Ada Katsiki-Givalou, Professor of Modern Greek Primary Education, University of Athens 

Sophia Madouvalou is an outstanding author of books for children. Her books are aimed at young people at pre-school, early primary and primary level, while through her poetic writing she also converses very successfully with adolescents and adults who have retained the innocence of childhood.

Her studies in developmental psychology, educational technology and directing have played an important part both in enabling her to choose the most suitable subjects for her books, according to the target readers' age, as well as in the creation of one hundred and fifty original programmes for the Ministry of Education's educational television service, where she worked for 32 years (1979-2010). Her cartoon series on the Greek language, “A Letter and a Story”, based on one of her poetic works (24 verse stories), was awarded many prizes both in Greece and internationally (MEDIA AWARDS) for its innovative character.

The long periods she spent abroad, her teaching experience in the Greek community's schools in Montreal, as well as in a postgraduate programme in Canada and her involvement as scriptwriter and inspirer at a children's museum in the United States gave her the ability to work very successfully on creative education in a manner both humorous, non-conformist and particularly child-friendly.
Sophia Madouvalou first appeared on the children's book scene in 1982 with Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si. In the 32 years since then she has written 70 books which have made a huge contribution to the revitalization of children's illustrated books in Greece.

Among her many works The Prince Who Turned Into a Castle has been awarded several prizes and has been included in the Munich international library White Ravens list, Alphabet Giggles has received the University of Padua's pan-European distinction and her verse prized story Riko Kokoriko featured in the Socrates-Comenius European programme on fighting xenophobia and racism through literature.

Sophia Madouvalou's books deal with contemporary themes of vital interest such as ecology (Dura Matsuka), racism (Riko Kokoriko), being different (Monkeys and Owls Don't See Things Alike) as well as situations encountered by young children in their everyday lives, placing emphasis on values such as love, liberty, friendship and self-respect (The Teacher Whose Head Became a Saucepan). Sophia Madouvalou is distinguished by her passionate social awareness and sense of justice. Matters of concern in the society in which we live today run through all her work and are presented to the young reader in an attractive and original way. Her intention as an author is that her young readers should approach these problems employing both their powers of reasoning and their emotions.

Sophia Madouvalou has worked on almost every kind of creative writing for children, predominantly short illustrated stories and fairy tales but also novels and comics, covering both the fields of purely imaginative literature and books written to inform young readers in an original way.

Her wide acquaintance with both Greek and foreign literature, chiefly with classic and folk tales, is seen made fertile and creative use of in the words and phrases from familiar works that she weaves into her storytelling with great skill (Rosy-Rose's Fibbing Mirror, The Snow dwarf and the seven happy lads, The Prince Who Turned into a Castle, to name but two).

Directly connected with such folk tales is the author's penchant for the surreal, which often harmonizes perfectly successfully with the language of folk tales (The Chicken Who Became an Egg). This hyper-realistic perception of reality makes it possible for the transcendental power of love that so often appears in folk and fairy tales to overcome the forces of evil.

All the subjects that she deals with are approached with a discerning eye and are served to the young reader laced with subversive humour, creative imagination and with a playful air that has no hint of didacticism, whether direct or indirect. Her stories help children to reject blind acceptance of conventional wisdom and develop their emotional and social consciousness. Typical examples include Rosy-Rose's Fibbing Mirror and The Moon's New Dresses. However, in addition to the above, what she tries to further in all her books is the child's emotional maturity and personal development. The Chicken that Became an Egg is a typical example of this.
The lively and poetic language in which the texts are written arouses the young reader's interest through a combination of sounds with vivid word pictures painted in a rich range of vocabulary. Playing games with the different possible meanings and symbolisms of words gives readers the opportunity to enjoy the text at a variety of levels and generally expand their powers of reasoning.

A large part of Sophia Madavalou's work consists of books designed to broaden children's knowledge in an entertaining way. By means of the author's wildly vivid imagination and sense of humour, subjects ranging from physics, mathematics and ecology to music, sociology and language are made clear and vivid. Although at first glance simple story-telling, educational planning is evident in the texts, more evidently in books concerning the Greek language (e.g.Alphabet Giggles, An Imaginary Cockroach Puts on a Pigtail Wig). Apart from these, the daringly original Adventures at the Funfair displays her pedagogical knowledge by teaching aspects of grammar in a series of ten comics, with clever dialogue and inventive examples.

On examining Sophia Madouvalou's work as a whole, one can discern the fertile interaction of her academic studies with her output as an author. Her pioneering literary work, aimed at demolishing the status quo, is directly connected with her ongoing efforts towards achieving a kind of education that arouses children's interest and frees them from rote learning, with the goal of creating readers who are both mentally active and critically aware.

This was what she aimed at in her 32 years in educational television, and continues to do with her constant visits to schools all over Greece and her participation in a variety of programmes to promote reading both at home and in the Greek communities in Europe, Australia, Egypt and Cyprus, under the auspices of the National Book Centre or at the invitation of universities and schools. Her contribution towards teacher training is particularly significant, based as it is on the latest methods and techniques, such as creative writing, use of literature as a tool for an inter-disciplinary approach to learning and digital applications of poetry in developing language skills.
Her literary work has earned particular respect not only from distinguished children's book reviewers but from the academic community, and has been the object of study at both graduate and postgraduate level in Greek primary and pre-primary teacher training academies. The esteem in which her literary and pedagogical work is held is demonstrated by the inclusion of extracts from her books in the official anthology for the first and second classes of state primary schools. The Pedagogical Department of the University of Crete's decision to ask her to write the scenario for the award-winning CD Rom for teaching Greek as a second language, “Diagoras at Olympia”, is additional proof of the recognition her authorial abilities enjoy.

The translation of her works into English, Korean and Chinese and the important prizes and distinctions with which she has been honoured (University of Padua pan-European distinction, IBBY honours list, Greek Children's Book Circle and Diavazo literature magazine short listing) are further acknowledgment of an outstanding body of literary works for young children.

Humour, wildly original imagination, directness, the fresh and poetic quality of her stories, together with her daring in subjecting controversial topics to critical examination and emphasizing human feelings and values, all go to show that in the field of writing for young readers Sophia Madouvalou is a very much of our times, a pioneer who lets nothing go unquestioned.

Ada Katsiki-Givalou
Professor of Modern Greek
Primary Education Pedagogical Department
University of Athens