The best picture books to inspire little dancers

Katharine Holabird Author Of Angelina Ballerina
By Katharine Holabird

Who am I?

I’ve never forgotten the thrill of my first ballet! My grandmother and I went to see The Nutcracker when I was five, and that first ballet experience inspired a lifelong love of dance. As a child, I adored dressing up and twirling around the house with my sisters, and I went on to study dance along with English Literature in college. Years later when my own daughters adored dressing up in pink tutus, I started writing about a determined little mouse who loves to dance, and so Angelina Ballerina was born. Children naturally love music and dance, and I hope the picture books I’ve chosen will inspire you and your family with the magic of dance!


I wrote...

Angelina Ballerina

By Katharine Holabird, Helen Craig (illustrator),

Book cover of Angelina Ballerina

What is my book about?

Angelina is a passionate little mouse who wants nothing more than to be a real ballerina. She dances all the time—at home, at school, even in her dreams! Angelina is so busy dancing that she forgets about all the other things she’s supposed to do, like joining her family for breakfast and getting to school on time!

Angelina’s parents don’t know what to do—especially after her enthusiastic arabesques in the kitchen knock over the milk! Then they come up with a surprise that will change Angelina’s life forever…  Angelina Ballerina will enchant little dancers as she twirls off the page in beautiful illustrations by Helen Craig.

The books I picked & why

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Barnyard Dance!

By Sandra Boynton,

Book cover of Barnyard Dance!

Why this book?

This is hilarious, interactive board book is great fun to read with babies and toddlers. I love dancing to all the wacky rhymes with my grandkids - it’s a really good workout! When the farmyard animals start stomping and do-si-do-ing, the whole family will want to join in and dance along. Great for little ones who are just starting to tap their toes and twirl. 


Ballet Lesson: Peppa Pig

By Elizabeth Schaefer,

Book cover of Ballet Lesson: Peppa Pig

Why this book?

Peppa is an adorable little pink pig, and the Peppa Pig books are full of family fun and laughter. In this 8x8 storybook, slightly older children will delight in Peppa’s very first ballet lesson as she learns some graceful dance steps with all her friends. When Peppa comes home and decides to teach her parents how to do ballet she gets quite a surprise! Wonderful humor and colorful, lively illustrations contribute to all the dancing fun.


Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina

By Jane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator),

Book cover of Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina

Why this book?

The Fancy Nancy books are hugely popular, and this is a great addition to the series. Nancy loves to dress up and dance, and in this story she sets out to show her favorite ballet moves to her father, with touchingly humorous results. Young readers will enjoy following along as Nancy demonstrates her best plies, pirouettes, and jetes, and will probably be inspired to start their own ballet lessons!

An entertaining way to learn basic ballet positions, and a special treat for devoted little ballet students and their families.


The Very Fairy Princess Takes the Stage

By Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton,

Book cover of The Very Fairy Princess Takes the Stage

Why this book?

A storybook that takes me back to my own dancing childhood. The fabulous mother-daughter team of Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton have created a delightful series of picture books with a very winsome protagonist, Gerry, who loves being a fairy princess - and what little girl doesn’t? In this charming story Gerry is given the part of a court jester in the ballet recital - definitely not her first choice!  Little dancers will be inspired by Gerry’s determination and undaunted enthusiasm, and cheer her on as she saves the day. 


Twelve Dancing Princesses

By Brigette Barrager,

Book cover of Twelve Dancing Princesses

Why this book?

I adored listening to fairytales as a child, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses was a favorite of mine, loved by my children too. Parents will appreciate this child-friendly retelling of the Grimm’s classic fairytale, along with beautiful and colorful illustrations that will beguile young dancers. There’s lots of magic and mystery in the story of the princesses who mysteriously wear out their dancing slippers every night, and the humble cobbler who saves them. Budding ballerinas will have fun dressing up and dancing like the enchanted princesses!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in ballet, ballet dancers, and life satisfaction?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ballet, ballet dancers, and life satisfaction.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Anna Pavlova: Twentieth Century Ballerina, Dancing on My Grave, and Grimms' Fairy Tales if you like this list.