Yamaguchi's second children's book hits shelves

Poppy the Pig heads to World Games in Paris

The cover art for Kristi Yamaguchi's new children's book.
The cover art for Kristi Yamaguchi's new children's book. (courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(03/01/2012) - Following up on the success of her first children's book Dream Big, Little Pig, which made the New York Times bestseller list, Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi has crafted a new adventure for her heroine, Poppy the Pig. In It's a Big World, Little Pig!, Poppy excitedly goes to compete at the World Games ice skating championship in Paris.

Drawing on her own early experiences as an international competitor, Yamaguchi writes about how Poppy is initially nervous about meeting so many new people in a new place but soon comes to embrace the diversity she encounters.

"When I was thinking of the next adventure, it made sense that maybe skating takes her someplace and she travels," Yamaguchi said. "Obviously, pulling some personal experience in remembering my very first international competition -- the feelings and the excitement."

Yamaguchi's first international competition was the 1986 World Junior Championships in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. While she recalls the excitement of competing, equally vivid are the memories of going to a new place, meeting skaters from other countries, hearing different languages spoken and seeing how excited skaters were to meet the Americans.

"That lesson was such a big one and one that opened my eyes up a lot as a young skater," said Yamaguchi, whose first world championships were, coincidentally, in Paris. "I thought it would be a good message for the kids, too."

Poppy's Parisian adventure involves competitors from sports beyond figure skating. In addition to crane, who is a fellow skater, she meets a snowboarding panda, a skiing Maltese and a speedskating kangaroo. Poppy begins to realize that although these animals look different, act different and are from different places, they all smile in the same language.

The illustrations are again done by Tim Bowers, and both he and Yamaguchi have received high praise in early reviews.

"He's been great since day one with the first book," Yamaguchi said. "A lot of the expressions and the personality, he was able to bring that out in Poppy and the other characters.

"The editor really wanted me involved with the look and feel and everything," she added. "They let me turn in a lot of suggestions and ideas for wardrobe and obviously costumes. I showed them pictures of skating poses that I wanted to see the characters in. Helping him understand more the international feel when you go to something like the World Games or the Olympics and seeing all that is around you."

Yamaguchi embarks on a book tour next week, and said she is looking forward to interacting with young readers around the country. All of Yamaguchi's profits from It's a Big World, Little Pig! will benefit early childhood literacy programs supported by her Always Dream Foundation.

"Kids love stories, and they love pictures," she said. "To me, it's not just a creative process, but opening up their imaginations and their channels for learning and the love of books -- that's motivating and fun. Seeing all that and then being able to hopefully have a go toward helping other kids makes it that much better."

Before hitting the road to promote her new book, Yamaguchi attended the 10th anniversary celebration for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. She had served as an ambassador for those Games and performed in both the opening and closing ceremonies.

"It was great. The city really did so much to bring back that feeling of the Olympics," Yamaguchi said. "They had plazas set up with activities and things going on relating to the Olympics.

"They had a big reunion of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) members and people who were volunteers."

On this trip to Salt Lake City, Yamaguchi didn't wear skates.

"I had no anxiety at all," she said. "I just had to introduce Mitt Romney and that was it." (The Republican presidential candidate was chairman of the SLOC.)

Olympic gold medalists Sarah Hughes and Jamie Salé and David Pelletier performed along with the current cast of Stars on Ice, which includes 2002 Olympians Sasha Cohen, Todd Eldredge, and Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman.

"It was such a feel-good night and a lot of good memories," she said.