Ready to fly How Sylvia Townsend became the bookmobile ballerina

Lea Lyon, 1945-

Book - 2020

Ready to Fly is the true story of Sylvia Townsend, an African American girl who falls in love with ballet after seeing Swan Lake on TV. Although there aren't many ballet schools that will accept a girl like Sylvia in the 1950s, her local bookmobile provides another possibility. A librarian helps Sylvia find a book about ballet and the determined seven-year-old, with the help of her new books, starts teaching herself the basics of classical ballet. Soon Sylvia learns how to fly-- how to dance--and how to dare to dream. Includes a note from the author and a brief history of the bookmobile.

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Picture books
New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2020]
Main Author
Lea Lyon, 1945- (author)
Other Authors
A. LaFaye (author), Sylvia Robertson Townsend, 1943- (writer of foreword), Jessica (Illustrator) Gibson (illustrator)
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 29 cm
Includes bibliographical references (page [38]).
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Townsend, a black child in 1950s California, dreams of being a ballerina. Her family can't afford lessons, so she makes her way to the bookmobile, requests ballet books, and trains herself: "At home, I begin reading, building my own barre, learning the positions--first, second, third." She begins teaching the neighborhood children what she learns. When her fourth grade teacher offers to pay for lessons, dance schools demur: "School three whispers, 'It just can't be,' letting the real reason slip--ballet is for white girls." But her own students won't let her give up, and she finally finds a dance teacher who recognizes her talent. Townsend's determined spirit shines through the engaging first-person narration, and Gibson's cartoon illustrations capture endearing scenes, including an image of a little girl, wearing a tutu of twisted scarves, reading at a broom-and-chair barre. Information on bookmobiles, a note from Townsend, and an author's note clarifying the setting and details of Townsend's remarkable life conclude the volume. Ages 4--8. (Jan.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3--Sylvia Townsend grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s amid intense racial division. Inspired by a television performance of Swan Lake, she started to practice ballet with a homemade tutu, slippers, and barre. Townsend's family couldn't afford lessons but lovingly encouraged her dreams. When a bookmobile came to her neighborhood, she gathered the ballet books to study. Townsend began to give lessons to neighborhood kids who were eager to become dancers. Eventually, a school teacher recognized Townsend's talent and offered to pay for lessons. Unfortunately, schools refused to accept Townsend because she was black. At a school talent show performance, a classmate's father suggested she audition for a Russian ballet teacher named Madame Sawicka. Sawicka awarded Townsend with a dance scholarship. Townsend eventually opened her own dance school. Rhythmic prose, with active verbs like jive, sway, soar, and float, convey movement and draw readers into Townsend's purposeful but joyful practice sessions. Gibson's illustrations of Townsend's early family life and dance practices express hope, wonder, and disappointment. The horizontal compositions have flowing, rounded lines and convey the perspective of a child. VERDICT This picture book biography of self-taught ballerina Sylvia Townsend is a tale of ambition and perseverance. A satisfying addition to nonfiction collections for younger readers.--Lauren Younger, University of Dallas Library

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Review by Horn Book Review

Foreword by Sylvia Townsend. In chipper first-person text (â€~As musical notes start to float, I rise to my toesâ€TM), the authors describe African American ballet dancer Sylvia Townsend's childhood. Although her parents couldn't afford lessons (and segregation meant that ballet school was â€~for white girlsâ€TM only), Townsend turned to the town bookmobile to teach herself and others. The digital illustrations are somewhat generic but bright and cheerful. Reading list, timeline. Bib. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A young black girl overcomes prejudice and financial barriers to become a successful ballerina and teacher in this picture book based on a true story.Sylvia Townsend hears her parents' musicjazz and symphoniesand she rises "to my toes, ready to fly." She sees Swan Lake on television and decides she must learn balletbut her supportive parents can't pay for lessons. When a bookmobile comes to town, books about ballet become her teachers. She learns well, even teaching other girls in her neighborhood. When her fourth grade teacher sees the talented girl dance, she offers to pay for lessons, but three different schools turn Sylvia away. Only one "let[s] the real reason slipballet is for white girls." Sylvia is disheartenedbut her pupils still want lessons. At a school talent show, Sylvia's skill leads to a connection to a Russian ballet teacher. After a successful audition, Sylvia earns a free place in her school. On the final spread, an adult Sylvia teaches a multiethnic room full of children at Sylvia's School of Dance. Lyon and LaFaye have co-authored a standout text that centers action in this triumphant story. Gibson's full-color illustrations use patterns, textures, and expressive facial features to show a loving family, a vibrant community, and a talented girl who becomes an accomplished woman. Townsend contributes a brief introduction, and backmatter elaborates on her life and on the history of the bookmobile.Engaging and inspiring, this brief introduction is also fun to read. (notes, references, further reading) (Picture book. 3-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.