It’s no coincidence that the peppy protagonist of Julianne Moore’s three children’s books bears her embarrassing childhood nickname, "Freckleface Strawberry."
Rather than retire the moniker after she graduated from childhood, Moore -- who, for the record, still despises her freckles -- wrote children’s books that encourage kids to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Now, the actress, author and mother of two has released the Freckleface stories as e-books and as part of a new iPad app. In the app, kids can create their own "monsters" -- imaginary characters that are "emblematic of what a child’s inner life is," Moore told HuffPost in an interview. "I was somebody who was not athletic. I was highly imaginative; I loved to read, and I loved nothing more than being in a story. ... I didn’t want to play ball; I wanted to imagine something and read something. That’s who the monster is."
Moore said she hopes the app is "sweet and educational and fun" rather than game-like.
"When the computer and tablets are all about playing games, that’s not interesting to me. I don’t want them to have access to that kind of stuff all the time. I want there to be other things on there," she said.
The Freckleface Strawberry books do deal directly with teasing -- but they’re not necessarily about "bullying," Moore said. She takes great interest in the national debate on the topic and is intrigued by the argument Emily Bazelon makes in her new book, Sticks and Stones.
"Certainly Freckleface Strawberry is not bullied," Moore said, explaining that the "Dodgeball Bully" who plays a title role in one of her stories -- a boy called Windy Pants Patrick who is scarily good at getting other kids "out" with the ball -- isn’t really aggressive; he’s just misunderstood. "I don’t perceive [Windy Pants Patrick] as a bully; I perceive him as someone who people think is a bully. The thing about Dodgeball is that Windy Pants Patrick is misperceived by [Freckleface Strawberry]. And they eventually become best friends."
"One of the things [Bazelon] posits in her book is the idea that this bullying label has become sort of a huge thing, and -- it’s not specific enough. Because within childhood behaviors, there are known behaviors; there’s teasing and there’s name-calling, and different kinds of things happen as kids start to socialize. And then there’s serious bullying, and then there’s actual aggression and behavioral problems. But you can’t put it all under the tent of bullying. You can’t call it that because that’s not what it is."
Moore notes that the inspiration for the books actually came from her son, who felt self-conscious about the way he looked -- specifically, his ears and "big teeth" -- after he got a haircut at age 7.
"It’s a time I think that’s critical in child development, where they suddenly see themselves as individual."
When her kids did get teased or felt left-out, Moore said they found her parenting style frustrating. "They would come home and they would say, 'So-and-so is being mean,' and I’d say, 'Really, are they being mean, or you think someone’s being really mean to them? Let’s try to source the problem.' They’d be like, 'Mooom.'"
In her own case, Moore said, it wasn’t just teasing that made her uncomfortable about her freckles as a kid -- she despised them all on her own. "Kids hate anything that makes them feel different; at the time I was living in an environment where everybody got a tan and had blond skin, and I was like, ugh, why can’t I look like that? I think every human being has stuff that they feel that way about."
In her experience raising a girl and a boy, Moore said she hasn't noticed that either gender is more sensitive to the pressures of growing up than the other.
"I don’t know that I could make differences in terms of gender, but I think you could make differences in terms of children. Every child is so different. Their experience growing up and their experience relating to the world has so much to do with their temperament, and their likes and their dislikes."
Also on HuffPost, via Positively Positive: