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Isabel Allende's first children's book was inspired by her dog

Isabel Allende y sus mascotas.
Courtesy Photo
Isabel Allende and two of her pets.

This year, Chilean author Isabel Allende embarked on a new adventure: publishing her first children's book.

"I like to write long novels, generational sagas, history novels full of events. These don't work for this age," she said in an interview in Spanish.

"I learned that I don't need to write it all, because If I don't tell it, the illustration will."

This year, she published simultaneously in English and Spanish her book titled “Perla, The Mighty Dog," or “Perla, la súper perrita.” It's a story about the friendship of a boy and his dog Perla. It was illustrated by Sandy Rodríguez.

Perla, The Mighty Dog
Courtesy Photo
Perla, The Mighty Dog

Allende was inspired by a frequent visitor, her three-year-old neighbor Camila, who is always looking for a good story. And also, in her dog Perla, her pet for around 9 years who has taught her the value of good company and love.

It is Perla who saves this story's main character, Nico Rico, a boy who learns how to defend himself thanks to his pet. Perla has two superpowers: “making people love her and roaring like a lion.”

Lee esta historia en español, aquí

Avid readers of Allende are always expecting a spark of fantasy in her texts, but she said this is an exception: It's a real story, and she has witnessed Perla's superpowers.

But it’s hard not to feel some element of magic in her writing. Allende said that Perla “told her the story in her woof language,” and she just translated it.

Through Perla, Allende wants children to know that they can defend themselves from everyday bullies.

Allende says one of her intentions for the book was to put bullying on the table as a conversation. It’s a conversation that involves kids, she said, but “kids usually don't talk about it.”

She hopes that in this way, parents and teachers can start asking children if they have ever been through something like this, or are going through it right now.

“Children from any ethnicity can suffer from bullying, and also have a dog they love and trust, or a cat or any animal,” she said.

“The idea is to learn empathy from animals, to open our hearts. The relationship between a kid and a pet is extraordinary, and I think that lasts a lifetime.”

Allende acknowledges that creating a reading habit at home is hard while finding a work-and-life balance, but small moments can show children that reading is an act of love

“Sit them in your lap and show them the book, the drawings, so kids relate reading with care and affection.” 

Maria Aguirre is a bilingual journalist that currently lives and works remotely from her home in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She currently writes and produces ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire?