Posts Tagged ‘ children’s books ’

Evangeline Lilly’s New Children’s Book and the Need for Some Darkness in Kid Lit

Monday, October 27th, 2014

You might know her as Tauriel the eflin warrior from The Hobbit trilogy, or as Kate Austen from Lost, but actress Evangeline Lilly may soon be known best for her writing skills. Her new children’s book series The Squickerwonkers hits shelves November 18 and it’s different from any kid’s story we’ve seen. Parents caught up with mom to 3-year-old Kahekili about her creepy new children’s book, upcoming Halloween plans, how she cultivates creativity in her son, and why she thinks we all can use a bit of Squickerwonker spookiness in our lives.

P: You first wrote a version of  The Squickerwonkers when you were a teenager. Tell us about the evolution of this story. 

EL: I read it to my mom when I was a teenager and she was like “Sweetheart, you really should try to publish that.” As a 14-year-old girl not only did I have no idea how to publish a book, I also was used to my mom thinking everything I did was incredible even if it wasn’t because she’s my mom and she loves me. Twenty years later I was working on The Hobbit in New Zealand with Peter Jackson and I went into the Weta Workshop—which is the creative arm of his where they create his armor and all these other things—and there was so much creativity going on in that place. I was like “I want to create something of my own, too.” I want to start this [book]. For about five years, I’d been really seriously intending to start a writing career. That was my dream. I had all these incredible people and artists and resources all around me, so I ended up connecting with Johnny Fraser-Allen at the Workshop and he came on board to work on The Squickerwonkers.

P: His illustrations are so fabulous. They compliment your characters so well.

EL: I can’t say the story is completely independent of him and he can’t say the illustrations are really independent of me. We really collaborated. I knew the Squickerwonkers were what I would call human but not human. Johnny came on board and he had this idea that they should be marionette puppets on this traveling wagon. And I gasped, “Oh my gosh that’s exactly it.”

P: Part of your intention with this book is to purposefully put something out there for children that is a little darker and creepier. 

EL: I do think that there is beauty and value and meaning in having very uplifting, sweet, innocent stories for children. But I’m a great believer in balance and I think that everybody, children and adults alike, needs balance in their life. The good and the evil, the right and the wrong, the truth and the idealism. That’s important to me. I look around me and I see a lot of young people who are very entitled and who are very confused when life isn’t perfect. I think that often comes from some of the messaging we receive as children from our stories, but that’s really not life and especially not on the playground.

The Squickerwonkers is really a playground drama. How many times do mischievous little kids do something mean or unfair to a kid that’s just minding his own business or being perfectly kind? How does a child learn how to deal with those situations? How do they learn to deal with the side of life that maybe isn’t as pretty, but is very real and prevalent? And then very importantly for me: How does a child makes sense of “the devil within themselves?” Or when they do something and they know it’s wrong but for some reason can’t stop, how do they accept and love themselves with the good and the ugly? That’s important to teach children also. That nobody’s perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect.

P: You’ve said previously that acting is your day job and you said earlier that writing was your dream. Is this a transition period for your career? 

EL: I’ve always been an opportunist. Lost and starting acting…that was really just opportunism. I didn’t want to be an actress, but I saw this opportunity. I think I will always live to a certain degree that way. I will probably always take an acting job if it comes about in a way that feels like it was meant to be or if it’s a great idea, but really my focus is to transition to writing. It’s truly a dream come true for me.

P: How does being a mom affect how you pick your projects? Were you drawn to write a children’s book because you have a child?

EL: I started writing The Squickerwonkers immediately after he was born, so maybe? Nowhere inside of me was I consciously writing for my children. I can say that is one of the reasons why I took the first film job I did after LostReal Steel with Hugh Jackman. I remember distinctly thinking “You know, I’m gonna have kids one day—and hopefully one day soon—and this is a movie I would really love my children to watch.” It’s the kind of entertainment and the kind of film that I believe instills beautiful, incredible values in kids—to stand up against adversity, that if you’re the underdog you can make it in the world. What’s interesting is I’ve sort of continued on in that thread. The Hobbit is great family entertainment. Ant-Man will be great family entertainment.The Squickerwonkers is for the whole family. I think that’s the kid in me coming out. I never really grew up.

P: Your book takes place in this spooky alternate puppet world. The Hobbit is a fantasy. Even Lost was sci-fi. So you seem to be attracted to fantasy and imagination. Do you find that your son is imaginative?

EL: He’s learning it. It’s fascinating to me as a mother to realize that imagination is not innate. You have to teach it. I was a very imaginative little girl. I always assumed that was innate and that every child is born with a massive imagination that takes them to all different wonderful worlds. As a mother I’m learning Oh! You actually have to teach children about what it means to play imaginary worlds and invent imaginary characters. My son is 3-and-a-half and he’s starting to blossom into the little boy who has an imagination. It’s heaven to watch.

P: What do you do to encourage his imagination

EL: I play with him. And it’s funny because I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that parents need to play with their kids. In my generation, nobody’s parents played with us. Nobody. There’s a pressure nowadays to play with our children and I think it’s unnecessary, but I can’t help myself. I want him to have the gift and the joy of an imaginary world the way I did. Maybe not to the extent that I did. I had more imaginary friends than real-life friends. He’s a much more grounded little man. He’s a very practical, responsible, grounded little person. Very unlike his mother.

P: Is he more like his dad?

EL: A little more like his dad and, honestly, just his own person. I sort of go Where did this come from? He just sort of came out that way. He’s a little Taurus. He’s a little bull so I wonder if that has anything to do with it.

Horoscope for a Taurus Baby
Horoscope for a Taurus Baby
Horoscope for a Taurus Baby

P: Speaking of all things spooky and creative and playful, Halloween is coming up. Do you do anything special? 

EL: Now that I have a child and my partner’s kind of into it, he makes sure the three of us have costumes. As we speak I’m at a consignment store, we just finished finding his costume this year. He picked it out himself.

P: What will he be?

EL: He’s gonna be a Depression-era child. [Cracking up] We were thinking of maybe a minion or something because he loves the minions from Despicable Me, but he picked out this crazy concoction of old used clothing. He put it all on and he LOVED it. He just looks like a little street kid from the 1930s.

Find your child’s Halloween costume at Shop Parents.

P: What is your favorite part about being a mom to Kahekili?

EL: Discovering the human being that is within him. I feel like parenting is such a wonderful unearthing. It’s like archaeology. It’s all in there already and it’s just a matter of what you uncover and what you dig up. You get to meet this human being and you go “Oh my gosh, that’s who you are. You’re your own person.” It’s so much fun.

Photographs: Evangeline Lilly / Sarah Dunn, courtesy of Warner Bros.

Add a Comment

Project Night Night: Give a Stuffed Animal or Blanket to a Child in Need

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Project Night Night Care PackageEvery parent knows the soothing comfort that a security blankie or stuffed animal can offer a child at bedtime. But many children around the country don’t have that simple luxury.

Each year, 1.5 million children go to sleep at night without a home, and the nonprofit, Project Night Night, is trying to make those long nights feel a little more secure by providing care packages made up of a blanket, children’s book and stuffed animal for children in need.

“Project Night Night strives to give children something they can call their own, something that can give them that little bit of comfort, and confidence, to deal with what’s in front of them,” the organization states.

To help, the organization lets you give back in several ways.

  1. Donate items: you can mail-in or, if you live near a drop-off location, you can give new blankets and new (or like-new) children’s books and stuffed animals.
  2. Donate money: You can make a tax deductible donation online.
  3. Or, for $25 you can provide a fully prepared “Night Night Package” that will be distributed to one homeless child.
  4. To learn more about how you can contribute, visit projectnightnight.org.

How to Establish a Bedtime Routine
How to Establish a Bedtime Routine
How to Establish a Bedtime Routine

Photo of care package courtesy of Project Night Night.

Add a Comment

5 New Children’s Books to Check Out

Friday, June 13th, 2014

A few weeks ago, I took my 11-year-old daughter, Katie, to BookExpo America in New York City, where many adult and children’s publishers have their latest titles plus sneak peeks of upcoming ones for fall and winter. Our fave finds:

Frozen Hide-And-Hug Olaf

It’s Disney’s version of Elf on the Shelf. The box contains a new Frozen story with a hide-and-seek theme, and a plush Olaf that parents are supposed to hide for kids to find (and hug). It will be available at the end of October; here’s a link for pre-order.

A World Without Princes

This is the second part of a chapter-book triology called the School for Good and Evil. It’s perfect for 8- to 12-year-olds, especially those who are fans of fantasy fiction. The kids who reviewed the first book in the series for Parents Best Books story last year loved it, and it was a close runner-up for the Best Chapter Book. (In fact, it was Katie’s top choice.) We had a chance to meet the author, Harvard-educated, Soman Chainani, who says he wrote the series because “growing up he watched a lot of Disney movies and felt that the good characters weren’t always the most interesting ones.” Both books are available now; my daughter says the second one is even better than the first.

Sisters

Over at the Scholastic booth, Katie was drawn to advance copies of this graphic novel paperback. She recognized the name of the author (Raina Telgemeier) because she had read Smile, a story that Raina wrote in 2010. Katie finished the book before we left New York City: Sisters is a breezy (yet satisfying) read about siblings who patch up their relationship. It’s coming out at the end of August; pre-order here.

JoJo’s First Word Book

Once we got past the crowds waiting to see Grumpy Cat in the Chronicle Books book, we were struck by the adorableness of this title. It features more than 200 objects and a carrying handle. You can watch a video about it here or buy it here.

Kid Presidents

We’re fans of non-fiction, and this chapter book for kids 8 to 12 is so clever, delivering quirky childhood stories from 16 presidents. (For instance, kids will learn that FDR’s mom followed him everywhere and that Harry Truman broke a collarbone while combing his hair.) It will be available in October; pre-order here.

Add a Comment

B.J. Novak’s Children’s Book: Would You Buy It Even Though It Has No Pictures?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak front coverThe Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak back coverIf you follow B.J. Novak on Instagram, you know The Office star (and Mindy Kaling’s BFF!) has a tongue-in-cheek feed called “Pictures of Text” with…well, photos of text-heavy signs, posters, book covers, you name it.

So it’s no surprise that Novak pitched an idea for a children’s book called, “The Book With No Pictures“, a “picture” book without pictures…the first of its kind! Speaking to People, Novak shared, “I really wanted to get kids thinking that the written word is their ally not their enemy and it creates a great experience between the parent and the kid.”

Novak also posted photos of the front and back covers on Instagram and Twitter recently. Given Novak’s fondness for text, the cover is plain and sparse, similar to the black-text-on-white-background cover of his other book, “One More Thing,” a collection of short stories for adults.

Although little else is known about the picture book, Novak did tell People that it was a “simple” book with “hidden messages.” He got a chance to read it to a group of elementary school kids in Queens, who responded in a positive way. No doubt humor is a big part of the book (as evidenced by the text on his back cover: “WARNING! This book looks serious but it is actually COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!”).

“I think a lot of parents think they are not funny and are scared to read a funny book, but I’ve tested it with so many parents and I think this is fool-proof. No matter how you read it, you’re funny,” Novak said.

Look out for the book when it’s released by Penguin Kids on September 30.

Add a Comment

Celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with Picture Books

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will be here before you know it! Help your little one enjoy the festivities with some of the many stories dedicated to moms and dads.

Mother’s Day

Davy Loves His Mommy, by Brigette Weninger and Eve Tharlet: Devious kiddos will relate to Davy the bunny, whose ill-mannered habits have disappointed Mother Rabbit. In order to impress her on Mother’s Day, Davy and his siblings decide to read up on good behavior. While at first Davy doesn’t think being proper is much fun, acting politely soon becomes less challenging. How will Davy use his new skills to surprise Mama?

A Gift for Mama, by Linda Ravin Lodding: Travel to Vienna, Austria, and follow along with Oskar, who’s on a mission to find the perfect gift for mom’s birthday. Where will his encounters take him? This vividly-illustrated book leaves readers guessing.

Where’s Mommy, by Beverly Donofrio: Readers familiar with Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary will enjoy being reacquainted with Maria and Mouse Mouse, who are looking for their human and animal mothers, respectively. Eventually, the two little girls run into each other and are met with a pleasant surprise!

Father’s Day

How to Cheer Up Dad, by Fred Koehler: Troublemaking elephant Little Jumbo keeps upsetting his dad. While sitting in time-out, he comes up with a few ideas to make Dad feel better. After a day of playing catch, eating ice cream, and going fishing, Little Jumbo picks out Dad’s favorite book to read before bed. But what will Little Jumbo do once Dad’s asleep?

The Best Daddy in the World, by Eleni Zabini and Susanne Lütje: Animal children (and one human boy!) express their love and appreciation for special things their fathers do (“My daddy makes me breakfast,” “My daddy comes and tucks me in”). Ask your little one what makes his or her daddy special!

Finding a gift for mom doesn’t have to be stressful! Kids can make their own paper creations, as shown here:

 

 

Mother's Day Paper Crafts: Paper Blooms
Mother's Day Paper Crafts: Paper Blooms
Mother's Day Paper Crafts: Paper Blooms

Add a Comment

Julie Andrews and Daughter Emma Walton Hamilton Let Their Sparkle Out in “The Very Fairy Princess”

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Julie Andrews The Very Fairy Princess Graduation GirlDame Julie Andrews is no stranger to the royal life. She’s graced the screen and stage in roles like Cinderella, Queen Clarisse Renaldi in The Princess Diaries and Queen in Shrek. But it’s a new little “royal” that has captured her heart —the star of the children’s book series Andrews authors with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton.

 

The inspiration for The Very Fairy Princess’s Geraldine is a feisty girl named Hope, Hamilton’s daughter and Andrews’ granddaughter. In the books, she’s a problem-solving princess who, in the latest story, is nervous to graduate and start afresh in a new classroom come fall.

“We really wanted to create a series that empowered little girls to think about who they were inside,” Hamilton says. “It’s ironic that it’s the princess theme, because you think about princesses and it’s all about the externals…and certainly that’s something Gerry, our little princess character, adores, but it’s actually really about the inner sparkle, and she is a different kind of princess than you might imagine.”

Andrews describes Geraldine—who has scabs on her knees and holes in her tights—as a “tomboy.” Gerry does her best to assume the life of a princess while encountering the struggles her normal elementary-aged peers face. “She says things like, you can be whatever you want to be, you just have to let your sparkle out, and so that’s become the recurring theme throughout these books, of Gerry sometimes being in danger of losing her sparkle…but inevitably reclaiming it and finding it again,” Hamilton says.

Just as some of the characters in the story are modeled after real people—Hope’s own male teacher donned polka dot socks, like Gerry’s new teacher does in Graduation Girl!—some of the stories also stem from real-life events.

“There’s one story of my childhood that I wove into this series,” Andrews says, noting that she once had forgotten to pack ballet shoes for a performance that was taking place on a rainy bank holiday. The shops were closed, there was no one she could borrow from, and her socks had holes and were covered in mud. She did have a wet-wipe, which her mother used to paint a shoe over her socks, just as Gerry does in Sparkles in the Snow. When Andrews went on stage, she “left a trail of little white footprints,” she recalls. “You could see [the audience] saying, ‘Is she wearing shoes?’ And I was mortified. I never forgot my shoes again.” In the story, Gerry similarly leaves purple tracks on the stage. “But it was lovely to be able to refer to it and know exactly how the little kid felt,” Andrews said.

While other books are in the works, Andrews and Hamilton are unsure as to whether Gerry will age and tackle more grown-up topics. Hamilton explains the authors did not wish to state the specific grade Gerry was graduating from in the latest book, for example.

In an age so focused on technology, reading books is still vital for children. “When you’re engaging with text, you’re decoding,” as opposed to looking at a screen, where “you’re simply receiving,” Hamilton says. “It is essential to preserve that and to sustain that for young readers.”

Moms, do you have your own little “royal”? Dazzle her with this princess-sneaker cake:

How to Make a Princess-Sneaker Cake
How to Make a Princess-Sneaker Cake
How to Make a Princess-Sneaker Cake

Add a Comment

The 2014 Newbery and Caldecott Medal Winners: Kate DiCamillo and Brian Floca

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo; Locomotive by Brian FlocaThe American Library Association announced the winners of its two highest literary honors: the Newbery Medal (for distinguished writing) and the Caldecott Medal (for outstanding artwork).

Well-known children’s book author (and recently chosen ambassador for children’s literature) Kate DiCamillo was awarded the Newbery for Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, an illustrated novel about a tween who befriends a squirrel with superpowers. DiCamillo also won the Newbery in 2004 for The Tale of Despereux, a story about a mouse who yearns to become a knight. Her book Because of Winn-Dixie was also chosen as a Newbery runner-up in 2000.

For his illustrations in Locomotive, Brian Floca was awarded the Caldecott Medal. His book features a family of three taking their first trip (from Omaha to Sacramento) on the newly-finished Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Floca’s book was chosen as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2013 by the New York Times and the Top 10 Children’s Books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal.

Add a Comment

Get an Exclusive 15% Discount: “Goodnight Little Me,” Illustrated by Mary GrandPré

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Goodnight Little Me by Jennifer Dewing and Mary GrandPre - ISeeMe.comIf you’re a Harry Potter geek like me, you’ll recognize Mary GrandPré as the illustrator of the famous U.S. book covers and chapter art. So when I got the chance to meet and interview her yesterday, I felt like a bona fide fangirl.

GrandPré was in New York with children’s book writer Jennifer Dewing to talk about their new book, Goodnight Little Me, a dreamy bedtime book that can be personalized with your children’s names, ages, and birthdays.

The book, out later this month, is the newest title from I See Me, a line of personalized children’s books. What makes I See Me truly special is the unique way they integrate a child’s name and photo into the illustrations on each page. For Goodnight Little Me in particular, your child’s name can be seamlessly woven into a starry sky and the socks of dancing dogs.

Take a virtual tour of Goodnight Little Me — you’ll see how Dewing’s lyrical rhymes dance and propel the story forward and how GrandPré’s whimsical illustrations saturate and pop off the page. And note all the places where “Elizabeth” can be replaced with a different name.

Can’t wait for the book to come out? You’re in luck! You can now purchase the Goodnight Little Me book or Goodnight Little Me gift set (which includes a plush lamb). Even better, ISeeMe.com has provided Parents.com readers with an exclusive discount code that gives you 15% off your total order. So you can add Goodnight Little Me and other titles to your shopping cart.

Starting today, use the coupon code PARENTS during checkout to receive the 15% discount. The code expires on Sunday, December 15, 2013.

 

Add a Comment