SOUTHFIELD—Where is the little girl who doesn’t think of herself as a princess at least at some point in her childhood? Every parent’s “little princess” blurs the lines between reality and royalty now and then.
That was exactly the thought that inspired Todd Mack, a musician and first time author, to write “Princess Penelope,” a children’s book shaped by observations he made of his daughter during her imaginative reign as a regal rugrat.
The impetus for Todd’s book, just published by Scholastic Books, also has its roots in a move he and his wife, Carrie, made in 1998 from Atlanta, Georgia, to Southfield with their 11-month-old daughter. The couple agreed to switch roles. Carrie began working full time while Todd stayed at home with Caroline. “Before we moved here,” said Todd, “I was touring as a musician when we lived in Atlanta spending like 200 nights per year on the road. It was killing me,” he saide. “I just didn’t want to travel anymore.”
Carrie went to work as a nurse and Todd opened a recording studio, Off the Beat-n-Track, in a converted barn behind their house. As he began spending more time with Caroline, he noted, “almost immediately I started making mental notes of what she did and said,” said Todd, “and I really began seeing the world through her eyes.” Observations he said he wouldn’t have been able to make if he were leading a “more conventional lifestyle” working all the time.
Todd said that while he has considered penning a children’s book prior to his new role as a stay-at-home parent, the princess theme was quite clear to him quickly. “I thought about how important the story of princesses and play is to young girls,” said Todd.
When he decided to turn his observations into a writing project, Todd had the full support of his sister who is also an author.
As a songwriter, Todd said the parallels between writing music lyrics and a children’s manuscript are striking. “There is an incredible similarity between the sense of meter,” said Todd. &“And, like a book, songwriting is story telling. Even the length of a song and children’s book can be similar.” he said writing the story came to him like the composition of a song: a lot of scribbling, doodline, and changes at the suggestion of his editor and friends.
Todd pitched his manuscript to Scholastic Books three years ago, and the first printing debuted last month. “Even with the work of editors and researchers,” said Todd, “the book isn’t gravely different from where it started out. A lot of where it ends up depends on the editor, but a lot rests on the author too.”
Scholastic Books has a book signing planned for next month in New York City, which will be Todd’s first opportunity to meet the illustrator, Julia Gran.
It’s common for first-time authors and illustrators to be paired by a published as opposed to a pre-arranged collaboration.
Less than two months after Princess Penelope first his bookstores, Todd said it’s been a sensation.
With online sales available through Amazon.com and promotion through book signings and appearances at local bookstores, Scholastic has already ordered a second printing to fill orders surpassing the initial 15,000 printing. “The professional reviews have been great too,” said Todd. “Publisher’s Weekly just gave it and outstanding recommendation,” he said. That company gave it five stars out of five in its rating system.
When asked about plans for future books, Todd says he already has his “Big Sister Penelope” in the works. Two and a half years ago, he and his wife bestowed upon their own princess a baby brother.
“Big Sister Penelope will be a continuation,” said Todd, “as Penelope is convinced that her parents have had this baby for her benefit.”
For more information on Todd and his book, go to www.toddmack.net.