Things don’t always turn out as planned. Adults have this lesson beaten into them on a near-daily basis – a traffic jam throws the whole day’s schedule off, or an unexpected house repair eats up summer vacation savings. Familiar with disappointment, we adapt.
But for kids, it’s different. A plan that doesn’t pan out can feel personal, and it can be tricky for parents to guide their kids through the frustration. That’s the dynamic explored in Channing Tatum’s new children’s picture book, “The One and Only Sparkella Makes a Plan” (Feiwel & Friends, 48 pp., out now). It’s the “Magic Mike” actor’s second in the “Sparkella” series inspired by his 9-year-old daughter Everly (or Evie), whom he shares with ex-wife Jenna Dewan.
“It’s a really odd journey that I didn’t think I would be taking,” 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 water.”
‘Are you man enough to be a princess?’:Channing Tatum certainly is with new kid’s book ‘Sparkella’
In the new book, illustrated by Kim Barnes, glitter-loving, tutu-wearing Ella loves all things razzledazzle. So when her friend Tam is due for a sleepover, she knows a play castle is required for the occasion. She enlists her dad’s help building a magnificent castle out of cardboard, but nothing’s turning out the way it was in her imagination. Then it’s up to dad to encourage Ella to find joy in creative solutions.
This book didn’t come as easily to Tatum as his first, he says. “I told a story about my daughter and a book kind of came out of it. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, what’s the second book?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I don’t know,’” Tatum says. “I’m now scared because this felt like a good experience and I don’t want to mess it up. It was really fascinating going like, ‘What do I want to tell people? What do I want to experience with other parents out there?’”
Tatum spoke with USA TODAY about the cherished experience with his own daughter that served as this book’s inspiration – and about Sparkella’s future in Hollywood.
Question: What was the response like to your first “Sparkella” book?
Channing Tatum: It really was beautiful. So many people, even in airports – which is always a weird melting pot of a bunch of people coming from all different places – TSA agents will be like, “Glitter poop!” And that’s crazy, that they know about glitter poop.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the new one?
Tatum: I have a little farm, a sort of cabin-y thing outside of LA where I spend the weekend with my daughter. She wanted to make a birdhouse. … She had her own plan of how she wanted that to go, and it was never going to yield a birdhouse (laughs). It was never, ever going to get there. And I just had to be like, alright, well, let’s start and see how we go. Because Evie’s just too strong-willed and strong-minded for me to just her, “That’s the wrong wood. We’re not going to be able to make a birdhouse out of that.” And she would be like, “No, we can do it, just get the nails.”
And then we would start trying and I would just let her instruct me, and we weren’t getting anywhere. And it was starting to come apart. … And then ultimately we got to, “OK, just because it’s not like how you envisioned it doesn’t mean that we’re done. Guess what, we have all this spray paint right here, we have all this glitter over there.” … We started pulling things apart and making something new, and it became one of our favorite projects.
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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 have been times on movie sets when things didn’t go as you envisioned.
Tatum: You mean ever? Literally never. I don’t think I ever went onto a set and been like, “I know exactly how this is going to go,” and then it happens exactly like that. I would probably say that my strengths lie more in the improvisational than in the planning. So maybe that is where I could give her a part of myself that I’m better at. In maturing, I am getting better at planning, or at least setting myself up to win. I don’t know if that’s exactly planning or not, but I at least know where I’m not the strongest.
Q: There’s not a lot of improvisation in making a children’s book though, is there? That seems like it’s all planning.
Tatum: You’re right. I guarantee if you ask our publisher, they’d probably be like, “I’d really rather this be a lot more planned.” I haven’t taken very many art classes, but I watched one on YouTube on clay because I like to sculpt, and there was a kid talking to the instructor, going like, “It hasn’t told me what it wants to be yet,” like just sort of mashing (the clay) around. That visual of this kid not having a plan on this lump of clay that’s sitting in front of him, going, “Oh wait, this– no, wait, it doesn’t want to be that… Oh, it’s a bird! Now we’re making a bird.”
Once you have that idea, then you can plan. But I think having the freedom and the openness to allow it to be something that maybe you don’t even know and just kind of being free inside of that creating is really important, especially for kids.
Q: What does your daughter think of the books?
Tatum: It’s tough, she’s such an aloof kid sometimes. She definitely plays it really cool most times, even if she’s really into something. And you’re just like, “Man, come on! I worked really hard on this, tell me it’s cool!”
Q: Whatever kind of success you get, you’re still looking for the approval of your kid.
Tatum: Totally. And that’ll be the way it’s going to be for a very long time.
Q: I’ve always appreciated your willingness to be silly without embarrassment. Have you always been that way? Has being a dad increased your capacity for silliness?
Tatum: I knew from a pretty young age I wasn’t cool cool…I always felt like I was acting to do that, to try to be that. I didn’t know what my cool thing was, and then physicality came in, and sports in general, and dancing and things sort of took over. And I was like, “I’m actually good at this, I can do this.” And I knew pretty assertively I wasn’t going to do anything big with them, or in the conventional sense, but I think I definitely had security in knowing I could do at least that well, so I could put down trying to be cool cool.
Q: If you’re not cool, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Tatum: I think that’s where it might have changed. I think when I put down the idea of being cool, and I was like, “Hey look, I’m pretty much just a nerd, that’s what it is. I’m decent at sports and I can dance a little, but the rest of it, don’t expect very much of me.” And then it just freed me up to be a clown.
Q: You announced there’s a “Sparkella” movie in the works. What can you tell me about it?
Tatum: It’s super early, and movies in general I find have their own sort of spirit in a way that they tell you what they want to be. I love certain movies back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s that really transport you into a world. You’re in a normal word and then you go through a portal and you get to go into another place. And parents and children get to experience something together. Kids are constantly in an imagination world, and parents, maybe they have other stuff going on, and then they all get sucked into this magical world… There are definitely certain tones of movies that I want to try to land on, but I’m not sure because they’re not movies that are getting made right now. But I think it could be really fresh.