Monday, February 25, 2013

One Frog, Two Frogs, Three frogs, Four

I'm often asked where I get ideas for my books. Sometimes they just pop into my head -- in the shower or while running -- and sometimes they come to me in a dream. And sometimes I'm inspired by real life. Such was the case with this story, "One Frog, Two Frogs, Three Frogs, Four."

My oldest son, Zach, collected these colorful plastic tree frogs. He'd cart them around in his big, yellow dump truck. Using his Fisher-Price Wild West Town and Pirate ship he'd pretend they were cowboys and pirates. Sometimes, he'd stack pillows on the couch and the frogs would scale the pillow mountain to defeat the evil emperor. 

I loved watching him play. He had a wonderful imagination and it was a joy to witness the worlds he created. With all of the bells and whistles kids have today, I worry that such imaginative play is becoming a thing of the past. And that makes me sad. 

Here's a recording of this story that I always thought would make a great picture book because it lends itself to a plethora of colorful illustrations. I think writing a picture book is incredibly difficult. People think they're easy because you're writing for kids (How hard can that be, right?). They couldn't be more wrong. Capturing a child's attention with an economy of words and keeping the book moving is so, so hard. 

I hope you enjoy this story. And, who knows? Maybe one day it will become a picture book.

Below the recording is the story: 

One Frog. Two Frogs. Three Frogs. Four.
By Buffy Andrews

“One frog.
Two frogs.
Three frogs.
Tree frogs, tree frogs, I want more.”

Sam sang as he played with his colorful collection.
          He had blue ones
          and red ones
          and yellow ones
          and green ones.
          Spotted ones
          and striped ones.
Ones with claw-shaped fingers and toes
and others with webbed hands and feet.
          They rode in the back of his big, yellow dump truck.
          Battled bullies in his Wild West town.
          Defended his medieval castle and sailed on his pirate ship.
          And sometimes, if they were really brave, they scaled pillow mountains and defeated the evil emperor.
          But, most often, they found their way into the tub where they bathed in berry bubbles.

“One frog.
Two frogs.
Three frogs.
Tree frogs, tree frogs, I want more”

Sam could hardly wait for Friday. That’s when he and his mother went to the grocery store. And that’s where the tree frogs lived – inside a bubblegum machine!
          Each day, Sam asked his mother if it was Friday and each day his mother said no.
          So he waited,
And he waited,
And he waited some more.
And while he waited, he
Swung on his swing and ate ice cream.
Flew his kite and rode his bike.
Climbed a tree and skinned his knee.
And just when Sam thought Friday would never come, he closed his sleepy eyes, and when he woke up, it was
Sam jumped and clapped and shouted “hooray”!
It was Tree Frog Day!

 “One frog.
Two frogs.
Three frogs.
Tree frog, tree frogs, I want more”

When Sam saw the bubblegum machine, he jumped and clapped and smiled. But then he saw the can on the counter and he didn’t feel like smiling anymore. There was a picture of a girl just about his age in a wheelchair.  
           Sam thought about his classmate Zoey. She used a wheelchair. Zoey couldn’t run or jump or skip or skate.
          Sam stuffed his hand into his pocket and pulled out a fist of shiny silver.
          He looked at the frogs peeking through the glass in the bubblegum machine and then at the little girl’s picture on the can.
He opened his fist to count his coins then walked over to the can.
          The yellow dump truck and the Wild West town and the medieval castle and the pirate ship and the pillow mountains and the evil emperor and the berry bubbles would have to wait a little longer for new frog friends.
          And so would Sam.

“One frog.
Two frogs.
Three frogs.
I love tree frogs but I’ll wait to get more.”

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