Yes, it’s true! My North Dakota alphabet book is now a musical!
Well, not a Broadway musical, mind you, but it was “performed” by a group of kindergarten students at Rita Murphy Elementary in Bismarck last week, and I was asked to narrate.
The musical’s title was a takeoff from my children’s alphabet book, “P is for Peace Garden.”
To make full use of the day and my travels, I was invited to give an author presentation to the school’s fourth-graders, who have been studying about North Dakota, and therefore were well-equipped to absorb what I had to share.
They were fabulous, and, I hear, had quite a discussion in their classroom afterward about writing. Apparently the visit with the real-life writer/author inspired them. That brings me great joy.
The question that caught me most off guard: “What does it feel like to be a famous author?” Next surprising: “What’s your favorite football team?” You gotta love it!
When I shared that I wasn’t a famous author, someone asked if I’ve met any famous authors. I remembered Jerry Spinelli, but forgot all about Kate DiCamillo and Tomie dePaola.
There were many others, too, and I didn’t hear the typical question, “Where do you get your ideas?” even once!
One of my favorite moments was when a group of fourth-grade girls came up to me after my talk, surrounded me in a half-circle, looked at each other and said, “Ready?” like a group of cheerleaders before a cheer, and then, all at once, charged at me with a hug! That set me off on the right foot.
I also visited a school where my mom works as a volunteer.
I kept it simple and just read to them, mainly, and talked a little about the book business.
Afternoon and evening sessions included the performances of “P is for Peace Garden.”
As narrator, I’d read a few pages, then pause in marked spots so that the kids could sing a song that corresponded in some way with the subject matter. For example, after reading the “T” page (“Theodore Roosevelt, ‘Teddy,’ is the T guy who touted this state, that turned him toward the presidency, he treasured our Badlands great”) the kids sang, “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around…” And for the “H heads Home Runs and Hits” page, they sang, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” complete with a verse done through kazoos.
It was a clever mingling of book and song that the music teacher thought up because of her love of music and words, and because kids in her school seem to be captivated and motivated by books. She said “P is for Peace Garden” was a perfect title to incorporate into this year’s spring musical.
What a fabulous day, which ended with a book signing that sold out. It felt like a culmination of many things coming together in my own life — my love for music, words, children, and learning and in the city of my roots (Bismarck is where my parents met, and the school was named after one of my mother’s former teachers).
On the way to the afternoon session, we drove past this guy, and I can’t help but think that maybe the title of my book should have been, “P is for Pheasant!” Ah well. Perhaps there’s room for a sequel.