The diabetes community's favorite prima ballerina, Zippora Karz, has added "children's author" to her resume. She's just published a thoroughly charming book about a school-age girl with a passion for ballet who gets diagnosed with type 1 diabetes right before the biggest performance of her little life.

Parents of little girls will find "Ballerina Dreams: A Book for Children with Diabetes" reminiscent of the "Nina Nina Ballerina" series, but with a sophisticated diabetes twist. In other words, Zippora does not "dumb down" this disease at all, but rather presents it in very clear and frank terms. An excerpt:

... "Diabetes isn't easy to explain," the doctor continued. "It involves a chemical in the blood called insulin. When we eat, food is broken down into sugar. This sugar is what will feed the cells of the body, from our eyes to our toes, so they can work properly. But something has to help get the sugar from the blood into the cells. Insulin is like a key that opens a door; it is what opens a cell up so the sugar can get in. Some bodies... have problems making insulin, so they do not have enough."

 

Ballerina Dreams

 

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Plus there's a nice two-page section at the back of book called "Diabetes Explained" written by none other than the legendary endo Dr. Fran Kaufman of the USC School of Medicine and Medtronic Diabetes.

The book is mildly biographical, with the main character being a young girl named Zippy -- although the real Zippora was actually diagnosed at age 21, when she was already an aspiring ballerina with the New York City Ballet.

In the book, Zippy is so excited to be chosen to dance as leading ballerina in her first performance! But soon she's feeling weak, peeing a lot, and even collapses during rehearsal. Her parents take her to a (surprisingly relaxed and upbeat) doctor, who confirms that she can continue dancing, as long as she learns to do her shots, test glucose regularly, and "keep some sugar off-stage, just in case your blood sugar drops too low." She's fiercely determined not to give up her dancing, especially after a fairy-godmother-ballerina appears in her dreams.

But when Zippy returns to dance class after being out several weeks adjusting to her diagnosis, she finds she's been replaced in the lead role -- oh no! But then... well, I won't give it all away.

The happy ending is this final sentence: "She knew it would give her strength to succeed despite any challenge, on-stage and off."

Charming, charming! As are the illustrations. Seriously, where else would you see this?

 

Ballerina diabetes

 

Note that this is Zippora's second book, her first being an actual autobiography called The Sugarless Plum that we reviewed back in 2009.

In preparation for this review, I caught up with Zippora, who performed for 16 years on stage and on television, and now teaches ballet for the George Balanchine Trust, rehearsing and staging performances for a host of national and international dance companies. She's also become a diabetes spokesperson and educator who regularly addresses major diabetes conferences and organizations worldwide.

 

She answered a few key questions for us here at the 'Mine:

DM) What diabetes therapy did you use while dancing with NYC ballet? And now? Shots, pump, CGM...?

I did shots for the years of my career, 1983-1999. And when I retired I stayed with that same regime. So, I still do shots. And I am not using a CGM monitor. I'm very diligent about testing a lot, even in the night. I'm a very light sleeper so I get up on my own anyhow, and just take the time to test. It's one of the questions I had about the book, knowing how many kids use the pump and CGM. But I decided to keep Zippy with shots, and maybe in another book she can get a pump?

So you have plans for a Zippy series, or another book?

 

Well, I would like to write another Zippy book as I mentioned, and maybe she gets the pump.

Also, from my memoir The Sugarless Plum, I have worked with and been in contact with so many talented dancers with diabetes. I would like to write a book sharing some of their stories and how they handle diabetes and still follow their passion for dance. They inspire me!!

What tips would do you or would you share with young aspiring dancers who have diabetes?

I learned not to eat fast-acting carbohydrates before dancing. When I kept to low glycemic snacks, I experienced less low blood sugar levels. Even though it is so hard to avoid lows, since as dancers we need as close to normal as possible levels so our bodies are steadied and we can focus as we need to. And exercising as much as we do puts us right on the edge, like walking a tight rope.

My snacks were often a piece of chicken and veggies. Or nuts and seeds.  I always kept something sweet in my dance bag right near me at all times. Dates worked well for me; if I was dancing and felt a bit low I could put a date in my mouth and continue dancing. The audience could not see it. Also, make sure your feet are clean and dry so as to not get blisters and infections. Make sure your Pointe shoes are the right size, and cover your toes with adhesive tape and bandaids. If I felt a blister or corn coming on I soaked in Epsom salt and applied Tinactin powder.

Thank you so much, lovely Zippora!

{"Ballerina Dreams" is self-published by Zippy Books, $13.50 on Amazon}

And now, our chance to share some of the sugar-plum delight...

 

A DMBooks Giveaway

Interested in winning a free copy of "Ballerina Dreams: A Book for Children with Diabetes" by Zippora Karz? Entering the giveaway is as easy as leaving a comment:

1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the the text to let us know that you'd like to be entered in the giveaway.

2. You have until Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, at 5 p.m. PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.

3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.

4. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, so make sure you're following us! We'll update this post with the winner's name once chosen.

So, don your tutu and get busy entering here. Good luck to all!

This contest is now closed. Congrats to D-Mom Joanne Cunha from Texas, who's not only a fellow diabetes blogger over at Death of a Pancreas but who also won this giveaway for her daughter Elise!

 
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.