Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

Dempsey, Kristy (Author)
Cooper, Floyd (Illustrator)
Penguin Random House 2014. 32 pages
First published: 2014
ISBN: 9780399252846 (hardcover)
9780698152915 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

“Hope can pick your dreams up off the floor of your heart,” the little girl’s mother tells her. This is a story about dreams and challenges. The little girl has a clear dream: to be a ballerina. Except that she is black, in the 1950s, in America. Her mother works days and nights, just to make ends meet. One of her jobs is making costumes for a ballet school. The little girl watches the white students from the sidelines and learns by watching.

The language is poetic and evocative. “Stars hardly shine in the New York City sky, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke and streetlights spreading bright halos round their pin-top faces.” The artwork is realistic yet offers a dreamlike fuzziness, with a limited colour scheme of browns, yellows and purples. They look almost like photographs, faded with time.

The story features an historical event: Janet Collins’ performance at the Metropolitan Opera in 1951, the first black ballerina to perform there. The mother uses her savings to take her daughter to see this historic performance, which makes a tremendous impression on the little girl: “All my hoping wells up and spills over; dripping all my dreams onto my Sunday dress.”

“Hoping is hard work,” says the little girl’s mother. Just as Janet Collins inspired the little girl, this little girl’s story may inspire other children to make their dreams into hopes and their hopes into reality, despite the challenges they may face.

  •  

    Discuss how seeing models/heroes can lead us to dream. How are special people important in helping us create dreams about our future?

  •  

    Discuss the challenges faced by the little girl and her mother.

  •  

    This story is set in the 1950s, when black people were called “colored” and a black woman had never danced at the Met. Do you think racial perceptions have changed since then?

  •  

    What do you dream of doing in life? Who is the model/hero who inspires you to strive to reach your dream? Write about this inspiring person and how they help to move you along in your journey.

  •  

    Discuss how models are important in helping you create your dreams for the future.

  •  

    Discuss the challenges faced by the little girl and her mother.

  •  

    Create a story map using different colours to show your understanding of wishes and dreams, hardships and successes.

  •  

    This story is set in the 1950s. How have things changed or stayed the same since then?

  •  

    Write about one of your dreams and a model related to it.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Dance
  • Geography, History and Citizenship