAKING FLIGHT: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina with our readers?
It is very difficult for me to chose one special moment from TAKING FLIGHT because there are so many special moments that I share with readers in the book. However, there is one moment that embodies the love between a mother and daughter, and a mother’s willingness to sacrifice time and energy to her child’s passion for ballet. This takes place on page 192, when my mother sews a Sleeping Beauty tutu for me, and embellishes it with one thousand tiny crystals. When my mother presents the tutu to me, I gasp and say, “It’s beautiful!” But the truth is that I felt beautiful at that moment, and ever after I had much more confidence in my future as a ballet dancer.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
I was deeply touched and honored by a review on Amazon.com by Stanley Y.F. Chang, who wrote:
My copy of “Taking Flight” arrived three days ago, and I have read it ‘cover-to-cover’ three times. I am an 86-year-old retired college professor, and reading this book has changed my life. I am not the same person I was three days ago. I had lived through hell during the Second World War, and this book has affected me deeply. Particularly, Chapter 9 made me cry with empathy, and Chapter 11 made me cry with joy. Then the Chapters on racial prejudice filled me with anger, reminding me of what I had lived through as a Chinese. I will be reading this book again and again in the days to come…
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
Right now I am reading HALF THE SKY by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who are a married couple. The title of this feminist non-fiction comes from a Chinese proverb, which says, “Women hold up half the sky.” It is a fascinating account of the authors’ travels around the developing world, and what they discovered about human rights violations and the oppression of women and girls in those countries, and how many women have defied the odds as they work to overcome them.
For your writing energy: sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
For my writing energy and dancing energy, I love orange juice and peanut butter.
Writing tools: computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
My favorite writing tool is my laptop, but it has recently suffered irreversible injuries from a terrible fall. So right now it’s the pages of my journal, or my iPad.
Can you tell us something that even your most loyal fans may not know about you?
I have some items from my mom that make me feel secure when I am lonely. One of them is a pair of moonstone earrings that my dad gave Mom for her 10th anniversary, and she passed on to me when I left for the Netherlands. The second is a brown stuffed bear named Cubby Bear that used to belong to my brother, Cubby. My brother died when he was eleven years old, two years before I was born. I feel that he looks out for me from wherever he might be.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Like my sister, Mia, I have decided to take college courses online. Considering my full-time job as a dancer with the Dutch National Ballet, I don’t have time to immerse myself in campus life, yet I wanted to take university courses. Mia assured me that the online courses from a reputable and certified university are just as good as the courses I would take on campus. Now, I am not sure whether I want to major in mathematics or international relations.
Written by Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince
Publisher’s Synopsis: The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.
Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.
At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is now the youngest principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She has appeared in the ballet documentary First Position, as well as on Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America, and Nightline.
In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet’s most exciting rising stars.
“Michaela is nothing short of a miracle, born to be a ballerina. For every young brown, yellow, and purple dancer, she is an inspiration!” —Misty Copeland, world-renowned ballet dancer
“A story of great courage that all women—young and old—should read.” —Tina Brown
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Ember | 2016 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0385755146
About Michaela DePrince
Michaela DePrince graduated from the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis school in New York, and is a dancer with the Dutch National Ballet. She travels between Amsterdam and Atlanta, where she lives with her family.
Elaine DePrince is coauthor, with her daughter Michaela, of several books, including Ballerina Dreams and Hope in a Ballet Shoe.
This interview with Michaela DePrince about Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina was conducted by Bianca Schulze. Follow along with our content tagged with Girl Scouts, Mice, Social Graces and Speed Interview to discover more great books.