Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A dance like starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

A dance like starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

Kristy Dempsey
Illustrator:  Floyd Cooper 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2015   ISBN: 978-0399252846

Every evening, while her mother is pinning up laundry that “she’s taken on to make ends meet,” a little girl wishes. She cannot see a star to wish on because of the smoke and light pollution from Harlem makes it impossible to see any stars, but she wishes anyway. Her mama says that wishing is a waste of time. The thing to do when you have a wish is to hope because “Hope can pick your dreams up.” Of course, hope takes work.

   What the little girl wishes for every night is that she might, one day, be able to be a ballerina. Her mother works at a ballet school cleaning and sewing and the girl has been to the school so much that somehow the dream “got inside my heart.” The little girl’s mama knows about the wish that lies shining in her daughter’s eyes. So does the Ballet Master, who has seen the little girl dancing backstage, mimicking the ballet dancers who are performing for a recital. Instead of chastising her for dancing, he praises her, which makes her hope grow.

   Now the little girl is allowed to join the lessons, though is she always at the back of the room. She will not be allowed to perform with the white girls, but she keeps working harder and harder all the same, and the teacher, Mrs. Adams, encourages her.

   Then one day the girl sees something in the newspaper that makes her hopes soar. A “colored” prima donna, Janet Collins, is going to perform in the Metropolitan Opera House for the first time. Better still, the little girl’s mother is going to take her to see the performance.

   This remarkable picture book shows how one little girl builds on a dream, and how she is given hope when a dancer breaks one of the color barriers in the ballet world. The door has been opened and now it is up to her to see if she too can dance on the stage where Janet Collins made history.

   Throughout the book the lyrical narrative is accompanied by beautiful illustrations. At the end of the tale an author’s note provides readers with further information about Janet Collins, the first African-American ballet dancer to perform on the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.