By Donna Cangelosi
Actress and kidlit author Jamie Lee Curtis recently made an appearance at Bookends in Ridgewood, NJ, promoting her new picture book, THIS IS ME: A STORY OF WHO WE ARE & WHERE WE CAME FROM. The audience was a diverse, inter-generational crowd; young moms with babies in tow, preschoolers, school-age children, teens, movie buffs, and in the third row, two aspiring picture book writers- my critique pal, Nancy Anton, and yours truly.
Full of energy, Jamie arrived early and shared backstories about movies, took selfies with everyone in the audience, and signed books. She described THIS IS ME as a story about identity.
THIS IS ME, written from a teacher's point of view, opens with the line, "My great-grandmother came from a far, distant place. She came on a boat with just this small case." The story addresses ancestry and family values and invites young readers to explore items that represent who they are. Jamie commented about the book's universal theme. "It doesn't matter what color or religion we are or what we believe, we all came from somewhere."
A master at capturing universal themes, Jamie Lee Curtis has written ten additional picture books that tackle the struggles and wonders of growing up. Illustrated by Laura Cornell, each of these books is filled with heart, humor, magnificent images and relatable characters. And they have fun titles too!
MY BRAVE YEAR OF FIRSTS: TRIALS, SIGHS & HIGH FIVES, 2012 (new experiences)
MY MOMMY HUNG THE MOON: A LOVE STORY, 2010 (mother-child bond)
BIG WORDS FOR LITTLE PEOPLE, 2008 (communication & empowerment)
IS THERE REALLY A HUMAN RACE? 2006 (self-awareness)
IT'S HARD TO BE FIVE: LEARNING HOW TO WORK MY CONTROL PANEL, 2004 (self-control)
I'M GONNA LIKE ME: LETTING OFF A LITTLE SELF-ESTEEM, 2002 (self-esteem)
WHERE DO BALLOONS GO? AN UPLIFTING MYSTERY, 2000 (imagination & loss)
TODAY I FEEL SILLY, AND OTHER MOODS THAT MAKE MY DAY, 1998 (moods & feelings)
TELL ME AGAIN ABOUT THE NIGHT I WAS BORN, 1996 (adoption)
WHEN I WAS LITTLE: A FOUR-YEAR-OLD'S MEMOIR OF HER YOUTH, 1993 (growing up)
The Takeaway: Writing about a universal theme makes our books more relatable. Share your experiences about writing picture books that capture universal themes in the comments below.
Donna Cangelosi and Chana Stiefel are picture book critique partners & friends who are passionate about kids' books & are eager to share tidbits from their writing journey with other aspiring writers.