When you have children in your life—whether you’re a parent, a caregiver, or a teacher—finding relatable books that are both interesting to look at and mentally stimulating is a priority. More recently, finding books that teach children about the world around them in a colorful and honest manner has also become a top priority when choosing books to add to the reading-time rotation.
There is one well-loved author who checks all of those boxes, and then some: Todd Parr.
With over 50 colorful, easy-to-read books to his name, Parr has become a household favorite over the years, delivering reassuring messages with bold lines and colors that pop from every page.
From families to feelings, and self-love to self-awareness, Parr’s books have become a household favorite, not just in the United States, but around the world—and in over 15 different languages, so families from many different backgrounds can share his books with their loves ones. Some of his most beloved titles include the National Parenting Publications Award-winning book It’s Okay to Be Different, and The Family Book, which celebrates families of all shapes and sizes.
But who is the man behind these treasured books?
This Wasn’t His “Plan A”
Todd Parr is an American author and illustrator who loves imagination, macaroni and cheese, and his three dogs—Pete, Tater Tot, and Jer-Jer. He grew up in the mountains of Wyoming but moved to San Francisco as an adult to pursue his writing career.
In school, Parr was a shy reader who struggled to keep up with the rest of his class. His failing grades in art classes drove his confidence and passion for art to near non-existence until well into his adult life when real-world experiences inspired him to begin painting strong messages on canvas. And, according to his Wiki page, he was a flight attendant before becoming an author. It wasn’t until he was approached by an editor that he even considered writing and illustrating children’s books—a move that would come to change his career and touch the lives of children around the world.
Why He Writes
Parr believes that every child should have something they can relate to or something to help them through the hard times that they’re facing. His books deliver messages of uniqueness, loss, kindness, and all of the things that we as human beings experience, but with lighthearted drawings and bold colors that help engage children on an easier and more natural level. He keeps a list of topics to tackle, from things in his life that he has experienced personally to things he learns from children he meets along the way, and he is always coming up with new ways to explain our complicated world in a not-so-complicated way.
Leaping Off the Page
In November 2004, Todd Parr’s beloved children’s books moved from page to screen, and the Emmy-nominated animated children’s series Toddworld was born. Throughout the show, the main character (appropriately named Todd) tells stories of tolerance, diversity, and acceptance through examples of things that have happened to him or to his friends Pickle, Sophie, and Stella. The show is a celebration of imagination, creativity, and the value of friendship. Although it ended after just two seasons, Toddworld is still available for purchase or streaming on many platforms.
When Todd Parr isn’t busy creating, promoting his latest book, or speaking at schools and libraries, he likes to spend some time in front of the camera reading his books and discussing—in a kid-friendly manner—how current events might tie into the meaning of the book. These videos are a segment he calls Todd TV, and they are released periodically on his YouTube channel, as well as posted on his website.
Reading to our children is important for a number of reasons: literacy and social skills, emotional development, and routine-building skills being the most important among them. Experts encourage parents and caregivers to read to their children every single night, with a minimum of 4 nights per week, and what better way to broaden their minds than with Todd Parr’s colorful, tactful, and honest books about the world, bodies, and families they belong to?