Chelsea Clinton talks about new book, children as advocates, before BookPeople visit

Chelsea Clinton signs copies of her new book, "It's Your World," at Barnes and Noble last week in New York City. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Chelsea Clinton signs copies of her new book, “It’s Your World,” at Barnes and Noble last week in New York City. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Saturday Chelsea Clinton celebrates her daughter, Charlotte’s, first birthday with “lots of balloons and bubbles” including Sesame Street character balloons. Charlotte loves the “Sesame Street” including her stuffed Elmo and the Grover book “The Monster at the End of This Book.”

Even though Charlotte has not yet seen an episode, “Sesame Street is already big in our house,” Clinton said in a phone interview Thursday.

Charlotte is part of the inspiration behind Clinton’s new book “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!” — a book to encourage kids and teens to become informed about the issues facing their communities and their world, as well as to get them active in creating solutions. Clinton will be at BookPeople Oct. 8 reading and signing from her book.

She says she had been thinking about “It’s Your World” before she became pregnant, but the pregnancy and motherhood added more attentiveness to the project. “I felt even more inspired and enthusiastic about trying to write (It’s Your World),” she says.

She remembers reading “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth,” when she was in elementary school. She became part of creating that school’s recycling program. She also would cut the plastic rings around soda cans and glue them onto cardboard. Then she would had out the cardboard to her friends, neighbors and grandparent’s neighbors to encourage them to cut the rings to protect birds from choking.

Chelsea Clinton's new book, "It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going." KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Chelsea Clinton’s new book, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going.” KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

“I hope ‘It’s Your World’ impacts one kid the same way ’50 Simple Things’ impacted me,” she says.

Clinton continues to volunteer at a variety of organizations as she did throughout her childhood. Many of her volunteer work in high school and college were kept private. Only now as an adult does her service work sometimes get publicized, she says, specifically to encourage others to volunteer as well.

Growing up in Arkansas and Washington, D.C., she knew she was growing up “blessed” compared with the people around her. Her grandmother told her she needed to “expand her circle of blessings. It had a profound impact on me,” she says.

“It’s Your World” not only outlines the problems of poverty, diseases, access to education and gender equality kids in American and around the world face, it highlights organizations and kids that are making a difference. Some of the featured kids she knew about through the Clinton Foundation, on which she serves as vice chair; others she heard about through the organizations she highlighted and through other inspirational kids she found.

On the book tour, she’s now been able to meet face-to-face with some of the kids in the book. “It’s so fun,” she says.

Rather than telling kids what they should be passionate about, she’s a big believer in adults asking kids what moves them. Some kids will read the whole book and then decide what they want to do, she says. Other kids, might just read the portion that they care about. She sees the book as helping them have information to be informed.

For her own daughter, she says, “I hope that Charlotte feels a responsibility to help make an impact on whatever she cares about. As a mom, I can help her find her way.”

She’ll wait for Charlotte to tell her what issues she really cares about. “I can’t wait to hear the answer to that.”

“It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!”

Chelsea Clinton

$18.99, Philomel Books

Chelsea Clinton book-signing and reading

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 8

Where: BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Information: bookpeople.com

Note: Tickets are required to join the signing line and available by purchasing a copy of “It’s Your World” from BookPeople. One ticket admits up to four family members. The line for signing will be a first-come, first-served line on the day of the event.

Enjoy the twist in Zach Theatre’s honey pot full of fun, “Winnie the Pooh”

"Winnie the Pooh" at Zach Theatre stars Will Cleveland as Pooh, Sara Burke as Piglet. Photo by Kirk Tuck
“Winnie the Pooh” at Zach Theatre stars Will Cleveland as Pooh, Sara Burke as Piglet. Photo by Kirk Tuck

“Winnie the Pooh,” Zach Theatre’s opening musical in this year’s family series, lets children into the secret of theater. It starts with musician Allen Robertson warming up the audience by teaching the “Winnie the Pooh” dance.

"Winnie the Pooh" at Zach Theatre stars Russel Taylor, Will Cleveland, J. Quinton Johnson, Allen Robertson, and Sara Burke. Credit: Kirk Tuck
“Winnie the Pooh” at Zach Theatre stars Russel Taylor, Will Cleveland, J. Quinton Johnson, Allen Robertson, and Sara Burke.
Credit: Kirk Tuck

Later he appears on stage with the crew of the play: a set designer, a prop master, a stage hand and a costumer. They are going about their business, but suddenly they notice that there is an audience. Robertson declares, that no, it’s not an audience, it’s the backup dancers. This, of course, brings some giggles.

Indeed, there is an audience, and we’re told that we’ve come two weeks too early. But wait, we’ve paid money for this show! The behind-the-scenes crew will just have to put on the musical for us. They find the book on stage and begin sorting out who will play what.

It’s a delightful twist to this classic tale and the musical, which was written in 1964 by le Clanche du Rand with music from Allan J. Friedman and lyrics by author A.A. Milne and Kristin Sergel. The musical originally just starts with Pooh doing his morning exercises, not this behind-the-scenes crew turned actors vignette.

"Winnie the Pooh" at Zach Theatre stars Will Cleveland as Pooh. Credit: Kirk Tuck
“Winnie the Pooh” at Zach Theatre stars Will Cleveland as Pooh.
Credit: Kirk Tuck

The twist allows a young audience to not have to suspend disbelief. We know it’s not really a bear, an owl, a kangaroo, a piglet, a rabbit and a donkey. Instead, it’s an adult stage crew trying to play legendary animal characters. We see them try to transform into these animals by finding hats, scarves, shirts, jackets and aprons to fit their characters. We see them give one another stage directions, such as rabbits hop, so hop more.

"Winnie the Pooh" at Zach Theatre stars Sara Burke as Piglet and Russel Taylor as Eeyore. Credit: Kirk Tuck
“Winnie the Pooh” at Zach Theatre stars Sara Burke as Piglet and Russel Taylor as Eeyore.
Credit: Kirk Tuck

The fun is that the crew is very similar to their animal characters. The set designer who is chosen to play Pooh (Will Cleveland) is also a slow-motion kind of guy. The costumer (Sara Burke) has a ton of energy and positivity, perfect for Piglet and Roo. She also has the smarts of Owl. Another stage hand (J. Quinton Johnson) becomes the leader and narrator, qualities like Christopher Robin and Rabbit. The highlight is Russel, (Russel Taylor), who has as much enthusiasm as Eeyore, as he gets dragged into this production to play Eeyore and later awkwardly Kanga. He brought the biggest laughs, especially during the song-and-dance numbers.

Throughout, Allen Robertson plays the on-stage musician and coaches the crew-turned-actors on how to sing.

The kids in the audience of Friday night’s opener loved being part of the action. They loved being asked to dance and do the movements with the actors on stage; after all, they are the backup dancers, right? They loved with the actors talked to them.

If you come into this musical thinking you’re going to see a straight version of “Winnie the Pooh,” you might be disappointed, but probably you’ll be delighted with the change.

Zach Theatre’s education director Nat Miller, who directs this show, doesn’t do things in traditional ways. Last year, “The Three Little Pigs” were rock stars. Cinderella was alive in the imagination of a bilingual girl who created her out of a funnel with a doiley on it in “Cenicienta.”

This year, Zach is presenting a storybook season with “Winnie the Pooh,” running now through Dec. 12, the bilingual “Tomás and the Library Lady,” Jan. 15-Feb. 14; “James and the Giant Peach,” Feb. 19-April 10; and “Alice in Wonderland,” March 4-May 14. We can’t wait to see the twists that Miller finds for “James” and “Alice.”

“Winnie the Pooh.” 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 12. An autism and sensory-friendly performance is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 31. $15-$20. Kleberg Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org.