Mark Shriver Says Family Inspired His Kids' Book — and New Mom Katherine Schwarzenegger Is a Fan!
Mark K. Shriver wrote a new kids' book about the importance of service with the help of his family — and his niece, new mom Katherine Schwarzenegger, is already a big fan!
"I think in American culture, we celebrate and focus so much on money, power and fame," the president of Save the Children Action Network tells PEOPLE about his new picture book, 10 Hidden Heroes, which published on Tuesday.
"Really, at least for me, [being a hero] has nothing to do with that," Shriver, 57, continues. "It's about acts of love, acts of support, acts of empathy. If kids and parents see that and celebrate it, that would be great."
10 Hidden Heroes is a colorful seek-and-find picture book that celebrates the ways people can be helpful to others on a daily basis. From caring for animals to protecting the environment, the book shows children that they can be "hidden heroes" too.
As a child, Shriver was inspired by the heroic acts of his late parents, Eunice Mary Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy's sister and the founder of the Special Olympics, and R. Sargent Shriver, the founding director of the Peace Corps and former U.S. ambassador to France. 10 Hidden Heroes includes references to them both.
"My mom thought that people with developmental disabilities could be role models on the athletic field, at work and in the community," Shrivers says. "She used sports to break down those walls of prejudice and isolation."
Special Olympics athletes are included in the book, along with Peace Corps volunteers.
"That's the program my father started under President Kennedy," Shriver says. "We often pray for our military members. We ought to also be praying for our Peace Corps workers. Peace Corps workers are living in some of the poorest communities in the world, serving their fellow human beings. That's heroic."
The dad of three explains that his oldest daughter's work in criminal justice reform also influenced the book.
"You'll see that there's a tutoring program for people in jail," he explains. "That was inspired by our daughter Molly's work in criminal justice. So, it was a family book."
Shriver says that the idea for 10 Hidden Heroes first came about during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and all of his kids helped out. They even had a secret ballot to select the illustrator, Laura Watson.
"Our two oldest kids were in college. They came back and they helped with our youngest one, who is in high school," he says. "It was a family book. Everybody wrote it together."
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Even before the book's publication, 10 Hidden Heroes has been lauded by some big names. Jennifer Garner, who has served as Save the Children's artistic ambassador for 12 years, is a "good friend" of Shriver's and has shared the book with her kids.
"She loved the book because you have so many different heroes in there — it sparks conversation. When kids hear more words, their brains grow, literally," he says. "And she understands that, so that's fun."
Shriver's niece, Katherine Schwarzenegger, and her husband, Chris Pratt, are also fans of the picture book.
"10 Hidden Heroes teaches children about the people who make this world a better, safer and more compassionate place," the couple, who welcomed their daughter Lyla Maria in August, said in a joint review. "This book will not only get kids excited about seeking out real-life heroes in their day-to-day life, but inspire them to make a difference in their community, and even change the world."
Shriver has met "beautiful" Lyla Maria over Zoom — and hopes her parents will read 10 Hidden Heroes to her when she's older.
"Everybody's doing great. They're very happy," he says. "[They have a] very beautiful, healthy baby girl. What can be better than that?"
10 Hidden Heroes is on sale now.
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