How did these books land in my library?
It was while scrolling through Instagram that I first saw them. They are books from the Little People Big Dreams collections, written by a Spanish author, Maria Sanchez Vergara. After the birth of her two nieces, Alba and Claudia, she became aware of the rigid and stereotypical image of women in children’s literature. The princess is always doomed to wait for a potential prince to be happy and successful in life. Maria knew the history of passionate women, strong and capable of realising their true dreams. These stories had to be brought to light.
Shortly afterwards, it’s another book, Bad girls throughout History, that finally convinces me that things are changing in children’s publications. The women who made history are sadly absent from school books. But these new publications revive our collective memory.
They broke taboos, showed that the impossible is possible. It was time to tell this to children.
I was seduced the very second I learned about the existence of these books. Woman is the future of man, certainly, but she has also been his past. I am pleased that my two little boys know the names of these women who fought to live their lives as they wished: without convention, without condition.
In my memories the first Little People Big Dreams from my collection was Frida Khalo. Then Marie Curie, Maya Angelou, Amelia Earhart, Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel came to join the ranks. My last few are Rosa Parks and Emmeline Pankhurst.
Each figure has a different illustrator and a designated cover colour. These works are short biographies in which Maria Sanchez tries to tell a life story by adopting a positive viewpoint, full of hope. She does not hide the problems and difficulties of each character, but approaches them in a way that young minds can understand.
Bad Girls throughout History, written and illustrated by Ann Shen, is a single collection of 100 short biographies. There is a double page dedicated to each life, organised in chronological order. Lilith, Adam’s first wife, opens the story and Malala Youzafzai closes it again.
Reading it as a woman and mother I am overwhelmed by two feelings. Pride and admiration to see so many women whose way of life followed their will only, but also shame to know them all. Lilian Bland, Anna May Wong, Valentina Tereshkova…
Closing the book
As Maria Sanchez Vergara said, “children are like sponges that absorb the world around them. We adults are responsible for the world we present them with. Little People Big Dreams is not intended to be a series just for girls, but we need a starting point. We have to destroy the stereotypes that stigmatise people on the basis of gender. The real message of this collection is that we can all realise our dreams, as long as they belong to us and are not imposed by others. I would like the series to grow with stories of extraordinary men who break apart the stereotype of the tough, strong and courageous hero – men such as Nelson Mandela or Rudolf Noureev.”
Thus while closing the book I simply thought of authors to whom I would like to say thank you. And I only wish for one thing, that all these wonderful books could be quickly translated into French for me to offer to all my nieces and nephews!
Little People Big Dreams, by Maria Isabel Sachez
Bad Girls throughout History, 100 remarkable Women who changed the world, Ann Shen