Tonya Lewis Lee

Talks About Reading

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The acclaimed film director Spike Lee and his wife, writer and producer, Tonya Lewis Lee have collaborated on a new children's book, Please, Baby, Please. The book explores a day in the life of a mischievous 2-year-old and is illustrated by artist Kadir Nelson. You can hear Spike Lee read Please, Baby, Please aloud as part of's "Just for Me" series of online storybooks. asked Tonya Lewis Lee about writing the book and about the books she and her husband read to their two children.

What inspired this story?

Our youngest child was 2, so we were going through the terrible 2's. We spoke to other parents about it, which made us appreciate that we were not alone and that this was a special time in our lives. I thought it might be fun to document the challenges and the joys of raising a 2-year-old.

Did other books also inspire you?

I looked at a few books that were out there at the time, including some that addressed similar themes. I then started thinking about how to put out a new book about an African-American child that was a book about all children really.

What made you both want to write it together?

Since we were both going through this experience together, it was fun for us to come together to work on the book about it. I also have to say, we could never have written Please, Baby, Please today. Everything about that time seems so different from our lives now. We were really in the moment.

Would you describe how you wrote it? What was the process?

I did a first draft and passed it to Spike. Then he passed it back, and we went back and forth with it for a while. It was a good way for us to work, and the only way, really, between raising two kids and the demands of work.

What do you hope parents and children will take away from this book?

We hope they will enjoy sharing it, and they'll see themselves in the book and laugh about their day together. I hope they will recognize that we all go through this kind of tug of war, but at the end of the day it's all about love.

What books did your parents read to you as a child?

I remember books by Ezra Jack Keats: Peter's Chair, Whistle for Willie, and The Snowy Day. Also The Carrot Seed and books by Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss. We've read these to our kids, too. I think the books you were read as a child are usually the first ones you read to your own kids.

Did your children have any favorite books?

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and More More More, Said the Baby. Satchel loved that one most. I don't know how many times we read it to her when she was younger. We'd suggest another book, and she'd say, "No. More more more said the baby."
Jackson really liked Whistle for Willie because he thought the boy in the story looked like him.

Do you intend to write any other books?

I'd like to do another picture book. I'd love to get into intermediate books, too--the books kids have when they are just starting to read and a bit beyond.

So far, what has been your favorite part of being a parent?

It's the unconditional love that our kids give. That's the best part.

Photo by Peter Simon