Amanda Malek-Ahmadi

Amanda Malek-Ahmadi, who has a dance background, penned “10 Ballet Dancers” to introduce children to ballet and the French language.


manda Malek-Ahmadi’s dream was to write a book.

She not only accomplished that with “10 Ballet Dancers,” but she was honored for it. 

Malek-Ahmadi won a Silver Benjamin Franklin Award, which is presented by the Independent Book Publishers Association. The award for interior design represents one of the highest honors for small-press and independent publishing. 

The book was published by Tolleson’s The Small-Tooth-Dog Publishing Group.

“Getting the news that ‘10 Ballet Dancers’ earned a Benjamin Franklin Award was an experience beyond words,” the Glendale resident said. “I look forward to seeing that silver stickers on the cover.

“I am so grateful that The Small-Tooth-Dog Publishing Group took a chance on my debut picture book.”

The publisher, Sean Buvala, congratulated Malek-Ahmadi and illustrator Kathrine Gutkovskiy. 

“They produced a book that has a lovely story for young children and gentle, inviting art,” he said. “We also had a terrific alliance with TLC Book Design out of Austin, Texas. Being recognized by the IBPA for this work affirms the journey we are on. It gives us new energy as we continue to add to our current list of more than a dozen titles.

“We certainly wanted this project to be a showcase-level book that families would be proud to give as a gift and read with their kids. While it’s intended for everyone, families with young dancers will really appreciate the cute story and diverse characters.”

Malek-Ahmadi said she believes “10 Ballet Dancers” received accolades because it’s a countdown book. The book, which uses French terms, includes a glossary at the end that’s fun, educational and helpful. 

“Another reason I believe it was recognized was thanks to the publishing team at The Small-Tooth-Dog Publishing Group and the design team at TLC,” Malek-Ahmadi added.

“They did an amazing job figuring out the details, like the font style and size and where everything should be placed. TLC Book Designs also created an aesthetically pleasing glossary where they added the pictures from the book to the terms rather than there just being words on the page. I also believe that Kathrine’s gorgeous illustrations greatly contributed to (the book’s) recognition.”

Malek-Ahmadi said she enjoys hearing stories about parents trying to pronounce the French words. 

“It’s great for children to see parents struggling with those words,” she said. “Plus, we got the attention of Dance Teacher Magazine. One of the editors featured it and talked about how it’s a great book to use in the classroom.”

Malek-Ahmadi studied French in school and from a seventh grade exchange student. 

“She and I became really great friends,” she said. “She is the godmother to my second son. We’re still in communication through WhatsApp. I call her and practice my French.”

Malek-Ahmadi started dancing “in the womb.” One of her “coolest memories” is dancing with her teacher in the 1980s wearing a black leotard, tights and ribbons streaming down all over the outfits. 

A Scottsdale native, Malek-Ahmadi attended Desert Mountain High School and UA for college. For three years, she lived in Florida, where she danced for Busch Gardens. 

“It was such a wonderful, memorable experience,” she said. “I moved back here and found our home in Glendale. It’s been really enjoyable.”