You might think Chelsea Clinton’s famous political parentage inspired her sense of action, but truth is, she’s been curious, passionate, and engaged since before her dad and mom got to the White House.
As a kid, she read the newspaper with her Cheerios in the morning. She wrote a letter to Ronald Reagan about the Bitburg Cemetery controversy, stamped with rainbow and heart stickers “as a gesture of goodwill,” she says. Her grandmother Dorothy was an influence, particularly when it came to education access issues. And she cites 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth as the book that empowered her to care for the environment.
These inspirations are evident in Clinton’s latest children’s book, It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, and Get Going! (Penguin Young Readers, 2015), which she promoted to a packed room at the Closing Session at ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits on Monday in Boston. Penguin distributed complimentary copies of the book, recommended for ages 10–14, which covers topics such as poverty, homelessness, gender equality, and epidemics. The book encourages kids to engage with something they’re passionate about and make a positive difference in their communities—no matter how big or small.
As an introduction to her book, Clinton told the stories of three inspiring kids: Haile, who took over preparing healthy family meals after her father was diagnosed with diabetes, which led to an online cookbook and an opportunity to reshape the kids’ meals at Hyatt hotels across the country; Alex, who started his Brick Share program to collect and donate Legos to kids who didn’t have access to toys; and Celia, who recruited basketball star Yao Ming to help with an anti-ivory poaching awareness campaign in China and Hong Kong. Clinton stressed that in each of these stories, these kids were not afraid to try.
“Even if we can’t always solve the big challenges that we feel called to, it doesn’t mean we still can’t make a real difference in whatever way we can,” she said. “I often think we don’t know where we’re going to wind up. We just have to begin.”
Clinton was then joined on stage by Jill Santopolo, her editor at Penguin Young Readers imprint Philomel Books, who interviewed her about her book, experiences, travels, and love of reading.
Santopolo revealed that during Clinton’s freshman year at Stanford University, she helped saved books at the Meyer Library when the building flooded. Today, Clinton’s experiences with books usually involve taking a hard copy or Kindle on-the-go, or her and husband Marc Mezvinsky reading books with “wonderfully fun sounds” to their young daughter Charlotte.
Audience members asked Clinton about her favorite books, what her mom Hillary would do for libraries if elected president, and how she turned out “so normal and grounded.” Clinton also shared during the Q&A session that at nearly every school she’s visited, she’s been asked if she has any inclination to run for public office.
“I absolutely understand why you are asking me that question. My last name is Clinton,” she said, met with laughter. “But you should also be asking yourself this question.”
Here are some highlights from Clinton’s presentation at the Closing Session: