• The Publishing Post

Children’s Books That Get You Moving!

By Laura Jones, Rosie Barr and Rosie Burgoyne

With the combination of lockdown and home-schooling making it more difficult for people to get outside and exercise, there has recently been an increasing focus in media and activities to keep children active. Campaigns like PE with Joe Wicks have been keeping the nation’s children exercising during the pandemic, by encouraging them to get involved in physical exercise. This trend has been reflected across the children’s publishing industry, with the last year seeing a rising number of books being published with themes of movement. With this in mind, the children’s team have picked out some of our favourite books to get you moving in this issue…


Ballet with Heart by Emily Joof and Sawyer Cloud


Ballet with Heart, the third illustrated children’s book from independent publishers Mbife Books, follows the journey of two children, Ella and Louis, who love to dance.

Ballet with Heart truly lives up to its name, breaking down the gender and racial stereotypes typically associated with ballet, to make way for a heartwarming and inclusive story for children. In which, the characters make new friends and are inspired by their teachers to dream big.


The book is being funded via Go Fund Me, with reward incentives available for early backers and a Swedish edition of the book is also set to be published, with translations by Diana Nanjobe. Ballet with Heart is available for pre-order here, in time for its publication in Summer 2021. You can find out more about Mbife Books and their mission to publish inclusive children’s books here.


Striking Out by Ian Wright and Musa Okwonga


In his first children’s book, Ian Wright presents the story of 13-year-old Jerome – an aspiring footballer. Inspired by his own life experience, Wright partners with Musa Okwonga to create an inspiring story for children who might be going through difficult times whilst chasing their dreams. In an interview with The Bookseller, Wright shared that the book “will allow [him] to share his journey – not only the triumphs, but most importantly the challenges” (19 February 2021). At a time when children are facing unprecedented struggles and extended periods away from sporting activities, Wright and Okwonga are bringing a story of hope with a message of never giving up when chasing your dreams, no matter how tough life gets or how many obstacles are faced.


Okwonga has already written a children’s title about Raheem Sterling, so it seems that this could be a winning combination for Scholastic UK, who are the publishers. Striking Out is due for publication on 2 September 2021 (hardback) and is guaranteed to reinvigorate the keen footballer in your life.


Dance with Oti: The Bird Jive by Oti Mabuse and Samara Hardy

Oti Mabuse is one of the nation’s favourite professional dancers, helping people cope with lockdown. Through her winning performance on Strictly Come Dancing with Bill Bailey and her regular Oti’s Boogie Beebies slot on CBeebies, she helps the very youngest children get moving through dance.

Therefore, it is no wonder that her debut children’s book also celebrates the movement and freedom of dance. Dance with Oti: The Bird Jive will teach little readers a simple ten-step routine, with a video which can also be viewed by scanning a QR code on the book.


The picture book, adorably illustrated by Samara Hardy, also addresses how dance can be used to express feelings - excitement, worry, frustration. The overwhelming message is that getting every step right is not what matters, it is taking part and enjoying yourself. Mabuse says: “it has always been my passion to get children dancing. This first book is an easy way for mums and dads to get their kids moving, talking about their feelings and hopefully just having fun. I can’t wait for you all to read it next year."


Dance with Oti is set to publish in June 2021 (hardback) and looks like it will be great fun for little dancers (and big dancers!) everywhere.

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