Behind the scenes of a mother & daughter's 
 humorous journey in creating new characters, writing, illustrating,
and publishing a children's book. 

From the Barre to Beethoven

August 28, 2018

 

 How Three Mass Market Characters Introduce Classical Music, Ballet & Kindness to Children Across the World

         

“ That children can make beautiful music is less significant than the fact that music can make beautiful children” Cheryl Lavender  

 

 

However, what about the children whose family environment, their towns or schools leave them without a connection to dance or classical music? We live in a culture often without grace and civility. How do we inspire generations of children to higher ideals? 

 

 

 

 

It all began over lunch in LA. Kelly and I, a mother and daughter/artist/writer product development team, met with a well-known children’s producer. We were seeking his advice regarding our magical triplets, Cookie, Candi and Coco.  After leafing through our presentation, he asked a question that changed everything: “You have cute triplets,” he remarked, “but what is their essence? Their being a success depends on it.” 

 

Essence?  We didn’t have a clue.

 

essence, a noun.  The indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character; something without which it would not exist to be what it is.

 

 

It Was Time to Find Us Some ESSENCE

                         

 Lady Nancy Astor:  “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d poison your tea,” 

 Churchill: “ Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

 The essence of Winston Churchill

 

There were quite a few brainstorming sessions throughout the months, until one afternoon, it happened : their essence x 2- Magical Dancing Triplets!  Accompanied by the most beautiful classical music in the world, the sisters would inspire children to be kind, brave, and empathetic, by bringing surprise magical parties to those whose birthdays have been forgotten. 

 

It was there in my head all along, thanks to a home filled with music and exposure to music at an early age.

                                     

 

80 Year - Old Piano Teachers Can Be Scary 

 

 

The day Mom purchased an old upright piano, my life was never the same: Piano lessons!  Not that she thought that I had any talent.  Mom just liked the piano.

 

 

                                                                  Yuck. Practicing. 

 

 

I was scared to death of my teacher, Ms. Cassell.  Her temperament and impatience were legendary, and we students were subjected to frequent outbursts of temper. On her Toscanini days, wrong notes would invite screaming and a reach for the dreaded black pointer which would come crashing down on the keyboard with a vengeance. 

                                                           

Because I was one of the chosen few required to do her proud in the performance arena, I was given a break. However, the passing of the years have brought me empathy towards my elderly teacher who was economically forced to tolerate dozens of children that would rather be elsewhere. Ms. Cassell gave me Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart -and if she had her wish - Juilliard. 

 

 

But that wasn’t to be. Slowly, my passion migrated to the world of art and ballet - eventually graduating from art school, becoming an artist with American Greetings and much later teaming up with my writer daughter, Kelly, to create a product development business for the gift and children’s market.     

                                                                                           

                                                                              

 

        

Animation Costs 500.00 A Second? Are you Kidding? 

 

As I completed the illustrations for the first book of their series, I began to envision their proposed animation: The triplets would have their voice, but most of the narrative would be through dance and pantomime.  A kind of ballet hybrid introducing a new generation of children to classical music and dance.

 

Knowing the cost for animators, I thought just maybe I could tackle a storyboard to music – a decision which proves that ignorance is definitely bliss. It was time to contact a professional. John Talbert, an electronic music engineer( with the patience of Job), retired from the faculty of Oberlin College, became our mentor. Every movement of the triplets had to be coordinated with the music. It took months and hundreds of sketches. Here are a few: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing the Music 

 

      “You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh and go slow.”                    Oscar Levant trying to talk his way out of a speeding ticket.

                                                                                                                    

Some things just take root from our childhoods. I was relieved when my mother’s infatuation with Johann Strauss subsided and she took up with Beethoven and Rimsky Korsakov. But those polkas and waltzes still resided in my head. Suddenly, after the triplets give lonely Granny Rosie a birthday party and she asks them to come live with her in her house filled with magical things, the Annen Polka popped out.

 

This became the triplet’s opening music. Each morning when the girls are awakened by their pup, Chocolate Pudding, they joyfully dance while making their unusual beds, changing their clothes, and eating a magical breakfast. But how do I get everyone outside to granny’s cloud which transports them to Granny Rosie’s magical factory? Dance? ( Not fair to Granny. Magical inventors just can’t do everything.) Then I came up with an idea.

 

 

                                             

It's All Due To Mrs. Besinger 

 Marching with Granny Rosie 

 

When I was a child, our neighbor, Mrs. Bensinger, encouraged us children to march around her kitchen while the music played. I have never forgotten the joy of it. So I created a march. What a great way, I thought, through animation, to influence the triplets' fans to play a musical instrument! So I gave each triplet their pick. Even their pup, Chocolate Pudding, is no slouch in the music sphere. The Radetzky March takes them into Granny Rosie’s Adventure factory, and there isn’t an instrument that their pup can’t play.

 

 

Arriving at the factory the triplets instinctively know which adventure holds someone who is sad and alone on their birthday. It is not until the end of the adventure, that they solve the mystery of who.            

 

                                                         

                               

  

                                          

        Dancing around the adventure,

                the girls leap inside and the fun begins!

 

 

                                                   

                                                  

 

 

Triplets and the World

 

Ann Frank wrote, “ Isn’t  it wonderful that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world?”

 

Cookie, Candi and Coco Birthday exemplify empathy, kindness, and being our best. If their influence on generations of children can return us to a gentler place while promoting the beauty of dance and the elegance of Mozart, then these three little girls will have indeed begun to improve the world.

 

 

 

                            

 

 

 

 

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Author, Kelly Tooman with illustrator, Lynn-Tooman Cser

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