“What if Fancy Cat is a Musical?”

Exactly seven months ago today on January 11, 2022, that was the question posed to me by Sid Ryan Eilers, co-artistic director of Aeris Körper and my glorious collaborator on Fancy Cat. While working on a grant for Fancy Cat, Sid was listening to music Raphael Roter had composed to underscore scene 1 (for the November 2021 development workshop) and was inspired; hence: “What if Fancy Cat is a musical?” I was equal parts thrilled by the question and terrified, but immediately started writing songs – something I thought I’d never ever ever (ever) do again. I wrote Fancy’s theme (“Too Much”), a song for their bullies (“Why Can’t You Be Normal?”), and a reprise of “Too Much” for Fancy’s caregiver, ZaZa. I’m currently working on a solo for ZaZa to accompany a nightmare sequence where they confront their father-figure about their own messaging of “too much.” (or is it a duet? *shrug*)

So, here’s a small taste of my process from winter/spring 2022. “Too Much” is the first song Fancy sings after they start internalizing the messages of “too much” they receive from teachers, classmates, and schoolbus drivers. Fancy is a non-binary human child I’ve been pretty much in love with since Sid brought the original idea to me and I started writing the script and accompanying picture book in March 2021. Like everything Fancy Cat, the music is still in process, with orchestrations to come from the beautiful mind of Raphael.

This mp3 is from February 2022 and was the first thing I sent to Sid after the musical prompt:

“Too Much” in February 2022

And the lyrics as they currently stand in August 2022:

🎵 I wear my culottes, they say “You can’t wear a dress!”
I splash in puddles, they say “Don’t make such a mess!”
I’m too much. It makes my skin feel tight.
Too much. When will I be just right?
I climb in trees, they grumble, judge and frown,
I waltz in gym class, they say “What a foolish clown!”
I shimmy on the suspension bridge and shake everyone down.
I’m too much. When will I be okay?
Too much. It ruins every day.
When will they finally see?
When can I be just me and not too much?
Just…me. 🎵

I’ll be honest: I feel pretty vulnerable sharing my voice and Voice here. Sid and I both received messages of “too much” when we were children and it’s been a lifelong struggle for us to shrug them off and learn to celebrate what makes us each unique. I don’t think we’re alone in that fight and that’s why Fancy Cat exists. We hope that each child and caregiver who experiences our little love letter will come away feeling seen and start on their own healing paths together.

I’m so thankful to Sid for asking the question and for being one of the best collaborators I could ever ask for. I’m also grateful to the rest of the Fancy Cat people who’ve joined us on this journey: Karen Ancheta, Jackie Chau, Dedra McDermott, Raphael Roter, Alten Wilmot, Shannon Kitchings, Mayumi Lashbrook, Jody Boston, Mikaela Demers, and Carlyn Rhamey. I love them all with my whole fancy heart.

Books I Love: One Thursday Afternoon

Title: One Thursday Afternoon
Author: Barbara DiLorenzo
Publisher: Flyaway Books
Storylady Says: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read Aloud? NO (topic suited to one-on-one so the child can ask questions; in-depth conversation)
Tags: trauma, school lockdown, grandparents, mindfulness, art

Wondering how to start having conversations with kids about the after effects of school shooter lockdown drills? Barbara DiLorenzo has created a beautiful book to help start the discussion. The illustrations are gentle in both color and depiction. The modeled behavior and emotional availability of the granddad character are helpful for integrating creative mindfulness behaviors and talking with children about our own fears, while recognizing differences in what the child might be experiencing. 

Highly Recommended. This book will make its way into the Lightbulb Heart Lending Library as soon as it becomes available in September 2022.  

ARC provided by NetGalley.

NEW BOOKS!

I’ve been reading a lot of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) on NetGalley lately. Want to know which ones I’m looking forward to seeing on bookstore and library shelves? Click the links to see my reviews.


When Daddy Tucks Me In
Sacha Cotter
available February 2023 (originally published as KEYS in NZ)


Alphabreaths, Too
Christopher Willard & Daniel Rechtschaffen
available September 2022


Human Town
Alan Durant
Available Now!


Dinos Driving
Lynn Leitch
Available August 2022


Just to See
Morgan de Cadier
Available Now!


A Perfect Wonderful Day With Friends
Philip Waechter
Available August 2022


Little Echo
Al Rodin
Available October 2022


If You Cry Like a Fountain
Noemi Vola
Available August 2022


The Antiracist Kid: A Book About Identity, Justice, and Activism
Tiffany Jewell
Available September 2022
this one’s for middle grades and awesome 🙂

If you end up reading any of these books, would you let me know? I’d love to discuss them with you!

Books I Love: Human Town

Title: Human Town
Author: Alan Durant, illustrated by Anna Doherty
My Recommendation: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read-Aloud: Yes (followed by discussion/activities)
Tags: elephants, extinction, Anthropocene
Available in the Lending Library!

This thoughtful tale by Alan Durant flips the discussion of elephant extinction to that of human extinction, exploring reasons the humans are dying out, such as pollution, consumerism, and infighting (and poaching by big cats). Anna Doherty’s beguiling illustrations include many depictions of human and animal diversity. 

“Human Town” would be great for a read-aloud as part of a larger storytime on the theme of conservation, complete with activities. The text is simple to follow and contains multiple voices that would be of interest to both younger and older kids. Also rife with possibilities for one-on-one discussion. 

Books I Love: Just to See

Title: Just to See
Author: Morgan de Cadier, illustrated by Florian Pigé
My Recommendation ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This charming tale from Morgan de Cadier and illustrator Florian Pigé is both informative about male deer antler growth and draws the reader into a whole world of curiosities. “Just to See” is full of opportunities for laughter for kids and caregivers. 

The amount of text bubbles and details on each page would make for a challenging read-aloud with a group, but I think it’s great for one-on-ones.

The book is printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council with vegetable-based inks! I’ll definitely be adding this one to the Lightbulb Heart Lending Library in the future.

Topics: curiosity, nature, animals, deer, mice

ARC provided by NetGalley