By: Amber Leventry
I am a lover of words and books. Before I had kids, I would wander the children’s section of bookstores to imagine what books I would someday read to the children I wanted to have. I would inevitably buy a book for a friend’s kid or for a family member. I was drawn to Todd Parr books immediately. They are funny, kind, different, and inclusive. The first Todd Parr book I bought was This Is My Hair. That was ten years ago for my niece’s first birthday. The book has been passed down to her sister, my daughter, and is now a favorite of my two year old twin boys.
Todd uses his books, popularity, and talents to spread his message of love and acceptance. His artwork is featured on the Welcoming Schools website, a project started by The Human Rights Campaign and a great resource for parents and educators to support all kids at school. His books have been honored with several awards, including Parents’ Choice Awards, a Green Earth Book Award, and a Readers’ Choice Award. And he has a new book coming out soon.
The father to three Pit Bulls, winner of a Family Equality Council Award for his books’ influences on children to be kind to one another, and New York Times Best Selling Author is a busy guy. But even during the promotion of The Goodbye Book, Todd Parr took the time to talk to me and The Next Family.
Here is our conversation:
Amber: I am so thankful to you and your books. But first, my four year old daughter would like you to know that she loves your drawings.
Todd: Please tell your daughter I appreciate this very much. Thank you for the kindness as well. I’m happy to hear my books have meant so much to you.
Amber: I own several of your books, but the one that is most dear to my heart is The Family Book. That was the first book I read to my daughter which included her two mom family in a book with all types of families. We were not an oddity. We were not in a book all by ourselves. We were lumped in with all types of families. You—a popular, successful, mainstream writer—made a point, in a very simple yet profound way, to add same-sex families to a children’s book. That point got The Family Book banned in a few places.
What motivated you to include adoption, single parent homes, interracial families, and, most specifically, same-sex parents in your books? And is The Family Book still banned anywhere?
Todd: My goal is to always include everyone in my books. Yes, [the books is still banned] in Venice, Italy. I also just received an email from a teacher’s daughter who had read The Family Book in class; it caused an uproar with a couple of parents which resulted in a school board meeting—along with protests and supporters of a teacher for simply trying to help kids understand that there are all different kinds of families in the world today.
Amber: You are very generous with your time and money and support a lot of different causes. Organizations like No Kid Hungry, Habitat for Humanity, The Trevor Project, and ASPCA are not even half of the ones you are involved with.
Todd: I give back and support as many things as I can. Some support is in partnership, funding, donations and/or just helping to get the word out.
Amber: I love, love, love (can you tell I am a blubbering fan?) that your artwork is on the Welcoming Schools website. I and anyone else who has read your books can see and feel the positive messages in your artwork alone.
Todd: Thank you!
Amber: Can schools request you to speak to their students?
Todd: Yes, the information is on my website. (Pssst, just send him an email!)
Amber: When are you coming to Vermont to speak to my daughter’s class?
Todd: That is one place I have yet to visit with my books, so I am overdue.
Amber: Speaking of books, you have a new book coming out on November 3rd, called The Goodbye Book. Can you tell us about it?
Todd: The book will focus on separation, loss, and death without mentioning anything specific. This book took me years to think about how to do it and hit the right message. I’m very proud of this book.
Amber: In the face of the tough emotions that go along with saying goodbye to someone or something, do you provide hope or a silver lining in the book?
Todd: I pretty much depict the cycle of emotions that transform into hope and [remind readers] that there will always be someone there to hold you tight.
Amber: Why tackle this subject?
Todd: Like so many things my books are used for, there is a huge need for simplistic material to help children cope with life problems. I always refer to my books as springboards for the professionals to use for a specific situation.
Amber: So, what’s next? Can you tease us about projects you are currently working on?
Todd: Teachers Rock is next spring, Be Who You Are in 2017 and two untitled books for 2018.
Amber: Be who you are…Do you sense a shift in kids’ attitudes when it comes to accepting their peers for what they are and what makes them happy?
Todd: Yes, because things are much more out in the open and talked about today. But not always without judgment.
Amber: Same-sex parents and modern families like mine are slowly becoming the new normal, but we are still the minority. Some families struggle to get started and others may not be accepted. This can make our make parenting journey tough.
Can you give us a pep talk and write us a short love letter similar to the ones you provide at the end of each of your books?
Todd: Your family is special and important no matter what kind it is.
Go to Todd’s website for more information about his books, the charities he supports, and his love of macaroni and cheese.