When Langston Dances
Posted: Nov 10 2021
We would like to introduce you to Kaija Langley; Kaija has written a children’s book called ‘When Langston Dances’ and we couldn’t resist sharing it with you! This picture book is totally charming, absolutely beautiful, and even more importantly it tells the story of a young boy who takes up ballet. We were lucky enough to catch up with Kaija back in July, and the book is soon to be available in the UK…
Hi Kaija, what inspired you to write this book about a young boy who takes up ballet?
The story is made up but is based on a real boy called Langston who is my God-son. He just dances ALL the time – he can’t help himself! I saw a photo of him in ballet class surrounded by all the girls and it inspired me to write the book. He’s 11 now but he started ballet age 7 or 8.
Image: The real Langston with the book!
What challenges did Langston face as a boy doing ballet?
Langston is very self-aware, and very comfortable with himself. He once told me that “the other girls in the class are very protective of me – they don’t tease me, they have accepted me”. Langston’s mum says even the little boys in his circle at school don’t allow other boys to bully him, although he tends to stay around girls, maybe because he feels a bit safer … He may not even be aware of the stigma that some boys face going to ballet, due to the supportive circle of people around him.
How did you find the illustrator, Keith Mallet?
I made a short-list for my publishers based on illustrated books that I had seen, then we asked Keith and he accepted the job! I chose him because his illustrations are very modern and realistic, although to be honest we didn’t even discuss the pictures! Our first contact was after all the illustrations had been submitted, and fortunately I loved them straight away.
Do you dance?
I’m very athletic, but growing up I also did ballet and tap, and modern dance, but then got more into sports. I still had to do research for the book because It has been so long since I danced! I read lots of books and talked to dancers. In particular, I was inspired by Debbie Allen, who is a teacher and choreographer (for example ‘hot chocolate nutcracker’). She also wrote a book about being a black dancer.
Image: Kaija Langley
Is this your first book?
Yes this is my first! There is also another book in the pipeline, although it’s not a picture book.
Do you do other work as well as writing?
I started writing when I was 7; I really gravitated to words so I always planned to be a writer!!! I started with poetry, then short stories, and novels for adults. I felt that my purpose in life was to write books. However, the reality is very complex so I took a long hiatus from writing in my 30s. I had other jobs to pay the bills, including working for a local university as a fundraiser.
Then I came back to writing and I started writing for a younger audience and have been enjoying it a lot. A weight has been lifted compared to earlier on in life, due to the full-time job.
My 50s are going to be a good decade for writing!
What age range is ‘When Langston Dances’ suitable for?
Age 4 to 8
Can we buy the book in the UK?
Yes! It will be available in the UK from November 2021.
You’ll be able to purchase When Langston Dances from most large book retailers (such as Blackwell’s and Waterstones) from 11th November 2021. We think that this book is the ideal gift for a young dancer of any gender. Thanks, Kaija, for your beautiful book!