Wembley mum who abandoned teaching career to write children’s books wins book deal for Planet Omar

Zanib Mian with her book Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet.

Zanib Mian with her book Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet. - Credit: Archant

A North Wembley mum who quit science teaching to write kids’ books says children’s publishing isn’t diverse enough – and wants to help change that.

Zanib Mian, of Paxford Road, has written 15 picture books, with Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet – her first for Hachette – about to hit the shelves on April 18.

The 39-year-old, who has two sons aged 17 and 11, studied molecular cell biology and went on to teach science at Ayesha’s Academy in Hendon, writing part time.

But after spotting a lack of diversity in the publishing world she took matters in her own hands.

She said as a child she would “fill notebooks” with her stories but, pursuing a career in science, only began writing when her boys were young.

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“I realised there were no fun books that represented all sorts of people from all sorts of minority backgrounds so I began making up my own stories,” she said.

“In 2009 I submitted one of the stories to a publisher that did diverse books but it said it didn’t tick their list so I thought, right, well, I have to try and do something about this lack of diverse books in the market.”

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She decided to start her own company, Sweet Apple Publishing, with a vision to work “with all kinds of people”.

The only books on the market about minority groups, she said, were hard-hitting or dealt with social issues. She wanted to write books that involved a diverse range of characters, but were “just a fun story”.

She self-published her first book in 2009 while still teaching full time. She gave up her career in 2014 to focus on her writing, publishing Islamic books, which was “a niche market”.

She said: “I learnt a lot on the job. My degree was in molecular biology, I had no background in publishing, no friends in publishing. I failed in many ways and succeeded in other ways but kept at it.”

In 2016 her book Oddsockosaurus was read on CBeebies Bedtime Stories. Then, last year, her book The Muslims won the Little Rebels Award.

It was picked up by Hachette, a major publisher, who signed her up for a three-book deal and renamed the series Planet Omar.

“I hope it inspires other children that look like me to think: ‘I can write too,’” she said. “I’d love to see Planet Omar made into a movie or animation – that would be a dream come true.”

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet written by Zanib Mian and illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik is published by Hodder Children’s Books on April 18, £6.99

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