Behind Little People Big Dreams Book Series
The Spanish author Isabel Sanchez Vegara talks about her children’s books series, “Little People, BIG DREAMS,” which focuses on women who have left their mark on history: inspiring stories of women who overcame adversity and made history by pursuing their childhood dreams.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS LITTLE PEOPLE, BIG DREAMS ON WOMEN?
The idea came up when my twin nieces were born. I was looking for some books to welcome them to this world. I was surprised that there were still so many stories of ladies waiting for a prince to come and rescue them. I thought that history is full of incredible women, strong and passionate, capable of fulfilling their dreams. And those were the stories I wanted to tell my nieces about.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE CHILDREN, GIRLS AND BOYS, WILL TAKE AWAY FROM THE BOOKS?
Little People, Big Dreams is not meant to be a series for and about girls only, but it seemed important to start from here. We need to break with stereotypes that stigmatize people by their gender and I hope these books are a tiny contribution.
The real message behind Little People, Big Dreams is that we can all achieve our dreams, as long as they’re really ours and not imposed by others. Gender stereotypes include male stereotypes too, and you can’t pretend to change one without changing the other. I think it’s great all kids discover, in the series, new women roles, but it would be even better if they could discover new male roles too. In that sense, I’d love the series to grow with the stories of extraordinary men — men who break the stereotype of the “tough, loud and courageous” hero. Men like Nelson Mandela or Rudolf Nureyev (an acclaimed ballet dancer and choreographer who defected from the Soviet Union).
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH WOMEN YOU’LL WRITE ABOUT?
Little People, Big Dreams is a tribute to dreamers — to those who pursued a dream no matter how impossible it seemed. From that point on, everything has been quite intuitive. I don’t look for women who have simply reached the top in their careers as designers, painters, aviators, writers, researchers or singers. I look for authentic and unique women with a great personality, too.
Of all the women you’ve written about, is there one you really look up to, or who inspires you?
I’d have loved meeting any of these extraordinary women when I was a little girl! But if I have to choose just one, maybe Frida Kahlo is the most fascinating character for me so far.
WHY DO YOU FIND FRIDA KAHLO THE MOST FASCINATING SO FAR?
It’s not that I just love her art, but for me, Frida Kahlo’s life also has the perfect mix of love, passion and tragedy to be fascinating. However, some children may find being an aviator like Amelia Earhart or a mystery writer like Agatha Christie much more fun than being a painter. Of course, they’re right, too.
HOW DO YOU BREAK DOWN SOMETIMES VERY COMPLEX OR DIFFICULT IDEAS AND SITUATIONS SO YOUNG READERS WILL UNDERSTAND?
I always try to find a positive and hopeful point of view, no matter how tough the life of the character has been. It is not a matter of hiding their problems, but seeing them from a different perspective. Of course, there are terrible stories, some of them very hard to explain to a little kid — the childhood of the great Billie Holiday (the American blues and jazz singer who experienced neglect and sexual abuse at a young age), for example.
ARE THERE ANY PLANS TO FEATURE A CANADIAN WOMAN IN THE FUTURE?
I would love to! I’m very interested in portraying the life of Kenojuak Ashevak, one of the first Inuit printmaking artists, although I must first keep my promise and dedicate a book to a great Spanish woman, something that I have not done yet. Luckily, the list of incredible women is endless. The world is full of little dreamers.
extract from https://www.thestar.com/life/2017/03/02/qa-childrens-author-isabel-sanchez-vegara.html