Rashmi Sirdeshpande is the author of debut children’s book How To Be Extraordinary, a captivating picture book that features 15 real-life stories of extraordinary people from around the world. In her guest blog, she tells us what inspired her book and why she chose the 15 people she did…
How To Be Extraordinary is about ordinary humans who have done remarkable things – a contemporary mix of familiar faces and lesser known ones. When I sat down to discuss the book with my editor, Emily Lunn, our vision was really clear. We wanted something in there for every child no matter where they are from and no matter what their interests are.
There are some strong women in there: Keiko Fukuda, a grandmaster judoka, Frida Kahlo, a bold artist and a revolutionary; well-loved author-illustrator Judith Kerr who fled Nazi Germany as a child; environmental activist Wangari Maathai; Michelle Obama who stands up to bullies and fights for every child’s right to an education; and Krystyna Skarbek, a brave and resourceful spy.
To counter toxic masculinity, the book also features kind and compassionate men like Sir David Attenborough, war surgeon David Nott, former Indian President Abdul Kalam, Nelson Mandela and his belief in forgiveness, and Syrian pianist Aeham Ahmad with his message of hope.
Then there are people like Professor Stephen Hawking and particle physicist Dr. Sau Lan Wu who fell in love with maths and science and worked hard to make incredible discoveries that have changed the way we think about the universe. And mathematician Alan Turing, whose contribution to cracking the Enigma saved millions of lives in the Second World War.
What unites these people is their belief: they all believed in something strongly enough to go after it with all their heart. These are people who persevered, like distance runner Mo Farah and his amazing commitment to improving his game. We only had space to feature 15 role models but I really hope there’s something in here for every reader and that this small selection inspires others as much as it inspires me.