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Interview: Idina Menzel and Cara Mentzel Talk About Their New Children's Book LOUD MOUSE

Interview: Idina Menzel and Cara Mentzel Talk About Their New Children's Book LOUD MOUSE

Disney Hyperion released 'Loud Mouse' on September 27, 2022.

Interview: Idina Menzel and Cara Mentzel Talk About Their New Children's Book LOUD MOUSE

Disney Hyperion has released 'Loud Mouse'- a children's book from teacher and writer Cara Mentzel and her sister, Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel.

The 48-page picture book is all about a little mouse finding her big voice. Dee loves to sing. She sings during her morning yoga. She even sings while practicing her math facts. She usually sings to herself. But when her teacher asks everyone to share something with the class, Dee knows just what to bring: a song. And as Dee sings la, la, la, la, LOUDly in front of her class for the first time, something extraordinary happens...

Complete with gorgeous illustrations and filled with humor and heart, Loud Mouse is a clever tale about learning that sometimes your best self is big, brave, and yes, loud.

Below. read our exclusive interview with Idina Menzel & Cara Mentzel about this heartwarming new story.

Read our review of Loud Mouse here.

You are both mothers, and Cara you have been a teacher for many years. How did those roles shape the direction of your storyline?

Cara: We looked at what social and emotional messages we wanted to send to children. We felt this book could be a good jumping-off point for meaningful conversations about a number of things, including how we take up space in the world, and how we handle the ramifications of being seen and heard, although we love to be seen and heard, it's difficult because it makes us vulnerable. We questioned how we develop our identity and who do we look to for support and truth in that process. These are the themes I know as a teacher and a mother that I would appreciate having a text to look to for support in that kind of learning.

Idina: As moms we wanted to write a book that would be one we would love to read with our kids first of all, so there are different aspects to our book that we could pinpoint to different writers and illustrators that we love. As collaborators, for me, there isn't anyone I would rather do this with than my sister because of her perspective as a teacher and a mom and friend, someone that knows me better than anyone else - but especially the educational aspect. Cara understands language, she is a literacy expert, understanding language for all age appropriateness with proficiency in how to use metaphor in a way that would be a fun discovery for certain kids with their parents. This enabled us to write a book that unfolds as a child develops and grows and goes through different stages of their lives. That was important to us.

Several "grown up" words are emboldened such as LOUD, SYMBOLIZES, ENORMOUS, SPECTACULAR, FORTISSIMO. Your book is aimed at 3-5-year-olds, kindergarten to first grade, so were your intentions to trigger an interest in learning new, big words?

Cara: Absolutely that was the intention. I wanted to create a love for language. Kids can be afraid of big words but when they are being read to them, they can just love them and not be afraid and grow to understand.

Each teacher in this book has a characteristic that children can identify, Miss Pink's fondness for big words, Principal Hummingbird's fondness for short words, and music teacher Mr. Dimple's fondness for Italian words. Was there an intention there to teach something specific on recognizing personalities or characteristic traits?

Cara: The intention was a part of character building. Like picking a hummingbird who is very fast as a principal because I'm thinking of my principal running through the halls, very speedy.

LOUD MOUSE beautifully carries over the physical and emotional characterizations of you both. "The simple feeling of the air in her lungs and her voice in the world made her happy", right off the bat lends itself to Idina your love of singing, yet your hesitation using such a dynamic gift, and Cara your love for your sister and encouragement for her to be herself and use that gift. Give me an example of how that played out in real life for you.

Idina: There is a lot of parallels there. The first parallel I love the most is the camaraderie, loyalty, and protectiveness of the sisters - that is very truthful and honest for us. We feel very protective of one another. I feel like our roles swap sometimes. I am older but Cara has often been the older soul to me. She was married and had kids before me so certain experiences in life came first to her and I looked to her for her guidance. So, I think Dee in our story feels like the younger sister in this book because Cara Lee the actual younger sister has the best advice. I felt deep down I had something special and a gift to share. I felt that at a very young age. But that was a scary feeling for me. I was very self-conscious. I also didn't want to alienate others from me. I felt that when I did share my voice it did alienate other kids or that it invited scrutiny. My sister was always the one looking up to me and supporting me. This affected Cara and her development and how she found her trajectory in life and her own identity. We'll delve into this more in our sequel book.

There are layers to this book, and I guess at face value I want people to see the love of singing this little mouse has. I feel like the illustrator was able to project the euphoria and joy I have when I sing and how good that feels. But what happens to us when things feel good - other things in life make feeling good uncomfortable and it's complicated to share those feelings. There are so many parallels to us in the book. When I called Cara and shared my inspiration for the idea of a book, it was her that delineated it and put it in the first draft. It was very emotional for me to read it the first time because she got me, and because I had someone in the world like my sister who understood me. That in itself is a gift.

Is the address on the mailbox a special place? 137 Woodlake Drive

Both: Yes that is where we grew up! Woodlake Drive sounded like a good address for a mouse.

The humor is very clever in this book. Who thought of Dee erasing a classmate's drawing with her butt when she grew so big while singing? What does that teach the reader?

Idina: That's Cara's humor!

Cara: It's just something I could see happening in the classroom!

You both dedicated the Loud Mouse to your children. Can you share a favoriteInterview: Idina Menzel and Cara Mentzel Talk About Their New Children's Book LOUD MOUSE memory with Avery, Jake, and Walker?

Cara: Well this just happened the other day where we had a family text with grandparents, Avery, Jake and my husband and I over which outfit Avery should wear to a wedding. He's not a dress-up kind of guy so that is one of my favorite memories.

Idina: Walker likes to scroll through my photos so I'm always thinking, what's he going to find? Walker used to love dinosaurs, so I thought I had a paleontologist on my hands but then he developed a love of garbage trucks. There aren't enough children's books about garbage trucks. But my favorite memory with Walker is I took him on tour with me and when we went to other countries and various time zones it was horrible for me because I was trying to maintain a good singing voice and be ready to perform but I would be up all night with him because of being in so many different times zones. One time in Japan we were up watching videos in the middle of the night. His circadian rhythm was off, it was very late, and I was delirious, and he was acting out scenes and doing summersaults on my bed.

la La LA LOUD is mentioned several times relating to Dee's singing. Are you hinting at a possible song in the making relating to LOUD MOUSE?

Idina: Yes! I couldn't hold back. I felt like I wanted to write a theme song for the book. Cara is a bit concerned it will be a little intimidating for non-singing parents who will feel they have to sing it like me but it's just to inspire. Anybody can sing the refrain any way they want.

BWW I think you opened that door with, "Let It Go." I have heard so many horrible versions of that song, but we all sing it with our hearts! My favorite line is "Do you think a star can choose not to shine?" What is your favorite line from LOUD MOUSE?

Idina: That's mine as well.

Cara: I like that one too and also, "You've always been big and loud to me".

Idina: I also love "Dee climbed into her mother's arms grateful she would always be able to do so". Because everything is so about how we take up space. I think when my 13-year-old son falls asleep somewhat near me I kind of move him over towards my lap, kind of like a baby but he's sound asleep so he doesn't know, because he'd be mortified. It's like, how big do they have to get before they say we are not doing that anymore? And I really love the references Cara had to size and all the perspectives like when Dee is singing and walking by the anthill and then the buttercups and then the redwoods. Then when she's walking home, she's sad because the day didn't go the way she planned It's her perspective on all these different things. There is just such poetry in what she wrote that makes me proud of the book.

What do you want children to take away from your story?

Idina: There's a lot they can take away - you've got to be the biggest, best, boldest version of yourself whatever that means to you because that is the right thing to do. It is your job as a human being to embrace what you love and do that. We do a disservice to the world when we hide our gifts.

The book is so beautifully illustrated. I love to color. Can we anticipate a coloring book version?

Cara: We do have a downloadable version and you can download images and color them. I made a teacher's companion guide of lessons for teachers and a musical reader's theater script. There are additional materials you can download.

Can we look forward to a book series of upcoming adventures from Dee and Cara Lee?

Both: The sequel will explore little sister Cara Lee's adventures.

Idina, we know you have a children's camp. How can our readers support A BroaderWay?

Idina: Yes - is for young women, we call them future leaders, for ages 12 and up and it's a year-round program sending these young women to camp up in the country, getting them out of the city and letting the arts form and be a part of their lives and to amplify their own voices. It's a cyclical program that is a 4-year program and once they go through that they come back and be counselors. We have been around long enough now that some of our first-year young women are serving on our board.

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On September 27, 2022, Disney Hyperion will release 'Loud Mouse'- a children's book from teacher and writer Cara Mentzel and her sister, Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel.