Isabel Paricio, from Zaragoza, is the Director of Communication and Institutional Relations of El Corte Inglés in Aragón, as well as a journalist and writer. She has developed this last facet with Zazezi, a character created to help children fall asleep, which already has two books on the market. The first, Zazezi te Ayuda a Dormir, was published in 2020 and the latest, Zazezi y el Hada Mar te Ayudan a Reciclar, saw the light of day this year.
In fact, after its presentation at the Ámbito Cultural of El Corte Inglés last April, this work will be the main axis of a recycling workshop that will be held at the Quiosco de las Letras, located in the Parque Grande in Zaragoza, on October 1.
In an interview with Go Aragón, Paricio discusses how he created and the evolution of this character in children’s literature, as well as the importance of instilling the habit of reading in children. She also reviews her career, since she worked as a journalist in media such as El País to the present day, in El Corte Inglés.
Communication director now, but before that, journalist. And now you are also a writer. It is an eclectic path, but always linked to letters, how important are they for you?
It seems to me something fundamental for life. I think you can explain and help many people with letters and I believe that education, knowing how to read and communicate, is fundamental for each person; those who know how to communicate, do better in life.
You have a degree in Law, but you chose journalism, what was the reason for this change?
At that time there was no journalism in Zaragoza, neither in the public nor in the private sector. So, many people of my generation studied law because they used to say that this career has many opportunities. In fact, now I meet people who studied with me in the faculty and who dedicate themselves to very different things, according to their vocation. I finished Law, but then I studied Journalism, which was what I wanted to do. I have a degree that helped me to do my master’s degree at El País and that has also helped me, because it is another vision and complements me. Afterwards, I have worked in various media. In the end, things happen in life for a reason.
You have already published two books with Zazezi, do you feel comfortable in the genre of children’s literature?
Yes, because, for me, the importance of children’s literature is crucial. If children read when they are young, they will like to read when they grow up. For a child who has never read, it’s going to be very difficult for them to enter the world of reading when they grow up. If a child reads, he will be able to understand better and communicate better. And, in his life, it will be easier for him because he will know how to express his opinions better and others will understand him better. If a person only sees screens and never reads, when he grows up, he will be bored with reading. However, people who read when they are very young have a better imagination.
Precisely, how can you compete with screens and that world of digital stimuli from reading?
I don’t know (laughs). In my case, as a mother, it is up to me to make a small nightly ritual, which is story time, which I try to extend as much as possible. I make them interact so they can read and know the scores, exclaim, sing… those story times are special and familiar, also for me, and it has a connection that I hope stays with them as a memory and that they know how to pass on. Maybe if all parents made that minimal effort, all children would be accustomed to reading a little bit every day.
By the way, I think Zazezi was born that way, a good character to help them sleep. This second book, focused on recycling, how did it come about?
During a vacation trip, when we were on a plane flying over the sea. I realized that I hadn’t taken the stories and, as it was story time, I thought I had to write one. I looked at the sea and saw some spots, which led me to think that we are not taking care of it. So I came up with Zazezi and the Sea Fairy Help You Recycle. Obviously, I wrote a story that I have been perfecting and polishing to make the story. It has taken me two years to finish it, the illustrations are also made by me and in this book I wanted to take a leap, improve them with lots of color and many details, which has taken me more work.
How do children respond to recycling?
I think it’s a fantastic question because the big difference in this story is that the protagonists are the children; that is, they, from the story, have a mission, which is to teach parents and relatives to recycle. Those of our generation are learning now, but we were not born with it. However, today’s children are. Sustainability and the importance of caring for the planet is deep within them and they can help us do better.
This book will be one of the prizes awarded by Aragón Circular in its school recycling contest, does it feel good that they think of your work in that sense?
It has been a pride that Aragón Circular has contacted me to ask me that the book Zazezi y el Hada Mar te Ayudan a Reciclar could be one of the prizes for the recycling contest for schools in Aragón. If we can leave a little seed of recycling in Aragonese children, it makes me very happy.
You are also in charge of the illustrations, what do you enjoy more, with them or writing the texts?
I enjoy writing more, but it’s a lot of fun to illustrate. The thing is that I’m not a professional illustrator, so I understand that I have a lot of room for improvement in that area and it’s something I don’t want to dedicate myself to. But it is a very personal project and I was very clear about how Zazezi had to be. It is based on the drawings that my daughters made when they were little, when I told them the story.
It has a very simple, childish and colorful image, so that the children see it close to them and are able to draw it. There is a website, zazezi.es, where they can download the activities to draw and then they can send us their drawings and their experience of reading the book to our Instagram profile.
In fact, this second book is not only that, but it also proposes activities like those drawings, right?
In this book I have put activities, so that it doesn’t just stay in a book. You have to look for objects throughout the book, there are different proposals for children to create their own fairies and fairies with their superpowers. And they have to do it with things they have at home to recycle.
Going back to your professional career, you have been a journalist in El País, in Canal Plus, in CNN… and you followed Real Zaragoza’s current affairs?
Yes, I was a sports journalist. It was what I wanted to do and at that time it was quite groundbreaking; we are talking about the years 2000-2001 and there were not many girls in sports. Now it’s more normal, which I’m very happy about. It wasn’t an easy time, but it was a very important learning experience. I met some great people and it has made me who I am now. I loved sports, I loved communicating and it was clear to me that I wanted to be in the audiovisual world, television. At that time, the written press was more relevant, but I knew I wanted to be on TV. And, as I’m a Real Zaragoza fan, I always thought ‘why only Barça and Madrid are on TV and Zaragoza is not? When I was there, I fought hard for Real Zaragoza’s reports to be made.
Will there be more adventures of Zazezi?
Yes, I would love to. I have several written, but it’s a matter of sitting down and knowing how to think about the illustrations… it takes a lot of work. I don’t rule it out in the future; right now, no, but I would love to.
What do you find most rewarding about writing children’s literature?
What we were talking about leaving a little seed in children. Recently they showed me a video of a child opening the paper in which the book was wrapped and he recognized the character. I was thrilled; for me, that’s what’s important. People tell me that there are children who read Zazezi before going to sleep, others who take the book with them on trips because otherwise they don’t sleep. And one story that really surprised me is that of a dentist who treats children with disabilities, who have a hard time getting anesthesia. Since the tooth fairy is Zazezi’s best friend, she has the book in the office and it relaxes them a lot, which allows her to give them anesthesia.
It must be very satisfying to create a character that becomes a friend to the children….
The intention was to create a positive character to help them sleep. In our time we had the bogeyman and the boogeyman, and sleeping with fear is very difficult and generates more insecurities. However, sleeping relaxed and thinking about things you like is as simple and difficult as that. And, for when the kids wake up, having a tool that works to get them to sleep again. Since I saw that it worked for me, I thought it might help other parents as well.
Now you are Director of Communication and Institutional Relations at El Corte Inglés and you are also closely linked to its Cultural Area. How do you see the public in Zaragoza? Do they have an interest in culture?
I have been working at El Corte Inglés for 15 years and the Cultural Area has always been a meeting point for culture, effervescent. We have always valued different disciplines: literature, cinema, television series, gastronomy, science… it is a meeting point. We have held literature and journalism contests and it is an exhibition hall. There are many people who have presented their books here for the first time and who are now known worldwide. Luz Gabás, the winner of the Planeta prize, presented her book for the first time at the Ámbito Cultural. Above all, we love to bring Aragonese talent and young people, who serve as an example for all of us to improve, and interesting, from whom we can learn. In Zaragoza there are many cultural activities and people really like the world of culture.
OUT OF LETTER
A corner of Aragon
It is very difficult to choose a unique corner, because there are magical corners all over Aragon. For example, the Pyrenees, in Huesca; the Matarraña area, in Teruel, and many in the province of Zaragoza. In the city, one of my favorites is the Parque Grande because it makes us disconnect from our day to day life.
Something to eat from this land
My favorite dish is my father’s paella. In fact, when I lived in Madrid, my father would make paella on Sundays and I would take tuppers with me. When my roommates opened the fridge, they already knew I had been in Zaragoza. And the Almudévar braid, which I have taken to Madrid many times. On Canal Plus they used to ask me when my saint’s day and my birthday was so that I would keep bringing the braid (he laughs).