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

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."

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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