Deanna Raphael
November 02, 2014 11:00 am

Children’s book author Jennifer Jackson understands that encouraging little girls to find their own voices should start early (and often). The Punkydoos Take the Stage, Jackson’s debut picture book from Disney-Hyperion, is an adorable origin story of how the main character, Lexi-Lou, creates her very own rock band. It’s a tale of dedication, teamwork, and empowerment for girls and boys alike. It’s a beautiful book with a powerful message, and I certainly wish I could’ve read this when I was a kid!

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with the woman behind this empowering story and she filled me in on her original idea, her process, and how important it is to spread this message to little girls everywhere.

This is such a charming picture book. What was your inspiration for writing it?

Jennifer: My three nieces. They’re confident and not afraid to take risks, like the main character in the book. And they sing constantly. I wanted to capture their spirit and love of music.

Where did the name “The Punkydoos” come from?

Jennifer: “Punkydoo” has been a nickname in our family for a couple of generations. One day, I realized it sounds like a good name for a kid’s rock band. But after writing the story, it took on a new meaning. A Punkydoo is someone who isn’t afraid to be herself, to be ambitious and work hard for what she wants.

Would you say you’re a Punkydoo?

Jennifer: I hope so! When I was ten, I directed and choreographed a picnic table version of Annie with three other kids and a stuffed dog to play Sandy. We opened to rave reviews–from our moms.

The main character, Lexi-Lou, is looking to find a place for her BIG voice. Do you see that as a metaphor?

Jennifer: Absolutely. I think we all start off with that authentic voice inside that knows who we are and what we want, but it’s easy to let criticism or fear stop us from listening to it. Lexi-Lou is brave in the way kids are before they learn to doubt themselves—especially girls. She isn’t afraid to share her crazy big voice! And when she’s shushed, it sends her on a journey to find other Punkydoos like her. Hopefully she’ll inspire future Gigglers to do the same.

Do you think that our generation suffered from not being encouraged to find our voice?

Jennifer: Maybe. . . .Girls now are lucky because there are so many ways to connect online. HelloGiggles is one, plus Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, A Mighty Girl, and others. And here in L.A., we have Write Girls, where kids can go for mentorship and support as they find their own voice through writing. It’s exciting to see such a push to create communities for girls to explore their identities.

The book comes with a CD and that song is super infectious. I was singing it for days! Is that you singing?

Jennifer: That’s Antonia Romeo Flynn. She’s amazing! We talked about how we hope the song and the story get kids asking for music lessons, especially when programs are being cut all the time. We need to keep music in schools. It’s so important. I could go on and on, but check out VH1’s Save the Music for more on that issue.

What do you want a little girl to take away from reading ‘The Punkydoos Take the Stage?’

Jennifer: I want kids to know that it’s okay to be a different, to not fit in right away, that eventually you’ll find your place. Lexi-Lou has this huge voice that kind of gets her in trouble. She could’ve let that shut her down and make her quiet, but instead she creates a place for herself. In her case, it’s a rock band. But for other kids it could be anything. If you can’t sit still, try a dance class or get into sports. If you daydream a lot, maybe you need to write down or paint what’s in your imagination. Do whatever works for you.

You can find out more about The Punkydoos here: www.thepunkydoos.com

Illustrations by Dan Andreasen

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