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A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream
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A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  889 ratings  ·  187 reviews
A story of little ballerinas with big dreams.

Little ballerinas have big dreams. Dreams of pirouettes and grande jetes, dreams of attending the best ballet schools and of dancing starring roles on stage. But in Harlem in the 1950s, dreams don’t always come true—they take a lot of work and a lot of hope. And sometimes hope is hard to come by.

But the first African-American
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published January 2nd 2014 by Philomel Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  889 ratings  ·  187 reviews

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Jim Erekson
Cooper's palette, settings, clothing are spot-on. It looks like a 1940s-1950s set and cast! Once in the 70s when everyone was all romantic about the 50s I asked my mom what those days looked like, and she said she remembered almost everything was brown. All the pink and candy-apple red in the tv shows and movies was exaggerated, rare color for a very muted time. Cooper does much to set the tone and to emphasize accuracy as an expectation for this historical fiction piece.

The best thing about
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This book has it all. The art - glorious. The story - inspiring. The history - revealing. The text - lyrical.
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Suggested Grade Levels: 2nd-5th Grade
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: Self-Discovery, Growing-Up, and Perseverance.
Awards: Golden Kite Award for Picture Book

Many little girls dream of becoming a beautiful ballerina when they grow up, but if you were a little girl of color in the 1950’s that dream might not seem like a reality. A little girl whose mother is the seamstress for a local ballet school grows up watching the ballet and dreams to become a ballerina herself one day. She is granted
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
A story in which African American young girl dreams of being a ballerina and the memorable night she spends with her mother watching the first African American ballerina, Janet Collins, dance with the Metropolitan Opera.

Text is lyrical which reflects its subject and mixed media artwork really highlights the hazy beauty of dreams/aspirations. PreK-2.
Tammy J
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-fic
This book was written in 2014 so it is fairly new. I saw it on the shelf at the library and thought it might be a good read. I always for some reason pick up books about ballerina's because I find them so fascinating and always wanted to be one. My first thought just about the jacket cover was that is represented someone of color and not someone who is so thin but a normal healthy size for a girl. There is a quote on the inside of the book that says that her mama always supported her through all ...more
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rll-538
This is story set in the 50's that shows how hard it was at the time to achieve your dreams as an african american. Kristy Demsey follows the story of a girl who followed her dreams to become the first African american ballerina in the 1950's. This story is a beautiful story that shows children that dreams can happen if you work hard and don't give up. It also is a great window into the struggles that many black americans faced at that time simply because their skin was a different color.
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Full-bleed illustrations in a warm and glowing color pallete from cover to cover. This is an inspiring story of dancer Janet Collins, who in November of 1951 became the first African American hired to perform with the Metropolitan Opera. The fictionalized mother and daughter in the book represent the dreams and hopes of those lifted up by Ms. Collin's achievements.
Oh wow, ok, I'm crying? Even in 2019, almost 2020, reading books starring hopeful Black children brings tears to my eyes. Throughout this story of a little African American kid who so desperately wants to be a ballerina, there are bits of history and facts intricately woven that are so important for kids to be exposed to throughout their education. But there's also hope and joy and imagination and dreams that are make this book a joy to read.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A picture book that demonstrates the importance of representation, of how it is so much easier to believe you can be something if you see someone who looks like you doing it. The art is a bit of a tribute to the 50s style that would have existed during the setting's time period, which is a cool nod.
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love the book.
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
While this book is not strictly categorized as “poetry,” the author is a poet, and the text of this book reads like free verse, as with this description of a ballet performance:

When she glides onto the stage,
I don’t know
if I am dreaming,
if I am even breathing,
because she doesn’t seem to touch the floor.
She twirls and
my heart jumps up from where I’m sitting,
soaring, dancing,
opening wide with the swell of the music.”

The story is narrated by a fictional young African American girl in New York in
Non-Fiction - ADance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey is such an inspirational story for not only young African America girls but all girls around the world. This story is about a young African American girl who grew up in Harlem NYC with dreams of becoming a ballerina. The color of her skin and the community in which she was raised in made it almost impossible for her to follow her dreams With the help of her mother and having hope of following those dreams, she was inspired and able to ...more
Jessica Pinkman
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In 'A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream' a little ballerina has big dreams. Unfortunately in 1950's Harlem, big dreams are hard to come by and they take a lot of hard work. But she works anyways. She watches the ballerina's at her mama's work and copies their moves, teaching herself as she goes. Soon catching the eye of the Ballet Master and getting one step closer to making her dreams a reality.
Janet Collins, the first colored prima ballerina, helps boost her hope, showing
Amy Forrester
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Full of beautiful and inspiring imagery, Dempsey’s poetic text is written from the perspective of a young African-American girl in the 1950’s. A girl who hardly dares to hope that her dream of becoming a ballerina could ever come true. But then she sees Janet Collins, the first “colored” prima ballerina, perform at the Met and she can feel hope rising around her. The dreamy mixed media illustrations, soft-edged and sepia toned, pair nicely with Dempsey’s precisely worded text, full of hope and ...more
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: diversity
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mackenzie Hoolihan
This is a sweet book about a young girl’s dream of becoming a prima ballerina. The girl’s mother worked with the ballet school on costumes, so she and her daughter spent a lot of time around ballet. I like this book because it shows how important dance can be in the lives of some people. I also like this book because it shows how a mother was willing to do whatever it took for her daughter to reach her dreams. I think this book is great because it shows to always follow your dreams.
Heather Gettys
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: monarch-2016
I love this “Easy” book, because it is actually a historical fiction book too, and those are hard to find. It is based on a young girl’s dream to be a professional ballerina. To her surprise, her mother gets tickets to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, to see Janet Collins (the first African American Ballerina to perform, under a contract in public, in 1951). The young girl realizes that all of her hard work of practicing is not a waste of time. When she grows up she can be just like Ms. ...more
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful story about a little African-American girl who dreams of being a ballerina during a time when they have to be in the back of a bus. Her dream takes hold when she gets to go to the ballet and watch the very first African-American ballerina, and knows that one day the screams will be for her. I loved reading this story, and the illustrations are incredible. Kristy Dempsey had me imagining myself as that little girl dreaming of being a ballerina, even though I am not African-American. ...more
Juliana Lee
In the story, A Dance Like Starlight, The main character is a young black girl who dreams of becoming a prima ballerina. Every night she watches the sky for the first star to make her wish. But through the lights and dirt of the city, it’s hard to see the stars. In addition to the fact that she can’t find the wishing star, her mama tells her there’s no use to wish on stars. She tells her that wishes are a waste of time anyway. Mama says that hope is stronger than wishes. ‘”Hope can pick your ...more
This is an incredibly inspirational story about a young African American dancer in the 1950s who desperately wants to be a ballerina at a time when only white people could be. Janet Collins became the first African American woman to be contracted with the Metropolitan Opera. This helped break down the racial barrier that existed in this art form at the time and inspired children to dream of all they could be.

The text is relatively small to make the beautiful illustrations even more prominent. It
Oak Lawn Public Library - Youth Services
Lexile: AD1100L

Summary: African-American girl in 1950’s Harlem wants to be a ballerina, but a color barrier exists. Mom launders and tailors dancer costumes. When Janet Collins performs, the girl finally thinks her hopes of becoming a ballerina are actually possible.

Comments: This book reads like free verse poetry and the illustrations match the time period nicely. I like how the mother encourages hard work to get what you want. A nice read over all.

Stars: 4 of 5

Reviewed By: Emily K.
Emily McCracken
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: caldecott
My choice for the Caldecott winner is A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Being a dancer, when looking at the images of this book, I felt as though I could relate to them. To me the images looked as though I was in the audience or watching the young girl leap across the pages as she leaped across the stage. The images were an original work and although colored, there were certain colors that Cooper made brighter so they stood out on the ...more
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Age: Preschool-2nd grade
Art: Ballet
History: 1950s, pre Civil Rights

Kristy Dempsey's background as a poet shines through in this hope-filled book about a young black girl with dreams of being a ballerina. Although the narrator is not the first African American hired to perform with the Metropolitan Opera (Janet Collins), she sees her first performance and is inspired by Collins. What at times may seem saccharine ("All my hoping wells up and spills over, dripping all my dreams onto my Sunday
Kris Odahowski
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wishing on a star is difficult in a city like New York, a little girl's dream is brought to life in this book illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Inspiration is what we all need to reach our dreams and hard work too as the mother in this story points out. This book shows how children see the world and how they dream. Bringing History into this fictional story a real African American Ballerina trailblazer performance is the setting for the last and most important scene of the book. Check it out on now ...more
"That's when hope picked my dream up from the floor of my heart, just like Mama said, and it started growing."

A little African American girl dreams of being a ballet dancer. Inspired by Janet Collins, the first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera House, she knows that some day her dream will come true, too. "It's like Miss Collins is dancing for me, only for me, showing me who I can be."

Beautifully written and an important message. A definite add to my library collection.
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
Tells a fictional story of a little girl who was inspired by the first African American prima ballerina to "perform under contract with the Metropolitan Opera" (1951). I was interested to learn that Janet Collins performed at the Metropolitan even before Marian Anderson sang there. Took to the internet to find out a little more about Janet Collins only to discover that Louis Armstrong performed at the Met in 1944. Felt a little misled by the author's note, but this is still a good story.
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
On November 13, 1951 something wonderful happened in New York the Metropolitan Opera House. It was a first. It was witnessed by a little girl with hope as big as the sky. It's a beautiful, uplifting story found in Kristy Dempsey's A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) ) with illustrations by Floyd Cooper.

Full review:
Sherry Thornberry
What a great book about the struggle for equal rights and hop. Who would imagine that there was a time when even just wanting to dance would be an issue related to skin color. Its unimaginable but fact never the less. Books like this one serve as I reminder that we can never allow such injustices in our world. These sorts of books help us never to forget. I liked the story and the way it was presented.
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Inspired by Janet Collins, the first African American prima ballerina, A Dance Like Starlight is a lovely picture book about a little girl's dream to be a ballet star. It works well for elementary classrooms studying the Civil Rights Movement. I'm not sure how it will hold up in the Monarch, but I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to readers who like ballet and feel-good stories and students interested in learning more about civil rights.
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