Stories For All: Todd Parr – It's Okay to be Different

Author, illustrator, and macaroni and cheese aficionado Todd Parr, uses humor and bright illustrations to celebrate the differences that make us all unique. Most of Todd’s books are now available on the First Book Marketplace.

First Book recently interviewed Todd about his inspiration for writing so many books that make a difference in children’s lives.

Todd Parr:  Yes, in second grade I was placed in a slow reader class because I could not keep up with the rest of the class. I also couldn’t read in front of the class. It made me feel very different because I was made fun of. This was a big part in my writing It’s Okay To Be Different.

The Family Book was somewhat inspired by losing my mom at a young age and feeling like my family was different.

Q:  Have there been any children you’ve met along the way that have inspired you to tackle such issues? 

Todd Parr:  All the time. I never dreamed these two books would lead my awareness of the need to help kids and families feel good about themselves no matter what they were dealing with.

Q:  Why is it important for children to be reading about diversity issues at such a young age? 

Todd Parr:  Because I believe it is important for kids to see that everyone is different. And that is what makes everyone special and unique.

Q:  In your experience, how have children reacted to reading these books? Do they understand the nature of what they are reading? 

Todd Parr:  Yes, I think it’s my art style that helps with the delivery of the message (kids think they can draw just like me – and they can). Also, humor and unpredictability helps a lot.

Q:  What is your goal when writing children’s books that address these topics? 

Todd Parr:  To present things that may be very complicated to understand in a simple fun way.

Q:  What inspired you to become a children’s author? 

Todd Parr:  It all came about through my art. Megan Tingley (Little, Brown) approached me at the licensing show in NYC and asked if I had ever thought about writing children’s books because I was basically already telling stories through my artwork.

Q:  It’s pretty clear that you love macaroni and cheese. What’s your favorite kind?

Todd Parr:  Can I say I am so easy to please that I will eat any kind of macaroni and cheese, even if it has worms on it. No, that’s not right…

Todd Parr’s books are available on the First Book Marketplace, a website exclusively for educators and program leaders that works with kids in need.