Javi Padilla is a teacher from Spain who decided to take a different approach to battling the harms that online technology can cause children when it is misused.
Padilla feels that continually reinforcing negative messages is not necessarily always helpful when it comes to addressing this issue. He also felt that more girls needed inspiration for tackling scientific subjects and working in the digital world.
Troubled by statistics such as most children spending around 5.3 hours a day on their smartphones, Padilla opted for fiction as the best medium for his message. He took his inspiration from an iconic British writer of young adult fiction books – J.K. Rowling.
“One day in March 2017, I was visiting the Harry Potter Studios in London and saw something unique. Hundreds of kids waited in line dressed as wizards, dreaming of becoming a Gryffindor,” – Javi explained.
“So, I thought, wouldn’t it be fantastic to create an adventure of young hackers that’d encourage teens to become amazing programmers?”
Keen-eyed readers may have spotted an homage to another British icon in the name of the novel’s central character. Scientist Alan Turing provided the inspiration for Mara’s surname.
“The hero needed to be a bright girl who would live an unforgettable adventure next to her friends, and whose first name would be Mara,” Padilla added.
The first of the Mara Turing books was published in December 2018 in Spain. Within a few months, Spanish children had fallen in love with the adventures of Mara, and her two compadres Noa Wachowski and Daniel Karamanou as they battled Falko McKinnon, the most dangerous hacker in the world.
Three more novels soon followed, with the latest arriving in December 2021. The first novel in the series (‘Rise of the Hackers’) was published in English in May 2020, and British readers can now enjoy its sequel ‘Evil Reborn’.
Padilla is keen to stress the practical guidance around online safety and coding that his novels communicate. Having enjoyed sales of around 20,000 books, his message is clearly proving popular. Padilla believes that his stories have helped inspire girls to meet the challenge of more STEM subjects such as maths, physics and computing.
“A mini ethical hacker guide is embedded through the pages of my books,” he said.
“And that makes youngsters feel as if they were onto something essential, and, in fact, they indeed are.”
The third book (Falko’s Missing Files) will be available by the middle of February.