This week at Book Therapy, we are super excited to introduce Vese Aghoghovbia 'Wolu, the founder of the fabulous new children's book publishing brand, Philly & Friends. The publisher promotes diverse children's books that inspire confidence and positive values while empowering literacy. Each book sold leads to another book generously donated to a disadvantaged child in Africa by Philly & Friends.
The founder, Vese is a Chartered Engineer and has an MEng degree from Imperial College London. She worked as a Management Consultant before launching Philly & Friends. She's also co-founded DVees, a food & drinks startup with her three sisters as well as The Aghoghovbia Foundation, whose mission it is to empower the girl child. She lives in London with her college sweetheart and now husband and two kids, a fearless 2-year-old girl and a determined 8-month-old boy.
Here's the interview with Vese herself.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to launch your own publishing brand for diverse children's books:
A: My 2-year-old daughter inspired my journey to launching Philly & Friends. I wanted to create a diverse children’s character she and kids everywhere can love and identify with. One who is brave, confident and happy, goes on adventures, as curious as George, laughs from within and loves wholeheartedly with tight hugs and lots of kisses.
Growing up, a lot of the books we read as children did not feature black or African children. I did not see myself represented in the classic children’s books or the media I consumed. Quite sadly, it left a lot of children with the subconscious idea that black is second class.
I want to do the right thing by the next generation. I want our children to see themselves represented in the media, in books, toys and all that they consume. Representation is everything. You believe what you see, and you become what you believe.
Also, I believe that diverse books aren’t just for kids from ethnic minorities; they are for everyone. They teach love, tolerance and acceptance; they make the world a better place.
I am passionate about making a difference in the world around us. Philly & Friends is a brand with purpose, dedicated to empowering literacy and every book sold sponsors a book into the hands of an underprivileged child.
Q: How many books have you published so far?
A: I published my first book titled; 'Who Do I See in the Mirror?', in January 2019, 4 days before I had my son.
Q: What's your favourite diverse children's book?
A: My children have a collection of diverse books. Right now, her favourite is Hair Love by Matthew Cherry – of course after 'Who Do I See in the Mirror?' which she loves.
Q: Would you like to give us a brief peek into your new book that's coming out: "Remarkable Africans: The Untold Stories of 40 Bold and Brave African Women"
A: Of course, I'd be happy to. The book introduces 40 inspirational women in African history from different African countries. Women who led, overcame and conquered in their various fields. Women such as Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti; a women’s rights activist and the first Nigerian woman to drive a car. Asil Hassan Abade; the first female military pilot in Africa. Gisele Rabesahala; a politician and the first woman to hold a ministerial position in Madagascar.
Q: If you had to choose three out of the 40 women as your favourites, which one would you choose and why?
A: That's a very hard one. Each woman has something to offer, a story of courage, strength and determination. We have women who fought for the rights of their people, who excelled in male-dominated industries, who gave their lives to save the lives of others, who fought for women's rights. It's so hard to pick a favourite. I saw a piece of myself in each woman's story. I saw the fight to be heard, the fight to be equal, the fight to find purpose and meaning and the fight to make a difference.
Q: What impact would you like the book to have on your readers?
A: I hope the book will inspire children using real stories of African women who led, overcame and conquered in their various fields. I want to tell a positive African narrative and introduce African history to the minds of young children worldwide. I hope this book can help break the stereotypical expectations of African Women.
Representation is everything. With only 1% of children's books published in the UK featuring a BAME main character, this book will deliver the much-needed diversity in children’s publishing. I believe that diverse books aren’t just for kids from ethnic minorities; they are for everyone. They teach love, tolerance and acceptance; they make the world a better place.
Q: I understand that for every book that's sold, one book is sent to a disadvantaged child in Africa - are you working with local charities out there? Or have you set up your own charity?
A: I work with a charity called Books2Africa. It's a family-run charity that started as a passion project at University. They have delivered over 1 million books to students and teachers across Africa. In my research phase, after speaking to them, I was completely sold. I believe in their vision, and their passion is contagious.
Q: What other exciting projects (books) have you got lined up?
A: We are working on a follow-up book to the Remarkable Africans series, featuring 40 African men in history. We also have a couple of picture books in the pipeline about dealing with emotions in kids, specifically targeted to boys.
Q: Where can people find out more about your work?
A: To learn more about the Remarkable Africans project, you can sign up to our behind the scenes access list via this link.
You can find out more about Philly and Friends and their remarkable projects on their website www.phillyandfriends.com. You can also follow them on Instagram www.instagram.com/phillynfriends and Facebook www.facebook.com/phillyandfriends.
If you would like to be a part of the launch team for the Remarkable Africans children’s book, you can sign up here.
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