10/17/2007 at 08:00 AM EDT
Kids can say the meanest things. Just ask Julianne Moore.
Recalling her Omaha childhood, the flame-haired actress, 46, tells USA Today
, "When I was 7, the other kids called me 'Freckleface Strawberry.' I hated it. But they were just calling it like they saw it, even when they said things like, 'You look dirty,' and 'Can I smell them?' "
Ironically, Moore is using that schoolyard taunt for the title of her first children's book, the newly published Freckleface Strawberry
– with the moral being that people should accept and embrace how they look.
"I started it when my son was 7 and starting to notice how he looks," says Moore. "It's a sweet moment, but it's also an upsetting time – for the next 20 years or so, you can be obsessed by your big feet or your big teeth or your crazy hair – before you come out on the other end and say, 'I may not like parts of how I look, but there's not a whole lot I can do about it.' "
Asked how she feels about becoming one of a growing number of celebrity authors of children's books – a club that includes Madonna
, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Andrews and others – Moore says it leaves her red-faced.
"There's something slightly embarrassing about that," she says. "But I wanted to be published because I loved books as a kid and I love them now."
Moore dedicates the book to her "own not-so-freckled strawberries" – her children with director Bart Freundlich: Caleb, 9, and Liz, 5.
"I wrote it for them," she says. "In tone, Freckleface Strawberry
is more like my daughter than me. She has a lot more personality than I did at her age. She's more sure of herself. She's more of a spunky kid."