Kristi Yamaguchi won an Olympic gold medal in figure skating at the 1992 Games in France, and since then she’s written three children’s picture books that feature animal characters that ice skate. She’ll be on Long Island on Wednesday, Oct. 5, to read from her newest book, “Cara’s Kindness” (Sourcebooks, $16.99), at Barnes & Noble in Carle Place.
Newsday spoke with Yamaguchi, now 45, from her home in California. She talked about her family (she’s married to former professional hockey player Bret Hedican and they have two daughters, Keara, 12, and Emma, 10), whether she still skates (“just for fun”) and her books geared to kids ages 3 to 8.
What have you been doing since the 1992 Olympics?
I toured for 10 years with Stars on Ice. That was eight months out of the year basically living on the road, and I did various professional competitions as well through the ’90s, early 2000s. Then I settled down, got married, had a family.
And you won “Dancing With the Stars” in 2008.
It was very exciting. It was incredible to just be in that learning seat again and to have something to challenge myself with. It was exhausting, I do have to say that — mentally, physically, emotionally — but the experience was so fulfilling. It was just fun to perform again.
Do you still skate?
Just for fun, not consistently. Our younger daughter skates, the 10-year-old, so I’m at the rink a lot. Every now and then, I’ll try to get on the ice as my hobby now.
Why do all your books feature characters who ice skate?
It’s so much a part of my life and who I am. Not that these books are autobiographical at all. It makes sense if I have animals doing different activities and one happens to skate.
Your first two children’s books, “Dream Big, Little Pig!” (2011) and “It’s a Big World, Little Pig!” (2012), star a pig. Why a pig?
Poppy the pig is the main character in both of those. I’m a pig person. I’ve always loved pigs. They’ve kind of been my good luck animal throughout my life, I think because I was born in the Year of the Pig. I’ve always loved Miss Piggy and “Charlotte’s Web.” Poppy faces a lot of challenges in the first book — it’s kind of all about persevering and overcoming challenges. Poppy ended up finding skating in the first book and worked and worked at being a skater in the second book as well. The second book is called “It’s a Big World, Little Pig!” and Poppy has her first big international competition, so it’s about traveling far from home, meeting new people from all over the world. Allowing a smile to open the door to new friendships and realizing that no matter where we’re from, we’re more alike than we are different. I definitely had ideas for messages, and I always wanted to have some kind of moral-to-the-story kind of thing, even though it was a children’s picture book. I had pretty strong ideas of what I wanted to bring into the minds of young kids.
So why did you leave Poppy behind and focus on a cat this time?
I thought it was just time to move on to a new storyline, new characters. “Cara’s Kindness” is all about trying to just hammer home to kids that you can never be too kind, and kindness does count, and it can come full circle and come back to you. I think there are a lot of tough things going on in the world these days, but if we look out for one another it just makes the world a better place.
Does the audience at a reading usually ask about your 1992 Olympic gold medal?
Usually the kids are too young to know me from the Olympics. The parents do; sometimes they’ll ask questions. A lot of times there are skaters who come to the book signing so they’ll have questions as well, or the parents of skaters will. My Olympic medal is actually in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame. They have a nice setup with quite a bit of historical memorabilia from figure skaters.
Tell us about your Always Dream Foundation.
I have a foundation that actually focuses on early literacy, and really diving into that and realizing how important it is to get kids to love books. I’m the founder and “Head Dream Maker,” as we call ourselves. It kind of motivates me to provide some content.
Will you write more books?
At least one more, for sure.
WHAT Kristi Yamaguchi children’s book signing
WHEN | WHERE 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Barnes & Noble, Country Glen shopping center, 91 Old Country Rd., Carle Place
INFO Free, book is $16.99; 516-741-9850, bn.com