Bunheads – Misty Copeland; illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey

 Bunheads – Misty Copeland; illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. 9780399547645

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

 Genre: picture book biography

What did you like about the book? On her very first day of her first ballet class, young Misty learns that her class will be performing the ballet Coppélia in a recital.  Her teacher, Miss Bradley, tells the class the plot of the ballet; Misty is entranced by the story, and decides that she will try out for one of the principal roles despite her lack of experience.  Miss Bradley sees promise in her new student, and pairs her up with a classmate to learn the part of Swanilda for the audition. Misty is excited, but also very nervous, and she works hard to learn both the fundamentals of ballet and the specific dances for the role she wants.  Her diligence pays off as she is awarded with the part, and the book ends with Misty reveling in the spotlight of her first performance, the excitement of discovering her passion for dance, and the joy of newfound friendships. 

 The first in a planned series of autobiographical stories, Bunheads will appeal to readers because of the movement and delight aptly conveyed in the sepia-toned illustrations.   Miss Bradley tells the story of the ballet over several pages of graphic novel style panels, in darker tones of brown than the rest of the book, and that is a pretty neat device.  Copeland, the first Black woman to be chosen as the principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, is an inspiration to many young dancers who will definitely enjoy reading this tale of her first class and her first role.  Her hard work and dedication are clearly highlighted as the keys to her success.  But the story moves along without any real problems or conflicts, and the idea that Misty landed her chosen role over many other more seasoned classmates might be a little hard to swallow.  It is a nice introduction to the world of ballet and to the story of Coppélia, and definitely a positive message to encourage readers to take chances and try new things.

Anything you did not like about the book?  The titular term is never explained, and has very little connection to the plot of the book.  A brief biography of Misty Copeland might have been a valuable addition.

To whom would you recommend this book? Ballet students and fans in grades 1-3 will find this a good fit and likely look forward to future installments.  

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books 

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 11/6/2020

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