Luvvie Ajayi Jones' Children's Book Is Based on a Familiar 'Little Troublemaker'

The New York Times bestselling author says ‘Little Troublemaker Makes a Mess’ is about responding to children's mistakes with empathy, a lesson she learned from her mother.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

JP Yim/Getty Images/Courtesy of Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Three-time New York Times Bestselling author Luvvie Ajayi Jones has a fourth book coming. And this time, it’s for the littlest troublemakers in our lives.  

Her upcoming project and fourth book, Little Troublemaker Makes A Mess, publishes on May 2. “It is so exciting to me because this feels like a long time coming. I’ve always wanted to write a kid’s book,” she told Kindred by Parents in an exclusive interview. “So, when Professional Troublemaker came out in 2021, and then I wrote Rising Troublemaker (2022) for teens, it was only natural that I did one for the babies.” 

Ajayi Jones says it's easy to think the book’s protagonist Little Luvvie is a little version of herself. But she's actually a big version of Little Luvvie. As readers follow Little Luvvie’s adventures and see the trouble she gets into, they also receive an example of how Big Luvvie learned to channel her boldness into “a better type of trouble.”

“It’s about this little girl who is big-hearted, who loves her mom, who wants to do good in the world. But her execution is not always great,” she says. “She means well, but it doesn’t always come out well. And she always gets in trouble, but she always has to learn her lesson.” 

Little Troublemaker Makes a Mess Cover
Little Troublemaker Makes a Mess Cover.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Readers will notice how much Little Luvvie resembles “big Luvvie” early in the story. Ajayi Jones says she and illustrator Joey Spiotto wanted the resemblance to extend beyond their appearance. Little Luvvie’s willingness to try things—even when they’re out of her scope—is authentic to her, too. “I’ll try things even if I don’t think I’m ready for it, even though it might be scary,” she says, noting she wanted Little Luvvie to embody that childhood audacity that’s possible when fewer things are telling us what we can’t do. 

There are many easter eggs in the book. But Ajayi Jones says writing Little Troublemaker Makes A Mess was a new adventure requiring new skills, like putting herself into a child’s mind. “I had to think about why I would do certain things…I haven’t had to think about how kids think in a long time.” 

She wrote Little Luvvie’s character with children ages 4  to 8in mind. “I’m hoping that they know that their intentions are seen. We love that they want to try something new,” she says. “However, sometimes it doesn’t go well. But as long as they learn from it, they’re well; they’re lovable.”

She says one of the biggest takeaways is that “even when they make mistakes, even when they don’t get it right, even when it’s a disaster, they are still worthy of love and care.” Ajayi Jones says Little Luvvies’s mother is modeled after her mother. She hopes parents will see this compassionate mothering style she received from her mother as key to raising littles who make good trouble. 

“I’m hoping parents see that sometimes kids will do some things that are gonna aggravate you and you’re gonna be like, ‘I cannot believe it.’” Still, she says, showing our children grace and radical love can help them through adulthood. “I think a lot of us grow up to be adults who think making mistakes means we are not worthy or we’re not enough,” she says. “So it’s the idea that if our children make mistakes, in spite of it, and sometimes because of it, they actually really need more care, not necessarily to be yelled at and punished.” 

She hopes children learn when they mess up, they should be a part of the fix.

Ajayi Jones and Spiotto felt it was essential to show Little Luvvie in the fullness of who she is—including those moments that leave parents saying, “Girl, if you don’t go sit down…” They also knew the image wouldn’t be complete without visible elements of her Nigerian and Nigerian-American identities—you’ll find those in the book, too.

“I really want to just normalize the fact that this is who she is. Her culture is not something that makes her extraordinary. It is just part of her life, and it’s an important part of her life,” says Ajayi Jones.  

She wants parents to recognize their kids—and even their own inner child—in Little Luvvie’s audacity and believes guiding these little troublemakers through the world without trampling on their spirit is part of our mission.

“I want to normalize those of us who had this bold spirit as kids, and some of us had it taken out of us because of life’s circumstances and situations,” she says. “But I want to remind everybody of who we used to be, and then if you have a kid who was a little troublemaker, you know that their energy should be harnessed; it should be affirmed. And it’s okay because those little troublemakers can become big world changers.”

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