Things don’t always go as planned. This lesson for adults is overcome almost daily – traffic jams the entire day’s schedule, or an unexpected home repair devours summer vacation savings. Aware of disappointment, we adapt.
But it is different for children. A never-ending plan can seem personal, and it can be difficult for parents to guide their children through a period of frustration. This is the dynamic explored in Channing Tatumnew baby picture book, Sparkilla is the only one who makes a plan. (Feiwel & Friends, 48 pp., out now). He is the second “Magic Mike” actor in the “Sparkella” series who is inspired by his 9-year-old daughter Everly (or Evie), whom he shares with ex-wife Jenna Dewan.
“It’s a really weird journey I didn’t think I’d take,” Tatum says of being a children’s book author. “I’m always good at jumping into something I have no idea about and just trying to keep my head above the water.”
“Are you man enough to be a princess?”:Channing Tatum for sure with her new children’s book ‘Sparkilla’
In the new book, illustrated by Kim Barnes, the glossy and miniskirt-loving Ella loves all things dazzling. So when her best friend Tam comes to bed, she knows that a play castle is needed for the occasion. She turns to her father’s help in building a wonderful castle out of cardboard, but nothing looks like it was in her imagination. Then the father should encourage Ella to find joy in creative solutions.
He says that this book did not come to Tatum as easily as his first book. “I told a story about my daughter and a kind of book came out of it. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, what’s the second book?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ says Tatum. ‘I’m scared now because this is a good experience and I don’t want to spoil it.’ It was really cool, “What do I want to tell people? What do I want to try with the other parents out there?”
Tatum spoke with USA TODAY about the cherished experience with his daughter who was the inspiration for this book — and about Sparkella’s future in Hollywood.
Question: How was the response to your first book, “Sparkilla”?
Channing Tatum: It was really beautiful. Lots of people, even at airports — which is always a weird melting pot of a bunch of people coming in from all different places — TSA agents will be like, “Shiny tube!” And that’s crazy, because they know something about shiny stools.
Q: What is the inspiration behind the new?
Tatum: I have a small farm, some kind of cabin outside Los Angeles where I spend the weekend with my daughter. She wanted to make a birdhouse. …she had her own plan for how she wanted it to go, and it wouldn’t result in a birdhouse (laughs). He would never have gotten there. And I just had to be like, OK, OK, let’s start and see how we go. Because Evie possesses a strong will and a very strong mentality for me, “This is the wrong wood. We will not be able to make a birdhouse out of that.” And you’ll say, “No, we can do that, just get the nails done.”
And then we start trying and I just let her guide me, we couldn’t get anywhere. It has begun to disintegrate. …and then we finally got to, “Well, just because it’s not like the way you envisioned it doesn’t mean we’re done. Guess what, we have all that spray paint here, we have all that shine there.” …we started taking things apart and making something new, and it became one of our favorite projects.
Q: Does your ability to help your daughter improvise and come up with a new vision come from your artistic background? I have to think there were times on film sets when things didn’t go the way I imagined.
Tatum: You ever mean? Literally never. I don’t think I ever went on set and was like, “I know exactly how this is going to happen,” and then it happens exactly that way. I would say my strengths lie more in improvisation than planning. So maybe this is where I can give it a better part of myself. As I mature, I get better at planning, or at least set myself up to win. I don’t know if that’s the exact layout or not, but at least I know where I’m not the strongest.
Q: There’s not much improvisation in writing a children’s book, right? It seems like it’s all about planning.
Tatum: you are right. I guarantee that if you asked our publisher, they would probably be like, “I’d really rather have this be a lot more planned.” I didn’t take many art classes, but I watched one on YouTube on clays because I love sculpting, and there was a kid talking to the instructor, saying, “You haven’t told me what you want to be yet,” like kind of mashing (mud) around. That visual of this kid not having a plan on that piece of clay sitting in front of him, and saying, “Oh wait, that–no, wait, he doesn’t want this to be…Oh, it’s a bird! Now we’re making a bird.”
Once you have that idea, you can plan. But I think having the freedom and openness to let it be something you probably don’t know, and just being free from within that creativity is really important, especially for kids.
Q: What does your daughter think of books?
Tatum: It’s tough, she’s an aloof kid sometimes. She definitely plays it really nice most of the time, even if she’s really into something. And you’re just like, “Man, come on! You worked so hard on this, tell me it’s cool!”
Q: No matter what kind of success you get, you are still looking for your son’s approval.
Tatum: completely. And that will be the case for a very long time.
Q: I have always appreciated your willingness to be silly without being embarrassed. Have you always been this way? Did being a father increase your capacity for absurdity?
Tatum: I knew from a young age that I wasn’t like that cool Awesome…I always felt like I was acting up to do this, to try and be that way. I didn’t know what was great about me and then came fitness, sports in general, dancing and things kind of took over. And I said, “I’m really good at this, I can do this.” And I firmly knew I wasn’t going to do anything big with them, or in the traditional sense, but I thought I definitely had the safety of knowing that I could at least do it well, so I could try to be cool cool.
Q: If you are not kind, what hope fills us?
Tatum: I think this is where it might change. I think when I came up with the idea of being cute, I was like, “Look, I’m just a nerd, that’s what it is. I’m decent at sports and I can dance a little bit, but the rest, you don’t expect much from me.” And then you freed me to be a clown.
Q: You announced that the movie “Sparkilla” is in the works. What can you tell me about that?
Tatum: It’s very early, and movies in general have their own soul in a way that tells you what you want to be. I like certain films of the 80s and 90s that really transport you into a world. You are in a normal word and then you pass through a portal and go somewhere else. Parents and children get to try something together. Kids are always in a world of fantasy, parents, maybe they have other things going on, and then we all get sucked into this magical world… There are definitely certain undertones of movies I want to try, but I’m not sure because they’re not movies that are being made right now. But I think it could be really new.