Children's Books

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Joanna Gaines Has A Message For Kids (& Parents): "The World Needs You"

"No matter where you’re from, the color of your skin, who you love, or what you believe in."

Joanna Gaines thinks we can all learn a thing or two from children's books. "I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of a story that gets to the heart of things that are just as important to hear and understand as an adult as they were when we were kids," she tells Romper by email. Her new book, The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be, available November 10, aims to do just that.

The idea came to her a few years ago on a family trip to Albuquerque, where her husband Chip grew up. They just happened to be in town the weekend of the International Balloon Fiesta, an annual event that draws thousands of visitors and hundreds of massive hot air balloons that launch en masse, filling the sky with beautiful colors. "The whole time our kids were pointing out their favorite balloons and making note of all the different designs and personalities of each one," she recalls. "I just loved the message hidden in that moment — that the unique differences we may see in each other and in ourselves are meant to be celebrated."

The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be, illustrated by Julianna Swaney, is Gaines' sixth book and her second for children. The beautiful pictures come to life in an animated version of the story that can be viewed online at Magnolia.com/theworldneeds. But "author" is just one of her innumerable job titles. After hosting Fixer Upper from 2013 to 2018, the Gaineses decided to walk away from the HGTV hit to spend more time with their children Drake, Ella, Duke, Emmie, and Crew on their 40 acre farm in Waco, Texas. And yet this hasn't kept the pair from expanding their Magnolia brand into an empire, locally in Waco — with restaurants, bakeries, numerous shops, and realty company — and through a successful line home goods and partnerships with corporations like Target.

My Korean heritage is one of the things I’m most proud of.

Gaines' rustic chic style, a tasteful combination of vintage, industrial, and modern elements in a neutral palette, while often imitated, is instantly identifiable as "Joanna Gaines." Yet embracing her sense of self has not always come easily. Growing up biracial (her mother is Korean and her father is Caucasian), Gaines says she was made fun of for being Asian. "When you’re that age you don’t know really how to process that; the way you take that is, 'Who I am isn’t good enough.'"

Fortunately, she says, self-discovery is an ever-evolving, lifelong journey. "Fast forward to today and my Korean heritage is one of the things I’m most proud of."

Joanna Gaines as a little girlCourtesy of Joanna Gaines

Gaines recognizes this journey of self-discovery and acceptance in her children, who range in age from 2 to 15, and says that being able to observe it is something she treasures. "One of my greatest joys as a mother has been to watch my kids grow and change and become who they are," she says. "Instead of attempting to place our own expectations on them, I think part of the joy of parenting is being able to come alongside each of their personalities and encourage the things that make them distinctly who they are."

This message is at the heart of The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be. "I believe there is a stirring deep within all of us that longs to offer the world something lasting, something beautiful, something that matters, and what I hope this book will convey is that your 'something' doesn’t need to be loud or popular or trendy and shouldn’t look anything like anyone else," she says. "It’s so much simpler than that. The world needs you. Your abilities and your talents, your quirks and your curiosities, your unique thoughts, and your beautiful mind. No matter where you’re from, the color of your skin, who you love, or what you believe in, it needs you just the way you are."

She hopes her new book will inspire kids and parents alike to embrace their talents, quirks, and curiosities as something not just valuable but invaluable. "It’s a story all of us need to hear," she says. "I love how simple of a message it is, but I’ve come to realize that doesn’t make it small."