September 30 marks the first annual Be Who You Are Day, created by Little, Brown to celebrate Todd Parr and his catalog of books that promote individuality, positivity, kindness, and inclusivity. Given the Covid-centric tenor of the times, this year’s event—which emphasizes the importance of being oneself—will take place virtually but will provide ample opportunity for fans to connect with Parr.

Those fans are legion and widespread. Parr has written and illustrated more than 50 books for children (among them Be Who You Are!, The I Love You Book, The Earth Book, The Thankful Book, and The Kindness Book), which are available in 18 languages and have sold 3.5 million copies. He is also the co-creator of the Emmy-nominated television show, ToddWorld, as well as a number of short films for Sesame Street. On October 6, Little, Brown will release Parr’s newest picture book, The Joyful Book, which is an inclusive celebration of winter holidays; The Spring Book, focusing on the beauty and wonder of spring, will follow in February 2021.

For Be Who You Are Day, Little, Brown has created a dedicated webpage, which librarians, teachers, and book clubs can access to register for Parr’s worldwide live event on Skype in the Classroom, when Parr will discuss his books, offer a drawing demo, and encourage kids to express themselves through art. The site also features downloadable coloring sheets and social media graphics to share; three new Todd Talks videos from the author; free resources for teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, and young readers; and a form to enter a sweepstakes to win a classroom pack of six Parr books and a tote bag. As part of the day’s celebration, fans can engage with the author by following @ToddParr’s Instagram Takeover on @LittleBrownYoungReaders Celebrate.

The Name Says It All

Be Who You Are Day sprouted from Parr’s discussions with his publisher about additional ways to spread his books’ empowering messages, which was also the catalyst for his Todd Talks videos, and for an initiative that Little, Brown sponsored during the month of June to donate copies of the author’s books to underserved children during the pandemic. “When the idea came up of doing a day-long celebration of the themes in my books, someone threw out the title ‘Be Who You Are Day,’ and it made complete sense. I repeated second grade because I was dyslexic, and that’s one reason I wrote Be Who You Are!—to let kids know it’s okay to be different, and to help them feel better about who they are. Also, I spent most of my middle-school years trying to be like everyone else. I didn’t think I was at all cool. I know if I’d had more confidence then, my life would have been much easier. I wanted the book to show kids to celebrate what it is that makes them unique and special—own it and be proud of it, not only on a single day like your birthday, but every day!”

That message will be at the core of Parr’s Be Who You Are Day Skype session as well. “This will actually be a virtual version of what I do live in classroom and other venues,” he said. “I’ll offer an introduction to how I make my books, do some readings and drawings, and talk about what is real to me. The key thing to me is helping kids realize the importance of being themselves. Be Who You Are Day gives me yet another chance to do that.”

Megan Tingley, executive v-p and publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, likewise emphasized the value of reinforcing the subjects of Parr’s books through this celebratory event. “Todd’s books have always been a source of reassurance, empowerment, and inspiration for young readers around the world,” she said. “But now more than ever, kids need something to celebrate. Be Who You Are Day is the culmination of Todd’s lifelong commitment to inclusivity and affirmation. We hope this event sparks joy and creativity for schools and families during a uniquely challenging time.”

Parr picks up on that thread, noting, “I don’t know what Be Yourself Day would have looked like pre-pandemic, but I know that teachers need a lot of help now, so you have to reinvent yourself. Still, I am the same person in public as I am in my books and on my social media—everything is just me. But these times have given me pause and made me wonder, ‘How can I continue to do what I’ve done to make a difference in kids’ lives, but do it better and bigger?’ And I think the answer might be to keep speaking from the heart, owning it, and staying true to it.”

The Joyful Book by Todd Parr. Little, Brown, $17.99 Oct. 6 ISBN 978-0-316-42789-0