A picture book released next month aims to promote good journalism to children through the story of a journalist killed in Malta three years ago.
‘Fearless – The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia’ is the first children’s book by London-based artist and illustrator Gattaldo, a nickname the 53-year-old picked up while studying fine art in Florence, Italy.
Former Ealing resident Gattaldo, who grew up in Malta and left aged 20, hopes the book will encourage children to get the most out of information and increase their knowledge of complex subjects.
Daphne Caruana Galizia was an investigative journalist in Malta when she was assassinated in a car explosion on October 16, 2017. The investigation is still ongoing.
Her story is retold through colourful illustrations highlighting her vital role. Gattaldo’s sketches and concise writing help children relate. It plays on the way children love fictional investigators and detectives, in the same way Gattaldo grew up watching Pink Panther.
It gave him something meaningful to do after a tough 2017 in which he lost his mother and two friends, including Daphne. It also allowed him to express his 30-year friendship with the journalist, which started when she replied to his letter.
“We were very different,” Gattaldo said. “She was a working mother. When I first wrote to her, she already had three children. She was much more mature than I was.
“We did have some similarities, we were both involved in some ways in politics.”
Her involvement was journalism, while his was working on civil and gay rights in Florence. Identity politics is something which is vital to Gattaldo’s story throughout his life.
“She was very logical in the way that she looked at different pieces of information and linked them somehow,” Gattaldo said. “Her investigative journalism was amazing in that way, and nobody was doing it there.”
With her blog, Gattaldo describes her as a ‘one-woman newspaper’. It made her a divisive figure in Malta, praised by some with posthumous honours, but also facing accusations of being a gossip-monger.
Gattaldo said: “There was always this fight between whether what she was doing was kosher or not.
“Although the story is about one particular journalist, I think there’s more to say about journalism to children,” Gattaldo said.
When his young niece was curious to learn more about Daphne, Gattaldo had to figure out how to explain journalism to an eight-year-old, in a simple, understandable way. The book could help children, and their parents, wrap their heads around complex issues like corruption.
Investigation is an important part of children’s lives from an early age, when they ask questions that stump many adults.
“We could never dream of learning as much as children do,” Gattaldo said. “They’re constantly asking questions. I think children can understand what an investigator does.”
Publisher Otter Barry Books has a history of issuing books with a social context, while ‘Fearless’ has also earned support from Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.
An accompanying website, FearlessDaphne.com, explains concepts like fact-checking and opinion writing to young people. There are also activities which some schools and bookshops are using to teach children the skills and value of good journalism.
Gattaldo’s other creative projects include honouring journalists who have changed the world by putting their portraits onto stamps. Art prints of leading journalists Marie Colvin and Ida Bell are also available on the website.
Gattaldo explains: “What I tried to do with the book is to tell children ‘if you believe in something, you must fight for it’. You can’t dilly dally about it. I want my nephews and nieces to fight for what they believe in.”
Gattaldo returns to the area frequently, and retains a fond nostalgia for the ‘Queen of the Suburbs’ and its gay scene in particular.
“My first ownership of a house was there, and it was the last place I was in before I was married,” Gattaldo said. “You still get this nostalgia of being single – don’t get me wrong, I’m happily married – but I had a lovely time in Ealing.”
It can be tough to believe in journalism these days, but it is critical that it retains its power in democracies around the world. Gattaldo hopes ‘Fearless’ can inspire the next generation, and wants to help mould the next set of investigative journalists.
“I hope the younger generation will save us,” Gattaldo said. “I have lost a little bit of belief that my generation can change.
“It’s time to give much more importance to journalism, what it does, and why it’s there.
“I’ve only started to scratch the surface as to what a journalist does.”
‘Fearless – The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia’ is published by Otter-Barry Books in October. For more information on the virtual book launch on October 6, visit FearlessDaphne.com.