Celebrate International Women’s Day
17th May 2019
Hola! My name is Maria Isabel Sánchez Vergara… (but you can call me Isa!) and I’m the author and creator of the Little People, Big Dreams series. I was born, and still live, in Barcelona, Spain, and I have always loved reading! I thought I could tell you a little bit about myself, and my books, and why it’s so important to read, and to keep on reading and to always enjoy reading!
I always dreamt of becoming a writer someday, and when I was little, I used to stay-up reading books under the bedsheets with a torch, long after my mum had told me to go to bed and switched the light off. Then, when I grew-up I went and worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency (which meant writing stories and scripts for adverts on the television and the papers), which was fun, because I got to meet the many artists, illustrators, designers and art directors that have helped me make all the books you see in the shops today!
A few years ago, I wrote my first children’s books, and that was it! I realised I wanted to keep doing this for the rest of my life. Besides all that, I like yoga, cacti and dungarees. Anyway, let’s talk more about reading!
What book first got you into reading when you were a child?
When I was little, I was obsessed with Gnomes, by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet. It was this huge encyclopaedic book that covered every aspect of gnome life, from marriage to medicine. I was fascinated by the beautiful artwork and all the information it contained on the magical world. Then, when I was a little older, I became a big fan of Michael Ende’s work. I read Momo and The NeverEnding Story over and over again for years. But I also loved Le Petit Nicolas, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda,… basically everything that fell into my hands.
What inspired you to write Little People Big Dreams and who is your favourite?
The idea came to me when my twin nieces, Alba and Claudia were about to be born. I had just discovered all these amazing children’s books for my oldest nephew, which were full of brave and enthusiastic boys ready to conquer the world. But it seemed to me that there were hardly any of these strong, brave characters in books about girls, and I thought this could be my chance to change that! I wanted to show my nieces real, female characters with enough strength, courage and determination to believe in their dreams and make them come true. And great women I admire -like Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo or Amélia Earhart- came to mind.
A few years after that, we heard from so many little boys telling us about how much they love the series, that we decided to make books about incredible men too! The series has always been about celebrating unique individuals, and I’m just so happy we can bring more incredible stories to even more little dreamers than ever before!
I’d have loved meeting any of these extraordinary figures when I was little! But if I have to choose just one, maybe Frida Kahlo is the most fascinating character for me so far. Her story has the perfect mixture of love, passion, talent, determination and drama that hooked me instantly. But, to be honest, I learn so many incredible things about each character that when I’m writing the books every new character becomes my favourite!
Do you have any messages for children running a Readathon? And for children in hospital?
I think you’re doing such an amazing thing! Books are one of the best ways in the world to spread happiness and positivity and you’re doing that right now! Helping others is something we should all strive for, as it helps makes the world a better place for everyone, and I know that by reading together we’re taking our first steps to achieving this. For those of you in hospital, stay strong and keep dreaming and believing! The world is full of incredible people who overcame all the odds, just read about the stories of Frida Kahlo or Stephen Hawking, if they can do it, you can too.
What do you think inspires children to read for fun?
I think part of what makes reading fun is it’s our chance to encounter the incredible, whether that’s through incredible true stories life or through fiction. We read to get a little closer to the extraordinary, and we can do that through books every single day!
Isabel Sánchez Vergara