Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dream Big Little Pig

Like many Americans, the Olympics have provided a thread of continuity throughout the course of their lives. In summer, it's swimming, running, jumping, gymnastics, javelins and diving. And in winter we see bobsledding, all variety of skiing, hockey and skating, among other things. For some reason, we were especially avid fans of women's figure skating. Like nothing else it seems to embody the perfect combination of aesthetics and athleticism. And the way it is produced on television, there's a wonderfully human aspect to the spectacle as we learn of their life stories, the sacrifices they made and the dreams they nurtured.

Twelve years ago I had dinner with an ESPN producer who was involved with many sports, including some extreme winter sports with their jawdropping exploits. He confided that of everything he did with ESPN, producing the World Figure Skating Championships was his favorite assignment. All of us who have watched these programs appreciate the work these people behind the scenes do to bring us stories of the world's most gifted and determined competitors.

Even if you're only half a fan you know the names.... Michelle Kwan, Oksana Baiul, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding, Tara Lipinski. And Kristi Yamaguchi, who not only took the Gold in 1992, she also won two World Figure Skating Championships and the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, plus national titles in pairs skating as well as celebrity champ on Dancing with the Stars in 2008, a sign to me that she is still having fun trying new things and inspiring fans. Her lifelong motto has been, "Always dream."

So it should come as no surprise that this year she found a new way to plant that message in young peoples' heart with a children's picture book for kids 4 and up. Right off Dream Big Little Pig took the #2 slot on the New York Times Bestseller List. Illustrated by Tim Bowers, who has illustrated more than 25 children's books, the flavor of the story and it's imagery all work together to bring a little sunshine into young lives.

The story is about a little pig named Poppy. I am reminded here of Charlotte's Web to some extent, and perhaps a comical scene from Disney's Fantasia. I'm imagining that Ms. Yamaguchi wrote the story to encourage her own two daughters to dream as she had dreamed when young. Being somewhat well connected after her television stardom, I can imagine that someone in New York said the story deserved a wider audience than just her daughters.

Dreaming big is more than just a motto. In 1996 Yamaguchi founded the Always Dream Foundation, a charity for children. Life is pretty bleak without hope, and hope is the bedrock of big dreams. Hence her commitment to sowing hope amongst young people.

If you can't find the book in your local bookstore, I'm sure a quick Google search will lead you to several sources. There's nothing like the habit of reading a good book with a good message to your children every night. It makes a difference, for them and for you.

Message to Kristi: Write on.

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