Julianne Moore, a Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated actress, might be best known for her movies. But it's her alter ego, Freckleface Strawberry, a 7-year-old redhead with freckles and a monster imagination, who's capturing the attention of kids everywhere.
In fact, the mother of two and author of the Freckleface Strawberry children's book trilogy has watched as the books have taken off with the swing set. Not only have they made it to the New York Times bestseller list, but they've also been adapted into an off-Broadway musical. Now Freckleface Strawberry is getting the digital treatment in the form of e-Books and a monster-making app.
What inspired you to write Freckleface Strawberry?
Freckleface Strawberry was my nickname when I was 7, and I hated it. I thought it was really humiliating. And when my son was 7, he didn't like his big teeth coming in, and his hair was short, so he didn't like the way his ears looked. I remember him looking in the mirror and saying, 'I don't like this, I don't like this," and I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, you're so beautiful. That's crazy.'
And I remembered my experience of it.
Kids around 7 have this awareness of physicality that they didn't have before, and often it's not positive. So I wanted to write a book about how things that loom large in childhood, the things that bother us, go away. We don't necessarily change—my freckles didn't go away, my red hair didn't go away—it's just that I don't care as much. I have a family, I have friends, I have a job, and I have interests, so it's at the bottom of the pile.
What do your kids, Caleb and Liv, think about the books?
I think they like them. It's funny, I don't really ask them. Being a parent is about being a parent to your children. What you do for a living and your achievements don't factor into things; even though your kids are proud of you and interested, it's certainly not what I lead with in my family.
The greatest thing about modeling for your children, about working and children seeing it, is that it opens up possibilities for them. It's suddenly, "If my mom does it, then I can do it." "Maybe I'll write a book someday." "Maybe I'll be an actor." I think that's the best thing about parenting—that what you do with your work is a way of modeling hopefully positive experiences for them.
Did you have any surprises when you were writing the books?
I think the fact that I even got them out of my shell—that was a big surprise. I didn't really expect to write children's books. I certainly didn't think I'd write three. I didn't think I'd develop an app. All of this stuff has happened and taken me completely by surprise.
Why does the monster play such a big role in your second book, Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully?
Dodgeball is pretty autobiographical, I have to say. I hated it. I was not a physical kid. I was not athletic, but I was great at reading and academics. And I'm not afraid of anything imaginary. I've never in my life been afraid of scary movies or afraid of the dark. I'm just not afraid of that stuff, and there were lots of kids who were.
So, the idea is that there was this kid who would just pretend to play—which is what I did a lot in sports and hoped no one would notice me—and then when she's stuck, she has to rely on her imagination. And then this kid that's so big, and seems so scary, turns out to be afraid of monsters—she's baffled by that, and is like, 'No, it's just me. I'm just pretending.' So it's the idea that we all have different kinds of fears and that the kid who seems big and scary may not be big and scary.
And now there's the new monster app.
I wanted to develop something that was an extension of the character, and you'd feel good about giving your kid at dinner or in the back of the car, that talks about who the character is and that monsters are in your imagination but they can be your friend just the way your enemy can be your friend. They keep you company. They encourage you.
With so many kids using tablets and engaging with digital media, were the e-Books and app something you'd planned from the beginning?
I was pushing for it. My kids are older. My daughter is 10, almost 11, and my son is 15, and they do a lot of their schoolwork on a tablet. They get their assignments, they do their homework that way, and I feel that's the direction we're moving in. Parents who travel with little kids might want to pack all of their favorite picture books, and now you can download them all on your iPad.
Do you have any advice for parents of kids who might have a feature they don't appreciate?
Just airing it and airing the fact that everyone feels that way is helpful. And, like I said, it takes time, but we do grow up. We maybe still don't like our ears or our hair, but it's just not as important.
Will there be another Freckleface Strawberry book?
I hope so. I feel like I might have a couple more things to write about. I'd like to write about moving, because that was a very big experience in my life, moving around so much. I feel like there's not a lot of material about it, so that would be something i'd like to write for Freckleface Strawberry.