Thanks to a fateful dinner, NBC’s Today show cohost Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim, a clinical psychologist who leads parent education classes, will make their picture book debut in September with Princesses Wear Pants (Abrams), illus. by Eva Byrne.
Guthrie says that she didn’t know she had a children’s book in her until she and husband Michael Feldman invited Oppenheim and her husband, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, out to dinner. The two women bonded instantly over their young daughters.
“We are not anti-princess, but we were commiserating about how both our daughters were completely drawn to all things princess-y,” Guthrie says.
“Everybody loves a party dress, but it had gotten to the point where [Alya] wanted to wear summer dresses on winter days,” Oppenheim told Guthrie. Oppenheim had even shown four-year-old Alya a photo of England’s Princess Kate at a rugby match, clad in black slacks, and said, “See. Real princesses wear pants.”
“Princesses wear pants? That’s a book,” Guthrie recalls telling Oppenheim. “We immediately began brainstorming all the different kinds of pants a princess would need when she had serious things to do.”
Once home, Guthrie jotted down some ideas and sent them to Oppenheim. The two completed the book in about three weeks. The story that emerged, about Penelope of the Pineapple Kingdom, features a princess who loves sequins, but also doesn’t mind getting dirty when the job requires it.
Neither woman had any experience in publishing. They collected names from friends who did, like Today show correspondent Jenna Bush Hager. They signed with Cait Hoyt at Creative Artists Agency, who sold the manuscript in a two-book deal to Tamar Brazis, editorial director at Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Both Guthrie, who will emcee the Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, and Oppenheim are excited about attending Book Expo—and about Abrams’s promotion plans, starting with a 250,000-copy announced first printing.
“We’re both super-duper book dorks,” Oppenheim says. Guthrie has been reading to her daughter, Vale, who is almost three, “since she was zero.” Vale may have even inspired a sequel when her mother overheard her telling one of her princess dolls that she was now an astronaut and that “princesses go to space.” As for Alya, she is coming around, Oppenheim says. “She knows it was written as a lesson, so there’s been a little bit of push back,” Oppenheim adds. “But she’s honored to be the focus, too.”
Today, 8–9:30 a.m. Savannah Guthrie will emcee the Children’s Book and Author Breakfast in the Special Events Hall.
Today, 10–11 a.m. Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim will sign in the ABA Members Lounge (721).
Today, 11–12:30 p.m. Guthrie and Oppenheim will sign at the Abrams booth (2007).