A vibrant picture book biography of Surya Bonaly, the figure skating champion who backflipped her way into history.
As a young girl in France, Surya Bonaly was constantly in motion, gifted in any sport she tried. But it was figure skating that had her heart. Surya knew she belonged on the ice. Her colorful costumes, exuberant routines, powerful jumps, and daring combinations were all expressions of her love for skating and her ambition to push the boundaries of what a figure skating champion could look like. Some people weren't sure Surya belonged on top of the podium. "Is she graceful enough?" they asked. "Does she look like a skater?" But Surya's fearless heart propelled her to always stay true to herself while pursuing her boldest dreams. Culminating in her iconic backflip performed at the 1998 Olympics, Fearless Heart is a lushly illustrated, lyrical story of self-expression and courage.
K-Gr 3—This illustrated biography of French figure skater Surya Bonaly is told in poems ("Her Dawn," "Her Dream," "Her Rise," etc.), with artwork as vibrant and glittery as an Olympic routine. Bonaly, who is Black, was adopted and renamed by white parents at 18 months. She showed early talent as a figure skater and worked hard to become the French champion and European champion. However, at the highest levels, it seemed, "The judges didn't want a/ Black figure skater,/ skating the way she wanted./ And, maybe,/ they didn't want a/ Black figure skater/ at all." Refusing to accept second place, Bonaly learned to skate how the judges wanted, but ended her Olympic career by landing a defiant backflip on one skate, a move that has not been attempted before or since. Perhaps due to the poetic nature of the text, some details are unclear, although back matter includes more, along with photographs. Williams's painterly digital art infuses the dynamism of live figure skating into the spreads; she shows Bonaly in a variety of athletic poses, including her trademark backflip, and wearing different costumes, hairstyles, and makeup. Certain active words in the text are accentuated for their meaning and contribute to the sense of movement the illustrations create. VERDICT A tad uneven, but with standout illustrations; a good choice for libraries where books about groundbreaking athletes such as Raven Wilkinson (Leda Shubert's Trailblazer) and Misty Copeland (her own Firebird) are popular.—Jenny Arch