Meghan Markle's Children's Book Is An Ode To The Joys Of Fatherhood

The Duchess of Sussex released her first book, 'The Bench,' days after the birth of her second child, Lilibet Diana.

NEW YORK (AP) — The first children’s book by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is a multicultural tribute to fatherhood.

“The Bench,” a picture story published Tuesday by Random House Children’s Books, celebrates the bond between Meghan’s husband Prince Harry and son Archie and fathers and sons in general. Markle’s rhyming narrative is complemented by illustrator Christian Robinson’s watercolor images, showing families of different skin colors and backgrounds, from a light-skinned soldier returning home (Harry served in Afghanistan) to a dark-skinned man in dreadlocks, from a boy carrying a soccer trophy to a boy and his father wearing pink tutus.

Fathers are seen as buddies, teachers, consolers and cheerleaders. Random House calls the book a portrait of “the special relationship between fathers and sons, through a mother’s eyes.” The image of the bench serves as a symbol of stability and comfort, starting with a drawing of Harry holding his baby son on a bench, two dogs nearby.

Markle’s opening stanza:

“This is your bench

Where life will begin

For you and our son

Our baby, our kin”

The book’s jacket describes Meghan, the actor formerly known as Meghan Markle, as “a mother, wife, feminist, and activist,” committed to “activating compassion in communities across the world. She currently resides in her home state of California with her family, two dogs, and a growing flock of rescue chickens.” In announcing “The Bench” last month, she said it began as a Father’s Day poem written a month after Archie’s birth, in 2019.

“That poem became this story,” said Meghan, who dedicated the book to “the man and the boy who made my heart go pump-pump.”

Publication of “The Bench” comes four days after the birth of the couple’s second child, Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, named in part for Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose family nickname is Lilibet, and his late mother, Princess Diana. Meghan was pregnant with Lilibet while working on the book and the final illustration shows Harry and Archie, now a toddler, at the family’s chicken coop. Meghan is in the garden on the opposite page, wearing a sun hat, holding an infant in a sling.

Her final stanza:

“Right there on your bench

The place you’ll call home

With daddy and son

Where you’ll never be ’lone”

Meghan and Harry announced last year they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, their reasons including the racist attitudes of the British media. In a TV interview in March with Oprah Winfrey, they described unnervering comments about how dark Archie’s skin might be before his birth and Meghan talked about isolation so intense she contemplated suicide.

The British press so far has offered a mixed verdict on her book. The Telegraph labeled it “The Duchess of Sussex’s semi-literate vanity project” while the Evening Standard called her writing “soothing, loving, although a little schmaltzy in places.”

“The biggest statement to the family the Sussexes have left behind comes from the line ‘You’ll tell him “I love you”, Those words always spoken,’” reviewer Emily Phillips writes in the Evening Standard. “While Harry’s father Prince Charles famously once said, ‘whatever in love means’ about his new bride Diana, we’re being told that Harry will be telling their children he loves them a million times a day just like the rest of us.”

"The Bench"
Random House
Meghan Markle published "The Bench" on June 8, 2021. With art from Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson, the Duchess of Sussex noted that the book started off as a poem she wrote for Prince Harry.

She said, "The Bench started as a poem I wrote for my husband on Father’s Day, the month after Archie was born. That poem became this story. Christian layered in beautiful and ethereal watercolor illustrations that capture the warmth, joy, and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life; this representation was particularly important to me, and Christian and I worked closely to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens. My hope is that The Bench resonates with every family, no matter the makeup, as much as it does with mine.”
"The Gruffalo"
In 2018, Prince William chatted with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, the author and illustrator of the children’s book "The Gruffalo," at a Tusk Trust event and reportedly told them the book was "a big hit" in his household.
"Duck! Rabbit!"
In May 2020, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry shared a sweet video of the Duchess of Sussex reading "Duck! Rabbit!" (written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld) to their son Archie on the Save the Children UK Instagram account.
"Room On The Broom"
While visiting an ice cream parlor in Wales in February 2020, Prince William reacted to a child reading "Room on the Broom" byJulia Donaldson. "I read this to our children all the time!" he said and then recalled meeting the author. "I said, 'Do you realize how many parents you have saved at bedtime?'"
"Guess How Much I Love You"
Princess Eugenie referred to "Guess How Much I Love You" by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram as her favorite book in a special video reading for her mother's YouTube channel in April 2020.
"Is Your Mama A Llama"
In the video of Markle reading "Duck! Rabbit!" to Archie, the baby royal was also seen grabbing another favorite book, "Is Your Mama A Llama?" written by Deborah Guarino and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.
"Winnie-the-Pooh"
Prince Harry reportedly gifted his nephew Prince Louis a first edition of A. A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh" to celebrate his christening in 2018.
"Harry Potter"
In a 2018 BBC One documentary marking Prince Charles' 70th birthday, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, revealed that her husband loves to read the "Harry Potter" series to his grandchildren and does different voices for the characters.
"Mommy Hugs"
The video of Markle and Archie reading "Duck! Rabbit!" also showed they have a copy of "Mommy Hugs" by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben.
"Xtraordinary People"
In March 2021, Princess Beatrice narrated a dyslexia-themed children's book called "Xtraordinary People" by Kate Griggs. "It's no secret that I struggled with my dyslexia as a child and often even wished it away. But now I see it as a tremendous gift, and I want every dyslexic child to know that they, too, can tap into their dyslexic strengths," she said of the book.
"The Giving Tree"
Markle named "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein a book she couldn't "wait to share" with her future children during a round of rapid-fire interview questions in 2016.
"Hospital By The Hill"
Prince Harry wrote a personal forward for Chris Connaughton's "Hospital by the Hill," a children's book for kids who've lost parents or other loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. “While I wish I was able to hug you right now, I hope this story is able to provide you comfort in knowing that you’re not alone," he wrote. "When I was a young boy I lost my mum. At the time I didn’t want to believe it or accept it, and it left a huge hole inside of me. I know how you feel, and I want to assure you that over time that hole will be filled with so much love and support."
"The Little Prince"
Markle's now-defunct blog The Tig featured a 2016 post called "Badass Reading List," which included "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. "Even if I don’t revisit the entire existential text (masked as a children’s book), the chapter of The Little Fox unearths a truth in me that is always worth the check-in," she wrote.
"Little Red"
Simon and Schuster
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, has written several children's books, including her "Little Red" series. Illustrated by Sam Williams, the books follow a redheaded rag doll and her adventures with friends.

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