The cover of 'The One and Only Sparkella' written by Channing Tatum
Image courtesy of Macmillan

Channing Tatum Wrote A Children’s Book About A Dad Who Wears A Tutu

The Magic Mike star on his new book, his relationship with his daughter, and playing outside in a barn for exactly 40 minutes.

by Meaghan O'Connell

Channing Tatum is here to talk about his new children’s book, The One and Only Sparkella. Tatum’s quarantine side project is a charming and heartfelt entry into the celebrity kid’s book canon, illustrated by Kim Barnes. Sparkella is a little girl who loves to rock neon and glitter, but, when she starts at a new school, worries that her classmates will judge her zest for flair. Her dad gives her spritied pep talks while wearing a tutu and feater boa, and encourages her to be herself.

It’s very sweet, and clearly for children, but also clear from Tatum’s book promo that he knows it’s the millennial moms who keep his bread buttered. He talked to us about why he wrote the book, how much he resembles Sparkella’s dad, and how often he and his daughter have real-life dance parties.

The dad in your book has a relationship to masculinity and gender that we love. There’s an expansiveness and a joy. Was that a message you felt like dads could use?

I definitely wanted to write it for dads who might not know how to connect with their daughters. Just wear the tutu, just put it on, put on makeup — who cares? Like, who really does care, if it's going to make your kid happy and laugh and you bond with them and get that time with them? You're going to be the coolest person in the world to them.

And I really love the relationship that I have with my daughter, Evie, because she knows that I'm going to take care of her, but she also knows that we're going to go and get into some trouble, too. You know?

We do this thing called Night Ninja, where I put her to bed, and she doesn't know when I'm going to do this, but I put her to bed — and, you know, kids never want to sleep. But I'll sneak in after I put her to bed and we dress up, and we basically go down to the barn. I have a farm out in Ohio. And we basically just do art for exactly 40 minutes. And we come running back and sneak back in and kind of keep the mischievousness. So you're not just this parental figure that's telling her what to do all the time. Go get a shower, brush your teeth, eat your food, and you know what, you can be cool, too, and break the rules a little bit.

You’ve obviously done a lot of performing, but writing a book is new for you. As a first-time author, what was it like, holding the book in your hands?

I wasn't actually ready for — it was emotional when I got the book for the first time. 'Cause you see it on your screen and you're like, oh, this is, this is amazing. It's great. And then for some reason, when you're holding the book, it's a different experience and it's so much brighter and there's so much stuff everywhere.

But then if you really look at Sparkella, she's kind of this Pippi Longstocking, Punky Brewster character — she's kind of this punk rock girl, but she's still very feminine. I loved the little things. My daughter had these leopard high-tops she wore until her feet just would not fit in them anymore. She loves design. She loves finger gloves that go up all the way up. These little tiny things that I would mention to Kim Barnes, the illustrator, and she ended up putting them in and finding little places for them. She killed it. I'm in love with the way it looks.

So many people were helping. That's the only thing I can really say. That was my experience. It was a lot of people, very, very good at their jobs, telling me what to do, offering up decisions for me to basically kind of go, All right, is it this way? Or that way? Is it this or that? We're kind of creating this world.

Does your daughter ever get embarrassed like Sparkella does with her dad sometimes in the book?

CT: My daughter definitely gives as well as I give. So I'm evenly-matched. But I always win, of course. But I do remember, when Evie was really young, this is probably preschool, I would try to do all these voices. And I did this one thing when I would read and I would be like, Oh I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I couldn't control my mouth. She always got a kick out of it, but anytime I would try to do a voice of a character, she'd tell me just to read it normal. "Just can you just read it normal? I don't want all that." And I was like, Here I am, I've trained my whole life, I can do all of these characters, and I have the one daughter who doesn't want me to perform it? Great.

But then when I went in to be a guest reader for her class, she wanted me to do the voices. And I was just like, She does like it! She wasn't actually embarrassed of me. It was a proud moment.

Have you ever worn a feather boa to school pickup before?

CT: I've not worn a boa, but I have worn a cape. I've worn a crown once. We have these funny sweatshirts that we make, we'll paint them and draw on them. I get a pair of bespoke Converse every year that she does. She basically just paints on them. I get them every year on Father's Day. So I wear those things to school and they are pretty extravagant.

And how often do you engage in family dance parties?

CT: I would say full-on dedicated dance parties, at least a good once a week. But the truth of the answer is probably every day, because during the weekday, we do one show at night, right before she goes to bed after we do our schoolwork. We'll do a movie or whatever. And usually if it's a show, like Star vs. The Forces of Evil, there's a song beforehand, and any time there's a jingle or a song or some sort of inspirational thing, we always get up and dance for those 15 seconds. So the truth is probably every day we do a little dance party.

A lot of the things in the books, like glitter poop and stuff like that, that is fully us. Like, I'm a poopy snail and she's a glitter poop.

You can order The One and Only Sparkella on Bookshop