Netherlands-based Lemniscaat, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall, is releasing the first collaboration between the Dutch and U.S. branches of the company. The Tiny Mouse by singer-songwriter Janis Ian, illustrated by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, was born when British jazz vocalist Cleo Laine commissioned a composition from Ian for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
“It was one of those amazing synchronistic things that seem to happen as I get older,” Ian told PW. She created the song “The Tiny Mouse” for the Boat Project – a 30-foot vessel composed of 1,221 pieces of wood, including a shaving from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar – which was commissioned for last year’s Olympics in London. Inspired by a wooden carving of a mouse that was donated to the Boat Project and affixed the craft’s steering wheel, Ian wrote “a story about a tiny mouse going out to sea.” The song follows the adventure of a bored mouse who sets sail, narrowly escapes death, and comes to appreciate his home and family. Ian’s song became part of a CD that played as the boat went down the River Thames.
Writing “The Tiny Mouse” was a departure for the Grammy-winning songwriter, who is best known for her emotionally raw hits like “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen.” Ian said of undertaking the project, “My songs are so serious, and I had so much fun writing [The Tiny Mouse]. It was like being Alice in Wonderland. I sent it to [the Boat Project], it came out and went down the Thames. After that, I started doing it in my shows, and everyone loved it.”
Ian shared the song with her friend Ellen Myrick during one of their regular lunches. Myrick, who does the marketing for Lemniscaat in the U.S., could see potential for the song as a book, and immediately sent it on to the Dutch publisher. “They loved it and immediately got their top illustrators on it,” Myrick said. “It’s almost unheard of for a picture book to be made so quickly.”
Seven months later, the book was ready to be showcased at ALA in Chicago as part of Lemniscaat’s 50th anniversary celebration. The company, still owned by the same family who started it in 1963, brought illustrators Ingrid and Dieter Schubert over to the U.S. for the festivities, which included a performance by Ian.
On September 14, Ian read from her newly published book for a crowd of children at her local bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville. She will be attending the Southern Festival of Books on October 13th, and bringing The Tiny Mouse to the U.K. early next year.