“This is insanely exciting for us,” said fifteen-year-old Lennon Stella as she stood with Maisy, her eleven-year-old sister, before a large Nashville crowd on April 25, 2015. In celebration of the girls’ picture-book debut—In the Waves, illustrated by Steve Björkman—Parnassus Books had invited the stars of ABC’s prime-time drama Nashville to perform for a gathering of fans so large that the event ultimately had to be moved to nearby Harding Academy.
The girls, who go by the stage name Lennon & Maisy, play the roles of Maddie and Daphne Conrad on the hit television show. Originally from Canada, they have lived most of their lives in middle Tennessee with their parents. Their YouTube channel has garnered more than five million views, and their cover of The Lumineers’ “Ho, Hey,” which they performed in 2013 on the first season of Nashville, reached the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
I chatted with the girls just before their Parnassus event, as they signed huge stacks of In the Waves for the crowd that was already lining up outside the school. Friendly and down-to-earth, they clearly delight in the new book. “That’s me!” Maisy said with a huge smile, pointing to Björkman’s sunny illustration of her and her sister on the book’s front cover.
The picture book—the story of two small sisters who are gathering beach gear as they prepare to take a bath—is the extension of a song by the same name that they sang as younger children. “In the waves, in the water,” they’d sing as they bathed—“back when they both fit in the tub,” their father added during their performance at Harding. The song used to be “so bad,” Maisy joked with the crowd, “that all we kept was the chorus!” For the book, the girls joined forces with MaryLynne Stella and Carolyn Dawn Johnson to give the song new life and add new verses.
When they arrived at Harding to sign the copies that Parnassus brought over, it was the Stellas’ first time to see the book as a hardcover. And they are thrilled by it. That’s saying a lot for two girls who have already performed at the Grand Ole Opry many times—and whose first appearance there was when Maisy was only nine years old.
Before performing four songs, Lennon told the crowd that they had just finished recording the third season of Nashville, a show that shines a spotlight on the country-music scene here in Middle Tennessee. Their second song that afternoon, “A Life That’s Good,” is also from the show. Listening to their dusky voices and silky harmonies—with Lennon on guitar—it’s easy to understand the attention they’ve received for their cover songs. For this, their first original tune, HarperCollins plans to make a recording available to those who want to hear it after reading the book.
And when they closed at Harding with a rowdy rendition of “In the Waves”—right after their foot-stomping cover of “Boom Clap”—their joy in performing was evident. The song, in fact, was interrupted by lots of giggles, perhaps inspired by a shared family memory we listeners would never know. “I can’t breathe!” said Maisy on their second attempt to manage the laughter. “What is happening? Nothing’s even funny!”
And when they did manage to make it through the song, the crowd was rewarded. It’s a light and spunky song for a breezy and bubbly book that’s perfect for their devoted young fans.
Julie Danielson, a former school librarian, blogs at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and writes about picture books for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage. Her first book, Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, was released last year.
Tagged: Children & YA