Kristin Chenoweth, who is perhaps best known for her Tony Award-winning performance as Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1999), or her Tony-nominated role as Glinda in Wicked (2004), has spent four decades in show business, performing in and producing Broadway shows, movies, and television. Now, the classically trained soprano and the author of A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages (Touchstone, 2009) is drawing on her life-changing experience with adoption in a new picture book coming from Tommy Nelson.
Slated for publication on March 8, What Will I Do with My Love Today?, illustrated by Maine Diaz, follows Kristi, a plucky youngster based on Chenoweth. However, unlike the actor, who grew up in a small town in the Bible Belt of Oklahoma, Kristi lives in New York City. From singing in a church choir to helping in a neighbor’s garden, Kristi shares her love throughout the city with acts of kindness. “The theme of the book is the more love you give, the more there is,” says Chenoweth, who has spent much of her adulthood living in New York.
In the book, after adopting a dog in need of a home, which she names Thunderpup, Kristi shares with her new puppy that she too was adopted. Through their bond, Chenoweth hopes to highlight the power and beauty of child adoption, while encouraging pet adoption at the same time. Chenoweth’s passion for adoption is tied to her own adoption when she was one. “I was given parents that supported me—I was lucky—and of course it just makes you want to share that love; it’s like planting a seed,” she says.
And like Kristi, Chenoweth adopted a dog, Thunder, about four years ago. Taking Thunder home was one of the happiest days of her life. “I wanted something to love, so I decided to rescue an animal, and I guess I felt in a way that I was rescued,” she says, reflecting on her childhood.
Chenoweth doesn’t judge her birth mother for choosing adoption. “One woman gave me life and two parents gave me a life,” she says.
Nevertheless, Chenoweth still faced challenges due to her adoption. In her 20s, she was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, which causes vertigo, inner ear migraines, and tinnitus—she notes that the condition makes her an unusual candidate for show business. As an invisible and often hereditary disease, Ménière’s can be difficult to diagnose, and it took years for Chenoweth to learn of her condition because she had no knowledge of her biological family’s medical history. She found solace in her Christian faith. “Everyone has a cross to bear,” Chenoweth says, adding that she believes that the disease gave her a “ 'sixth sense’ for noticing others in pain.”
The idea for What Will I Do with My Love Today? started with Danielle Peterson, acquisition editor at Tommy Nelson ,who approached Chenoweth’s team about a project for kids. Though Peterson’s team introduced several concepts, they settled on one centered on adoption, as it is “a message straight from Kristin’s heart and life experience,” Peterson says. “I knew the effervescent spark Kristin has on the screen and the stage would translate seamlessly to the page,” she adds. “Her positive, inspirational messages align with our mission to create content that is uplifting, inspirational, and transformative for younger audiences.”
Peterson believes that the story “offers caretakers a fantastic opportunity to talk with their children about the importance of family, and the different kinds of ways that family is experienced.”
Chenoweth wants readers of the book “to immediately ask to rescue an animal, and I’d like to apologize to the parents,” she says with a laugh. Regardless of the challenges a pet might bring to the household, caring for an animal “teaches responsibility and unconditional love,” she adds.
Illustrations in What Will I Do with My Love Today? by Argentinian artist Maine Diaz represent the diversity among New York City’s residents—something Chenoweth values greatly. “The illustrations are as important as the words, if not more, because they set the picture in a child’s mind,” she says. "Kristi has all kinds of friends, she’s open to all kinds of things; that’s what I love.”