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April 30, 2015

Book Notes - Mallory Kasdan "Ella"


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Mallory Kasdan's brilliant children's book Ella is an inventive take on the classic Eloise, set in a hipster hotel in Brooklyn.

Entertainment Weekly wrote of the book:

"A twist on the classic Eloise, Ella's hipster-chic hotel adventures are full of modern-day trappings--from Manny, her sleeve-tatted male nanny, to Zumba classes and Wi-Fi issues. The playful illustrations, drawn by Marcos Chim, will have you checking in again and again"

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Mallory Kasdan's Book Notes music playlist for her children's book Ella:

Ella, the protagonist of my children's book of the same name, is a six-year old girl, an artisanal Eloise for our modern times. Her Manny, her tutor, and the guys who hang out in the hotel café may expose her to stuff that might be cool or classic, but honestly, Ella's tastes run mostly towards Taylor, Katy and Pharell or whatever is on the radio at the bodega.

These are songs that connect me to the time and place when I wrote Ella, or that inform the imagined life of the character and the people Ella hangs with at the Local Hotel.

1.) Non-stop Disco Power Pack -- Beastie Boys
I love the Beastie Boys and feel they are crucial in conjuring the coolness – imagined or legitimate – of Brooklyn, my home and the inspiration for Ella. Ella and Manny, her nanny who is a man, write their own rhymes while trying to get motivated for their day, and the image of them doing so is my most favorite of Marcos Chin's incredible illustrations in the book.

2.) Elevator Music -- Beck
3.) Think I'm in Love -- Beck

Beck is a soulful, funky, unique virtuoso and also kind of my age so I enjoy that. I regularly listen to Sea Change for flying on airplanes and trying to relax, but this album, "The Information," just makes me want to dance. I hear "Elevator Music" coming out of the speakers on The Local Hotel's elevator while Ella tortures people staring at their phone by making fart noises with her mouth and then looking innocent. "Think I'm in Love" just makes me think of cool people hanging out in the lobby waiting for the limo.

4.) Bad Reputation -- Joan Jett
Ella doesn't have a bad reputation. She's a bit mischievous, a bit annoying maybe, but mostly harmless. However, given the opportunity to rock she most certainly would. I play this song for my own kids and encourage them not to give a crap what people think. It's also the opening song for the amazing but now defunct "Freaks and Geeks," a TV show about high school that I loved.

5.) Hotel Yorba and/or
6.) My Doorbell -- White Stripes

Both these songs seem like good background music for Ella's adventures at The Local – I hear either of them playing in the film montage of the movie version – with ELLA scootering around and running up and down the stairwells with her clipboard. See Jack White below for my specific feelings about him.

7.) Box of Crayons
8.) Pop Up City – The Pop Ups

This is the funniest, catchiest and coolest children's music. Reggae, R & B and soul inform the songs and subject matter ranges from stargazing in Brooklyn to all the kinds of pasta in the world. Ella might think The Pop-Ups are too babyish for her but she can always say she heard them play at a birthday party when she was 4.

(Dance Party interlude section)

These are super fun songs I can see Manny or Judith putting on so that they can have a little dance party downtime on the roof deck.

9.) Get Lucky – Daft Punk
When this song was on the radio all the time a few summers ago I couldn't get enough of it. Joyful, uninhibited, silly.

10.) Hey Ya -- Outkast
This one time ELLA saw Andre3000 at a Broadway show wearing an orange 3 piece suit with matching fedora and umbrella.

11.) Happy – Pharell
Ella digs Pharell and wonders how he manages to look like he's 25.

12.) Uptown Funk –Bruno Mars
I know I'll tire of it soon but it reminds me of all of "The Time" songs like "The Bird" and "Jungle Love." Can't not dance.

Female Singer Songwriter Interlude:

13.) The Wire --Haim
This band is one Judith, Ella's tutor, might push on Ella, as I've pushed them on my own daughter. I've heard Haim interviewed and these young women are super self-aware, collaborative sisters with amazing hair and a totally groovy Fleetwood Mac vibe. I bet they know how to use a loom.

14.) I Feel It All -- Feist
I love female singers who put it out there emotionally with their lyrics and all the Feist albums are incredible. Ella is a happy and carefree kid but she also feels her feelings. She's six, and I bet she'll really feel it all when she's 12.

15.) Polyester Bride -- Liz Phair
I don't know if this is the song I'd definitely choose to indicate the importance and rawness that Liz Phair had for me in college and in my early 20's, but this is an upbeat super positive sounding song from a later album of hers that sounds uplifting, though I don't know that I really understand the lyrics. To me it has the feel of a girl making choices outside of the box, and it talks about buying cowboy boots on sale.

16.) Fidelity
17.) Don't Leave Me (ne me quitte pas) – Regina Spector

Regina Spector is my ultimate walking around NYC music. I love her tweaky, melancholy, romantic lyrics, I love her voice and I just love the piano. "Fidelity" always reminds me of fall in NYC, and "Don't Leave Me" of spring.

17.) Red Dragon Tattoo -- Fountains of Wayne
This song reminds me of freedom and of summertime in Brooklyn, of being young and riding the train out to Coney Island and doing something potentially regrettable. Maybe this one is on Manny's soundtrack. If Ella does get a tattoo, I really hope she gets one on a body part she doesn't regret.

18.) All Alone -- fun.
This song also happens to make me think of Coney Island because of the wind up toy sounds in it. Maybe Manny likes fun. but he probably thinks they are derivative and he's annoyed at their popularity.

19.) I'm Shakin' -- Jack White
Jack White makes me a little bit nervous and a little bit excited. I would really prefer if Ella doesn't date guys like Jack White but I bet she will. Manny is jealous of Jack White but admits that he can shred. I bet Ella would dig the backup singers on this song.

20.) Rafiki Zap Mama with Black Thought and ?uest love
I love Zap Mama. Also, ?uestlove, one of the coolest men in America besides maybe Prince, is involved with this song. True story: my husband once walked up to a hipster dessert and coffee truck parked outside of our daughter's gymnastics/trapeze class in Williamsburg. He tried to order an espresso but the guys working the truck said, "Sorry, you actually can't order a coffee because we're using it right now for a photo shoot. Questlove had the same thing happen to him earlier." And that's the most Brooklyn thing that ever happened to anyone in my family.

Mallory Kasdan and Ella links:

the author's website
the book's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Bustle profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
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guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
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Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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