At some point during quarantine last spring, my then second grade daughter asked if I could help her find pictures of Misty Copeland for her information chapter book she was working on. As I helped her Google images, I was simultaneously skimming captions to figure out “who is Misty Copeland?” I was admittedly clueless.
The images that appeared on the screen, along with a bit more skimming online, and after reading Wren’s piece, I discovered that Copeland was the first Black American Woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater. I also learned that Wren had read several books about Misty Copeland over the past years. It didn’t surprise me that Wren was drawn to this woman-a multiracial dancer herself.
Last month, I attended the Teacher College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunion-virtually. Author, Grace Lin gave the keynote and spoke about growing up as an Asian American, never seeing any characters that looked like her. This ultimately inspired her own characters and books. Because the event was held over Zoom, my own children gravitated towards my laptop to listen to Grace Lin share her stories of growing up and how she grew as an artist and writer. During the keynote, Grace urged all of us watching to help our students reimagine what it meant to be American.
When I saw that Misty Copeland had a picture book, Bunheads, being released a few weeks ago, I knew this was a book we had to add to our collection. Grace Lin’s words echoed in my mind as I said sent a silent gratitude to Misty Copeland for being a role model for my children and also for creating books that could serve as mirrors for so many other children.
Bunheads, gives us a little glimpse into Misty’s early days as a ballerina as she started her journey and prepared to audition for her first recital. The story begins by sharing the story behind the ballet Coppélia that Misty’s class would be performing. Misty then takes the reader through the hard work and dedication that lead her to earn a leading role in the recital, despite being new to ballet. Through the story, she highlights her relationship with her fellow dancers. “Watching Cat dance her parts with ease made Misty try harder. They inspired each other.” The world needs more of this, messages that we are not always competing, but by lifting each other up, we can help each other grow.
This book would have never caught my eye if it weren’t for my daughter. This fact makes me think about the importance of knowing our students, truly seeing them and knowing their interests and passions. Knowing our students will help us keep our eyes open to finding and recommending books that will help them to see themselves and the possibilities that lay before them.