Once again we remind you that you can hear Mel Larch host Curtain Call, the musical theatre program, on The AIR, every Wednesday at 3 PM at The AIR website, or on this embedded radio player…

Once again we turn The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide over to Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, this time with book choices that make great gifts for very young budding theatre buffs.

These are books for the very young that may well inspire them to develop a life-long love of theatre.

A Is For Audra: Broadway’s Leading Ladies from A to Z
Written by John Robert Allman, Illustrated by Peter Emmerich
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
ISBN 978-0525645405
$16.99 at Amazon

From six time Tony Award winner, Audra McDonald (Ragtime) to Liza with a “Z,” this recently published alphabet book is a showstopper featuring a cavalcade of Broadway’s favorite leading ladies!

Step into the spotlight and celebrate legendary performers from across the decades starting with Audra McDonald, then sing and dance your way through the alphabet with beloved entertainers like Betty Buckley (CATS), Carol Burnett (Once Upon a Mattress), Patti LuPone (Evita), Bernadette Peters (Into The Woods), Chita Rivera (West Side Story), Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon), Kristin Chenoweth (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown), Liza Minelli (Flora, The Red Menace) and many more!

While Allman and Emmerich’s book is aimed at readers aged 3 to 7 as a way of introducing them to iconic musicals and female performers, Broadway fans and theatre lovers of all ages will give a standing ovation to this one-of-a-kind tribute. Allman’s text is full of toe-tapping rhymes and Emmerich’s colorful, vibrant illustrations are as bright and beautiful as the shining lights on any theater marquee.

A Is For Audra is more than a fun introduction to the world of musical theatre for young readers–it’s also a gift that keeps on giving. A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BCEFA). BCEFA, one of our nation’s leading nonprofit AIDS fundraising organizations for over thirty years, has raised more than $300 million to provide essential services for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.

You can find A Is For Audra through bookstores, or at Amazon.

Me and the Sky: Captain Beverley Bass, Pioneering Pilot
Written by Beverley Bass, with Cynthia Williams, Illustrated by Joanie Stone
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN 978-0525645498
$10.99 at Amazon

The Tony Award-winning musical Come From Away is based on the remarkable true story of a small town that welcomed the world. On September 11, 2001, 38 planes and 6,579 passengers were forced to land in the provincial town of Gander, Newfoundland due to the closure of US airspace.

The citizens of Gander, in an amazing display of kindness, opened their arms to the displaced, exhausted, and distraught travelers. While there were rough moments in the ensuing days, the spirit of trust and goodwill prevailed and many enduring friendships were formed between the people of Gander and their unexpected visitors. It is that same spirit that has delighted and moved audiences since Come From Away debuted on Broadway in 2017.

One of the show’s main characters is Beverley Bass, a trailblazer for women in the field of commercial avaiation. Her stage incarnation performs a song near the end of the show titled “Me and the Sky,” in which she sings of her dream of being a pilot, breaking aviation’s glass ceiling–and ultimately the pain and loss of that fateful day in 2001.

Now the real Beverley Bass has collaborated with Cynthia Williams and Joanie Stone to tell her story for young readers. Me and the Sky: Captain Beverley Bass, Pioneering Pilot, is her recently released picture-book autobiography.

As a young girl in the late 1950’s, Beverley told her parents she wanted to fly planes. They told her that girls couldn’t be pilots. Still, they encouraged their daughter and brought her to a nearby airport to watch the planes take off and land.

After decades of refusing to take “no” for an answer, in 1986 Beverley became the first female pilot promoted to Captain by American Airlines. Shortly thereafter, she led the first all-female crewed flight. And in 1999, she became the first female captain of a Boeing 777, the world’s biggest twinjet, in an airline operation. But her revolutionary career became even more newsworthy after her unexpected journey to Gander. After several days there, she flew her crew and passengers safely home.

Bass and Williams have created an engaging book about persuing your dreams with persistence and determination. Stone’s lovely illustrations, which are drawn in a mid-century children’s books style, perfectly capture the high spirits and determination of the little girl who would climb up on her family’s washing machine & jump off of it, pretending to fly, to a confident young woman at the control panel of an American Airlines plane. Appropriate for ages 4 – 8, this would be an especially wonderful gift for the young girl on your holiday list who may be interested in a traditionally male-dominated career and is already hearing a lot of “you can’t do that because you’re a girl” from others in her life.

Jellicle Cats: Old Possum Picture Books
Written by T.S. Eliot, Illustrated by Arthur Robins
Faber & Faber Children’s
ISBN 9780571333417
$9.95 at Amazon

One of the widely anticipated holiday film releases this December is CATS, based on the musical of the same name by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Directed by Tom Hooper, who brought Les Miserables to the big screen in 2012, it features an all star cast, including James Corden, Dame Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Sir Ian McKellan, Taylor Swift and Rebel Wilson.

But before the film and the musical, there was the book that started it all: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, the renowned poet, playwright, (The Waste Land, Murder in the Cathedral) and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. First published in 1939 by Faber & Faber, it is a collection of poems written by Eliot in the 1930’s under the assumed name of “Old Possum” for his two godchildren. There have been numerous editions re-published in the years since, illustrated by artists including Rebecca Ashdown, Axel Scheffler, and most notably, Edward Gorey, in an edition that was published in 1982 when CATS debuted on Broadway.

While any of the above editions of the Practical Cats would be an excellent addition to any family bookshelf, Faber & Faber Children’s have released a series of Old Possum Picture Books, which focus on some of the show’s popular characters, including the villainous Macavity, “magical Mister Mistoffelees,” the efficient railway cat, Skimbleshanks, and the mischevious duo of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer. Jellicle Cats, the fourth book in the series, introduces us to the feline tribe at the heart of the musical, as they prepare to dance the night away at their annual Jellicle Ball.

This book is a pure delight from start to finish that will not only delight very young readers, but young at heart ones as well. Eliot’s whimsical verses, combined with Robins’ colorful and charming illustrations, beautifully capture these playful “dear little cats” as they prepare for their annual gathering. (Author’s note: Eliot’s definition in the poem aside, people still wonder just what exactly “Jellicle” means. Years ago, I attended a “Backstage on Broadway” seminar conducted by Timothy Scott, who originated the role of Mr. Mistoffelees on Broadway. According to him, the words “pollicles” and “jellicles,” which appear in both the original poems and the show’s lyrics, meant “poor little dog” and “dear little cat,” respectively. So there you have it, straight from the cat’s mouth.)

Hopefully Faber & Faber Children’s will add some new titles devoted some of the other characters to the series, as this film adaptation introduces CATS to a new generation.

If you have a little one on your gift list who loves kitties, this book–or any of the others in the Old Possum Picture Books series–would be a “purrfect” way to give them a great “Memory” of this timeless musical.

Check back during The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide for one more post featuring gifts for the theatre lover in your life.