We had a chance to chat with Julianne about the new e-books and app, motherhood and more.
Celebrity mom and children's author Julianne Moore took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us all about Freckleface Strawberry — which was her nickname growing up and is also the name of her popular series of children's books.
Long before she was Amber Waves in Boogie Nights, Maude Lebowski in The Big Lebowski or Nancy Donovan on 30 Rock, Moore was a little girl nicknamed Freckleface Strawberry.
Every kid is teased or feels self-conscious about one thing or another about themselves. For Moore, it was her freckles. As an adult, she took that experience and turned into a children's book — Freckleface Strawberry. To date, there are three books in the series, a full-length musical and most recently e-books and an app.
"Freckleface Strawberry is for the age when kids become very physically self-aware — when they start noticing things about themselves," explains Moore. "Prior to that, they don't think much about what they look like. Then they suddenly look in the mirror and they say 'Hey, my teeth are weird, I don’t like my hair, I don't like this, I don't like that.' And everyone has that experience. So that's obviously what it was with me and freckles."
As we all know, the things that we worry about as kids (most of the time) aren't a priority when we become adults. Moore decided to write the book when her young son began disliking certain things about his own appearance.
"I really wanted to write something about how we all have something about ourselves that we're not crazy about that doesn't necessarily go away, but becomes less important when you grow up. The things that rule our lives in childhood are not the things that really bother you when you become an adult because you have a family, you have a job and you have interests. So they go way down to the bottom of the list."
The two follow-up books in the series include Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully (2009) and Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever (2011).
"I think it's very important that kids try to solve their own problems," says Moore. "It's a very child-centric world in my books — and that's the way they live in their school and their community. Their world is about themselves and their peers. And they often do solve their own problems. I think, many times, you can let kids work things out. In Dodgeball, she finds out that she's afraid of balls. And then she finds out there are other kids who are afraid of monsters.
"I always say to kids when I talk about the book, 'Listen, I'm afraid of balls, I don't like to ski and I'm not very athletic but I'm not afraid of the dark, I'm not afraid of monsters and I'm not afraid of spiders.' We go through those things and then the kids will tell me I'm afraid of this but I'm not afraid of that. You realize everyone has different kinds of fears and by being friends we can help each other with our fears too."
The third book in the series is about "two very different kids becoming best friends," Moore explains. "And then someone tells them, 'Hey, you can't be friends because you are too different.' By the end of the book they realize of course they can be best friends." Moore says that Best Friends Forever is also a metaphor for marriage.
All three of the books in the Freckleface Strawberry series recently launched in the the e-book format. You can snag the Kindle editions on Amazon for $7 each. To accompany the digital debut of the beloved character, Moore has also introduced the new Freckleface Strawberry Monster Maker app — free on iTunes. The iPad app features the freckle-faced character in an interactive tale about friendship and the imagination. At the end of the story, young readers are encouraged to create their own monsters and share their fun creations with family and friends.
The decision to go digital with Freckleface Strawberry was a logical choice.
"Obviously, it's a rapidly changing world," says Moore. "I sent my first email only 11 years ago and everything has changed so dramatically since then. The app is a way to expand the character and to create something that is family-friendly and child-friendly. We've all been in a situation where you're at dinner and you hand your kid your iPad so that they're occupied. I want to have something that I feel good about giving a child. That's how that happened and it's a logical extension of the books."
Kids love seeing their characters from their favorite books and TV shows live on stage — from Sesame Street to Yo Gabba Gabba!... to Freckleface Strawberry.
"It was interesting," Moore recalls. "Rose Caiola, who has a dance school for kids, had read the book in a bookstore and really liked it. She called me and asked if she could option it and I said 'Yeah, sure' — not thinking that anything would come of it because things get optioned all the time. But anyway, they developed this really adorable musical based on it. It ran for a long time off-Broadway in New York City. Now it's licensed and there are productions all over the country — and I think all over the world. On our website, it will tell you where the musical is playing. It's extremely gratifying and extremely flattering that it came about that way — totally out of left field."
Like all busy moms, the 52-year-old mother of two does her best to make the most of family time. Moore and her husband Bart Freundlich have a 15-year-old son, Caleb, and almost-11-year-old daughter, Liv.
"The first thing I'd like to say is that I'm extremely lucky because I have a flexible job," she says. "When you read anything on working and parenthood, the one thing that comes up again and again is flexibility. Women — and men — are asking for flexible hours. And that's exactly what I have. I have long stretches of time when I'm not working. I'm at home so I get up and make everybody breakfast. They go to school, they come back after school and we have dinner together — so it's regular family stuff. Then when I work, it's in little chunks — so that's helpful.
"In terms of family activities, we go to a lot of basketball. My son is on the varsity basketball team. He'd have at least a game a week — sometimes two — and we always did that as a family. We go out to eat a lot. We go for walks. We have a house in Long Island so we go to the beach. It's all the regular stuff."
Moore, who was a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid, loves to read anytime, anywhere. She's a vocal advocate for early childhood literacy and enjoys writing for children tremendously. Though she is unsure if there will be more Freckleface Strawberry books to come, she does have another title hitting the shelves this year.
"It's coming out in September with Chronicle and it's called My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me," Moore reveals. "It's a book I wrote for my mother. My mom died very suddenly four years ago — it was traumatic. She was from Scotland and it's really a book for kids with a mother from another country and how they seem so different from the rest of the world — with different cultures, different behaviors and different outfits. It's about how they are considered foreign... but not to you."
We look forward to all Moore's upcoming projects — whether on the big screen or in the bookstore.
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