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Josh Gad Takes on Consumerism in Debut Children’s Book: ‘Let’s Meet Each Other in the Middle’ (Exclusive)

The ‘Frozen’ actor’s new book, ‘PictureFace Lizzy,’ hits shelves this fall

<p>Koury Angelo, Putnam Books for Young </p> Josh Gad and the cover for his book

Koury Angelo, Putnam Books for Young

Josh Gad and the cover for his book 'PictureFace Lizzy'

Josh Gad is tackling some common caregiving problems in a new children’s book: consumerism and technology.

The Frozen actor, 43, exclusively announced the fall publication of his debut children’s book, PictureFace Lizzy, with PEOPLE. The book will be published by Putnam Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.

PictureFace Lizzy
, which features illustrations by Marta Kissi, also discusses a topic that many parents may find familiar: their children’s desire for material items. When a young girl named Eve has her eyes set on the most popular doll on the market — PictureFace Lizzy — she’ll stop at nothing to get her parents to buy it for her.

<p>Putnam Books for Young Readers</p> 'PictureFace Lizzy' by Josh Gad and illustrated by Marta Kissi

Putnam Books for Young Readers

'PictureFace Lizzy' by Josh Gad and illustrated by Marta Kissi

Gad is approaching that hankering for new things with humor and heart, and in a way that finds middle ground for kids and their parents and guardians.

“Josh is a born writer and PictureFace Lizzy showcases his humor, talent and heart,” says Jennifer Klonsky, President and Publisher of Putnam Books for Young Readers, in a statement shared with PEOPLE. “Caregivers will come to this book for its message and kids will want to read it again and again because it’s so funny!”

PEOPLE caught up with Gad about the family inspiration behind PictureFace Lizzy, his favorite childhood books, and how voicing Olaf helped him as a writer.

It's interesting to see a kids book about consumerism — what inspired you to write this story?

I'm sure like many children's books and their origins, I was inspired by my own two girls, Ava and Isabella, and their obsession with not the things that they had, but the things that they didn't have.

<p>Jason Mendez/Getty</p> Josh Gad

Jason Mendez/Getty

Josh Gad

Their friends started to consume a lot of social media, and in particular, TikTok. My wife [Ida] and I were both very concerned about the girls having that stuff too early — not only because of the content they're exposed to and the addiction that comes with nonstop use of those things, but more importantly because of what might be lost in the process, which is their imagination, their creativity and their ability to create outside of just the digital space.

Related: Josh Gad Reveals His 'Really Sweet' Nightly Ritual with His Daughters: 'Purest Story in My Life'

How did the idea for the book develop?
I originally wrote a book that focused on TikTok. After I finished it, I sent it to my editor, and she rightfully said, "I love the concept here, but what if you were to create something that stood in for the things that you're concerned about your kids getting exposed too young?" And I said, "Oh, that's a brilliant idea."

I imagined an amalgamation between these two things. At the time, my kids were obsessed with the American Girl dolls, and they were obsessed with their iPads. I thought to myself, "What if you smash those two things together and created this doll that basically had the ability to also have cameras and a screen on it?" And so, it became a living digital doll called PictureFace Lizzy, and this idea of this girl named Eve Tanya, becoming really frustrated that her friends all have various PictureFace Lizzy dolls, each themed to a different thing, and she has none.

<p>Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty</p> Josh Gad

Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty

Josh Gad

The book, for me, really became about balance. I think it's really hard for parents and kids to just go, "Never. I'm never going to allow you to have this, and you're just going to have to live for the rest of your life, like a tween version of a monk." Instead, we found as parents that, ultimately, the best and healthiest way to confront these things, which are ubiquitous now, is by teaching our kids balance, by giving them the foundation to build their creative output, and to give them the desire to want to tap into those things so that they don't just become dependent on this thing constantly in front of them.

One of the top 10 greatest moments of my life is [when] I gave the book to my girls to read for the first time, and they were absolutely enthralled. The biggest thing that I was concerned about is my girls being like, "Well, I don't like this message because it's basically preaching to us that you don't really want us to have any of these things." And instead, I think they saw themselves in this girl. They saw themselves in a way that reflected that you can have it all.

Related: Josh Gad Says He's Recognized as the Voice of 'Frozen' 's Olaf: 'Gives Me Street Cred with My Kids'

Sometimes, the best way to take on these apparati like phones, like social media applications, is by having a healthy relationship with them. And I think that they appreciated that. They appreciated the message, they appreciated the comedy, they appreciated the pictures, and they appreciated, ultimately, that it reflected an opportunity for themselves to have both. 

<p>Rodin Eckenroth/Getty</p> Josh Gad

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

Josh Gad

What children’s books did you love growing up?
I think that the ones that really, really stayed with me were Where The Wild Things Are. I think that that was one of those books that I just came back to again and again. Anything Dr. Seuss was my go-to. The Berenstain Bears.

The one that I probably read the most, and it never stopped depressing me, so I'm not sure why I went back to it again and again, was The Giving Tree. I think [it] really guided my relationship with nature in a profound way at an early age. Those books that just are about something more than just fleeting things, those are the ones that stand the test of time.

You're a part of so many family films. Did working as an actor in these movies help you as an author in any way?

100%. I don't think I could have done this without having had the opportunity to tap into multiple properties that have had a large effect on kids, from the Frozen films, Beauty and the Beast to Angry Birds. There's been a real relationship where not only have I been able to engage with kids on screen, but I've been fortunate and blessed enough to carry that over into daily life.

Related: Luke Evans Says 'Beauty and the Beast' Disney+ Prequel Series is Still 'Gonna Happen' Despite Delay

<p>Steven Ferdman/Getty </p> Josh Gad

Steven Ferdman/Getty

Josh Gad

What did you learn about yourself as a writer while working on this book?
The thing that really struck me as I was writing is how less difficult it was than I thought it would be to tap into the voice of a child. I think I found that surprising because sometimes, like everyone else of my generation, I feel like we live in a very cynical world. I wasn't sure if I could still tap into the innocence of that childlike wonderment, which is ironic, because I do that for a living by playing Olaf [in Frozen]. He is the ultimate embodiment of childlike wonderment and innocence.

Creating that voice was a very eye-opening experience, and I think one that really surprised me in a great way. And then to have my kids give me a pat on the back and say, ‘Yes, this does feel authentic,’ was similarly wonderful.

Related: Josh Gad Helps Kids and Parents amid Coronavirus Outbreak by Hosting Reading of Children's Book

What do you hope that readers take away from this book?
We can't approach life in a bubble from either perspective. Parents are going to want to protect their children from the all-consuming reality of these devices and these media platforms. Kids are going to want to jump all into these platforms because they see their friends have them. Somewhere in the middle lies the happy medium that will allow kids to prosper and allow them to not resent their parents, and allow their parents to give them opportunities to strive without being all consumed by these devices.

<p>Koury Angelo</p> Josh Gad

Koury Angelo

Josh Gad

What are you reading now?
Right now I am actually so consumed with writing that I haven't had the time. But I have a list of books that I'm waiting to read. I'm very interested in reading Dune, which I've never read, but I was so inspired by the movies that I now want to pick that up. And The Three-Body Problem, I just bought a copy of.

Is there anything else you’d like to write one day?
I'm writing right now two passion projects that I can't yet talk about. One of them is in the film space and the other is in the book space. It's been such a joy trying my hand at different types of writing. I find it to be very therapeutic and I find it to be really, ultimately, very rewarding and very difficult.

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Writer's block is a real thing. Sometimes I'll just stare at the screen endlessly. But it's been very productive. It was also very funny because I was so consumed by five months of being on Broadway, which was truly something that didn't allow me much time to do anything else. It's now been like the floodgates have opened and I'm just using every minute of every day to catch up. 

PictureFace Lizzy
will be published on Sept. 17 and is now available for pre-order.

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