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Holly’s hitting the big time thanks to Karate Kids

Holly Sterling at the book launch

Published on 10 February 2020

A passion for karate combined with a talent for illustration has led a University of Sunderland lecturer to create a new children’s book.

Holly Sterling officially launched Karate Kids this weekend.

Published by Walker Book, this fun story touches on the lecturer’s own life and experiences.

The book is a culmination of years of work for the Lecturer in Illustration, and draws from her own time as a karate champion, as well as the children she now teaches.

From a mixed ethnicity family – an English mum and Jamaican dad – it has always been important to Holly that her work represents children from all backgrounds.

The illustrator’s passion stems from her own childhood where she would often search for book characters she could relate to, but struggled.

Karate Kids, which follows a group of children on their way to theirkarate lesson, is particularly timely, with the sport set to make its debut at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Holly said: “Having this book launch as karate makes its way to Tokyo 2020 is particularly special for me. I hope it encourages young children to get involved in the sport and aspire to become the best that they can be.”

During her own time studying, between 2006 and 2009 at the University of Sunderland, Holly indulged her passion for the sport, going on to be named British Universities Karate Champion on a number of occasions, having already been named the UK National Women’s Karate Champion.

Holly was also one of the University’s Elite Athletes, travelling the world to compete for England.

Written and Illustrated by Holly, a number of Karate Kids’ characters are loosely based on children that she has taught over the years as an instructor at Sendai Kushiro Karate Club in Sunderland and County Durham.

Karate superstar-in-the-making Rebecca Adie is one of Holly’s first students who started training at Dame Dorothy Primary School at just five years old. She went on to join Sendai Kushiro as a regular member and continued to work hard.

Ten years later, Rebecca has represented the country at European and world events, as well as being named a national karate champion.

Rebecca’s mum, Kay, said: “Holly has been a real mentor to Rebecca. She has been with her from that very first lesson to when she gained her black belt five years ago.

“It’s not just the fact she has helped her in training, but she is there to support Rebecca all the time; she’s been incredible.”

Ethan Brown is another of Sendai Kushiro’s young stars who has inspired Karate Kids.

Ethan was also introduced to the sport at the age of five. Now, 17, the Southmoor Academy sixth former has achieved an impressive fighting record.

Mum Anthea said: “He started competing at six and, by 13, he’d been selected for the England squad.”

In November last year, Ethan represented his country at European championships in Spain where he came away with two bronze medals.

Anthea added: “Sensei Holly and Sensei John have provided amazing support over the years, she’s always been there to offer guidance when he’s been anxious.”

Holly took inspiration from her pupils to help create the book.

She said: “I want my drawings to be empowering for everyone; for girls and for boys. It’s important we subvert gender stereotypes.

“I wanted to create different characters that different young people could relate to. We’re not all the same; we come from different places, have different histories and relate to things in different ways.

“It was about bringing characters to life where the children could see a little bit of themselves, that’s really important.”

The launch of the book took place at the University’s CitySpace building on Chester Road in Sunderland on Saturday. A karate demonstration was held as part of the event, while Holly spent some time reading to local schoolchildren.

Karate Kids is now available and you can order the book from here