October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How, you may ask, does this connect with children’s books?
Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project (Easton Studio Press, May 2012) includes a book of illustrated poems/lullabies, two CDs of the songs, and an e-book. Actress Kate Dawson developed this project to honor her cousin, who died of breast cancer. For Kate, lullabies were a way of connecting with her cousin’s young children after their mother’s death. She wanted to create “a collection of original lullabies, composed and performed by members of the Broadway community” with profits benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Young Survival Coalition.
Dawson and co-creator Jodi Glucksman brought together some of the biggest names in musical theater and children’s book illustration for this one-off compilation. The composers/lyricists include Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Tony Kushner, and Sammy Cahn. Singers such as Vanessa Williams, Audra McDonald, Anika Noni Rose, and Michael Cerveris lend their vocal talents. Artwork from illustrators such as Sean Qualls, R. Gregory Christie, Wendell Minor, Marc Simont, Richard Egielski, Paul O. Zelinsky, Javaka Steptoe, Melissa Sweet, Jon J Muth, and Peter H. Reynolds accompanies the lullabies, and an illustration by Jules Feiffer graces the cover.
The songs’ topics are diverse, as are the musical styles, though all are relatively soothing and slow as befits lullabies. One song, “Yolanda” (about a “gypsy queen”), doesn’t fit lyrically, but Judy Kuhn’s masterful vocals and the calming orchestration still connect this piece with the rest of the collection. Many of the songs rely on guitars, bass, and percussion, but the occasional accordion, cello, cittern, or bass flute adds variety. Two instrumental tracks called “First Sonogram” and “Winding Down to Sleep” are some of my favorites to listen to repeatedly.
One drawback: the book and CDs don’t match up. The CDs’ nine additional songs and different sequence make it difficult to follow along in the book as you listen to the music. Given the artists involved — including Emily Arnold McCully, Betsy Lewin, and Lauren Castillo — I would have loved to look at the illustrations for these additional songs while I listened. A deluxe e-book edition (unseen) does include the entire collection of songs and may be the best choice for ease of reading along. According to the project’s website, a documentary about The Broadway Lullaby Project is also in the works. (The website features several sample songs and behind-the-scenes pictures and video as well.)
When I first saw this collection, I thought it might contain songs from Broadway shows that would work as lullabies. I was equally satisfied to discover that these were original songs created specifically for this noteworthy project, but I’m still intrigued by my initial idea. What Broadway songs do you think would make great lullabies?