As a kid, dance was my thing. I took every dance class I could, and consumed every book, movie, and television show about dance I could find.
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These days my dancing is limited to jamming to Lizzo in my kitchen, but I still love dance as an art form. However, the world of dance and books about dance isn’t always a diverse one. Popular culture tends to only focus on certain styles of dance, and only show white dancers.
Dance is an important tradition in many cultures across the world, and dancers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. These books explore the diverse world of dance, and all of the joy and beauty dance can bring, no matter who you are!
21 Diverse Books About Dance for Kids
The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow — This gorgeous book re-tells The Nutcracker story with a jazzy feel. This version of the classic tale is set during the Harlem Renaissance, and is a great example of how a wonderful story can transcend time, place, and culture. I recommend this book for kids ages 4 and up. You can also find this book on our list of Diverse Christmas Books.
Brothers of the Knight by Debbie Allen — This fun retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is set in the African-American church. Reverend Knight is puzzled by the fact that his 12 sons are wearing out their sneakers day after day. What if he knew that they were up all night dancing, instead of sleeping? This book is great for reading with kids ages 5 and up.
You Should Meet: Misty Copeland by Laurie Calkhoven — This level 3 early reader book explores the life of Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre’s first black female principal dancer. You’ll learn the struggles Misty faced as she worked to reach her goal, and why she never gave up. Her story is an inspiration to young performers in all areas! You can also find this book on our list of Books About Amazing Black Women.
Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief and Rosemary Wells — Maria Tallchief was a talented dancer and pianist, but as a member of the Osage Tribe, she was not allowed to dance because she was a woman. For many years, her parents allowed her to pursue her love of dance, but at the age of 12 she was forced to make a difficult choice. A truly captivating story! This book is great for kids ages 5 and up, and it’s also on our list of Books About World-Changing Women.
Pilar’s Worries by Victoria M. Sanchez — Pilar loves dancing ballet more than anything. But when it’s time for auditions for her favorite ballet, she’s nervous and scared. Her worries distract her and keep her from focusing at school. But finally, she remembers to take a breath and use some coping mechanisms to get through this anxious time. A perfect book for kids who struggle with worrying!
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith — When Jenna sees a video of Grandma Wolfe dancing at a powwow, she is amazed. She wants to dance at the powwow, just like her grandmother. But, her dress doesn’t make the beautiful jingling noise that Grandma Wolfe’s does. Jenna’s family and members of her community come together to help her make her dress sing.
Baby Dance by Ann Taylor — When my boys were babies, they all loved to be held high, spun in a circle, and danced with. This book captures that moment of parental love and joy in a way that kids and adults will want to read again and again. This board book is perfect for sharing with babies and toddlers.
Hip Hop Lollipop by Susan Montanari – Little Lollie just can’t sit still! Follow along as she dances her way through bedtime and finally settles down for the night…only to keep dancing in her dreams! This rhyming picture book is great for preschool-aged kids.
Feel The Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing by Marilyn Singer – This book of poetry covers a wide variety of dance styles, from cha-cha to hip hop. The dances and dancers are culturally diverse, and the swing rhymes are a great introduction to poetry for young people. This book is perfect for sharing with elementary-aged kids.
Firebird by Misty Copeland – In this gorgeous book, the American Ballet Theatre’s first black female principal dancer Misty Copeland speaks words of encouragement to a ballet dancer struggling with self-doubt. Her message is a wonderful lesson for all children, especially those who may feel like they don’t fit in. This gorgeous book is an excellent choice for school-aged children.
This Is It by Daria Peoples-Riley – In this story, a young dancer is nervous about an upcoming audition. Her shadow comes to life and guides her through the city, boosting her confidence along the way. I recommend this rhyming book for kids ages 4 and up.
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen – Sassy dreams of being a ballerina, but she wonders if she can ever make that dream come true. She’s too tall, her feet are too big, and she always speaks her mind. When a famous director comes to her dance class, Sassy works hard to impress him. Can she make an impression by being herself? This book is loosely based on Debbie Allen’s own experiences, and is wonderful for school-aged children.
Kitchen Dance by Maurie J. Manning – A little girl and her brother wake up in the middle of the night to investigate the unusual sounds coming from their kitchen. They find their parents dancing and singing, and they have to join in the fun. This beautiful story of family love is great for kids ages 3 to 8.
Ballerina Dreams by Michaela DePrince – I have loved watching Michaela DePrince dance since I saw her in the documentary First Position. This early reader book follows her life from an orphanage in Sierra Leone to her career as a professional dancer. This lovely story is perfect for newly independent readers, and also makes a great read-aloud.
A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey – This book follows a young girl in 1950s Harlem. Life can be hard, and wishes and dreams seem impossible to achieve. But when this young girl sees Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina, her dreams seem a bit closer than they were before. I recommend this book for kids ages 5 and up.
Dance With Me by Charles R. Smith, Jr. – Jump, move, shimmy, and shake! This rhyming book follows two dancing children who inspire their whole town to start moving and grooving. This book is super fun to read with toddlers and preschoolers.
Jazz Baby by Carole Boston Weatherford – This upbeat story shows all kinds of kids snapping, swinging, and swaying to the jazzy rhythm! Based on the rhyme of patty cake, this book is perfect for sharing with toddlers and preschoolers.
A Bailar!/Let’s Dance! by Judith Ortiz Cofer – I love this book so much! In this story, Maria and her mother are excited to hear Papi’s band play at the salsa concert at the park. In the kitchen, Mami uses the broom to teach Maria how to dance to the music. The concert is a beautiful celebration of music, family, and fun! This bilingual book is perfect for kids ages 4 and up.
Lupita’s First Dance by Lupe Ruiz-Flores – Lupita cannot wait to dance la raspa with her class to celebrate Children’s Day. However, when her partner Ernesto hurts his ankle, she has no one to dance with in the performance. Rather than wait in the wings, Lupita summons her courage and dances on without a partner. Seeing her mother in the audience inspires her to keep going, even though she feels silly at first. This powerful story is a great choice for sharing with kids ages 6 and up.
Drumbeat in Our Feet by Patricia A. Keeler – This beautifully illustrated picture book teachers readers about the origins and traditions of various types of African dance. It also shows how those traditions have influenced popular dance styles today. This fun and informative book is recommended for kids ages 6 and up.
Knockin’ On Wood by Lynne Barasch – Clayton Bates lost his leg in a factory accident at the age of 12. However, he didn’t let that stop him from becoming a tap-dancing legend. This book tells his story, and how he used his disability to enhance his dancing. Kids ages 5 and up will enjoy this captivating story!