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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…