Celeb Q&A: Mary-Louise Parker

Actress mom Mary-Louise Parker tells us about starring in The Spiderwick Chronicles, her favorite kids' books, and more.

On Doing a Kids' Movie

Mary-Louise Parker in The Spiderwick Chronicles

Has the end of Harry Potter left a big hole in your child's reading list? Pick up The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black and Toni DiTerlizzi. Then see the live-action screen version, hitting theaters this month (rated PG). We chatted up actress and mom Mary-Louise Parker to find out about the film, her favorite kids' books, and more.

Q. What attracted you to The Spiderwick Chronicles?
I've always wanted to do a kids' movie, and this one is somewhat atypical -- the characters are finely drawn and complex. Even though my kids won't be able to see it for a few years [her son is 4 and her daughter is under 2], I have lots of children in my life who'd love to see me in a movie.

Q. You play the mom of three kids. How would you describe her?
She's just sort of wildly imperfect and struggling so much. I thought if I could convey that desperation in a real way, that would be more interesting than playing someone who was trying to be the perfect mother.

Q. Why should parents take their children to see this movie?
The kid characters are great -- good, smart, kind, and not precocious. As are the actors who portray them. If my son were a little bit older, I'd love for him to hang out with them.

    On Why Reading Ranks #1

    Q. Which books do you like to read to your children?
    Oh, I could go on and on! I love Cynthia Rylant; she wrote the Mr. Putter and Tabby books and the Henry and Mudge series. Patricia Polacco is a great author: Chicken Sunday, Thunder Cake, and Thank You, Mr. Falker are beautiful stories rich with humanity, and they teach lessons in a non-preachy way. Another favorite, Mama Panya's Pancakes, about a village in Kenya, is a gentle way to introduce kids to other cultures and to the idea that everyone is not the same type of bunny or kid.

    Q. So reading is pretty important in your family?
    It's the number-one activity I do with my children and have done since they were infants. Hours after my son was born, my brother was holding him and reading him poetry. Now he's a little boy with a lot of energy, but he'll sit still for a book and he has a great capacity to listen. With my daughter, I'm just trying to teach her how to turn pages! We always read a lot before bed. Our record is 14 or 15 books. It's at least five, even if my son's tired. I love to hear the words, "One more book, Mom!"

    Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the February 2008 issue of Parents magazine.