They say that life is often stranger than fiction and my 18 years as a journalist have involved covering stories you really couldn’t make up.
Many of these have been about ordinary people overcoming extraordinary hurdles, from dealing with unimaginable difficulties and heartache to achieving the most inspiring acts of achievement and endurance.
This is one of the reasons why I love the Little People Big Dreams series of children’s books, which take the stories of real individuals from all walks of life and tell them in a beautiful picture book format.
Each of these non-fiction books begins with the central character as a child with a dream, just like the reader, and follows them as they grow into an adult who has changed the world in some way, whether as a scientist, artist, campaigner or sporting hero.
Author Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara came up with the concept nearly ten years ago when her twin nieces were born and she saw how few books celebrated brave and enthusiastic girls ready to take on the world, whereas there were plenty of male characters in literature like that.
She began by creating a series of stories about well-known women from history like Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart and Marie Curie.
As the books became international bestsellers, with children dressing as their favourite people from past and present for World Book Day, Isabel has expanded into celebrating inspiring men like Sir David Attenborough, Rudolf Nureyev and Pele.
There are more than 50 titles now and the newest addition to the collection is Captain Tom Moore, the 100-year-old former soldier who walked 100 laps of his garden to raise more than £32 million for the NHS, earn a knighthood and give us all a lift during the pandemic.
For every copy sold, a donation is made to NHS Charities Together, the cause Captain Tom was raising money for, which means you get to follow in his footsteps in some small way.
You can also buy themed box sets and there is an adorable range of simple board books for babies called My First Little People Big Dreams, so even the tiniest children can enjoy these incredible stories. We bought the Stephen Hawking one for the youngest bookworm’s first birthday.
There are so many reasons to love these books, aside from the fact they are incredibly well written, beautifully illustrated (Isabel works with a range of different artists) and perfect gifts.
They give children real, tangible role models in a world dominated by celebrity and mediocre aspirations. They make them curious and excited about history. They lift up the dreams of women and they show that men can be something other than a macho stereotype. They have emotional sensitivity too and look at the person as a human not just an achievement.
They also help to open up difficult conversations about topics like war and genocide (Anne Frank), sexism (Billie Jean King), sexuality (Alan Turing) and race (Maya Angelou).
For Baby Bookworm’s birthday, he received the Jesse Owens book because he is currently obsessed with the Olympics. Not only does his feed his fascination but it has subtly taught him a little about racism and facism too.
Best of all, he is learning that all of us can reach for the stars, providing we put the hard work in and get a little bit of luck.
Little People Big Dreams: Captain Tom Moore by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara is published on 29 September 2020. £9.99 (hardback), Quarto. Buy from Amazon
Other non-fiction picture books your child will love…
Learn about the Big Bang with Once Upon A Star
Explore everything from architecture to zoology with the Baby 101 series
Make science exciting with Usborne’s interactive What Are Germs?