If I Were a Kangaroo and the Gift of Creative Friends

I am fortunate to have many creative friends. I have friends who make jewelry, write music, invent recipes, design innovative research projects, and a host of other creative things. Some of my friends write children’s books.

Today I’m celebrating the release of my friend Mylisa Larsen’s second book, If I Were a Kangaroo. Even if I did not know her, it would be clear from her writing that Mylisa is a parent as well as a writer. Her first book, the hilarious, How to Put Your Parents to Bed, turned everyday bedtime rituals on their heads. If I Were a Kangaroo is another bedtime book, for soothing cuddle times at home—but also good for inspiring creative writers young and old.

If I Were a Kangaroo is a series of short poems describing animal beds and bedtimes, beginning with the following:

If I were a kangaroo,

I’d pick you up and carry you

In my pocket, sleepyhead

And hop you gently off to bed.

The book continues, describing squirrels cuddling in a heap; a baby whale drifting off, fin-to-fin with its mother; and even baby spiders resting “legs, legs, legs” on their mother’s back. The poems are a delight, and sure to make young readers curious about how other baby animals sleep. Then, of course, they’d need to write more poems. How about a poem about sleeping baby lions, or pigs, or turtles? Do tadpoles sleep? There should be a poem for that.

For older students, the seemingly simple poems offer a fine opportunity to study the impact of word choice in spare poetry. In the poem above, think about how the impact of the poem would change if, instead, it said:

If I were a kangaroo

I’d pick you up and carry you.

You’d go to bed inside my pocket

Then I’d hop off just like a rocket.

Not exactly sleep inducing, is it? How about:

If I were a kangaroo

I’d pick you up and carry you

You’d have my pocket for a bed

So watch out where you bump your head!

Yes, these are silly examples, but variations on the poems can help students see how critical each word is to the overall impact of the work.

Just one final thought. I have another friend who also writes for children and is still awaiting publication of her first book. She has been working and waiting for years—and her stories are wonderful. Yet there is no one more excited about our mutual friend Mylisa’s success. It has made me think about how much joy we can have in celebrating other’s creative successes. It is like the popular meme about human rights that says (not quite grammatically), “Equal rights for others doesn’t mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.” In a similar way, creativity is not pie, either. While there are competitive situations that involve creativity, there’s plenty of need for creative scientists, artists, and children’s writers.  I’m grateful to know some of them. They fuel my imagination and help me think in new ways. One person’s creativity does not diminish another’s–in fact, it may inspire it. Helping young people celebrate one another’s accomplishments can enable them to find a lifetime of non-competitive creative happiness. And that’s even better than pie.

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