By: Nora-Grayce Orosz
Bedside Reading is proud to welcome Julie Chen to our program. Julie's children's book, When I Grow Up, is a charming tale of a parent's love, acceptance, and encouragement. We were able to chat with Julie about her latest endeavor as a children's author, as well as her own childhood favorite books and her son, Charlie, for whom the book was inspired by. Read our full conversation here:
BR: Tell us a little bit about your book, When I Grow Up, and what it was like to work with New York Times bestselling artist and Caldecott Honor recipient Diane Goode as an illustrator.
JC: The story follows a young boy and his mom during the child’s nightly wash up routine. As he is getting ready to go to sleep he tells his mom all the things he dreams of becoming when he’s a grown up. Diane Goode captures my son’s big personality and lets the boy be the star of the show while finding clever ways to incorporate the mother on each page. Sometimes she’s right there as herself. Other times she’s drawn as a rocket ship, or her face is the center of a flower or a hot air balloon. It’s subtle message that the boy’s mom will always be there for him. I love telling new readers to look for the mom on each page. It becomes a game for kids, with the reward of knowing they’re never alone.
BR: Julie, you are a successful TV personality, wife, mom, and now author. When I Grow Up is your debut book and it's for kids. Why write a children's book?
JC: I was approached by Simon and Schuster soon after becoming a mom to my son Charlie, asking would I be interested. At first I thought about doing a Chinese new year book to teach my son the traditions and why we celebrate the way we do, but then I thought I would love to let him know that no matter what he chooses in life, I’ve got his back. I will support him and believe in him.
BR: Your son Charlie is nine years old, how did he help with the writing process? And what does he want to be when he grows up?
JC: My son has such a creative mind. He dreams big and has an incredible imagination. Just watching his aspirations and ideas constantly grow and change guided me tremendously in writing this book. Right now he says [he wants to be] a director. But he is a hambone and also wants to be “a comedy actor who can also do drama.” He love Tom Hanks and Jonah Hill.
BR: When you were a kid, what did you dream about doing as a grownup?
JC: Since age 14 I wanted to be a TV news journalist. My mom planted the seed in my head while watching the local news in NYC. We saw an Asian, female news anchor, and my mom said, "This is your calling." She was right. Mom is always right!
BR: When you were growing up, what was your favorite book?
JC: My favorite book was The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop. First, it was one of the few books that was about people like me! Second, the characters had superhero talents...one brother can swallow the sea, another can stretch his legs, another is immune to fire. Third, there was intrigue of a mister charge and lastly, it’s about family sticking together at the end of the day and justice prevailing!
BR: For some authors, writing can be challenging. How much did you enjoy the process, and would you write another book?
JC: I loved the process because my inspiration was to show my son how much I love him and celebrate him and want to encourage him. I would love to write another book following Charlie at the same age he is in When I Grow Up. There’s so much ground to cover and it’s so innocent and sweet. It’s a process that opens up your heart.
BR: Julie, what's your favorite and hardest thing about being a mom?
JC: The hardest thing for me being a mom is saying no and sticking to it! My son can be very convincing (and relentless) while making solid arguments why I should let him do something.
BR: Lastly, When you are not working and find time to relax, what do you enjoy reading?
JC: I like reading fiction for escape. Right now I am reading two books: My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
When I Grow Up by Julie Chen is available for purchase here.