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Piccadilly Press acquires dance-inspired series by ballerina Yasmine Naghdi and Chitra Soundar

Piccadilly Press is delighted to announce the acquisition of Ballet Besties, a new inclusive and accessible young middle-grade series co-written by Royal Ballet Principal ballerina Yasmine Naghdi and award-winning children’s author Chitra Soundar. The series will be highly illustrated in black and white by Paula Franco. 

Ella Whiddett, editor at Piccadilly Press, acquired world rights to four books in the series from Alice Sutherland-Hawes at ASH Literary.          

Yara’s Chance to Dance, the first book, follows Yara who joins Shimmer & Shine, a community dance school, where she soon has a group of ballet besties she loves to dance with. But then Dame Clougston-Wilmott, their grumpy, dance-hating landlady threatens to close the studio. Suddenly it’s up to Yara and her new friends to keep Shimmer & Shine open!

Yasmine Naghdi said: ‘It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Chitra on this series. I hope all young readers will find inspiration in the stories and will be encouraged to take up ballet or dance lessons.’

Chitra Soundar added: ‘It’s incredible to delve into the world of ballet that Yasmine generously opens up to tell stories that welcome everyone to join in.’

Ella Whiddett, editor at Piccadilly Press, said: ‘As a dance novice, I have loved learning more about ballet through this series, which so joyfully opens up the world of ballet for all children, by breaking down the ‘traditional idea’ of what a ballet dancer looks like, showing characters of all ages, genders, ethnicities and body shapes enjoying dance. Yasmine and Chitra have perfectly balanced technical detail with heart and lightness of touch.’

Yasmine Naghdi is a Principal dancer at The Royal Ballet and has been with the Company since 2010, rising to the highest rank of Principal in 2017. Her many roles with The Royal Ballet include Odette/Odile (Swan Lake), Princess Aurora (The Sleeping Beauty), Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) and the Sugar Plum Fairy (The Nutcracker). She has performed all over the world and is passionate about showing classical ballet is for everyone. @yasmine_naghdi 

Chitra Soundar is a writer and dreamer of many things. As well as writing books, Chitra is a speaker, oral storyteller and toe-dipper in writing for the small screen. Her stories are inspired by her close-knit family, her childhood in India, which was filled with epics and folktales, and her travels around the world. Chitra has performed at literary festivals across the UK, US and many other countries, telling stories and introducing the magic of writing to children everywhere. @csoundar

Paula Franco is a children’s book illustrator living in Rosario, Argentina. She studied Illustration & Graphic Design at Instituto Superior Comunicación Visual (ISCV Fundación Rosario Diseño). Her work has been featured in the New York Times Children’s Best Seller list and has been awarded a Kirkus Star and a School Library Journal Star. She works from a studio office at home alongside four mixed-breed rescue dogs. @paulafranco_illustration

Yara’s Chance to Dance will be publishing in paperback, audio and eBook in Spring 2024, followed by the second instalment in Autumn 2024 and books 3 and 4 in 2025.