South London Press interview with Ayisha Malik
Words by Rebecca Magill
Seven girls had a wonderful surprise last month, when they discovered they had been immortalised in print by Tooting-born writer Ayisha Malik.
Each of the children appear as a character in Ayisha’s new picture book Seven Sisters, released by Fulham-based publishers Little Tiger Books.
“The seven sisters are actually based on my niece, and some are my goddaughters. The parents knew, but the girls didn’t,” said Ayisha.
“I sent the illustrator [Erika Meza] a picture of each of the girls, so the drawings are actually based on [them]. They haven’t seen it yet… I am looking forward to how they react!”
Seven Sisters is a beautiful story about a group of siblings, each with unique skills and talents, who live in treehouses in the middle of a forest. Until one day a storm destroys their homes and their sisterly love is tested.
As Ayisha, 39, normally pens adult fiction, writing a book for five- to seven-year-olds wasn’t all plain sailing. “There were complications that you don’t have to think about as an adult writer, [for example] trying to get things across in as few words as possible. I am quite verbose, so that was a bit of a challenge,” she said.
“When I write adult fiction it’s very much love / hate, with an emphasis on the hate. But there is something about the… playfulness of writing for children that’s just fun.”
The book cleverly subverts gender stereotypes, not only via the interests the sisters have, but also how they interact.
“I think that was one of the publishers’ goals, as well as mine. Not just to subvert the stereotypes, but also allow these girls to be who they are without agenda,” said Ayisha. “Self-expression for girls of that age, which sometimes can be muted because of various expectations, was important to get across.”
“The book is about celebrating differences and learning to come together and finding a home not just in a place, but amongst its people,” she said.
Seven Sisters by Ayisha Malik was out on the 5th August. Published by Little Tiger Books.
To celebrate the release, Crystal Palace’s online children’s bookshop, Rhymes For Little Minds, is offering 15% off this (or any other title) by using the code SLP15 at the checkout. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.
******Seven Sisters 〰 Written by @ayisha82 〰 Illustrated by @erikadraws 〰 Published by @littletigerbooks 〰 Date published 5th August.