My book, Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras, celebrated its one year anniversary of being published in January. I didn’t get to celebrate with too much fanfare since I was preparing for rehearsals of Peter Pan Jr., which I’m directed for the Worthingway Arts Program. I look back at my journals and see the planning of the play version of Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras beginning to be created. It really is a situation of the chicken and the egg: which came first, the book or the play?
Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras began as an idea for a children’s book. You can read more about the evolution of the story of a baby duck to a book-loving girl named Penny here. My old journals have characters that were cut from the original version of the play: penguins and a giraffe. Cowgirls don’t ride penguins, they don’t want their tuxedos to get dirty. Cowgirls don’t ride giraffes, they’re too busy knitting scarves for winter. The giraffe existed somewhat to get a “winter is coming” joke in there, but also it’s ridiculous and funny to see a giraffe knitting a scarf worthy of the Fourth Doctor.
How big is YOUR imagination? Penny from Cowgirls Don't Ride Zebras knows how to stretch her imagination to have tons of fun! And now that it's summer and school is out, what are ways you can stretch and strengthen your child's (and your own) imagination, and have a BLAST?
1. Read Books
Yes, it’s summer, but books, like bowties and fezzes, are very cool. Try one you didn’t know existed. Did you know there are 14 books about the Land of Oz? Or, grab one that’s been on your shelf for years, but you just haven’t gotten to it!
2. Story Cards
My son, Jack, loves these Create a Story Cards. Come up with your own story based only on the pictures of the cards. Shuffle the cards and the story completely changes! Take turns adding to the story, or let one person take center stage.
3. Trips to the Zoo
The zoo! The characters of Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras travelled there for inspiration, why don’t you? Ask an employee questions and actually read all those things posted about the animals.
4. Listen to Instrumental Music
Bust out the headphones and listen to some Mozart, Beethoven, Philip Glass, Danny Elfman, Ludovico Einaudi, Hans Zimmer, or your favorite film score. Make sure it’s instrumental. What do you hear? What patterns? What themes? How does it make you feel?
5. Fan Fiction
Yes, I am advocating for writing fan fiction! Did you just see a big, summer blockbuster? Why not test your skills and write the sequel? What happens next? Who do the characters meet?
6. Dress Up
Penny's friend Cassandra made a cowgirl hat out of newspaper. Dig out some old clothes and put together a fun, silly outfit! Find a paper bag and some construction paper and become your favorite animal!
7. Make Some Art
Paint, draw, just create some art! Sidewalk chalk? Yes, please! Do you have a whole bunch of magazines or newspapers to get rid of? It’s collage time! Cut them up and make something interesting!
8. Photo Walks
Take a walk, pull out your phone or your camera, and shoot some pictures. Take some close ups, take shots of walls and patterns you see, take some action shots, and see your neighborhood or city from a new perspective.
Move to the music! Dance like no one is watching! Can you move slow? Can you move fast? Can you dance with just your arms? Just your hands? Can you dance like an animal? How does a polar bear dance? Are there dance classes in your area?
10. See a Play
Live theatre hits you on so many different levels. There’s nothing like it. Check out a theatre for families and young audiences in your area. See what your local theatres are doing and go!