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News about Ballerina Dreams!

Ballerina Dreams: A True Story wins
The Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Nonfiction

March 13, 2008

What an honor! The Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education awarded Ballerina Dreams the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Nonfiction. It shared the award with a book by nonfiction great, Russell Freedman. At the ceremony, I gave a little speech (I was asked to keep it to five minutes, since several other authors were receiving awards of their own as well) and received a lovely framed certificate, which I’ve proudly displayed in my office. The luncheon afterwards was lovely — there’s no better way to spend a few hours than with fellow lovers of children’s books.

Ballerina Dreams was also selected as an American Library Association Notable Book.


Dreams do come true …

November 20, 2007

Hooray! On Nov 19, the Ballerina Dreams dancers were on NBC’s “Today“! After a wonderful video about Joann Ferrara, the girls’ teacher, and all the hard work the girls have done, host Meredith Vieira interviewed Joann and dancer Veronica (who is one of the girls on the book cover). Later in the show, viewers met a few of the wonderful helpers, and Joann led the dancers in a short Nutcracker performance.

Here are links to both segments:

TODAY Segment 1

TODAY Segment 2

Hope you enjoy … I did!

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving,


November 11, 2007

This was a very special day for Joann Ferrara and her young ballet students. Today they performed “The Nutcracker” for their family and friends — and for Today show cameras! In front of an audience that filled the auditorium, Joann’s new class of fifteen dancers appeared on stage as Clara, Sugar Plum Fairies, exotic Teas and Coffees, and Candy Canes. For the grand finale, they were all Snowflakes.

At the end of one scene, the three girls on stage leaned in together and each lifted one leg behind them in point tendu. They made a beautiful figure, which was all the more poignant because one girl wore a brace from knee to ankle. With assistance from their teenage helpers, all of the girls were prima ballerinas today, despite their physical disabilities. Their smiles lit up the stage, and there were many teary eyes in the audience, including my own.

Joann made it all seem effortless, but some of us knew the many hours she had spent planning the recital, creating the backdrops, including a spectacular “growing” Christmas tree, and sewing the costumes — all of them. I’m in awe of such dedication and love.

I’m so glad that I was there to see the performance, to say hello to the girls and families that I’ve come to know, and to sign books for those who bought copies. All the proceeds for those book sales will go to Joann Ferrara’s Dancing Dreams program.

Look for our segment on Today on Tuesday, November 20!


November 1, 2007

Wow! What a wonderful Ballerina Dreams party at the Bayside, Queens, B&N on November 1, 2007. All the ballerinas featured in the book were there, along with Joann Ferrara, their dance teacher, and scores of ballerina classmates, friends, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, neighbors … what a crowd! And all to celebrate this book, which celebrates the determination and achievement of five little girls who made their dream of being ballerinas come true, in spite of their physical disabilities.

And WNBC, the local NBC affiliate, was there to share the excitement live on their evening news broadcasts. You can watch the segments here: WNBC Segment 1

and here: WNBC Segment 2.

– I’m somewhere in the back in a pink top and shiny tiara.


More events coming up!

November 11, 2007
Nutcracker Ballet Performance in Jamaica, Queens, NY

November 17, 2007
Ballerina Dreams Author Signing, Brooklyn Museum, 1:00 – 5:00 pm

Week of November 19, 2007
Look for the ballerinas on NBC’s TODAY show!

November 26, 2007
Ballerina Dreams Author Reading and Ballet Instruction for All Abilities by Joann Ferrara, Lincoln Triangle Barnes & Noble, 4:00 pm

December 6, 2007
Author Interview on morning radio across the country! 7:00 am – 12:00 pm


Reviews for Ballerina Dreams: A True Story

Publishers Weekly, starred review

Inspired by a 2006 New York Times article, this poignant photo-essay taps Thompson’s (Polar Bear Night) storytelling talent and Times photographer Estrin’s behind-camera skill to chronicle a ballet recital given by five unlikely young dancers. The performers, ranging in age from three to seven, all have various disorders such as cerebral palsy; for them, raising their arms, holding themselves upright and maintaining their balance can be feats requiring very hard work. Thompson frames their story as one of a dream come true (the performance incorporated “When you wish upon a star…” to make the same point), and in describing the girls’ work with their teacher, New York City physical therapist Joann Ferrara, the author stresses what these girls might have in common with the audience—their excitement, their delight in their tutus and tiaras, their last-minute jitters, their unmistakable pleasure in dancing. With similar effect, close-up portraits introduce the five girls, all shown beaming, before readers see full-body shots revealing their leg braces and the teen helpers who support the dancers onstage. An especially attractive design breaks each spreads into blocks of text, solid pink panels, and group and individual photos. The insightful presentation encourages readers not only to identify with the dancers, but to draw inspiration from them as well. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Ferrara’s Dancing Dreams program.

School Library Journal, starred review

Five adorable little girls are given the opportunity to learn to dance like ballerinas and eventually perform on stage. This is no small accomplishment since the girls have cerebral palsy and other muscle disorders and several wear leg braces. To inspire them, their teacher, who is a dancer and physical therapist, gives each of them a glittery tiara and a wand. Assistance is provided to them, as needed, by helpers between the ages of 11 and 16 who work with them during each class and at the recital. As the children learn the steps, their confidence improves and their muscles grow stronger. Finally on the day of the recital, the excitement of makeup and lovely costumes combines with the magic of performing to the beautiful music from The Nutcracker and Swan Lake as they realize their dreams. This is an inspiring portrayal of determination and love that will foster empathy among young readers. The colorful photographs of this dancing community working toward a common goal accurately and sensitively capture the struggles and joyful enthusiasm of all of the participants.–Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA

Kirkus Reviews

This lovely book focuses on five little girls who long desperately to be ballerinas on stage. Each has a disability, such as cerebral or Erbs palsy, that affects leg and arm muscles. Fortunately, Joann Ferrara, a woman who wanted to make a difference, began ballet classes for children with these illnesses. Thompson recounts the process of practice, the fun of costumes and bright makeup and the show that the girls ultimately present for their parents. There are more photographs than text, clearly conveying the joy these children feel dancing in their tutus. The text is pithy but leaves the reader with great admiration for Ferrara and the difference she has made in these little ballerinas’ sense of confidence and self-worth. The photographs show the difficulties encountered by these girls as well as the range of ability of motion. However, the overwhelming theme is simply joy. An example of a small idea making things better for a small group of children, this program is truly noteworthy, as is its loving founder. Includes information about Ferrara (as well as the girls’ helpers) and symptoms and treatments for cerebral palsy.

Children’s Literature (

Five little girls with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities share the dream of becoming ballerinas. With their powerful determination and the help of several committed teachers, these little girls get the chance to realize their dreams. A true story illustrated with beautiful photographs taken by James Estrin, the book follows five real little girls named Abbey, Monica, Nicole, Shekinah, and Veronica from ballet class to recital, where they show that working hard has helped them to become ballerinas in spite of their physical disabilities. The technical ballet terms and detailed descriptions of what the girls do in practice and performance are sure to please any child who loves ballet, while remaining appropriate for young readers. The plentiful photographs capture the personalities of the girls, making it possible for even a very young child to follow. This touching story would be a useful resource in an early childhood educational setting as an example of individuals with different abilities or disabilities, and its message of determination in the face of adversity is one that parents and educators of children of all ages would find useful.

Children’s Book Committee, Bank Street College of Education

Ballerina Dreams: A True Story selected as “November 2007 Monthly Pick”


Joann and Dancing Dreams studentMore great links!

Publishers Weekly, “Big Dreams for Little Dancers”

Publishers Weekly, Ballerina Dreams author and editor are panel guests at regional booksellers conference

Joann Ferrara’s Dancing Dreams website

“A Very Special Ballet Class,” Ladies Home Journal 3/07