Proud Mouse by Cara Mentzel, Idina Menzel, and Jaclyn Sinquett

Happy, happy today! I've had an absolute BLAST sharing Cara Mentzel, Idina Menzel, and Jaclyn Sinquett's Loud Mouse during school visits and professional development presentations with students and teachers, so you can imagine how EXCITED I am they stopped by to finish my sentences. We discussed Proud Mouse, music, picture books, Jaclyn Sinquett's illustrations, and more. I wrote the words in purple, Cara wrote the words in black, Idina wrote the words in green, and Jaclyn wrote the words in orange. Thank you, Cara, Idina, and Jaclyn! 

Proud Mouse
tells the story
of Cara Lee, a little sister who is very proud of Dee, her talented, big, and loud sister. So proud, in fact, she wishes she had bigger paws to clap with. On Cara Lee’s first day of school, it seems everyone wants to know if she is just like Dee, and Cara Lee doesn’t know. But she is a mouse full of curiosity and when it’s suggested that sometimes it can be easier to see yourself clearly if you stand alone, Cara Lee heads out into the forest to do just that. Proud Mouse depicts the challenge of sibling differentiation as a beautiful and welcome adventure. In the end, our little mice sisters learn that sibling pride is a quality they both share.

Jaclyn Sinquett’s illustrations are what Miss Pink (who has a fondness for big words) would call “breathtaking” and Principal Hummingbird (who has a fondness for short ones), would call “fab.” Jaclyn captures the authentic dynamic between the sisters and the beauty of the natural environment in which Cara Lee finds strength and clarity. The palette is stunning, but my favorite part of the illustrations is that they are peppered with quirky details that readers will only discover after reading Proud Mouse over and over and over again. (Hint: check out Mr. Dimple’s pants!)

Picture books—good ones—are pure gold. You know they’re gold from the get-go, but chip away at any nugget and you find more gold.

Loud Mouse is a story based on my experience as a child with a big, loud, voice. I wanted to be seen and heard, but was uncomfortable with the vulnerability that was a necessary part of that process. In Loud Mouse, readers get to see Dee, that’s what some people call me, navigate this dynamic. Dee has to be brave, she leans on family and friends, and ultimately, she makes a choice to be herself–”I mean, who else would you be?” says her little sister, Cara Lee.

Music is one of my first loves. It’s my go-to form of self-expression, both melodically and lyrically. Now, as a children’s book author, music is part of my writing voice. The refrains in Loud Mouse and Proud Mouse can help children connect with our characters and, as my sister, teacher and co-author of the books would say, music helps early readers access and engage with print. We’ve also written a fun full-length song, The Loud Mouse Song, that accompanies the book, so take a listen on Spotify or wherever you listen.

Picture books exemplify the synergy of the arts. In a picture book, the language and images complement each other, they work interdependently to tell a story, share a message, convey feelings. The choices we make as authors and illustrators are about how best to weave these tools together to speak to the human experience in children, but also to the child in each of us.

Proud Mouse’s cover was so much fun to paint. I remember really hoping to capture the glittery magic of the golden hour lighting back when I was doing sketches. The cover for Loud Mouse was all about Dee shining, backlit by a glowing moon and purple-blue night sky dotted with stars. I needed to recreate that sparkle! For Cara Lee, I wanted the greens and golds of the forest to really sing about her own special brand of magic.

Cara and Idina are so inspiring to work with. I can’t express how lucky I feel to have had this opportunity to illustrate Loud Mouse and Proud Mouse. I think Rent-obsessed High School me would go into shock if I told her I’d so much as spoken to Idina Menzel, and discovering Cara’s writing has been such a blessing. Working with them and the incredible team at Disney Books has definitely been a shining highlight of my illustration career.

Picture books are so special. Somewhere right now, a kiddo might be reading a book I illustrated. Maybe it’s even their favorite book. Maybe it’s a book they read every night! I can’t think of anything more humbling or motivating than that very thought. I hope my art tells stories that teach kids to connect with the world and with themselves, and maybe hopefully also makes them laugh. I’d love that.

Thank you, Cara, Idina, and Jaclyn! 

Cara Mentzel's debut memoir, Voice Lessons: A Sisters Story, about her relationship with her superstar sister, Idina Menzel (yes, they spell their last names differently), was a Good Reads Choice Award nominee in 2017. Cara lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she and her husband raised their Brady Bunch of boys against the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. She has a master's degree in elementary education with an emphasis on children's literacy, and though she currently spends most of her time writing, she enjoyed teaching elementary school for well over a decade and can occasionally be found back in the classroom talking about books she loves.

Idina Menzel is a powerhouse: actor, singer-songwriter, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and now writer. She was Tony®-nominated for her Broadway performances in Rent and If/Then, winning the prize for Wicked's green girl. People around the world know her as Elsa in Disney's Oscar®-winning Frozen and Frozen 2. She has performed at the Oscars and the Super Bowl, and is the cofounder of A Broader Way Foundation, whose mission is leadership development to amplify young women's voices through the arts. Loud Mouse is Idina's latest endeavor to build on the message of empowerment and finding our voices. Idina's greatest gift is her son, Walker.

Jaclyn Sinquett grew up playing in her dad’s garden and tossing french fries to seagulls at the Jersey Shore. She still lives in New Jersey and spends her time painting with her little girl, singing too loudly in the car, and illustrating books for children.

Look for Proud Mouse on September 12, 2023. Pre-order a copy from your favorite bookshop.


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