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April 12, 2021

With three books out and another on the way, children’s author Matt Bell (mattbellbooks.com) has developed a backlist dedicated to discussing difficult concepts, like racism, with younger children. The books, born out of Bell’s experiences with his own diverse family, use silliness and humor to connect with readers without softening the message.

How has your family inspired your writing?

My stories are all about fun, being funny, and sending a message of love and overcoming diverse issues. As a father of nine very diverse children, some with special needs and all with different skin colors, I have seen how society has treated them differently. One day, I went to the beach and was accosted by the many signs telling us what we could and could not do during our visit. I also noted how the signs changed and even were in conflict with one another depending on which governing authority ran the beach. This made me think about the power of a sign. As I watched my children play on the beach, I realized that the sign that would have been there 70 years ago would have outlawed four of my children based on the color of their skin! So I wrote The Rounders and the Tallers to talk about the power behind the use of signs to control people, in such a way that children can understand. That the illustrations came out so cool is a bonus!

How do you imagine readers at this moment will connect to your book The Jellies and the Crunchers?

Many kids “hate” things they have never tried, like certain vegetables. This book is a tale about a town sharply divided by personal choice, in this case, what to eat and how to eat it! The two groups of townsfolk become more and more critical of and angry with each other, which leads to a crazy type of confrontation that changes the town forever. In our society, people are often “hated” just for being who they are, and this is a great storybook to introduce the concept to children. It is also my funniest story, based on the feedback I have received.

Do you have any advice for authors who are considering writing children’s books?

Just sit each day, imagine your story, and write.  Write, write, and write some more.  Don’t worry about correcting or editing. Just write and get it all on paper. Work out all the details later. Also, being silly is A-OK.

What are you currently working on? 

With Crazy Cats from Outer Space—my personal favorite—just hitting the shelves, I got to work on the fourth book in the series right away. The story wrote itself. It is called The Redheads and the Greenheads, and like my other books, it pits two opposing groups of people against each other in a socially conscious situation. The child is always the hero, and the groups learn to work together for the common good. This particular book discusses the idea of “wanting what you don’t have and getting angry about it,” another common theme in families raising small children.

What age group is your target audience?

Each book has beautiful and funny illustrations, and that makes it great for all ages of elementary readers. Younger grades may need to be read to, and even reluctant middle grade readers love the books.

What is your next project?

Having explored many of the social issues kids are interested in with my four children’s books, I am focusing on my novel. It’s a fantasy called Tales of the Leprechaun King, and the feedback so far is very exciting!

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