Daily Press (Sunday)

Odenkirk, daughter Erin turn their zany poems into a children’s book

- By Krysta Fauria

Bob Odenkirk has known he wanted to immortaliz­e the playful poems he created with his kids since they were first scribbled down years ago.

The Emmy-nominated actor always assumed

“Zilot & Other Important Rhymes,” now available, would be a project he completed once his son and daughter had long been out of the house. “Maybe when I was a grandpa,” he mused.

But when the entire family hunkered down under the same roof for the better part of 2020, he and his daughter, Erin, the younger of the siblings, wanted to create something that fosters wonder and joy in children in the midst of abundant despair.

“We tried to make the most of the limitation­s, the situation. But you know, that was a hard time for everyone in the country,” Bob Odenkirk recalled of the pandemic. “Erin’s an illustrato­r and an artist.

And I thought, ‘Let’s just get to work on that book.’ ”

So they dusted off the whimsical rhymes they had collaborat­ed on nearly two decades ago.

Odenkirk added some new ones, and his daughter, who was remotely finishing up studies at New York’s Pratt Institute, enveloped her bedroom wall with

her father’s poems as she sought inspiratio­n for accompanyi­ng artwork during study breaks.

“I’d put them on my closet door right by my desk. And I had this wall of pages,” said Erin Odenkirk, now 22. “Every day, I’d pull like two or three down, and I’d try to do a sketch.”

They look back fondly on that time of collaborat­ion. But they both admit the process was not without challenges.

“There’s tension there. I mean, think of any business partner or any project partner you’ve ever had,” Bob Odenkirk said. “You’re trying to make choices and decisions together. And in this case, you kind of can’t leave, both because there’s a pandemic and because you’re in a family together.”

Overall, however, they say the experience brought

them closer and helped them get to know each other in new ways.

“Zilot & Other Important Rhymes” — a title inspired by a word meaning “fort” that Odenkirk’s son made up as a child — shows a distinct amount of respect for its young readers, not shying away from daunting words and concepts like bacteria and climate change. Odenkirk said this was in keeping with his philosophy as a parent when he was raising young children.

“I’m not trying to be overly complex, but not being afraid to use language that was a little more complex and refined than most people talk to their kids with,” he said. “I want kids to be comfortabl­e around words and feel that they can use them and maybe even make a mistake, use them wrong and learn and then not feel embarrasse­d.”

Though he has of late opted for more dramatic roles — he starred in the hit series “Breaking Bad” and in its spinoff, “Better Call Saul” — Odenkirk spent much of his career as a writer (winning two Emmys) and actor in sketch comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”

His daughter said she is grateful for her dad’s encouragem­ent to pursue a career as an artist — something she is now doing in Brooklyn following her recent graduation.

But she also had to navigate growing up in a creative household with strong opinions.

“I’m a pretty sensitive person, and I think I struggled at a certain point with having my own sense of taste,” she said.

“It was a funny mix of encouragem­ent and also a very quick developmen­t of taste that could sometimes be inhibiting.”

Her dad said: “Honestly, I think kids who grow up in Hollywood tend to have a more realistic sense of the business than kids who don’t. They have this interestin­g gift of belief that it’s possible and also a sense that it’s not as glamorous or as without care as it might look like from a distance.”

 ?? DREW GURIAN/INVISION ?? Bob and Erin Odenkirk, seen Oct. 5, have released the book “Zilot & Other Important Rhymes.”
DREW GURIAN/INVISION Bob and Erin Odenkirk, seen Oct. 5, have released the book “Zilot & Other Important Rhymes.”

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