Photo: @gabunion via Instagram
Children's books are a must-have in every household with kids. They serve as an introduction to written letters and words and a way for kids to expand their imagination. Most importantly, they’re a life-saver for parents too tired to come up with their own bedtime stories—and that includes celebrities. But many famous moms and dad have taken their interest in books one step further, publishing their own stories for little ones. For some, parenthood was their muse and influenced the stories they wanted to tell. For others, their own childhood inspired the lessons they’re passing on to younger generations.
From Mariah Carey and JLo to Channing Tatum, Lebron James and Gabrielle Union, here are some of the celebrities who have written children's books in recent years.
The Queen of Christmas is writing a book about... Christmas, obviously! Mariah Carey is staying on brand with her new project, which comes out in November (hello last-minute holiday gift). The Christmas Princess follows “Little Mariah” as she uses her voice to spread the spirit of Christmas to everyone around her. The “All I Want For Christmas Is You” singer told People that the book is inspired by her own childhood. “Little Mariah represents my inner child believing in her own vision, she represents all children, especially those who feel like outsiders or 'others', striving to believe in themselves.” The mother of two also added, “so many of us have been drowning in 'bleakocity' for the last year and half, why not create an enchanted land to escape to?” The Queen has spoken.
From this superstar team comes a fun picture book that will give your little ones the giggles while teaching them some Spanish. Con Pollo follows an adorable chicken named Pollo who just wants to play. With text in both English and Spanish, the book introduces simple Spanish vocabulary to kids. Talking to People about his collab with Jennifer, Jimmy said, “one of the many things I love about her is how great of a mom she is. Since we're both parents, we thought a children's book would be the perfect fit.” Honestly, who wouldn’t love to learn some Spanish from a cute little chicken?
The mom of three may have a popular book club for adults, but now she’s making her picture book debut with Busy Betty. Illustrated by Xindi Yan, the story follows a little girl named Betty who is faced with a formidable challenge: giving her adorable but terribly smelly dog, Frank, a bath before her friend Mae comes over. Reese said that the book was inspired by her own childhood adventures and lessons she hopes to pass on to young girls. “I hope Betty’s curiosity, enthusiasm and sense of adventure teaches our girls that not only can they do anything they set their minds to, but also by applying creativity, focus and teamwork to their ideas, anything is possible," said Reese.
Serena Williams, tennis goat and mom to four-year-old Olympia, wrote The Adventures of Qai Qai about her daughter’s favourite doll. The book follows “Baby Girl,” who is nervous about an upcoming dance recital until her doll Qai Qai comes to life and helps her believe in herself. Qai Qai would know a thing or two about the limelight—she has become an internet icon in her own right, thanks to her popular Instagram account. And the real-life connections don’t stop there; Serena’s own baby girl, Olympia, just slipped into a cute pink tutu to celebrate her first ballet recital with mom and dad. The book is set to release in September 2022.
From playing a comic book character to writing her own picture book, Elizabeth Olsen is on a mission to teach little kids how to deal with their big emotions. In a collaboration with her husband, Robbie Arnett, and illustrator Marissa Valdez, the WandaVision actress created Hattie Harmony: Worry Detective. The story follows Hattie, an adorable cat in a full noir detective outfit, as she helps her friends work through their first day of school anxiety. Elizabeth talked to Romper about how the book was inspired by her own experience going to therapy to learn the language that can help her process overwhelming feelings. She explained, “I think, especially with developing brains, just introducing that kind of language young could be beneficial to kids to encourage them to work through it and not deny those feelings.”
In his third collaboration with illustrator Miguel Ordóñez, Jimmy Fallon penned a love letter to grandmas with Nana Loves You More. The Tonight Show host said in a statement, “This is for all the NANAs out there, whether you go by Grandma, Gammy, Meemaw, GG or Abuela. I know you love NANA, but NANA loves you more!”
Grammy-winner Ciara and her football quarterback hubby, Russell Wilson, created Why Not You? to teach kids that nothing is impossible. The parents named the book after their Why Not You Foundation, a nonprofit “dedicated to fighting poverty through education, empowering youth to lead with a why not you attitude.” With a colourful design and a diverse cast of characters with different abilities, the book teaches children to reach for the stars.
The Duchess of Sussex drew inspiration for her picture book from her husband Prince Harry and her son Archie. The Bench is a celebration of the special bond between fathers and sons, accompanied by soothing watercolour illustrations. The mother of two, who was pregnant with Lilibet when she worked on the book, dedicated it to "the man and the boy who made my heart go pump-pump." Excuse us while we go weep in a corner.
Kaavia James Union is giving both of her famous parents a run for their money—and she’s only been around for three years. The toddler’s expressive face and outgoing sassy personality made her an Instagram icon with over 1.9 million followers. More recently, she even inspired her actress mom, Gabrielle Union, and former basketball player dad, Dwayne Wade, to write a new picture book, appropriately titled Shady Baby. In the book, a little Black girl meets some bullies at the park, flashes them some intense side-eye (something Kaavia is famous for) and teaches them to play nice.
Remember when we were all baking sourdough in pandemic isolation? Channing Tatum was writing a children’s book; a sparkly, glittery, shimmery one at that. “Guys, I don’t know about you but things got a little weird for me in quarantine,” said Channing in an Instagram caption announcing the book, “I ended up accidentally locking myself in my 7-year-old daughter’s room. And I ended up finding my inner child. So this is what I created for my little girl. From what is, I guess, the little girl in me.” The One and Only Sparkella follows Sparkella as she prepares to host her friend for a sleepover, only to realize her arrangements are missing one crucial element: a castle fit for two royal highnesses. Sparkella’s single dad (modelled after Channing) steps in to help her finish her preparations. The book was so successful that it got a sequel, The One and Only Sparekella Makes a Plan, and a film adaptation starring Channing!
Hilary Duff taught many early 2000s kids what dreams are made of, and with her new children’s book, she’s hoping to teach little girls the same. The Lizzie McGuire actress told People how the idea for My Little Brave Girl came to her while she was breastfeeding her daughter after a long day at work. “Tired and emotional, I held my daughter and remembered the many ways I watched my mother be brave and was encouraged to do the same,” Hilary recalled, “I sat there in a well of emotion, realizing I was close to the end of my breastfeeding journey with my daughter and this was just one of the many ways I was going to watch her grow into a little brave girl.” Hilary hopes the book will teach young girls to be loud and proud and to dream big.
In Fables, Natalie Portman takes three classic fables and reinvents them with timeless lessons that fit today’s world. The actress and mom of two took to her Instagram to announce the book with a caption that reads, “these fables hold many of the values I hope to instill in my kids: empathy, attentiveness, thoughtfulness and true friendship.” The three fables retold in the book are The Tortoise and the Hare, The Three Little Pigs, and Country Mouse and City Mouse, paired with beautiful illustrations by Janna Mattia.
NBA champion LeBron James sends a message of hope and resilience with his picture book, I Promise. The dad of three modelled the book after the type of promises children make every morning at the I Promise School, a school LeBron founded in his hometown of Akron, Ohio to serve at-risk kids. In a promo video for the book, LeBron explained, “At the start of every school year, and repeated each morning, all students make a set of promises to themselves, just like those in this book. Setting goals, working hard and holding yourself accountable are the first steps to success." I Promise quickly became a New York Times best seller and was praised for its uplifting message.
In 2020, Kristen Bell published a children’s book that got a lot of people talking, some more favourably than others. The Frozen actress co-wrote The World Needs More Purple People with Benjamin Hart, a book that teaches you how to become a “purple person” and embrace what makes you special while finding common ground with those around you. Unfortunately, many found the book problematic and thought that it promoted colourblindness. Kristen responded to those criticisms on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna by saying, “when I say find sameness or common ground, I mean look at each other as human beings.” Kristen added that the book was motivated by the political and ideological divide rampant in the US. After making her case, the mom of two went on to create a sequel for the book: The World Needs More Purple Schools.
That moment when your mom writes a whole book to welcome you to the world. Gabrielle Union held nothing back to celebrate the birth of Kaavia (yes, the little girl inspired not one, but two books). The 47-year-old actress has been open about her struggles with infertility, miscarriages and her family’s decision to have a baby via surrogate. After an arduous journey, Gabrielle was overjoyed with Kaavia’s birth, telling ESSENCE that “she came into our lives and changed everything.” Gabrielle wrote Welcome to the Party to celebrate this new member of her family and “to celebrate family creation and family expansion that happens a little non-traditionally.”
The Property Brothers introduce some healthy competition in their children’s book, Builder Brothers: Better Together. The book is the second installment in the twins’ Builder Brothers series and it follows young Drew and Jonathan as they prepare to enter a soapbox derby race in their town. The brothers, who are usually inseparable, end up arguing over how to build the best car for the race and competing against each other! The real-life Drew and Jonathan spoke to People about how the book was influenced by their childhood. “There was always a bit (or a lot!) of brotherly competition between us, which pushed us to be better, just like the brothers in the book,” said Drew.
Even the queen of decluttering your life knows it's next to impossible to keep your house neat with toddlers around. Marie Kondo spoke to Parents about how difficult tidying up became after having her kids and how she was often left with no energy to follow her own tips from her book and hit Netflix show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Still, the mom of three hopes to instill the value of a neat and clutter-free home in kids with her children’s book, Kiki & Jax: The Life-Changing Magic of Friendship. “I wanted to write a children’s book about friendship that would also share the joy of tidying with young readers,” said Marie. The book follows Kiki, a clutter-loving squirrel, and her friend Jax, a neat owl that teaches her to tidy up and keep only things that “spark joy” in her life.
Viola Davis revisited an American classic dear to her heart with Corduroy Takes a Bow. The children’s book, which was released on the 50th anniversary of Don Freeman’s original Corduroy, was an ode to the Oscar-winning actress’ childhood and a gift to her daughter. The book follows the original characters, the teddy bear Corduroy and his friend Lisa, as they explore the theatre world for the first time. “With my daughter, when she was a baby, that was the book that she just loved the most,” said Viola, speaking to EW about her decision to take on this project. “Perhaps it was Lisa and the fact that she was an African-American; maybe it gave her a sense that she was a part of it,” she added. Viola wanted to write a book that her then-seven-year-old Genesis could imagine being a part of and to remind us of just how important representation is.
When it comes to writing children’s books, Jamie Lee Curtis is a veteran with 12 titles already under her belt. Yet the actress, mom and all-around icon still has stories to tell and interesting topics to give her take on. In her latest picture book, Me, Myselfie & I, Jamie takes on the selfie craze of the 2010s. When an old-fashioned mom receives a smartphone from her kids on her birthday, she becomes obsessed with taking selfies and documenting every part of her life, until her family decides it's time for an intervention. “I have been a little concerned about this obsession with self-documentation,” said Jamie, explaining the idea behind her book, “I think as a society we need to be taking pictures of things not of ourselves.”
Kelly Clarkson’s first picture book started as a memory journal for her daughter, River Rose. “We were going on trips to the U.K. and Asia and Australia, just all these amazing places that she was too little to remember,” explained Kelly in an adorable announcement video featuring her then 19-month-old daughter posted to her Twitter. “I started writing down these little fun stories — of like when we went to Australia and she got to hang out with some kangaroos.” Eventually, these stories turned into River Rose and the Magical Lullaby, a story about a little girl who was too excited to fall asleep before a planned trip to the zoo. River Rose’s mom sings her a lullaby that carries her straight to a magical dreamland.
You only have to hear the song once for it to reach peak earworm status, so Pharell Williams also turned it into a book. Based on the Academy Award nominated soundtrack of the same name (and the inescapable sound of 2013), Happy! combines the chart-topping song with illustrations and pictures of children “celebrating what it means to be happy.” Pharell dedicated the book to his then-seven-year-old son Rocket.
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