For her debut picture book, parenting coach Isabelle Bridges-Boesch pulled from memories of everyday childhood adventures with her father, Academy Award-winning actor and musician Jeff Bridges. Featuring his illustrations, Daddy Daughter Day tells the story of a girl named Belle who invents a special imagination-fueled “hollyday” for her and her dad. A portion of the book’s proceeds will go to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, for which Jeff Bridges is a spokesperson. We asked Bridges-Boesch about the deeply personal genesis of the book, her creative partnership with her father, and the importance of family during the pandemic.
When were you first inspired to draw from your childhood relationship with your father for this picture book debut?
Several years ago, I had written a few children’s stories. When I read Daddy Daughter Day to my dad, he said that we should turn it into a book and he would illustrate it. The content changed slightly, but the message is the same: spend time with the people you love. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are really present while you are doing it.
What was it like collaborating on the book with your dad?
It was fantastic! A real Daddy Daughter Adventure. We got to travel together, create together, and be together. I already miss it. My dad is someone I not only enjoy as a family member but as a trusted confidant. We FaceTime several times a week—since Covid-19, it’s the main way we spend time together.
The book is full of joy and imagination. But there’s one line that stands out as especially poignant, as the girl tells her father, “I miss you when you’re away.” Where did that moment come from—was it a personal one?
Yes, this was a very personal moment that I wanted to come through in our book. While my dad was an excellent playmate, he wasn’t around much when I was little because he was working. I missed his presence in a profound way—longing for a dad who could be with me on a day-to-day basis. Families all look different, though, and I am grateful for the time we did get together.
Could you share some background about the lullaby that’s mentioned in the book and what it means to you and your family?
This was a lullaby written by a family friend [Betty Garrett Parks]. My grandparents sang it to my dad, he sang it to me, and now I sing it to my kids. If you listen to the lyrics, they are really poignant. My son, age five, recently said to me, “Mommy, that song makes me a little sad.” I love that it opened up a beautiful conversation about growing up and leaving the home nest.
Do you feel that your book has taken on a new meaning during the pandemic?
For me, the message of the story is that we can make any old day special and that we don’t need a holiday to celebrate the love we share with someone. Just being together is enough. Now, more than ever, we are learning how to be together, so I’m hoping that this book is one of hope and inspiration for families everywhere. The pandemic is teaching me that.
You also work as a parenting coach. How has your experience in that realm informed your children’s book writing?
As a mother’s empowerment coach, I talk to women every day who take on the brunt of parenting. They do the cooking, cleaning, and childcare—including being the main disciplinarian. I wanted to write a book where the dad was the front-and-center parent and the mom got to have some “me time.” I wonder what she was doing during Daddy Daughter Day!
Is there any chance of future picture books—either solo ones or collaborations with your father?
Absolutely! The ideas are already flowing. I would love to write a follow-up to Daddy Daughter Day with my dad or maybe write a Sister Sister Day book. For now, I’m just soaking up the joy of this story and what it means to really connect with a father figure. It can look so many different ways and I hope this book opens up that conversation.
Daddy Daughter Day by Isabelle Bridges-Boesch, illus. by Jeff Bridges. Dark Horse, $17.99 Oct. 6 ISBN 978-1-5067-1808-8