'She left a strong legacy': children's book tells story of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Juliette Garside
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Jon Borg/AP</span>
Photograph: Jon Borg/AP

Her death brought thousands of people on to the streets of Malta and led to the resignation of a prime minister. Now the life of the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has inspired a book for children.

Written and illustrated by her friend Gattaldo, the designer, Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia is being released by a UK publisher this month to mark three years since the Maltese writer was killed by a car bomb in October 2017.

Aimed at children aged six and over, Fearless contains none of the violence that marked Caruana Galizia’s end. It starts with her childhood and skips directly from her battles against corruption – illustrated by a many-headed hydra – to those who took up her cause after she was gone.

“She has left a strong legacy and here in Malta I see it,” says Gattaldo. “There is a realisation that democracy doesn’t stop with the vote. You need to fight for what you believe in.”

He was on a flight home at the moment his friend died. That evening, during a bedtime story, Gattaldo’s seven-year-old niece asked him about what had happened. “Me and my sister were talking about it at dinner, you know how children are, you don’t think they’re listening but they are,” he says. “My niece asked me who my friend was. I was trying to explain what this friendship meant to me, and what Daphne’s work meant to the Maltese. It helped me to simplify things.”

Caruana Galizia was not only one of the first prominent female journalists in Malta but also, in a small nation where the papers would publish news reports and opinion pieces anonymously, one of the first to sign her columns with her name.

In the mould of recent successes such as Folktales for Fearless Girls, Gattaldo says the book is intended to give hope and courage. He recalls how as a young Maltese student on an art scholarship in Florence, he felt her columns were a connection to home. His parents would post him the cuttings and one day he wrote to her praising her work. To his surprise Caruana Galizia wrote back and they became friends.

Both had reached adulthood in the 1980s, when personal freedoms were limited by a centralised, socialist economy. Gattaldo recalls how citizens were beholden to ministers for anything from public sector jobs to colour television sets. Any household wanting a fridge or a phone line had to call their MP. It was a culture of votes for favours that Caruana Galizia was prepared to speak out against.

“It was a breath of fresh air because she thought differently,” he says. “In a small island like that … there is this insular mentality: that’s how things are here so you have to accept them. She said no, it shouldn’t be like this.”

In an afterword designed to help adults answer questions from young readers, Gattaldo provides a short biography. Frustrated by the refusal of newspaper editors to print some of her more controversial stories, Carauna Galizia began publishing her own blog. In it, she reported on organised crime and its links to political corruption and money laundering.

In retaliation for what she wrote, she was threatened. Three of the family’s dogs were killed and her home was twice set on fire. Eventually, she lost her life.

“Going through the process of writing this book I realised Daphne wasn’t just a personal friend, she represented a lot of things for me,” says Gattaldo. “I started to realise I feel very strongly about the importance of journalism for our democracy. Journalists represent us when they confront politicians.”

  • Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia is published by Otter-Barry, and is available from otterbarrybooks.com for £12.99.