How to Deal with Your Various Emotions with Todd Parr
What the children’s book author can teach us about life
Todd Parr entered my life when my son and daughter was three and six, respectively. Almost every night for the past year and a half, my children would dutifully pick out one of his many books (40+ so far!), and together we’d read aloud together.
His books are fun, bright, and quirky. Upon first glance, you might say that the illustrations and words are the works of a child — but it’s all Todd. As a youth, he failed art class, which made him pause on the artistic dreams for awhile. It wasn’t until he got his art displayed in one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants in California’s Bay Area that he began to gain traction.
When I first began reading Todd’s books to my kids, I didn’t quite understand the allure the same way that they did. The more we read, the more I understood — his simple, childlike illustrations and empathetic words resonate with just about everyone. For me, personally, reading the words, “It’s okay to be different” (taken from the title of one of his books), and “It’s okay to be…” all these different things that makes us all unique, is in many ways, quite powerful. In his books, he tells children certain messages — that it’s okay to be different, be who you are, love the world, learn how to take care of it, be nice to other people, as well as all the ways that families are different.
His titles are very basic, ranging from The Brother Book, The Sister Book, The Grandma Book, The Grandpa Book, and so on. But if there’s one thing that all of his books have in common, it’s the fact that every one of his books have an uplifting, positive message. In other words, his work is centered on human emotion and how to treat others (and yourself) with kindness, respect and tolerance.
Take, for example, in the book It’s Okay To Be Different, he tells you that it’s okay to have a missing tooth, it’s okay to need some help, it’s okay to be a different color, it’s okay to have no hair, it’s okay to have big ears, and so on. He teaches children (and adults like me) the premise of positivity and how you can take that positivity and apply it to your own life. His messages are the kind of messages that he would’ve wanted to see growing up, he says in this interview with Berkeleyside.
Of course, life can’t be all rosy all the time, and Todd knows that. Which is why in his books, he introduces certain scenes that are, by nature, not very pleasant — for example, bullying. Children making fun of one another. Children crying, or making a mess. He then shows you how those actions might make someone else feel bad, and why it’s not okay to do those things.
In a way, reading Todd Parr books has given me more perspective on life. Lessons learned from childhood is coming back to me in the form of an adult man with three pitbulls, smiling brightly at the end of every book, in the author’s profile. At the last page of every book, there is always a summary of the central message of the book (or what he hopes you will take away from it). For example,
“It’s okay to make mistakes. We all do, even grown ups! The end, Love, Todd” — It’s Okay To Make Mistakes
“There are lots of fun things to do at school. Always be kind, and don’t pick your nose. The end, Love, Todd” — The School Book
“Worrying doesn’t help you. If you are worried, talk to someone you love about it. It will make you feel better. The end, Love, Todd” — The Don’t Worry Book
His signature, “Love, Todd” ends every book, and has the ability to make one feel tingly and good on the inside. Todd Parr has taught me and my kids that we are all different, with different lives and circumstances, and different emotions all the time, and that it is perfectly okay to be like this. It’s a feeling of acceptance that you can’t get anywhere else.
These days, my kids are still reading Todd’s books in full rotation. They love the silly, fun drawings that fills the pages, and so do I.