Channing Tatum on the 'emotional, creative warfare’ of raising kids, new Sparkella book

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Three years and three books into his Sparkella children’s book series, and Channing Tatum hasn’t lost any of his sparkle. His heroine, however, has lost a little of hers – by telling a lie to her best friend.

“Man, when you’re raising kids, there’s all these giant life lessons,” the "Magic Mike" actor tells USA TODAY. “There’s a hundred thousand lessons a day that they’re experiencing.”

Experimenting with lies and learning the impact they have is the lesson explored in Tatum’s latest book, “The One and Only Sparkella and the Big Lie” (Feiwel & Friends, 48 pp., out now), a series about a creative, glitter-bedazzled girl and her supportive father inspired by Tatum’s own 10-year-old daughter, Everly “Evie” Tatum, whom he shares with ex-wife Jenna Dewan.

The One and Only Sparkella and the Big Lie at Amazon for $17

The One and Only Sparkella and the Big Lie at Bookshop for $19

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In the book, which is colorfully illustrated by Kim Barnes, Sparkella is desperate to impress a new friend on their first playdate. Worried that he won’t like her toys, she “borrows” her best friend’s remote-controlled car without telling her. When her friend discovers the car is missing, she becomes distraught. The longer Sparkella holds back the truth, the bigger the lie grows and the worse she feels.

"The One and Only Sparkella and the Big Lie," by Channing Tatum; illustrated by Kim Barnes.
"The One and Only Sparkella and the Big Lie," by Channing Tatum; illustrated by Kim Barnes.

The idea was inspired by a conversation Tatum had with a teacher about how children start to experiment with lying around age 5, and he remembered the first time his daughter told a lie. “She stole something and just didn’t know what to do with herself,” Tatum says. “She called me in late at night after I told her to go to bed, and she’s just a wreck, almost sick to her stomach. She was like, ‘You’re going to be so mad at me, you’re going to call the police.’”

Evie, like Sparkella, needed some convincing from Dad that everything would be OK if she just told the truth. “Once she told me, she felt so much better,” Tatum says. “She really did learn the lesson that holding it is way worse than telling the truth and apologizing. It’s a freeing thing.”

Sparkella and Evie aren’t the only ones learning lessons. Tatum, 43, is growing as he parents his daughter.

“I learn stuff every single day from Evie. I just learned a big, giant lesson,” Tatum says. “She’s doing Irish Celtic dance right now, she’s doing dance competitions. I played football for 10 years, and my way of getting better at something and practicing is really militant and intense. And Evie just more of an artist. She’s a bit more free.”

When Evie mentioned needing to get her kicks higher, Tatum immediately started to make intense training plans. Evie stopped him: “Dad, sometimes I think you’re a little hard on me with this stuff,” she said, and Tatum thanked her for telling him.

“They just teach you. You gotta listen,” Tatum says.

Though he has embraced his role with relish, posing in tutus and headbands and building brightly colored playhouses for his daughter on Instagram, Tatum has had to do a lot of listening and growing as a girl's dad. He recalls the first time he spent time with a friend’s son who was around his daughter’s age and being struck by how much easier it was to play with him.

“All he wanted to do was take pillows off the couch and dive into them, dig a hole in the backyard, that was it. He didn’t want to do anything else,” Tatum says. “And I was like: ‘That’s all? That’s it?’ I’m in mental, emotional, creative warfare with my daughter every single second of the day. I’m playing 17 characters in a make-believe story, I’m playing dress-up, I’m doing all of the things.”

But Tatum’s grateful for the experience and for the ways it challenges him. “She’s taught me a softness I probably never would have had if I’d had a boy,” Tatum says. “If I had a boy I’d probably be even more afraid, because my dad was very hard on me, and I wouldn’t have known how to be soft with him. I think that probably would have been a harder journey.”

The One and Only Sparkella and the Big Lie at Amazon for $17

The One and Only Sparkella and the Big Lie at Bookshop for $19

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Channing Tatum talks 'Sparkella,' lessons learned from his daughter