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Publisher's Summary

Michaela DePrince was known as girl no. 27 at the orphanage where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a "devil child" for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and now dances for the Dutch National Ballet. In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet's most exciting rising stars.

©2014 Elaine DePrince and Michaela DePrince (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"There is plenty of ballet detail for dance lovers to revel in, and the authors achieve a believable, distinctive teenage voice with a nice touch of lyrical description." ( Publishers Weekly)

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Dreams Carried on the Harmattan Winds

Taking Flight is the story of a War Child and a Magical Ballerina who inspire each other across an ocean, and then one day the war child becomes a magical ballerina. It sounds almost surreal. And, it is. Michaela DePrince was born in Sierra Leone, but was taken to an orphanage by her uncle when her parents died. Her Father had been shot by the rebels, and her mother starved afterwards.

This memoir shares Michaela’s story of how she survived the horrors of the war at four years of age. One day outside the orphanage, the strong Harmattan winds blew a magazine against the gate. On the cover she saw a ‘magical ballerina’ and guessed that she was dancing. She decided then that one day she wanted to be a dancer like that woman. Years later she would learn that magazine was 20 years old when she found it in 1999, and she would meet Magali Messac, that dancer.

But, in the interim her life began a course of change that would set her on the road to her dreams. She was adopted with her best friend by a couple who had two sons already die from hemophilia, and the third would later die as a young adult. When their new mother took them to the hotel the day she adopted them in Africa, she gave them everything she had brought for them. But, seeing Michaela was still waiting to find something, her Mother asked her what she would like. Since she was unable to make her understand her words, Michaela pulled out the magazine photo. Her Mother had no tutu or shoes with her, but promised her that, “Home, in America, you will dance.”

What follows is the beautiful story of adoptive parents who nourish her spirit as well as her body and heart. She becomes a professional classical ballerina and an inspiration to many others. I highly recommend this short book. I read it in the Audible format narrated excellently by Allyson Johnson. This was my stop in Sierra Leone on my Journey Around the World in 80 Books for 2019. My next stop will be Liberia, but I think Michaela’s journey from the war-ravaged Kenema District, to the United Nations Refugee Camp in Conakry Guinea, to the United States… her journey will remain with me.

Amazingly, UNICEF estimates that there are 320,000 orphans in Sierra Leone out of a population of approximately 6 million. Many more died during the conflict. Very few escaped. Michaela was blessed, and as her Mother told her…

“With blessings come a responsibility to share.”




“Nothing lasts forever. There will come a day when these girls will no longer be a part of your life and you'll no longer care about what they once said about you.”



“I first met you there, on the other side of the ocean in Africa.”

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Mia is the real star of this story

I find this such an overall inspiring book. Mia holds a special place in my heart as I’m moved by her kindness of heart and spirit even at a tender age. So much love! Michaela is inspiring and I absolutely love her story.

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Inspiring story of perseverance

This story makes me appreciate this dancer even more and the hard work it took for her to succeed.

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Great read

One of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. So glad for parents that desire to give children a chance for a happy future.

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Book to read

Wonderful book. And the DePrince family are awesome. Adopting children from war torn countries. Must read

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Dance of Hope

Taking Flight by Michaela De Prince is a very inspiring book that far exceeded my expectations. I was aware of the author's ballet career and I enjoyed watching her performances. I took more notice of her when she and her sister did their adorable and funny Chase mobile app TV commercial. I chose this book because I wanted to learn more about her career and her family. The story brought me through the full spectrum of emotions and I really couldn't wait for the next opportunity to hear what would happen next. The narration performance by Allyson Johnson is very good. Initially, I thought that casting Allyson Johnson to read this material was an odd choice. Later, I realized that Allyson Johnson was a good choice to narrate this because of her pronunciation skills, inflection, and vocal variety. The narration enhanced my understanding and overall experience of the story. I understand that Michaela DePrince is busy in her career, but I think that this material would be presented best if it were read by the author herself. I would highly recommend this book. This is an important story that needs to be heard by as many people as possible.

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Interesting story of human spirit and determination.

Reading this book made me want to know much more about ballet. Michaela DePrince deserved the blessing of loving parents who were 100% behind her. What beautiful spirit she has. Now I really want to see First Position.

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Riveting and beautiful!!!

This is the best memoir I've ever read! What a life she's lived! I feel like the universe is giving back to her all the things she had taken away. I'm thrilled to have listened to this book. The performance was spot on. I loved that the reader knew how to say the ballet words correctly in French. All the accents were so great! I enjoyed it so so much!

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Absolutely Breathtaking

It was a beautifully awakening book. It really made an impression on me. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone.

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Compelling Story

I hope to hear an even longer autobiography as I haven’t nearly had enough of this well-written and compelling, provocative story.