On September 27, 2022, Disney Hyperion will release Loud Mouse, a children’s book by teacher and author Cara Mentzel and her sister, Tony Award-winning Idina Menzel.
This 48-page picture book is about a little mouse who finds her loud voice. Dee loves to sing. She sings during her morning yoga practice. She even sings while practicing math. She usually sings to herself. But when her teacher asked everyone to share something with the class, Dee knew what to bring: a song. When Dee was singing out loud in front of her class for the first time, something unusual happened…
Featuring gorgeous illustrations, full of humor and love, Loud Mouse is a story about learning that sometimes your best self is great, brave, and yes, loud and smart.
the following. Read our exclusive interview with Idina Menzel and Cara Mentzel for this touching new story.
Read our review of the Loud Mouse here.
You are all mothers, Kara you have been a teacher for many years. How did these characters shape the direction of your storyline?
Kara: We looked at the social and emotional messages we wanted to send to our kids. We felt this book could be a good starting point for meaningful conversations about many things, including how we take up space in the world and how we deal with the consequences of being seen and heard, even though we love to be seen It’s hard to come and hear, because it makes us vulnerable. We question how we develop our identities and whose support and truth we seek in the process. These are the topics I know as a teacher and mother, and I would appreciate if there were texts to support in this kind of learning.
Idina: As moms we want to write a book, first of all we would love to read it with our kids, so our book has different aspects and we can identify different writers and illustrators we like. As a collaborator, for me, there is no one more willing to do this with me than my sister, who knows me better than anyone because of her perspective as a teacher, mom, and friend – especially in education aspect. Cara understands language, she is a literacy expert, understands language suitable for all ages, and is proficient in how to use metaphors, which is an interesting discovery for some children and children of parents. This allows us to write a book that unfolds as children develop and grow and at the different stages of their lives. This is important to us.
Some “mature” words are boldly expressed, such as LOUD, SYMBOLIZES, ENORMOUS, SPECTACULAR, FORTISSIMO. Your book is for 3-5 year olds, kindergarten to first grade, so is your intention to spark interest in learning new big words?
Kara: Definitely the intention. I want to create a love for languages. Children may be afraid of big words, but when they are read to them, they can love them rather than be afraid and come to understand.
Every teacher in this book has a characteristic that children will recognize, Miss Pink likes big words, Principal Hummingbird likes short words, and Mr. Temple, the music teacher, likes Italian words. Is there any intention to teach something specific about identifying a personality or trait?
Kara: Intention is part of character building. It’s like picking a hummingbird that’s really fast for the principal because I’m thinking of my principal running across the hall, really fast.
LOUD MOUSE perfectly embodies the physical and emotional characteristics of both of you. “The air in her lungs and the simplicity of her voice in the world makes her happy” makes Idina a soft spot for your singing in the first place, but you’re hesitant to use such a vibrant gift decision, and Kara you love your sister and encourage her to be herself and use this gift. Give me an example of how this works for you in real life.
Idina: There are many similarities there. My favorite first parallel is the friendship, loyalty and protection of the sisters – it’s very real and honest to us. We feel very protective of each other. I feel like our roles are sometimes interchanged. I’m older, but Kara tends to be the older soul to me. She was married and had children before me, so certain experiences in life came to her first and I turned to her for guidance. So, I think the Dee in our story feels like the sister in the book because the real sister Cara Lee has the best advice. I feel deep down that I have something special and a gift to share. I felt it at an early age. But it’s a horrible feeling for me. I am very conscious. I also don’t want to alienate others from me. I feel like when I share my voice it does alienate other kids or it draws scrutiny. My sister is always someone who looks up to me and supports me. This affects Kara and her development, and how she finds her life trajectory and her identity. We’ll delve into this in the sequel.
There are so many layers to this book, and I think on the surface, I want people to see this little mouse’s love of singing. I feel like the illustrator is able to show the excitement and joy I get 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 sharing those feelings is complicated. There are many similarities with us in the book. When I called Cara and shared my inspiration for an idea for a book, it was she who described it and put it in the first draft. It was so exciting for me to read this book for the first time because she got me because I have someone in the world who understands me like my sister. This is a gift in itself.
Is the address on the mailbox something special?137 Woodlake Avenue
Both: Yes, that’s where we grew up! Woodlake Avenue sounds like a good address for mice.
The humor in this book is very clever. Dee, who grew up singing, who would have thought that she would wipe her classmates’ paintings with her butt? What does this teach readers?
Idina: That’s Kara’s humor!
Kara: It’s just something I see in class!
You both dedicated Loud Mouse to your child.Can you share your favorites? Memories of Avery, Jack and Walker?
Kara: Well, this just happened the other day and we had a family text with my grandparents, Avery, Jack and my husband and I about what Avery should be wearing to the wedding. He’s not one to dress up, so this is one of my favorite memories.
Idina: Walker likes to scroll through my photos, so I kept wondering, what would he find? Walker used to love dinosaurs, so I thought I had a paleontologist on hand, but then he became interested in garbage trucks. There aren’t enough children’s books about garbage trucks. But my favorite memory of Walker is that I took him on tour and when we went to other countries and different time zones it was scary to me because I was trying to keep a good singing voice and be ready to perform but I would get up Being in many different time zones, was with him all night. Once in Japan, we got up in the middle of the night to watch a video. His circadian rhythm was out of order, it was late, I was delirious, and he was performing scenes, doing summer skydiving in my bed.
la La LA LOUD mentioned Dee’s vocals several times. Are you implying that a song related to LOUD MOUSE might be in the works?
Idina: Yes! I couldn’t help it. I feel like I want to write a theme song for this book. Cara was a little worried that it would be a little intimidating for parents who can’t sing and feel like they have to sing like me, but it’s just for inspiration. Anyone can sing the chorus any way they want.
BWW I think you opened that door with “let go”. I’ve heard so many horrible versions of this song, but we all sing it with our hearts! My favorite line is “Do you think stars can choose not to shine?” Which line from LOUD MOUSE is your favorite?
Idina: That’s mine too.
Kara: I also like that, “you’re always so loud and loud to me”.
Idina: I love too” Dee crawled into Mommy’s arms grateful She’s always able to do that”. Because it’s all about how we take up space. I think when my 13-year-old son falls asleep near me, I move him to my lap, kind of like a baby, but he Sleeping soundly so he doesn’t know because he’s going to be ashamed. Like, how big do they have to get before they say we don’t do that anymore? And I really like how Cara has to resize and all the points like Dee sang by the anthill, then ranunculus, then redwoods. When she got home, she was sad because the day didn’t go the way she planned. Here’s her take on all these different things. The poetry she wrote is just that kind of poetry that makes me proud of this book.
What do you want children to get from your story?
Idina: They can take away a lot – whatever that means to you, you have to be your biggest, best, boldest version of yourself because that’s the right thing to do. Your job as a person is to embrace what you love and do it. When we hide our gifts, we are harmful to the world.
The illustrations for this book are beautiful. I like to color. Can we expect a coloring book version?
Kara: We do have a downloadable version where you can download images and color them. I’ve produced a teacher’s companion lesson guide for drama scripts for teachers and music readers. You can download additional materials.
Can we expect a series of upcoming adventures from Dee and Cara Lee?
Both: The sequel will explore the adventures of little sister Cara Lee.
Idina, we know you have a children’s camp. How can our readers support Broadway?
Idina: Yes – www.abroaderway.org is for the young women we call the leaders of the future, for 12 and up, a year-round program that sends these young women to camp in the country, Get them out of the city, let art form and become a part of their lives, and amplify their own voices. It’s a 4-year recurring program, and once it’s done, they come back as advisors. We’ve been around long enough that some of our first-year young women have served on our board.