Author Review: Todd Parr

This review has been a long time in coming. Todd Parr didn’t fall onto my list of TBRs in any conventional way (though I just looked it up and one of his books is on the Best Picture Books list). It was more of a way for me to volunteer at my kids’ school. It shouldn’t be surprising that I used to volunteer annually for the Scholastic book fair. When the Montessori school, then, had a famous author coming to read to the pre-schoolers through middle schoolers, they reached out to those of us who had a track record of supporting literacy and a weird way of sniffing books as they arrange them, and I was asked to help host Todd Parr.

I had seen Parr’s books on the bookstore and library shelves and I bet you have, too. They stand out for their simplicity, thick black lines, and raucously bright primary and secondary colors, not to mention some of his titles. I’m not sure we had read any, at the time, though, so I checked some out from the library and then each of my kids bought a Todd Parr book to have signed at the event. I have the most adorable photos of both my kids, in their classrooms, laughing at one of Parr’s comment. (Will I be able to find these photo for you? Yes, I did!) This about sums up the event for me, which is that Parr was wonderful with the kids: funny, sincere, and calming and definitely had his elementary school shtick going on. He was also pleasant and professional, which I appreciated, rushing about making sure drawing boards were set up, kids were seated waiting in circles, and water bottles placed in key locations.

It was a dream day, for me.

Parr was a flight attendant before becoming an author. He has churned out books since 2002, a TV show called Todd’s World since 2004, and has come by a number of awards, especially honoring his contributions to the environment and equality. He partners with companies from Sesame Street (with shorts) to Cheerios, Toys R Us, and No Kid Hungry. His books often have messages, from helping kids get in touch with their feelings to learning how to care for the world. His series include the Otto books and the ToddWorld books. They are sometimes silly, but often have a subtle gravity to them. And with their being very easy to read and look at, they appeal to children at an age when they are just beginning to think about their world and how they should be in it.

Here are some of his titles:

  • The Don’t Worry Book
  • Be Who You Are
  • The Kindness Book
  • Love the World
  • The Joyful Book
  • Teachers Rock
  • The Goodbye Book
  • The Okay Book
  • This Is My Hair
  • Do’s and Don’ts
  • Things That Make You Feel Good, Things That Make You Feel Bad
  • Okay to Be Different
  • The Peace Book
  • The Feelings Books
  • Underwear Do’s and Don’ts

The truth is, if you have a child and they are going through something, it’s likely there is a Todd Parr book for that. There are books about different seasons, events, and experiences, and especially about how a child relates to themselves and to the world. Very peacenik-ky (or California-y) which many parents are happy to get on board with. My son’s favorite, at the time, was of course Underwear Do’s and Don’ts, and mine was The Feelings Book, which I could personally use to read every once in a while. There are detractors, of course, especially since Parr’s illustrations are rudimentary, though that is part of the point of them. You don’t buy these picture books for their beautiful illustrations. And, like other illustrators before him, Parr chooses to people his world with children and adults in every color of the rainbow except the colors of real skin—a way of making them both universal and encouraging of diversity.

I like Parr’s books, celebrating the child who’s reading (or being read to) and spurring them on toward being a great citizen and one who’s comfortable in their own skin. I would recommend a few of them make it to your child’s or grandchild’s bookshelf.

For more information on Todd Parr, click HERE. He has an active internet presence at his website.

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