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Yamaguchi releases first children's book

Dream Big, Little Pig! makes debut

1992 Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi's children's book, <i>Dream Big, Little Pig!</i>.
1992 Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi's children's book, Dream Big, Little Pig!. (courtesy Sourcebooks)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(03/17/2011) - This week 1992 Olympic gold medalist, two-time world champion, U.S. champion and four-time world professional champion Kristi Yamaguchi added another accomplishment to her already packed resume. Her children's picture book, Dream Big, Little Pig!, was published on March 15.

"I've always wanted to do a children's book," says Yamaguchi, who previously authored Figure Skating for Dummies and Kristi Yamaguchi, Always Dream. "Buying so many books for my kids inspired me."

Yamaguchi and husband Bret Hedican, a retired professional hockey player, are parents to Keara, 7, and Emma, 5. The girls love reading time and Yamaguchi sometimes engages them in creating new stories.

"I'll start something and I'll have them finish the thought, so they have their hands in making things up as well," she says.

She's collected pigs of the stuffed and ceramic variety for as long as she can remember, so making a pig the main character seemed natural. The story incorporates Yamaguchi's motto, Always Dream.

The book centers on Poppy the pig, who has many big dreams. Following those dreams isn't always easy, but whenever she is on the brink of giving up, her family reminds her to "dream big." On a "pig's day out," Poppy enjoys ice skating so much she doesn't even notice when people say pigs can't skate. She goes on to achieve her dream and realize she can succeed at anything as long as she believes in herself.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Tim Bowers. He worked with Yamaguchi's text to create the images.

"I definitely had an idea of Poppy and I think her personality kind of jumps out of the pages," says Yamaguchi. "He had a clear idea of what I envisioned. I would see samples that he came up with initially before everything was approved. Things went back and forth, but for the most part I was just approving his sketches because he did such a great job. I got excited for the book."

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Dream Big, Little Pig! will benefit Yamaguchi's Always Dream Foundation, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year. The foundation has supported various children's charities in the San Francisco Bay Area, including sponsoring annual Christmas toy drives.

With the Always Dream Play Park, which allows physically challenged and able-bodied children to play side by side, in Yamaguchi's hometown of Fremont, Calif., now open, the foundation has turned its focus to education, most notably early childhood literacy.

"So far, we've been connecting with literacy organizations and helping them out with grants," Yamaguchi says. "We are planning some exciting things in the future that are in the development stage. It will focus on literacy and technology.

"We've been successful in the past partnering with organizations and making things happen where each of us contribute what we can and bring to the table what we can and accomplish bigger things," she adds. "That's what we're looking to do with education as well.

"The foundation has been absolutely satisfying and personally rewarding. Something hopefully my children will become involved in more and hopefully carry on the legacy."

Since winning the mirror ball trophy on season six of Dancing with the Stars, Yamaguchi has staged a dance-inspired fundraiser each year for the Always Dream Foundation. "Dancing the Night Away" will take place in San Francisco on June 18. In addition to a gala dinner, there will be dance performances.

"We're doing a celebration of many genres of dance," says Yamaguchi. "We'll still do ballroom and Latin. We've also invited the San Francisco Ballet to be involved as well as inviting some dancers from So You Think You Can Dance. There will be more contemporary artists. It will be a mix of dance styles."

There's already talk of a second Poppy the pig book, which Yamaguchi hopes will be published spring 2012.

For more information, go to Always Dream or Kristi's website.