Kid Reporters

Q&A: Kristi Yamaguchi

The Olympic gold medalist gives TFK the scoop on her new children's book

May 04, 2011

 

Videography by Jeremiah Ysip. Editing by Danny Manasala.
 

In 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi made history as the first Asian-American woman to win Olympic gold in figure skating—and in any sport—at the Winter Games in Albertville, Canada. Sixteen years later, she proved she still had the right moves when she took top prize on Season 6 of Dancing with the Stars. Now Yamaguchi can add children's book author to her long list of accomplishments.

Dream Big, Little Pig! is a picture book about Poppy, a fanciful pig, who dreams of being in the spotlight. Poppy goes on a journey of trials and errors until she finally discovers her passion for ice skating. TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza sat down with Yamaguchi, recently, in Alamo, California. Read on to see what the author and mother of two had to say about what inspired her latest book.

TFK:

What was your inspiration for Dream Big, Little Pig?

KRISTI YAMAGUCHI:

The biggest inspiration for the book was my own two children, Emma and Keara. We have a lot of fun reading before bedtime every night. Seeing the joy that they get out of the books and the illustrations and stories, I thought to myself, "Wow, maybe I can do a book for them, too."

TFK:

Did you always envision your next book to be a children's book?

YAMAGUCHI:

I always wanted it to be a children's book. I've done a couple of other books like, Figure Skating for Dummies and an autobiographical children's book. This time, I wanted to do something more whimsical, something with a character. It was fun to come up with the concept.

TFK:

Why did you decide to use a pig as the main character?

YAMAGUCHI:

As long as I could remember, I've loved pigs. I've collected pigs, and they've always been in my life. Miss Piggy was my favorite childhood idol, I was born in the year of the pig, there are just so many things. Pigs have been my favorite animal since . . . forever!

TFK:

Will we be seeing more children's books from you in the future?

YAMAGUCHI:

Hopefully. I'm very excited about Dream Big, Little Pig! I hope Poppy, the main character, can go on and possibly experience more adventures. I would love to try my hand at another book. We'll see.

TFK:

What were your kids' thoughts about the book?

YAMAGUCHI:

They both really loved the book. They were interested throughout the entire process. My older one actually helped me name Poppy. We had a lot of different suggestions, but her favorite was Poppy. Luckily, that's what the editor picked, too. My younger daughter, Emma, shares her name with Poppy's best friend in the book. So both my daughters had a connection.

TFK:

When you were little, were you like Poppy, who couldn't figure out what she loved doing until she found ice skating?

YAMAGUCHI:

Kind of! I did try a lot of different things. I have an older sister, and we used to try a lot of things together—ballet, baton twirling, soccer, all kinds of different sports. But it really wasn't until I tried out for figure skating that I said, "This is what I want to do."

TFK:

When you finished the final draft of Dream Big, Little Pig! , what did you say to yourself?

TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza with Olympic figure skater and author Kristi Yamaguchi.
COURTESY JOE PERRY
TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza with Olympic figure skater and author Kristi Yamaguchi.

YAMAGUCHI:

I was just excited. I loved the final draft, and I wanted it to be on the shelves right away. It's a fun book; it's very whimsical, especially with the things Poppy goes through. It was very exciting to see the illustrations come to life as well.

TFK:

Your motto is to "always dream." What do you want your daughters' mottos to be in life?

YAMAGUCHI:

I've never really thought about what I want their mottos to be. But I think, like any parent, you want your child to dream big and to strive for some goals in life. It might be difficult along the way and you might hit some bumps in the road, but you have to believe in yourself.

TFK:

What's the most inspiring or memorable story that has come out of your work with the Always Dream Foundation?

YAMAGUCHI:

There have been so many incredible moments with my Always Dream Foundation. It's been 15 years now! We've done a lot, but I guess one highlight would be when Hurricane Katrina hit. We partnered with Shoes That Fit and supplied about 1,000 pairs of shoes for some of the children who were displaced. Shortly thereafter, we started receiving thank-you notes from these children, and they were just precious. We also did a summer camp out in Hawaii. It was with able-bodied children and kids with disabilities, and it was great seeing the interaction together. For all of us, it was a really unforgettable four days.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. During this time, communities across the nation celebrate the culture, traditions and history of Asians Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. To learn more, visit asianpacificheritage.gov.

 

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