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WowoSpot Kids

Toys and Magic | How I came up with the idea for the song Little Puppy Lily’s Magic Bone

Lisa Ruping Cheng

Little Puppy Lily’s Magic Bone is the first children’s song that I made as an audio recording. It was great fun to see how my creative work came to life.

How I came up with the idea of the story of the song

Originally I thought about writing a song based on the popular children’s story Straga Nona. Straga Nona is an enchanting children’s story written by American author Tomie dePaola. It is about a grandma witch (Straga Nona) who owns a magic pot that can cook noodles if she casts a spell. One day Straga Nona went out of town so she hired a boy to look after her home. The young boy, with a wandering mind, did what she had told him not to do: he chanted the spell to start the cooking pot. When Straga Nona came back to town and saw a disastrous scene—the town was quickly swollowed by mountains of noodles, she knew who did it. Apparently, the boy knew how to start the pot but did not know how to stop it.

I remember reading this story with my daughters when they were younger and have always liked it. I was so excited about this idea. Before I fetched a piece of paper to write down the music notes, I had constructed the rhythm, the lyrics and the melody in my mind.

After I googled this story, I was disappointed to find the story is a copyrighted work and is not in the public domain. It was a pity. The lyrics could have been awesome if it goes like “Straga-no-na has a magic cooking pot, she….” I loved the sound of the word straganona and how it would work perfectly with the rhythm I had in my mind.

Well, knowing I could not use the story as my lyrics, I tried to sing new lyrics to the melody I’d created. While I was scratching my head, my eyes fixed on my dog Wowo, a new idea struck me. “Wowo loves her chewing bone, a toy she could play with all day long.” I thought, and “I am going to make a dog’s toy story!”

The lyrics I came up with are as follows:

“Little puppy Lily had a magic chewing bone

It shined and danced in the quiet night,

Little puppy Lily had a magic chewing bone

It shined and danced int he quiet night.

Wiggle wiggle, flash flash

The bone fell asleep when the morning came.”

The music that goes with the story of the song: harmony, solfege, and range of pitches

To take a look at the harmony of the song, it follows the most fundamental tonic-dominant-tonic structure. To sing in solfege it goes like this:

“mi re mi re do, mi re mi re do

re re re do re mi do re

mi re mi re do, mi re mi re do

re re re do re mi re do

so so mi mi, so so mi mi,

do re re re do re mi re do”

The meter will work the best in 2/4 where the strong beat falls on the first in each bar.

(To listen to the singing audio, please visit WowoSpot Kids Podcast. The same title episode will be released on Monday, August 23)

The main body of the song consists of only three notes: C, D and E. I was surprised that just by using three pitches I could create a good variety of melodies with different types of rhythms and words.

Toys and magic has always been a popular theme in children’s stories

The imaginary world this song created reminds me of a TV cartoon show I used to love as a kid. In the show, this toy came to life after midnight when the little boy was asleep. And when the toy came to life, the clock stopped clicking and the whole world froze. Interestingly, there are in fact many children’s stories describing toys coming alive. Take the beloved Tchaikovsky ballet Nutcracker for example, the little girl Clara’s favorite Christmas present nutcracker turns into a handsome prince after midnight. Together they visit a snowy pine forest and then arrive at the Land of Sweets. They are charmed by the beautiful Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The ground-breaking, computer-animated movie series, Toy Story is another obvious example.

I am still enamored of the sound of the word Stra-ga-no-na

I wonder if I could create a second verse for the song Little Puppy Lily’s Magic Bone, changing “the magic chewing bone” into “a magic cooking pot”. Then I will have to make up a character whose name is sounding as uniqe as stra-ga-no-na and has four syllables to go with the opening tune. It has to be a unique name, so unique that no one has ever used it before..a name that is completely new and catchy… I am still thinking…

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WowoSpot Kids

Hey Diddle Diddle and The Bagels on the Table | creativity during lockdown

In the spring this year, on a bright sunny Sunday morning, out of my desperation to have some comfort food, I lined up to buy a bag of Montreal style bagels from a new store that had just opened in downtown. I believed a bag of great bagels could definitely save me from feeling even more anxious about the on-and-off lockdown.

Before noon I had eaten three bagels: sesame, cinnamon and blueberry. Yummy.

I’d been reading articles about children’s folk songs while compiling a beginners’ piano book of popular folk tunes. While looking at the rest of the assorted bagels lying on my kitchen table, still wanting for more, I was struck by the idea that if I were a kid I would probably have imagined the bagles started to move and roll out of the table, running away to some where. I let myself daydream.

I thought of the song Hey Diddle Diddle, which was about a cat playing a fiddle and the cow jumping over the moon, and the dish running away with the spoon. I imagined when the bagels on my table started to roll and run away what would happen.

The next day in the early morning when I was slowly waking up, still in bed, a tune came to my head. I’d used the interval of perfect fourth in the opening. The lyrics came to my mind as well:

The bagels on the table ran away to Toronto

Riding on the cloud, hanging on the moon

The cat woke up and laughing so hard

The mice hid behind the wall

Thrilled to have found the word “Toronto” to rhyme with the word “bagels”, I jumped off the bed, srambled around my room to find a piece of paper and quickly wrote the whole song down. For the melody I wrote down in a short-handed form. I loved that I could substitute the word “Toronto” with any word that could rhyme with “bagels.” For instance, “Mexico”, or “Orlando” would work. I named the song The Bagels on the Table.

Hey, “bagels” and “table” rhyme with each other!

My storyline had obviously been inspired by the traditional folk song Hey Diddle Diddle, which tells a very vivid story:

Hey diddle diddle the cat with a fiddle

The cow jumped over the moon

The dog woke to see the fun

And the dish ran away with the spoon

I had loved how “diddle” rhymed with “fiddle” and “moon” rhymed with “spoon.”

Our of excitement, in two days, I wrote another bagel song: Two Littel Bagels, thinking that it would be a good idea to incorporate some educational elements in the new songs. In the song Two Little Bagels, I’d introduced the ideas of colors and shapes:

Two little bagels round and round

One is yellow one is brown

Yellow and brown

Yellow and brown

Two little bagels round and round

This time I made every sentence rhyme with the next!

These songs have used very simple harmonies we can all relate to: tonic, dominant and subdominant. With the lyrics telling imaginary stories, magic happens for the melodies. When I visualize the pictures in my mind that go with these songs I always grin with happiness.

As we are finally walking out of the darkness of the pandemic, I am glad that I have made good use of my time of isolation to create something new and meaningful for the young generation.

To listen to the songs please click here to visit WowoSpot Kids Podcast.