Fi50 Reminder and an Inspirational Early Chapter Book

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fi50

It’s that time of the month again – Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday!  To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.  Our prompt for this month is…

button_that-old-wives-tale (1)

Hope to see you there!


Ballerina Dreams: A Tale of Hope, Hard Work and Finding Your Groove…

 

ballerina dreams

Ballerina Dreams by Michaela & Elaine DePrince.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 24th May 2017.  RRP: $14.99

 

The world of early chapter books seems to have expanded greatly since I was a youngling and nowadays there are a plethora of beautifully presented, exquisitely formatted, engaging and accessible stories out there for newly confident readers.  Ballerina Dreams: A True Story by professional ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her adoptive mother Elaine is one such story.  We received our copy from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

Beautifully and gently illustrated by Ella Okstad, Ballerina Dreams is the younger-reader edition of Michaela DePrince’s highly moving memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe.

Not being a particular fan of ballet, I was a bit trepidatious going into this book, but I was drawn in by the young, brown-skinned girl on the cover.  I happen to have some familial ties with a fantastic blog called FleshTone, that promotes representation of all skin colours in all areas of everyday life, from underwear to toys and beyond.  FleshTone, driven by its founder, Tayo Ade, has a particular focus on dancewear for darker skinned performers, because bizarrely, despite the fact that there must be thousands upon thousands of non-white people involved in dancing worldwide, production of flesh-coloured dancewear to suit such people is hard to find.  I immediatley wondered, while reading this book, whether Michaela DePrince has trouble finding flesh-coloured dancewear to suit her fleshtone…but I digress.  Back to the book.

Ballerina Dreams is the early reader version of DePrince’s memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe.  DePrince herself hails from Sierra Leone, where she lived in an orphanage after her parents were killed in the war there.  Adopted by Elaine DePrince, along with her best friend and several others from the orphanage, Michaela moves to the USA with her new family and is able to pursue the dream she has fostered since finding an abadoned magazine with a picture of a dancer on the front: to learn ballet.

The story touches briefly on DePrince’s struggles as a dark-skinned dancer in a world in which such dancers are scarce, before ending on her accomplishments as a professional dancer and her desire to inspire and encourage other young people of colour to pursue their dreams with hard work and patience.

The book is beautifully presented, with large print and colour illustrations throughout, appearing both as full page spreads and wrapped around sections of text.  As such, the story will be accessible for young readers as both a read-alone or a read-aloud with an adult.  It’s wonderful to see that books – and particularly nonfiction books – highlighting individuals from diverse backgrounds are being published for this age group.

I would highly recommend this engaging tale for young fans of dance and those who enjoy true stories told in accessible ways.

I’m submitting this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge in category #32: a book about an interesting woman.  You can check out my progress toward the challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

A YA Read-it-if Review: The Walls Around Us…

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imageimageWelcome to a read-it-if review that has been  looooong time coming. I’ve had today’s book on my review shelf from Netgalley for months and months and months (surely close to a year!) but I have only just got around to it because it is released this month.  I must admit I very nearly had a “I’ve waited so long to read this and it’s THIS BAD?” moment early on, but thankfully for all concerned, I ended up really enjoying the (figuratively) muddy plot and the confusing twists.  Today, then, I have for you The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

walls all around us

Read it if:

*you prefer that if a book has to be mysterious and confusing, it had better be that way right from page one

* you always suspected that behind the tutu and perfect posture, ballerinas get up to some weird shit stuff

* you’ve never been too worried about ending up in prison because you have been blessed with a body shape that looks fab in shapeless overalls.

* you make it a point never to eat things you find growing on your walls.

The Walls Around Us is told from two points of view.  There’s Violet – self-assured, set-apart and biding time until she begins at Julliard. Then there’s Amber – beaten-down, self-conscious and biding her time until her release from a high security juvenile detention centre. The story begins with Violet as she prepares to dance in her ballet school’s showcase and reminisces about her old friend Ori, who died three years previously.  The first few chapters of the book did have me scrunching up my face in mild annoyance because the events of the moment are intentionally mixed up with not-quite-clear happenings from the past and this, coupled with the reasonably unpleasant personality of Violet had me fighting to remember why on earth I had requested this book in the first place.

I persevered though and was quickly rewarded with Amber’s chapters which, while still confusing – who was this girl and what does she have to do with anything? – suddenly got interesting as the magical realism kicked in. I’m not going to spoil anything for you here, but after riding out the initial parts of Amber’s story, it becomes apparent that there are two intertwining storylines here – one (Violet’s) which has a reasonably obvious trajectory for the most part, and the other which is completely baffling and will have you wondering, “how on earth is the author going to marry these two plot arcs up?”

On finishing this one I nodded appreciatively in the imagined direction of the author and tucked this book away in the “well, that was unexpected” category. I don’t think the style of this book will be for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed the strange combination of creepy, paranormal mystery and ordinary teen drama that pervaded the story. For me, the value of this tome is all in the clever construction of the narrative, using two mildly unreliable narrators to tell the story of a third party. The Walls Around Us is definitely worth a look if you are after an understated sort of paranormal mystery and are happy to persevere past a disorienting beginning.

Until next time,

Bruce