As Americans get ready to elect the next president, a new contender has emerged. A giant pink squid living in the ocean believes he has what it takes to lead the nation. Author Aaron Reynolds tells the candidate’s story in the new picture book President Squid. This cephalopod is bossy, he owns a lot of ties, and lives in a gigantic ship. “I will be the greatest president that ever lived!” he proclaims.
As Squid embarks on his campaign, however, he finds out that being a leader is more difficult than it seems. At the end of this humorous book, Squid makes an important decision about his future in politics.
Reynolds is the author of many books, including the popular Creepy Carrots. He spoke to TFK’s Melanie Kletter about President Squid and how to help kids learn about the political process.
TFK: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
AARON REYNOLDS: Doesn’t everyone have a giant-squid-runs-for-president story up their sleeve? Actually, a cool kid named Eliza gave me the original idea. She was about 6 years old and wore a tie and jacket to school every day. Why? The answer is obvious: She wanted to be the president when she grew up, and presidents wear ties! It seemed like a great starting point to me for a story about the type of qualities people think it takes to become a great leader.
TFK: Why did you make the main character a giant squid?
REYNOLDS: I was trying to think of a silly character to become president, one we had never seen before, who was used to being bossy and maybe a little bit in charge. As one of the largest creatures in the sea, a giant obnoxious pink squid seemed perfect!
TFK: How would you describe Squid?
REYNOLDS: He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. Okay, as a squid, he has no bones in his body. Still, he’s not bad, just misguided. He doesn’t really mean to be a jerk. He really does think that the qualities he lists will make him a perfect leader. Maybe he’s had an unpleasant whale shark as a teacher or little league coach. It happens. Either way, we should all be as lucky as Squid to have a helpful sardine in our lives to help set us straight.
TFK: What is this book really about?
REYNOLDS: I think it’s about the fact that we all have different ideas about what it takes to be a leader. Whether you’re running for class president or safety patrol or the actual president of the United States, those ideas can become confused and messed up. Power can tempt us to become hungry for more power! Also, it’s about seafood. I love seafood.
TFK: Was it fun to write this book?
REYNOLDS: It was fun, but a little tricky. Politics can seem boring to kids, so it’s hard to write about it in a way that will be fun and make kids laugh. That’s why I chose to write it in a style that’s kind of about how not to be president. The kids are smarter than the squid and they will pick up on his faulty thinking, but also laugh a little bit at themselves, because maybe they thought some of the same things, deep down inside.
TFK: What do you hope kids will take away from this book?
REYNOLDS: It can be easy to forget that whether you are the president of the U.S. or a safety patrol or a class president, your main job as a leader is to help people. To make their lives better and safer. And the way we do it—bossy and obnoxious versus humble and kind—is just as important as whether we do it at all! And, whether you are a leader or not, if you see a sardine stuck in a clam, give the little guy a hand!