Header Ads

Adam Rex Explains Why Biracial Characters Need to Be in Children's Books

Home (2015) - Oh (Jim Parsons), Tip (Rihanna)
Learn more about the writer of the book that inspired the big screen animated movie Home. The DreamWorks Animation movie Home starring Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Jennifer Lopez, and Steve Martin is adapted from the kid's book The True Meaning of Smekday written by Adam Rex. The movie intruiged us because it's one of the few animated children's movies that features a minority as the main character. The story follows Gratuity "Tip" Tucci (Rihanna) and an alien named Oh (Jim Parsons) searching for her mother. The movie is especially notable because US President Barack Obama visted the production back in 2012 and met Jim Parsons and Steve Martin. Hopefully it's successful as some of DreamWorks' other movies like The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon.

Here is the official synopsis:
DreamWorks Animation's 'Home' is not your standard post-apocalyptic-alien-invasion-buddy-comedy. When Earth is taken over by the overly-confident Boov, an alien race in search of a new place to call home, all humans are promptly relocated (Captain Smek optimistically declares 'Relocation is fun and mandatory!'), while all Boov get busy efficiently reorganizing the planet ('You're welcome'). But when one resourceful girl, Tip, (Rihanna) manages to avoid capture, she finds herself the accidental accomplice of a banished Boov by the name of Oh (Jim Parsons). Equally stubborn and set in their ways, these two fugitives realize there's a lot more at stake than intergalactic relations as they embark on the road trip of a lifetime. Good thing they have a flying car.

Adam Rex is an American illustrator and writer of children's books. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona and is a New York Times best selling author for Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. He also received the 2005 Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist. Adam and his Physicist wife Marie live in Tucson, AZ and says "Garlic and crosses are useless against Adam. Sunlight has been shown to be at least moderately effective. A silver bullet does the trick. Pretty much any bullet, really."

He was kind enough to do an interview with us. Find out why Tip is bi-racial, what Dungeons and Dragons has to do with illustrating children's books and the surprising thing he did when the book was green-lit for a movie.

Thanks for your time Adam. When did you know you wanted to write and draw professionally, and why a kid's books?
I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was five. I overheard my brother complaining that I could already draw better than him. I didn't know if it was true or not, but I did know that he didn't think I was smarter, or stronger, or funnier, or better at sports. So I decided to keep drawing for the rest of my life to cheese him off.

I didn't know then what that meant. I certainly didn't know what an illustrator was. But later I got into D&D, and for a while I think I just figured I'd eventually be an artist for that. And many years later, at almost the exact moment I sopped playing D&D, I got hired to make art for D&D.

So, that paid the bills for a while, but by this time I'd decided that I wanted to either make comics or kid's books–because I had a love and respect for each, and because I liked telling stories.

What did you learn while doing role-playing games that translated to books?
Nearly everything about that translated to kid's books. I learned to be reasonably fast–to generate ideas quickly and to draw and then paint an illustration in a matter of days rather than weeks. I honed my craft, and learning how to paint a good orc uses all the same muscles you need to paint a good panda wearing a waistcoat.

Your main character Tip is African-American. Was it important to have a Black female character and why?
Yes–specifically she's biracial, with an Italian-American mom. There's a lot of allegory about American history wrapped up in The True Meaning of Smekday, and I liked the idea that she might have a richer perspective on all that than I would have had at her age.

But honestly: I initially decided to make her African-American because, in the story's earliest stages, I realized I was already thinking of her as white by default. There was no particular reason for her to be white; and plausibly some decent reasons for her not to be; so I tried something else, stupidly nervous that I might be out of line doing so. But I've never gotten anything but positive reactions to her.

Your alien invasion story is different in that the invasion is already over. How did you come up with the unique premise for your book?
I'm sure it isn't unique, but the premise came in service of the fact that I wanted Smekday to be a more intimate story of one human and one alien, with each coming to recognize that the other is just another person.

And now I realize that I probably wrote Smekday because I saw Enemy Mine back in 1985.

Where were you when you heard DreamWorks had optioned your book and what did you do?
I don't remember where I was when it was optioned, but I can tell you where I was the day I got the call that it had been green-lit: jury duty. So, that was an unexpectedly good day. I celebrated by eating a burrito at the restaurant across the street from the courthouse, because that was the only option available to me at the time.

Were you excited when you heard about the voice cast?
I think it's a great cast. Everyone does very well, though I'm especially enamored of Matt Jones' [who plays a Boov named Kyle] line readings.

Learn more Adam Rex and his books at http://adamrex.com and check them out on Amazon and other fine book stores.  The movie Home opens March 27, 2015 and you can learn more by visiting http://www.meettheboov.com/

What do you think of the book and movie? Are you excited to see another minority character in movies?

If you enjoyed this, then please use the buttons below to tell your friends about this post! Follow us! Email | RSSTwitter | Facebook


  1. Having Dreamworks make your book into a movie must feel awesome.
    That's cool you got to do illustrations for D&D. Now I'd like to know which ones you did.

  2. I loved this book. I'm glad to see that it's being turned into a movie.

  3. I just saw the "HOME" trailer for the first time about a week ago and it didn't make me want to watch the movie. All I thought was "eh...it's cute" but after learning a bit more about the story and the illustrator behind it, I don't think the trailer did this movie justice because I would be more inclined to see it now or at least recommend it to family, friends, etc. with young children; solely based on how much I think we all can relate to the story.

    The main characters are from two different worlds, yet, find out that at their very core, they both share the common ground of existing as they are in a universe where different groups of species/races, etc. are at odds with each other and trying to claim the earth (or land or whatever) as their own, for their own kind.

    It's a bit telling that the human population in the real world must glean lessons from an animated children's movie...but alas, if it takes an alien, and a little girl who is not necessarily considered the norm as far as mainstream characters and casting goes, to offer some useful takeaways that can improve the way we deal with each other outside of this fictional universe, then hey I'm all for Adam Rex's film!

    Also, her name being Gratuity is funny.

  4. That's great Medeia! You're such an avid reader of all books that I'm not surprised you've read it. Before the movie I'd never heard of it which is sad.

  5. I'd celebrate with a burrito or two Alex.

  6. The trailer really doesn't do the concept justice unfortunately. It mainly focuses on the characters which is cool, but you wouldn't know what they're doing or why without more research which is the most compelling part. Of course, my son (and I) giggle at the "lemonade" joke, but it's a must watch once you know the themes and messages behind it.

    Often children's films teach us all about greater issue if we pay attention and this movie sounds like another one.

    Her name is very funny Nicole. LOL


Thanks for commenting!.