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