Book details

Macmillan Children's Book

Brave Ballerina

The Story of Janet Collins

Who Did It First?

Author: Michelle Meadows; illustrations by Ebony Glenn

Brave Ballerina

Brave Ballerina


About This Book

A lyrical picture book biography of Janet Collins, the first African American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina...

Page Count
On Sale
Age Range

Book Details

A lyrical picture book biography of Janet Collins, the first African American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, Brave Ballerina is the story of a remarkable pioneer as told by Michelle Meadows, with fantastic illustrations from Ebony Glenn.

Imprint Publisher

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)



In The News

A NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Bank Street College Best Book of the Year
A New York Public Library Best Book for Children
A Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award Honor Book
A South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee
A Wisconsin State Reading Association Picture This! List Selection
A Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee

"This is a wonderful and inspirational biography for aspiring young dancers and other athletes." —The Washington Post

"Collins’s story is told masterfully
. . . Glenn fills each page with the strength and beauty of dance, focusing on the graceful movement of Collins and her emotive expressions. This book radiates with the joy of dance. A first purchase for most collections."--School Library Journal, starred review

Writing in verse is no easy task, and Meadows's text almost never stumbles, keeping metronomic time with Ebony Glenn's illustrations of soaring, spinning Janet. Glenn's digital art is full of movement . . .An enchanting biography."--Shelf Awareness, starred review

"The digital illustrations have the look of pen drawings, rendering a graceful dancer's body with glowing brown skin and a self-possessed face. . . A celebration of one black woman's achievements that underscores the passion and purpose that the human spirit has to offer."--Kirkus Reviews

Glenn illustrates in warm yet muted digital art; dynamic spreads show Collins dancing in a red flamenco dress to the sounds of a jazz ensemble. In a final spread, Collins dances at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1951—becoming the first African-American prima ballerina to do so. Meadows offers readers an affectionate biographical story that emphasizes her subject’s passion and determination."--Publishers Weekly

About the Creators

Brave Ballerina

Brave Ballerina