Family guy

Todd Parr translates a kid’s-eye point of view into a successful career in children’s literature and TV

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 10 2006 12:00 AM ET

Todd Parr likes
the fog and sea lions. His favorite color is blue. He
likes macaroni and cheese and loves his dog, Bully. He also
likes to paint. Parr’s simple, childlike,
“less is more” approach to life has
served him well. Since 1999 this award-winning
children’s book author and illustrator has been
known by preschoolers and adults worldwide for his
positive and humorous series of picture books.

Each book offers
his bold, almost Haringesque signature style
incorporating primary colors with messages that encourage
and empower children to communicate their feelings
while embracing their individuality. In fact, many
people think his work is done by a child and not an
adult. “At first I was a little hurt,”
confesses the gay author, “but now I realize
that this is my strength.” March saw the release of
Parr’s latest works, The Grandma Book and
The Grandpa Book (Little, Brown)—a
celebration of cool, hip, fun-loving grandparents—as
well as his second Daytime Emmy nomination (Outstanding
Children’s Animated Program) for
ToddWorld, a show watched by millions on the
Discovery Kids Channel. Not bad for a shy kid from Rock
Springs, Wyo.

Parr, 43, credits
his supportive family and life experiences as the
strongest influences on his career and the messages within
his work—particularly his grandmother, who
introduced him to the Dr. Seuss classics such as
Green Eggs and Ham as well as P.D.
Eastman’s Go, Dog, Go! and Are You My
Mother?
Parr recalls feeling different as a child
and never fully understood by his loving family, which
inspired him to create his book It’s Okay to Be
Different.
“I was trapped in a small town,
and I really believed that I would feel better about
myself if I could just get to a bigger place.”

In 2003,
Parr’s The Family Book stirred controversy
among some conservative parents by acknowledging the
concept of gay parenting with the simple statement,
“Some families have two moms, and some families
have two dads.” He still defends the inclusion:
“The book is really just about being a
family—no matter what.”

Today, Parr hopes
his work empowers children to overcome one of
society’s greatest injustices against them, the
lack of positive acceptance—“just being
accepted for who they are,” he says, “and
being loved and encouraged to be who they are.”

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