Interview with Liza Esterhuyse, Winner of the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

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"Gloria Steinem said “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” Entering this competition and WINNING it encourages me to keep dreaming of the possibility of reaching children through the magic of books and the excitement of writing. What a dream come true to be able to contribute to the wonders of the imagination in such a way" - Liza Esterhuyse, 2013 Winner of the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books.

Liza Esterhuyse is a qualified occupational therapist with a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Intervention. Things you should know about Liza: She is a daydreamer, a book junkie, a red wine drinker, a world lover, a tree hugger, a dog enthusiast, a horse admirer and a Capetonian.

Due to her passion for the children of South Africa and the vast need in her country, Liza and a friend started a non-profit organization in 2010, called The Kula Foundation, with the aim to support vulnerable children growing up in adverse conditions. She is currently working for another non-profit organisation called Cape Mental Health where she is the coordinator of three special education and care centres in three different townships in the Western-Cape.

Find out a little more about Liza in this interview we had with her!

When you were young did you like to read?

Yes I loved reading books as a child, I still do! And even before I could read my, parents used to read to us every night before bedtime.

If you could bring one thing into the world, what would it be and why?

Laughter -laughter knows no boundaries, no politics, no race, no religion. For a moment you forget and forgive and you see life as it should be- beautiful.

What music do you listen to and who are your favourite bands or artists?

I listen to a diverse genre of music, but the CD’s you’ll currently find in my car include: The National; Muse; Florence and the Machine and Shortstraw. I am a huge 80’s fan and will not hesitate to bust a move on any one of that era’s greatest hits.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?

To pick your battles, dream big and to follow your curiosity and intuition

What inspired you to write The Little Hippo?

I was on a Safari with my family in the Serengeti and saw a teenage hippo (according to our guide) grazing under an umbrella thorn tree in the midday sun. The sight intrigued me as it’s very unusual for a hippo to be out of the water during the day. So I started wondering why?  

What other writers inspire you and in what ways?

This is such a difficult question to answer. When I think of five of my most beloved books, the authors and the stories are all so different, but I think CS Lewis and his endless imagination inspired me to keep dreaming and to become part of the story which you are trying to tell.

When did you write your winning story?

The Little Hippo was born in April 2011, but I only started writing the story, 16 months later in August 2012.

What are you most passionate about now?

I’m passionate about horse riding (I wish I could do it every day); saving our beautiful planet, drinking coffee and the people I love.

What is your dream for African children’s literature?

I hope it grows and becomes strong, so that it can climb over all the obstacles Africa throws at it and reach each and every little inquisitive mind out there.

We hope for the same things Liza. Thanks for the interview!