Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
¡Hola! My name is Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara and I’m a writer and creative director from Barcelona. When I was a little girl, I used to read books under the covers with a flashlight once mum had turned the light off. I always wanted to be a writer… but when I grew up, I ended up in advertising. It was a lot of fun though; I loved working with directors, photographers, designers, and I also wrote scripts, documentaries and texts for all kind of things.
Then, six years ago, I decided to self-publish a book that had been in my mind for a long time. One day, one thousand copies of arrived at home – I had no idea what I was going to do with them! I opened a little online shop, placed them to some pretty stores in my neighbourhood and, one by one, I sold them all. Soon, publishing houses started to approach me to write books, but I was working on another idea of my own: a series about little people with BIG dreams.
Where did the idea for the series come from, and how did you get started?
The idea came to mind when my twin nieces, Alba and Claudia, were about to be born. Right before that, I had discovered many great children books for Ernest, my oldest nephew. They were full of brave and enthusiastic boys ready to conquer the world. But it was harder to find a good gift when I looked for female heroes, and I thought that I could change that. I wanted to showcase real women from history who had the strength, courage and determination to believe that their dreams could come true. Many women that I admire — Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart — came to my mind.
Why is it so important to share the lives of extraordinary women with children?
Little People Big Dreams is not meant to be a series for and about girls only, but women seemed the right subjects to start with. We need to break the stereotypes that limit people by their gender and I hope these books are a small contribution towards this goal. I truly believe children are sponges absorbing the world around them.
How do you choose the subjects for the series?
These books are a tribute to dreamers. To those who pursued a dream no matter how impossible it seemed; to those who thought things could be done in a different way; to those who truly made a difference. 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 characters with a great personality, too.
What's been your favourite book to work on? Which is your favourite subject?
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. Her story has the perfect mixture of love, passion, talent, determination and drama that hooked me instantly.
How important are the illustrations, and how do you choose and work with the artists?
These books would be nothing without the extraordinary talent of all the illustrators I work with. To me, finding the right illustrator – someone who brings each character to life – is a very important part of the process (and it's lots of fun!) So far I’ve worked with Ana Albero, Gee Fan Eng, Amaia Arrazola, Maria Diamantes, Elisa Munsó, Frau-Isa, Alessandra de Cristofaro, Bárbara Alca, Zafouko Yamamoto and Katie Wilson. And all of them put so much into each book – so much so that every new title becomes my favourite! 😄
What has the reaction to the series been? Are there any responses that've made you particularly proud?
The reaction has been amazing both from girls… and boys! And the series is reaching new countries every day. It was first translated to English by Quarto, but now children in Israel, Ukrania, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Japan and South Korea can read my books, too. And soon more countries will publish them also.
Every time a proud mum or dad from the other side of the world tags me in a picture showing their child reading one of my books, I feel like I could fly.
What else are you working on at the moment?
We’ve just finished the new titles dedicated to Harriet Tubman (illustrated by Pili Aguado), Georgia O’Keeffe (with Erica Salcedo) and Josephine Baker (with Agathe Sorlet). And we’re still working on Jane Goodall (with Beatrice Cerocci), Lucy Maud Montgomery (with Anuska Allepuz), Simone de Beauvoir (with Christine Roussey), Mother Teresa (with Natascha Rosenberg) and Anne Frank (with Sveta Dorosheva). The list of incredible women is endless!
What's coming next for Little People, Big Dreams?
In the next months the Little People, Big Dreams series will continue exploring the life of outstanding women like Diane Arbus, Rosalind Franklin and Mary Shelley. But of course, we’ll start exploring the life of some incredible men, too. The world is full of little dreamers, and I’m so lucky to play a small part in keeping these dreams alive.