Vagelis Iliopoulos

Vagelis Iliopoulos was born in Athens in 1964, where he studied education and theology, and where he today works as a primary school teacher. Since making his literary début in 1995, over thirty of his picture books, texts for very young readers, novels and retellings of myths have been published in Korea and elsewhere. His reputation as one of the most popular contemporary writers of children’s books in Greece was consolidated with the award-winning children’s book series »O Trigonopsaroulis« (1997ff; t: The little triangle fish), which recounts the adventures of a little fish who is somehow different from all the other fish. Feisty, optimistic and imaginative, the little triangular fish masters the many unexpected situations he finds himself plunged into. He fights a giant shark, escapes the nets of tricky fishermen, rescues a sea horse and helps exotic fish escape captivity in aquariums. Whereas the tension in classical fairy tales such as Andersen’s »Little Mermaid« emerges from ontological differences between humans and animals, Iliopoulos’ heroes exist in a miniature under water version of human society. The author deftly manages to fill his tales of the little yellow fish’s everyday life under the ocean with socially relevant issues such as exclusion, war and threats to the environment, and to include pleas for respect, equal rights and tolerance. In a style at once simple and elegant Iliopoulos presents the little triangle fish – now one of Greek children’s best-loved literary heroes – as an independent personality, a proponent of humane values and pioneer in the struggle for an ecologically-aware use of the oceans. »O Trigonopsaroulis« was included in the IBBY list »Best Books for Young People with Disabilities« in 1998. The series was also used as part of a UNICEF schools’ programme in Greece, and has inspired film animations, puppet and stage shows, and musicals.

Alongside his children’s books, Iliopoulos has also written equally worthy novels for young adults. Together with the Italian author Luciano Comida, he presented an ambitious book project, Apo: Mikele, Pros: Foti« (t: From: Michele, to: Fotis) in 2004, which was published at the same time in Greece and Italy. In a literary ping-pong game the authors tell the stories of Michele from Trieste and Fotis from Athens, who get to know each other as pen-friends. Through letters, e-mails and text messages, the two thirteen-year olds exchange their thoughts on football, girls, school and family, and confide their secrets in one another. The apparent differences between the two characters at the outset make the gradual disclosure of their similarities, couched in the authentic narrative styles of the two authors, all the more convincing, as the two boys share their search for answers to the pressing issues of adolescence.

Vagelis Iliopoulos has made himself a reputation as a journalist, translator, TV presenter and teacher. For six years he was General Secretary of the Greek IBBY section, of which he is now vice-president. He has received numerous awards for his wide-ranging work, including the prize of the Women’s Literature Society. His widely-praised children’s book »Kafe aidiastiko balaki« (2003; t: The disgusting little brown ball), which tells the story of an Albanian child refugee in Greece, was honoured by the literary magazine »Diavazo« in 2004. The author lives with his family in Athens.

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