Baby & Toddler

Pre-K

Helping Kids Be Exactly Who They Are — The Joy of Feel-Good Children’s Books

by Todd Parr

Photo credit: kali9, E+/Getty Images

Life is for living, not just existing.

I did not always know this. I was taught from a young age that in order to survive, you had to do things in life that you did not necessarily want to do. After all, that was how my dad lived. And it’s how he raised me.

Todd Parr as a child
Todd Parr as a child

My dad would often remind me of this when I talked to him about one of my “wild” ideas, like being an artist, a cook, a beautician, and a few other things I can’t remember. He would tell me that if he told his dad that he wanted to be an artist or a beautician, he would have been kicked out on to his rear. (I think he used a different word.)

I grew up in a small town in Wyoming where I always felt different from everyone else. I didn’t want to dress like the other kids. No, I wanted to wear a tie and sunglasses to school. For this and many other reasons, I was often made fun of by other students.

Spreads from Be Who You Are, by Todd Parr
Spreads from Be Who You Are, by Todd Parr

I get asked at school events around the country how I come up with book ideas. They mostly come from my past. More importantly, though, I aim to create books that help kids feel good about who they are, their families, their bodies, their dreams, and anything else that can empower them to be confident, determined, strong, and kind human beings. Because I know there are kids just like me out there — I hear from them all the time.

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Early on in my publishing career, someone commented that they didn’t realize I created the illustrations for my books. They thought a six-year-old did them. Mic drop. I thought, “This is not good.” But a few years later, I learned to embrace the fact that my art looks like the work of a child. That’s exactly what draws kids to them. They think, “Hey, I can do that!”

Some of my books’ complex messages about feelings are much more relatable and accessible to kids because of the simple illustrations. I also rely on bright colors, humor, and unpredictability. I love when kids tell me how much fun they have reading my books. I think this is key to reading and learning in general.

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Kids today still need the same messages I myself needed when growing up. Kindness, confidence, and compassion will make the world a better place.

BE WHO YOU ARE!

The End.

Love,
Todd

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