Book Review: TAKING FLIGHT by Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince

Taking FlightI don’t generally write book reviews unless I have a strong urge to share a good book. TAKING FLIGHT is one of those rare books that you will want every kid (and adult!) in the world to read, especially those kids who need a seed of hope. TAKING FLIGHT is Michaela DePrince’s true story written in her own words—with help from her adopted mom—about her harrowing journey from war orphan to world class ballerina. And what a story!

I couldn’t put it down and nor will you. Without giving away too much, let me prepare you. You will wince, cry, rejoice, and clap for Michaela as she takes you from life in Africa through her escape from war-torn Sierra Leone to meeting her amazing adoptive parents and building a new home in the United States where her dream of studying ballet comes true.

Magali CoverWhat is most magical about Michaela’s story is the fact that she didn’t pursue ballet on a whim. From an early age, while still an orphan in Africa, she happened to come across a copy of Dance Magazine featuring prima ballerina, Magali Messac on the cover. Michaela didn’t exactly understand what Magali Messac was doing in a tutu en pointe, but Michaela knew in her heart that this beautiful image called to her.

So she tore the cover off of Dance Magazine, gently folded it up for safe-keeping, and kept it hidden in her underwear for fear some authoritative figure would take it away from her. And even as she and her fellow orphans travelled a great distance to escape the “debil” killing frenzy in Sierra Leone, Michaela carried and guarded the Dance Magazine cover every step of the way and proudly presented her most prized possession to her adoptive mom within minutes of meeting along with a desperate plea to learn how to dance.

michaelaIt’s clear Michaela was born to become a dancer. Look at these jaw-dropping-leaps of her soaring through the air. She makes it look effortless and the joy on her face is contagious.

Michaela is not only a gifted ballerina; she also paints vivid pictures of her life through gorgeous descriptions and spot-on similes. Some of my favorite lines in TAKING FLIGHT include:

I … learned that pain, like the green of the jungle leaves, comes in many shades.” pg. 13

Here was my dream, tantalizing me like a chocolate ice cream cone, and I had to watch it melt.” pg. 235

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It wasn’t an easy journey for a girl of color among a troupe of white dancers to break through to the top. Talent and persistence certainly paid off for her. But like Michaela says herself I think it is the hope she carried with her through all of the life challenges she faced that allowed her to persevere.

Michaela DePrince, dancer

It was hope that enabled me to survive in Africa in the face of abuse, starvation, pain, and terrible danger. It was hope that made me dare to dream, and it was hope that helped that dream take flight.” pg. 243

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And she’s right. Without hope what can we become? What will fuel our dreams? And who are we without hope?

 

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Micaela DePrince is proof that we should never abandon our hopes and dreams. Her story should be widely shared because I believe she will make a difference in every person she touches—starting with my daughters who like their mom can’t put her book down!

elaine-michaela-deprince

To learn more about Michaela DePrince, please go to her webpage and/or follow her on Facebook. Be sure to view the TAKING FLIGHT book trailer here and listen to Michaela’s story here.

 

120827105416-michaela-deprince-american-family-horizontal-galleryA standing ovation goes to Elaine and Charles DePrince for opening their heart and home to so many children in need of a family and for nurturing Michaela’s hopes and dreams. What a gift you have given to the world!

Q & A with Katherine Longshore: GILT

Gilt_CATToday I welcome Katherine Longshore to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults.

What is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

*GILT, May 2012, Viking/Penguin, historical fiction, ages 12+

Where is it set?

*Tudor England

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

* When Kitty Tylney’s best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII’s heart and brings Kitty to court, she’s thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. As Kitty witnesses Cat’s meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Links to reviews or blurbs

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

*I lived in England for five years—it’s where I fell in love with history!

What inspired you to write this story?

*It started off as an interest in Catherine Howard—a teenage girl marrying a fifty-year-old man.  But Kitty was inspired by a modern-day event in which a group of students witnessed a shocking violation of law and humanity and yet didn’t report it.  I wanted to write the story of a girl who could say nothing, and learn how wrong that was.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

*Perfectionism.  Because this was my first published novel, I had trouble letting it go.  A friend told me, “You can’t go into every bookstore in America with a Sharpie, and they kind of frown on that, anyway.”  Ultimately, I had to accept that, though I still sometimes change words and phrasing when I do readings.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

*My historical loves are almost entirely English—though they cover a broad expanse of time.

Longshore_Katy_1589_CL_57_WCan you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

*The Cat in the Hat.  At five years old, I decided that I was never going to learn to read, because it had made my sister boring—she never played with me.  But I got The Cat in the Hat out of the library, and sat down with it and got sucked in.  So much so, that I decided to read it again, even after my best friend arrived for a playdate.  So I guess reading made me boring, too!

For more information check out Katherine’s web page and her blog. You can also follow Katherine on Facebook or Twitter

 Thank you Katherine for joining World Reads!

Q & A with Katherine Longshore: TARNISH

Tarnish_CATToday I welcome Katherine Longshore to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults.

What is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

*TARNISH, June 2013, Viking/Penguin, historical fiction, ages 12+

Where is it set?

*Tudor England

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

* Anne Boleyn is the odd girl out. Newly arrived to the court of King Henry VIII, everything about her seems wrong. So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to coach her on how to shine—and convince everyone they’re lovers—she accepts. What began as a game becomes high stakes as Anne is forced to make an impossible choice between her heart’s desire and the chance to make history.

Links to reviews or blurbs 

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

*I lived in England for five years—it’s where I fell in love with history!

What inspired you to write this story?

*I wanted to write a story about a girl who felt like a fish out of water could become the Anne Boleyn we know from history.  And I wanted to challenge the idea that everything that was written about her is somehow true, because we all know that gossip about us isn’t necessarily how we truly are.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

*Preconceptions.  Like many people, my vision of Anne Boleyn is skewed by years of fictional (and non-fictional) retellings of her life—from Shakespeare to Donizetti to Philippa Gregory.  I had to set everything I thought I knew aside, and find a character who could eventually be perceived as all those things.

Longshore_Katy_1589_CL_57_WWhat kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

*My historical loves are almost entirely English—though they cover a broad expanse of time.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

*The Cat in the Hat.  At five years old, I decided that I was never going to learn to read, because it had made my sister boring—she never played with me.  But I got The Cat in the Hat out of the library, and sat down with it and got sucked in.  So much so, that I decided to read it again, even after my best friend arrived for a playdate.  So I guess reading made me boring, too!

For more information check out Katherine’s web page and her blog. You can also follow Katherine on Facebook or Twitter

Thank you Katherine, for joining us at World Reads!

 

 

Q & A with Katherine Longshore: BRAZEN

Brazen_coverToday I welcome Katherine Longshore to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults.

What is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

*BRAZEN, June 12 2014, Viking/Penguin, historical fiction, ages 12+

Where is it set?

*Tudor England

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

* When Mary Howard is married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle, joining a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. Mary falls hard for Fitz, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death.

Links to reviews or blurbs you wish to share 

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

*I lived in England for five years—it’s where I fell in love with history!

5209What inspired you to write this story?

*The true life story of Mary Howard, who became one of the few women in Tudor England with the means and inclination to live independently.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

*The history itself.  I overcame the challenge by ultimately accepting that the events can be woven into a compelling story despite the fact that I’d want it to end differently.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

*My historical loves are almost entirely English—though they cover a broad expanse of time.

Seuss-cat-hatCan you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

*The Cat in the Hat.  At five years old, I decided that I was never going to learn to read, because it had made my sister boring—she never played with me.  But I got The Cat in the Hat out of the library, and sat down with it and got sucked in.  So much so, that I decided to read it again, even after my best friend arrived for a playdate.  So I guess reading made me boring, too!

For more information check out Katherine’s web page and her blog. You can also follow Katherine on Facebook or Twitter 

Thank you Katherine, for joining us at World Reads!

 

Q&A with Helen Azar: DIARY OF OLGA ROMANOV: ROYAL WITNESS TO THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

{A11B361A-51B7-44AE-9663-24C8CE3EA675}Img150Today I welcome Helen Azar to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults.

 What is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution.

Westholme Publishing, 2013.

Russian history/Biography/Memoir – Young Adult to Adult.

Where is it set?

Russia during WWI and revolution/civil war years

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

In August 1914, Russia entered World War I, and with it, the imperial family of Tsar Nicholas II was thrust into a conflict they would not survive. His eldest child, Olga Nikolaevna, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, had begun a diary in 1905 when she was ten years old and kept writing her thoughts and impressions of day-to-day life as a grand duchess until abruptly ending her entries when her father abdicated his throne in March 1917. Held at the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow, Olga’s diaries during the wartime period have never been translated into English until this volume. At the outset of the war, Olga and her sister Tatiana worked as nurses in a military hospital along with their mother, Tsarina Alexandra. Olga’s younger sisters, Maria and Anastasia, visited the infirmaries to help raise the morale of the wounded and sick soldiers. The strain was indeed great, as Olga records her impressions of tending to the officers who had been injured and maimed in the fighting on the Russian front. Concerns about her sickly brother, Aleksei, abound, as well those for her father, who is seen attempting to manage the ongoing war. Gregori Rasputin appears in entries, too, in an affectionate manner as one would expect of a family friend. While the diaries reflect the interests of a young woman, her tone grows increasingly serious as the Russian army suffers setbacks, Rasputin is ultimately murdered, and a popular movement against her family begins to grow. At the point Olga ends her writing in 1917, the author continues the story by translating letters and impressions from family intimates, such as Anna Vyrubova, as well as the diary kept by Nicholas II himself. Finally, once the imperial family has been put under house arrest by the revolutionaries, we follow events through observations by Alexander Kerensky, head of the initial Provisional Government, these too in English translation for the first time. Olga would offer no further personal writings, as she and the rest of her family were crowded into the basement of a house in the Urals and shot to death in July 1918.

author photoThe Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution, translated and introduced by scientist and librarian Helen Azar, and supplemented with additional primary source material, is a remarkable document of a young woman who did not choose to be part of a royal family and never exploited her own position, but lost her life simply because of what her family represented.

Review in The Library Journal  

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Two books: Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” and Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper” ignited the history buff spark in me!

Where can readers go to learn more information?

Radio interview

Article from Rutgers University website

Web page

Publisher’s page

Another interview

Facebook

Thank you Helen Azar for joining us at World Reads!

 

 

All materials © 2014 Annemarie O'Brien. Web site by Websy Daisy. Illustration © 2013 by Tim Jessell