“Kid Stew” debuted on PBS in 2018. The show, created by best-selling author James Patterson, bills itself as “by kids, about kids and for kids.” Through sketches, interviews, music and guided activities, the program inspires young viewers to broaden artistic horizons and pursue whatever it is they care about most, whether painting, singing, dancing, writing or any other form of expression.
An instant success, “Kid Stew” claimed five Emmy awards for its first season, with critics praising its genuinely positive outlook, minimalist production and throwback style as forming the ideal foundation for its quest to foster creativity in children.
One of the myriad ways in which Patterson’s near-universal name recognition benefits the program is his ability to attract top-tier authors, artists and musicians to interview with the show’s young hosts.
Among the first to appear this season is Hailey resident and best-selling author Ridley Pearson.
Pearson has had success as both an author of adult fiction—especially suspense novels—and books for younger readers. He has especially gained recognition for his ongoing, seven-volume series “Kingdom Keepers,” which is commissioned by Disney.
The series follows a group of young teens responsible for preserving Walt Disney World from the mischief and evil of some of Disney’s most iconic villains, who seek to dominate the theme park.
The books all take place in the park at night when it has closed down. Pearson is famous for his meticulous attention to detail and dedication to authenticity, so, thanks to some commendable finagling, he managed to secure permission to research his topic firsthand, becoming the envy of adults and children alike.
“My job as a writer of fiction is to suspend a reader’s disbelief,” Pearson said. “The best way to do that is to write the truth. I do tons of research and roll it all up into a meatball of a story.”
In the case of his “Kingdom Keepers” series, as viewers of “Kid Stew” will learn, research means gaining exclusive access to Disney World after hours, enjoying rides by himself and soaking in the abandoned park’s “spooky” atmosphere.
“The way I write both adult and younger fiction, I do a lot of research so that I can install a great deal of fact into the story,” he said. “So, I’ve worked in Disney parks 31 times. I’m the only novelist they’ve ever allowed to do all of this, and what a lucky guy I am.”
When writing a crime thriller or mystery for adults, getting details correct is important, but it is not nearly as paramount as it is when writing for children.
“They’re far harsher critics,” Pearson said. “An adult reader of a crime novel will read it once and if I’m lucky will pass it to a friend. Younger readers read it over and over. They own your work, become your characters, live for those characters. Those characters do something every day in their minds.”
Given that pressure and attention to detail on the reader’s part, then, the author must double his efforts to suspend disbelief. He mentioned how young readers will even call out an inconsistencies in the way magic works in some stories, so getting everything just right is vital.
“Everything has to work,” Pearson said. “For younger readers, it’s less escapist entertainment as it is immersion in a world.”
When asked to do an interview for PBS, Pearson assented readily enough, but he said he did not get truly excited until he learned that it was for “Kid Stew.”
“I was thrilled to do ‘Kid Stew,’” he said. “It’s all about getting kids excited about words and reading and being an active participant in life, not just a screen-viewer. This is a big passion of mine.”
Pearson spoke to the importance of literacy and in encouraging young people to engage with books.
“I write to entertain, so I write at a level to engage as many kids as I can so they keep reading, but I don’t care if they read me or James Patterson or whatever—I just want them to read,” he said.
“Kids ask me what the most important thing to do is to become a writer, and I always tell them the same thing—read.”
Pearson stressed literacy in all areas of life, though, not just in becoming a successful author.
“The more educated you are, the more adapted you are for any workplace and the better your life is going to be,” he said.
Pearson’s interview on “Kid Stew” touches upon the importance of literacy, and for many children, Pearson will appear the best-case scenario: Read and write as much as possible and, maybe, get exclusive access to “the happiest place on earth.”
The new season of “Kid Stew” will premiere on Idaho Public Television at 9 a.m. on June 30 and continue every Sunday. Pearson’s interview will air during the second episode, on July 7.
For more information about “Kid Stew” and to stream full episodes, visit pbs.org/show/kid-stew.
Visit ridleypearson.com to learn more about the Hailey-based author and his vast catalogue of books for all ages.