Taking Flight

From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
Narrated by: Allyson Johnson
Length: 5 hrs and 43 mins
5 out of 5 stars (90 ratings)

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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.”

1 person found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

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Incredible!!

I have never cried reading a memoir the way I cried reading this book. In just 4 hours, I was done reading and I couldn't help but feel inspired and also saddened by the pain Michaela and her sisters endured during the Sierra Leone civil war.

I highly recommend this book. You won't put it down. I promise.

1 person found this helpful

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Inspiring!

This book will make you cry sad tears and happy tears. It begins with such heartbreak and devastation but developed into hope and love and passion.

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Such an inspirational book:)

I loved this book so much:)
It inspired me to become the best that I could be as a dancer and strive my hardest like Michaela did. This is definitely a great read for students in middle school or starting high school!

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A Bit Vain

I felt the story started out with a great deal of interesting events even though they were not all good. As the chapters went on it was one bragging event after another of how many awards she received and how many prestigious companies she joined. For each one she started out talking about how renowned the company was, how she didn't think she could get in because it was such a challenging company and then how she got in. I found I had to make myself finish it. The narrator was just ok, but a bit monotonous.