Courtesy Penguin Group
As the author of a slew of successful adult novels and the memoir Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, Jill Kargman happened into her first children’s book through an awkward encounter with her then 5-year-old daughter’s teachers.
“The teachers called me in one day and they said Sadie said the F-word in school,” she tells PEOPLE. “I said, ‘What happened?’ And they said, ‘Well this little boy Charlie told her her dress was hideous, and she told him to f- off.'”
Sadie’s teachers went on to explain that she had become a leader for the girls in her preschool class, whom she termed the princesses, while Charlie led the boys, the pirates.
“They both used their leadership abilities in malevolent ways instead of being benevolent leaders,” Kargman (below) says. “Because it was my first child, I felt kind of insecure, like, ‘Oh my God, my child’s a terrorist.'”
After Sadie’s teachers recommended a book on gender wars that featured rodent characters in human clothing, Kargman was unimpressed, and neither was her daughter.
So one rainy afternoon, the pair decided to remedy the problem by writing about their own experience, and Pirates & Princesses was born.
“She dictated it. I felt almost vapid coauthoring with her,” she says of now-8-year-old Sadie, who is pictured below at their L.A. book party (Sept. 15) with family friend Drew Barrymore, who is dating Kargman’s brother Will Kopelman.
“I really just was a typist. We kind of did a couple drafts reading it out loud for her brother and sister and my husband, and assembled it together with my lame-o drawings.”
The story proved a success when it was read out loud to Sadie’s classmates, and Kargman soon secured a deal to have it published.
“We took a negative thing and turned it into a positive,” she says. “There’s really nothing out there that talks about those gender wars. I wanted to address it in a different kind of way using characterizations that the kids hatched themselves.”
While the experience opened up the world of children’s book writing for Kargman, who says she’d love to pen future books, Pirates & Princesses had its greatest impact on Sadie.
“I’m proud of her with this book because it was all her doing,” Kargman says. “And she’s still friends, really close friends with that little boy Charlie.”
– Kiran Hefa