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Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
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Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,805 ratings  ·  471 reviews
The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.
Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a "devil child" for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michael
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
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La Tonya Jordan Papa thought it was funny that most of our experiences with racism happened in the parking lot of our supermarket, and usually involved women. He…morePapa thought it was funny that most of our experiences with racism happened in the parking lot of our supermarket, and usually involved women. He would make a joke of it. Before he'd let us out of the car in the parking lot, he would ask us, "Did you lotion your arms and legs? Did you pick your hair? We don't want the nappy-hair-and-ashy-skin policewomen after us."


Community Reviews

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4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,805 ratings  ·  471 reviews

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Ellis Amdur
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is somewhat of a personal review (at one remove), as I am married to the "magical ballerina," whose picture on a magazine was blown to Michaela DePrince's feet at the beginning of the story. The story being well-summarized elsewhere, I will only touch on a couple of points that make this book special.
1. Background is not destiny - not only Michaela, but her other sisters and brothers have gone through terrible, horrifying experiences, yet through love and surely very strong parenting from
La Tonya  Jordan
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Palladium Bookies
Shelves: good-read
This is a very enjoyable novel of the American dream. It reminds you of when fairy tales become true. Michaela Deprince was born in torn war Sierra Leone and suffered indignities as a child that will bring tears to your eyes. She was adopted by an American family who invested in her love for ballet and she went on to become a member of the world-famous Dutch National Ballet.

Her story is one of love, friendship, hardship, joy, family, understanding, pain, and forgiveness. Michaela Deprince, at a
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un libro davvero toccante e di grande ispirazione. Ho adorato la famiglia DePrince in ogni suo componente e i loro comportamenti così gentili e premurosi mi hanno fatto riflettere sul valore della condivisione e soprattutto di essere una famiglia, indipendentemente dal colore della pelle o del sangue. La protagonista Michaela mi ha colpito molto perché nonostante i momenti di sacrificio e di tensione che ha vissuto, è sempre riuscita ad andare avanti, superando critiche, sconfitte e pregiudizi e ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an inpsirational story.
I really enjoyed this book. Michaela's story I'd just so amazing.
She had such a rough couple childhood in Sierra Leone and it broke my heart to read about women and children treated as they were.
She was so fortunate and she was adopted into a loving caring family.
Overall four stars!
Incredible story
Mabinty Bangura was just a tiny little girl when both her parents died during the war in Sierra Leone. Her uncle left her at an orphanage where she became Number 27. Even at such a young age, and against nearly insurmountable odds, Mabinty dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer.

Mabinty’s story is one of bravery, hope and perseverance in the face of unimaginable hardship. After being adopted by a family in the United States, Mabinty was renamed Michaela. With the support, encouragement, and love of
Het verhaal van Michaela is zeker heftig en het is mooi waar ze terecht is gekomen. Toch geef ik dit boek 3 sterren en dat is voornamelijk voor het eerste gedeelte.

Haar verhaal over Afrika en hoe ze daar leefde en wat ze daar mee gemaakt heeft is zeer heftig. Toch vroeg ik me vaak af hoe oud ze nou eigenlijk was en hoeveel ze er zelf echt van herinnerd.

Op een gegeven moment ging het verhaal veel over ballet en dan vooral over pasjes en houdingen en wedstrijden en scholen. Hier verloor ik mijn
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Michaela DePrince recalls her journey from orphaned child, struggling to survive against malnutrition, disease and unimaginable violence in Sierra Leone, to a thriving young ballet dancer struggling to break into the harsh world of professional classical ballet in the United States.
I frequently found myself having to put the book down for a minute, in sheer admiration of DePrince's resiliency, and in sheer horror of everything she went through. I think it's safe to say, that many Americans have
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Josiphine/Tessa by: my boss O_o
Ballet is one of my 'things' so I'll read almost anything with a dancer on the front. This one did not disappoint. Miss DePrince's story is a fascinating and inspiring read. I think it's safe to say that she is one of my new heroes.

The only negative is the pacing of this book--we spend more than half of it on her early childhood, and then four years are glossed over in a few pages.

Despite this, I'm very interested to see what Michaela DePrince does next. I'll bet it's going to be grand.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This memoir, written by Michaela DePrince and her adoptive mother tells a remarkable story of a young African girl who is loved by her parents, but shunned by her culture. As war breaks out in her home of Sierra Leone, she becomes a refugee orphan. Had I not known that this girl's story ended up a happy one, I don't know if I could have read past the first part of the book because her story was so sad and what she witnessed was unbearable to think about. That does not mean it's not good writing- ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leídos-en-2017
Me ha gustado mucho conocer la historia de Micaela DePrince.
Este libro no destaca evidentemente por su calidad literaria puesto que se trata de unas memorias escritas por una chica que no se dedica a escribir sino que es bailarina. Por lo que este libro llega al corazón es por su contenido, por la historia de esa niña huérfana de Sierra Leona que tuvo la suerte de ser adoptada a la tierna edad de 4 años y cambiar de vida en EEUU.
También es la historia de la lucha por un sueño y por suerte, sin á
Camille Dent
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
About the first half or so is very heartbreaking and moving, but then it turns into a dry timeline of her progression into a ballet career. Including that information was definitely important towards the goal of her autobiography, but most of it is presented very mechanically compared to the rest of the book. However, this was still a wonderful read! I was always eager to pick it back up, even during the second half, and I probably would have read it all in one sitting if I were a faster reader.
Fabulous ***** Fabulous ***** Fabulous!!!

Highly recommended to anyone with interests in dancing, dream building, overcoming hardships, adoption, family, culture dynamics, aiding children in war torn regions, and eradicating skin-color/racial fears and biases.

Absolutely FIVE beautifully courageous stars!!!!
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I knew beforehand who Michaela was because I saw the documentary she was on, First Position (2011). In the documentary the spectators are able to see her progress and rehearse as she is about to compete on Youth America Grand Prix which is one of the most prestigious ballet competitions and every year thousands of dancers audition and compete hoping to get noticed either by winning medals or more importantly, a scholarship. Michaela was one of those young dancers competing (she was 14 at the tim ...more
Stacie C
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
She was known as Mabinty Bangura in Sierra Leone. She wouldn’t become Michaela DePrince until she had lost both of her parents. Her father was shot in the diamond mines by the rebels. Her mother would die from sickness. Mabinty would become known simply as a number by the guardians at the orphanage. When the rebels removed the children from the orphanage everyone would escape to Ghana, where her new mother Elaine would take her and her best friend, also Mabinty, to the United States of America. ...more
Angela Aagenborg
‘Ze noemden me duivelskind’ is een boek dat gelezen moet worden. Het is een verhaal dat zich vastzet in je hoofd, in je hart en in je ziel. Je kunt niet anders dan het boek in één ruk uitlezen. Het is duidelijk dat haar oorlogsverleden haar op vele manieren blijft achtervolgen, maar haar ook de persoon heeft gemaakt die ze nu is. Dit boek bewaar ik tot mijn dochter oud genoeg is om het te lezen. Michaela’s verhaal laat je geloven in wonderen en is een bewijs dat je met keihard werken (en talent) ...more
Maria Baker
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was such an inspirational story. Michaela's determination and courage throughout all that she faced is a testament to her birth parents and their desire for a better world for their only child. Her adoptive parents are amazing people who have a huge capacity for love. God Bless her and all the people she inspires with this true story of a girl who went from Sierra Leone to the US and all over the world.
Sonia Lady Acacia
Tocando el cielo es un libro conmovedor, en el que encontramos esperanza, superación y sueños por cumplir, que seguro que te va a conmover de principio a fin. Es de esos libros que te marcan de alguna manera y hacen que quieras cumplir cada una de aquellas metas que tienes pendientes.
Reseña completa:
Winter Sophia Rose
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Inspiring, Captivating, Encouraging & Touching! A Beautiful Read! I Loved It!
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this at the insistence of one of my 8th graders. This is a beautiful, moving story of a family that takes in an orphan from Sierra Leone. The brutality of what michaela experiences early in her life is hard to shake just reading it, it is unimaginable that she was four years old when all these terrible events Happened. Her adoptive family is amazing. Add another star if you love ballet! A great read to inspire others and certainly to inspire dancers.
DePrince was born in Sierra Leone, but after rebels killed her father and Lassa killed her mother, she was first sent to an orphanage and then adopted to the U.S. While at the orphanage, she came across a magazine cover featuring a ballerina, and -- although she did not at the time know what ballet was -- that cover was a catalyst that helped shape her future.

Midway through the book, DePrince talks briefly about some of the lasting impacts of her childhood in Sierra Leone (more to the point, the
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I first heard about Michaela DePrince when I saw the documentary "First Position" on Netflix. I loved the documentary and particularly her story the best. When watching a really good ballerina, it is when they extend and hold a position beyond what you think is possible. When they take your breath away for a few moments you know there is something special about them and Michaela DePrince is that good. Her leaps and technique is beyond many her age.

I was pleasantly surprised when she and her mot
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading about Michaela's young life. I've never met her but certainly have worked with and have known a few people she mentions in her book, which was a lot fun. Her story got me to thinking about my own childhood which was innocent, happy, and rich with love, family, friends, education, ballet lessons, vacations, and anything else I needed or required. I was treated like a princess and pursued being a princess in ballet. Reading of her time in the orphanage in Sierra Leone, how ...more
This is the true story of ballerina Michaela de Prince, who was born in Sierra Leone and adopted and raised in the U.S. As a young child, she witnessed starvation, abuse, murder, and other horrors, but she survived and thrived in her life once she came to America.

I watched the documentary First Position, in which she is featured, because it was mentioned in the book, and the documentary is also worth a look.

I thought this was a very good book. The writing is not flowery, but to the point, and v
Chloe Staudenmaier
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mabinty Bangura, an intelligent, "spotted" girl from Africa became an orphan at a young age.War and rebel groups lead to her parents deaths. Before her father's death, he made sure Mabinty was well-educated. Because of this, Mabinty's uncle despised her. Once Mabinty's father died, Mabinty and her mother went to live with her uncle. Her uncle mistreated them both because her mother would not marry him. After Mabinty's mother died, her uncle sent her to an orphanage. Throughout the story, it expl ...more

This was a sweet, touching “Africa to America” story. The author is likable and interesting, if not childlike in her writing. The memoir follows her journey from an orphanage in Africa to her life as a professional ballerina, and chronicles the hardships of getting into the industry not just as one of many competing young women but also as a minority. There is a fair bit of “ no one likes me cause I'm black” in this story, however considering the context (Classical Ballet), I felt that the whini
Nov 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-non-fiction

I wanted to love this book, and it is certainly an interesting and inspiring story - I just don't think it is that well done. I think having someone else write the book, possibly from a 3rd person perspective, would have made it a lot better. Having Michaela writing in the 1st person narrative made it sort of confusing and a little less credible, at least until she's maybe 7 or 8 in the book. I just don't think someone would remember with such clarity what happened when she was 2-3 years o
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow. That really says it all, but I know it deserves more words!!! I wish I had read this three months ago, so when kids came into the store looking for a non-fiction book for summer reading I could have recommended it. Even if you are not into ballet or never danced, this story will make you laugh, cry and marvel at the strength of some people to get through true horrors...and still achieve their dreams! It made me miss ballet, and feel a bit guilty about quitting at fourteen, now seeing how lu ...more
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africah
Written in a very simple style, it is very easy to binge-read the book in two days (or less). The story of Michaela is very inspiring in its simplicity and I enjoyed seeing that she bypassed all the clichés about ballerinas (weight, eating disorders, injuries), in order to focus on her dreams and ambitions. Of course, she does not ignore those issues completely, but she does offer a rather healthy perspective on her craft. Having said that, the account on her life in Sierra Leone is very disturb ...more
Jessamyn Leigh
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I had seen Michaela DePrince in the ballet documentary First Position a few years ago. Adoption and the Arts are two things near and dear to my heart so I was intrigued to hear more of her story.

Though I've never been a seriously ballerina, I've spent enough time dancing to thoroughly enjoy hearing ballet stories. I loved reading about her experiences in dance class growing up, performing and competing, picking choreography and her mom making her costumes (that is an impressive feat btw, tutus
The prose here is pretty straightforward; the story is extremely inspirational and makes me feel like a garbage person who has accomplished nothing with my life. The subtitle "from war orphan to star ballerina" pretty much says it all.

I'm definitely planning to booktalk this to junior high kids; I think it'll be a great read for tweens & teens looking for a sad/inspiring story of a girl overcoming EXTREME hardships with EXTREME grace and poise. Also, kids interested in ballet/music, of cours
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Michaela DePrince was born in war-torn Sierra Leone during the decade long civil war that took place there. After rebels killed her father, and her mother died, her uncle left her at an orphanage. There she was taunted and abused by the women who cared for the children because she had a skin condition called vitiligo, which made her appear spotted. While there Michaela found a magazine stuck to th ...more
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