Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney’s bookstore in Plainville, Mass., An Unlikely Story, is a destination for children’s authors on tour, even when they have to make a virtual visit. On June 10, Kinney interviewed Frozen and The Good Place actor Kristen Bell along with creative director Benjamin Hart online, as the duo discussed their newly released picture book, The World Needs More Purple People (Random House), illustrated by Daniel Wiseman.
The premise of the book is that children should strive to embrace positive characteristics that make the world a better place. “Purple people” in the book, are individuals who have those attributes. “Wouldn’t it be great,” Bell asked the digital audience, “if this book was a roadmap for all of the inarguable qualities that every person should have?”
PW joined the reading and discussion, which began before the authors even arrived, as attendees took to the chat to share where they were from. Readers logged in from New Hampshire, Florida, New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Canada, and as far away as Melbourne, Australia. More than 700 people ultimately joined the event.
Kinney asked questions of his own, but also took questions from audience members. Other viewers could then click to vote on which questions they thought were the best ones to be asked.
An Unlikely Story’s marketing and events manager Kym Havens introduced Bell and Hart, who had just found out that The World Needs More Purple People debuted at the top of the New York Times picture book bestseller list. At the same time, Bell took to the running chat on the side of the video screen to say hello to readers and respond to their comments. “I can’t resist social interaction,” she said.
One lesson Hart said he hoped children would take away from the book is to, “Hear as many stories as you can and learn as many names as you can, because if you are learning names of people and you are learning stories then you are learning empathy.”
Bell said that a main point of the book is that young readers should ask lots of questions. She described a recent bombardment of questions from her five-year-old daughter who asked, in quick succession, “Is Santa Claus real? Why is Earth? Who made dogs?”
“I was like, ‘Let’s see if your dad’s home,’ ” Bell said, laughing.
Bell also spoke pointedly about #BlackLivesMatter, her support for the ongoing protests, and the need to educate white children about anti-racism. She then read from a few passages of the book.
As the reading came to a close, Kinney announced that instead of signing 100 bookplates as promised, Bell and Hart had signed 500. Events manager Havens said hundreds of copies had sold online as the event was winding down.