Ballet Besties is a new fun and inclusive series bringing the joy of dance to young readers. Created by Principal Ballerina, Yasmine Naghdi and popular children’s author Chitra Soundar, Yara's Chance to Dance, the first in the series, follows a group of friends who love their community dance school and are determined to keep it open when it is threatened with closure.

A glossary of ballet terms and an explanation of dance moves ensures the books are wonderful reading for 7+ fans of classic ballet and non-dancers alike.

We were delighted to get a chance to ask Yasmine about her debut children's book.

Q. Yara, one of the young ballet students in the story, has spent years regularly moving home. Was this your experience of being a young ballet student and how did your training regime affect your schooling?

A. We never moved around like Yara had to with her parents. My ballet training didn’t interfere with my schoolwork because I was very self-disciplined when it came to doing my schoolwork straight after I arrived back home after a ballet class. Once I was in vocational ballet training at The Royal Ballet School, I thrived on the routine, and this allowed me to concentrate on self-improvement, even as a teenager. At The Royal Ballet (boarding) School, I would do my homework every evening after dinner, often up until bedtime. My academic lessons were as important as learning ballet. And luckily I didn’t get distracted by social media use as it wasn’t so advanced as now.

Q. Miss Diamond, the ballet teacher, is kind and supportive and encourages Yara with a wonderfully positive mantra to "Dream big, work hard and you can definitely achieve it". Was Miss Diamond based upon a real teacher?

A. No, Miss Diamond’s personality is based on an imaginary ballet teacher, although I pictured her to be like Miss Honey from Roald Dahl’s Matilda - a teacher who is kind, gentle and everyone loves, whilst being encouraging and teaching the children self-discipline, focus and the determination to achieve their goal or dream. My message is that nothing comes easy. Success is only achieved through very hard work, nothing one achieves in life will be served on a silver plate, and you can only realise your dreams when working consistently hard.

Q. The children who attend the Shimmer & Shine schools are diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity - how important was it to you to represent the world of classical ballet as all inclusive.

A. This was very important to me because ballet is still, and all too often, wrongly seen as something only girls do but nothing could be further from the truth! I had many boys in my ballet classes, and now as a professional ballerina there are many men in the Company. Children of any ethnicity can learn how to dance ballet, it just doesn’t matter what one’s background or ethnicity is. It is true that Classical Ballet is a western art form but there are also classical, folk and modern dance forms from all over the world. Dancing is a way to communicate, to engage with music, to engage socially with each other, and it is physically as well as mentally very rewarding. It also brings communities together.

Q. Indu hopes that learning ballet will be a way to help her cope with stage fright and give her confidence. What do you think are the benefits of dance and performing?

A. There are so many benefits to dancing and performing. It not only keeps you fit and healthy, but it also encourages learning how to work as a group whilst being respectful and courteous to others, it gives you a great sense of achievement, and aids in confidence building.

Q. Being co-authored, what was the writing process for Ballet Besties? And how did you originally meet?

A. I reached out to Chitra Soundar after coming across the wonderful children’s books she has written, and we met up after speaking to her (and now our) literary agent, who - it turned out - was a great ballet lover. Chitra would write up ideas on the story’s overall shape, I would then add in my input incorporating my ideas to the story line and then I would add in all the ballet related detail into the overall story. Chitra and I would send the story back and forth to each other with additions and changes.

Do you have a favourite ballet?

I have many favourite ballets but if I must pick one, It’s Romeo & Juliet.

If you could pick a children's book to be interpreted by a full-length ballet, what would it be?

Perhaps one of Roald Dahl’s books… Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda or the BFG.  There are so many lovely and inspiring children’s books that I read when I was little, but these are the books that spring to mind first!

Ballet Besties: Yara's Chance to Dance written by Yasmine Naghdi and Chitra Soundar, with gorgeous black and white illustrations from Paula Franco, is published by Piccadilly Press.