By Michael & Elaine DePrince – Illustrated Ella Okstad (Faber & Faber)
When Michaela DePrice was a little girl in an orphanage in war-torn Sierra Leone, she found a magazine with a ballerina on the cover. She dreamed of someday being a ballerina too but at that time it seemed impossible. Michaela had vitiligo, a disease that causes patches of skin to lose its color. In her homeland vitiligo was considered a curse of the devil which is why her uncle had abandoned her in the orphanage when her parents died. Then happily Michaela and her friend Mia were both adopted by an American family and she had the chance to have a normal life – which included her much-wanted ballet lessons.
She recalls not seeing other black ballerinas and this inspired her to work even harder to become one. Today Micheala is a celebrated ballerina for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company. She has travelled all over the world dancing and sharing her story to inspire other young girls to realize their dreams.
In this early chapter book for 5-8 year olds, Michaela tells a simplified version of her story with sweet illustrations. Her story is one of triumph and self belief – perfect for teaching children they can recover from hardship and setbacks. Michaela would make a great topic for a speech or a class project on inspiring women. For older teens read her memoir, Taking Flight (Knopf books) also written with her adoptive mother, Elaine DePrince – who sounds like a wonderful woman with a huge heart. Read up more on Michaela’s remarkable life online.
Watch this NBC news piece on Michaela – but note it’s not for children as it contains sensitive information.