Otis the Mustang – Part TWO

Following our fine experiences as Chapel guests of the Lipscomb Academy pre-K/K and third grade Book Day readers (click here for Otis the Mustang, Part ONE), we found ourselves welcomed with a perfect poster and sweeping seas of smiles by the seriously sensational second graders (Don’t you love alliteration?  I do, dearly, for double the delight and dazzle… click here for more Vocabulary of Otis.).

Welcome, Otis!

Welcome, Otis!

The absolutely fantastic Mrs. Lankford of second grade made us feel quite at home… and a homecoming, indeed, it was, as our oldest is a graduate of her class.  If every elementary ankle-biter could experience a Mrs. Lankford, somewhere along the way of their schooling, well… this world would just be a finer place all together!  She inspired Chapter 16, near the end of the book, because my oldest was wrapping up his second grade year with her when I completed the manuscript for Otis Goes to School.

All four classes of second grade, and all their amazing teachers, filed into our hostess’s classroom.  They spotted the star–Otis, of course–and there was immediate mutual love between these children and this canine.  After a little background about creative writing, book planning and production, and the sentimental history of Otis, we dove into two of the chapters between the front and back covers of Otis Goes to School.

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

I chose Chapter 13, “Pond-Dog,” for this bunch.  There is a particular water feature around which the happenings of this chapter take place, and it sits just behind the second grade classrooms, so I knew Otis’s discoveries thereabout would prove extra special, and would ring that bell of familiarity with ease and recognizable description.

And just as I suspected, they did not disappoint.  They recognized the pond immediately, and that perfect likeness to Otis therein, as well.

Otis sat, and then stood, and then sat and stood again, and Pond-Dog did the same. Otis panted and sneeze-barked, and snorted a friendly hello, and Pond-Dog did the same. A lovely water-butterfly danced in the air just above Pond-Dog’s ears, and much to his surprise when he looked up, there was a Monarch dancing above his own ears! Otis watched his cotton-ball clouds float to the east, and noticed the pond-clouds did the same. He wondered if they eventually met somewhere far away on the horizon, wherever it is that clouds go.

“…wherever it is that clouds go.” Ahhh, these little ones, they went right along with us, searching our imaginations for those very clouds.  We deeply enjoyed all the interest and intensity these second graders exuded.  For the Lipscomb set, they might just take the cake for “most into-the-story!”

Of course, we topped it off with Chapter 14, “Lunch.”  And good timing, because that’s just what they were ready for!

Distracted from his stealthy-ness by his newfound buffet line, Otis brushed against the legs of the cornbread girl, and his soft fur tickled her knees. She lowered her head and peered under the table, still laughing along with her friends, and spotted Otis, who paused with a deer-in-the-headlight expression.

“A dog!” the girl called loudly to her friend. “Y’all look at the dog under the table!”

And they all swiveled and twisted on their stools to crouch down for a better look, raising the noise-level all the while.

“Oh my, it IS a dog!” one girl exclaimed.

“He’s cute!” another declared. Well that was surely a nice thing to say.

“Dude, that’s awesome–a dog in School. Hey, feed him my carrots!” a goofy boy insisted, holding down a bright orange carrot between his finger and thumb.

“Hey, that’s that dog that hangs out the window every afternoon in the pick-up line!”

“Naw, can’t be, somebody tell the teachers…”

“Here boy, have a nugget!”

Otis grabbed the carrot and the nugget and kept moving forward under the table. Yep, he had been discovered, but it was worth it. Lunch had been spectacular. Students petted him and scratched his ears as he stepped over feet and lunchboxes. The commotion had drawn the attention of the teachers at this point, but it was nearly impossible to contain the excitement of children who had just found a big black dog under their lunch table.

There were squeals and hollering and he knew he heard his name several times. More food appeared under the table, served in the palms of chuckling children. “That’s Otis!” someone insisted…

See you in the pick-up line, second-grade.  You are always the BEST at waving to Otis in the afternoons.  He’s extra happy and shows off that polka-dotted pant in a large way when you greet him coming around that curve.

Mrs. Lankford's 2014 second graders!

Mrs. Lankford’s 2014 second graders!

Otis enjoyed every second of the second grade’s petting.

To the First Grade!

And less than 24 hours later, we were welcomed into the first grade classrooms, and into the extra huggable arms of these bright and dear young ones.  You do know, first grade is training ground for the best huggers of the future.  I don’t remember when I’ve received better hugs than in first grade classrooms.  These students are still the age of love in its most pure, childlike form, and they give it freely to those who look upon them with likewise admiration and appreciation (…and they do admire alliteration!).

Perhaps all the hugs are why these teachers smile so easily, so readily, even (perhaps, especially) upon the little learners who might challenge the very patience of Job with their wiggly-ness and unable-to-stop-talking-for-one-blessed-moment-ness.  There are first graders who follow the playbook as though life depends upon successful tippy-toeing between the clearly explained bylaws of first grade.  And then… and then… they are those who run haphazardly through the bylaws, past all the exceptions and clear into the unchartered territory of the first grader’s inquisitively insistent, “…but why?” (Thank you to my children’s Uncle LaGard Smith, for that succinct yet ridiculously accurate two-word summation of the ever wondering six-year-old’s favorite question.)

How do I know, you ask?  Let’s just say, the blessing of raising three children (three vastly different little Bramletts, who artfully resemble each other in looks, yet somehow encompass the full spectrum of personality possibilities within this gene pool) comes with the revelation that truly, no two children are alike, nor should they be.  They definitely approach the playbook from all angles.  And first-grade-caliber hugs help smooth those angles, no doubt here.

How else do I know?  It might be duly noted that Yours Truly, when in first grade, loved school deeply, and was often ready with some profound (wink) answer and exuberantly raised hand… it is possible that said hand might have been waving rapidly back and forth with ferocious first-grade fervor, and that the thumb and tall-man finger may have been snapped a time or two (or three) to grab my dear Mrs. Snellgrove’s attention, so that the enlightened answer/revelation/story might gush forth from the two little pink inward-squeezed lips of this overly excited only-child who scoffed at by-laws and exceptions where spotlight was available.  But I gave great hugs, and Mrs. Snellgrove was always smiling!  

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

(Thank you for your patience, Mrs. Snellgrove!)

First graders are exceedingly different and beautiful, but they all hug with wild abandon, with tremendous gusto… and with some pretty strong muscles, too, I might add!  These first graders lived up to their high heights of huggability, and ended our 2014 Lipscomb Academy visits with love to last us through the summer.

We were hosted by the very sweet, very gentle and dear Mrs. Woodard, who blessed our oldest two children with her knack for encouraging young readers, her soft voice, and her ever-caring gaze upon the lot of those under her tutelage.  Her wonderful, fellow hugged-to-the-max teachers and all the first graders joined us for a reading of the Spring volume of Ella and the Little Red Wagon (quite special, since this was a visit to our very own Ella’s classroom and grade) and Chapter 12, of Otis Goes to School: “The Spelling Test.”

This chapter is based on Mrs. Woodard and her classroom specifically, so these darlings followed right along with all the rituals of the spelling test described… all the knee-bouncing, eraser-to-the-forehead thinking, the clock ticking, the bottom-lip-biting and uplifting teacher-given winks of encouragement.  They were right there with me, right there with Otis as he reassures Chapter 12’s first-grader in his spelling of the last word of the test… “DOG.”

Otis was glad the word had not been CAT, as he would have been no help there.

The first graders!

The first graders!

I was so happy to know that just about all these students were ready to get to work on their own stories, their own written adventures of imagination.  They also shared much with us about their own dogs and other pets who resemble Otis.  And the beauty in that strong compulsion to share the first thought that comes along is the innocent and immediate reminder that children of this age have their worlds before them.  They are sitting at start, fumbling for their own sets of keys to the ignition of imagination, and all their engines are Formula-One-worthy.  Their potential is boundless, untold and yet-to-be.

That’s why they hug with all their might… because they don’t know “can’t.”

It’s a great thing not to know the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Personally, and in my house, it’s the equivalent of a forbidden four-letter word.  “Can’t,” just provokes me, really, and I’m sure my patient husband–who would make Job proud–would agree wholeheartedly.  To me, “can’t,” evokes the opposing response of, “wanna bet?”

Actually, the more typical response of this author to the atrocious contraction, “can’t,” is more along the lines of a raised right eyebrow, an ever-so-slight smile with a set jaw and hidden, clenched teeth, nose flared in the fashion of family decent, eyes flashing and scarcely squinted, excessively focused and bluer than before the inherent challenge.  I think my husband concurrently shows both eyebrows raised high to wrinkle his concerned forehead, a gritted smile in the oh-boy-here-it-comes fashion, and a tense oh-man-what-path-are-we-about-to-embark-upon sensation.  It always works out swimmingly, though, because “can’t,” just won’t do.

These first graders have the right idea.  Keep hugging with all your heart and might.

Keep answering that call to tell your own tale, and tell it well (don’t forget your adjectives!).

Never learn the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Step right over it, because you can.

Otis time is special time.

Otis time is special time.

I look forward to keeping up with all the Mustangs.  And I can hardly wait to see how you’ve all grown by next year.  It’s summertime, so I’m hoping your adventures are laying ground to stories you’ll share with me, upon our next gathering together.

To all of the Lipscomb Academy teachers who invited me, my husband, our dog, family and book into your classrooms, bless you and thank you.  Thank you all for what you do everyday, for showing up with excitement, for inspiring our children, for being everything that you are to your own families and then pulling even more from your hearts to share with your students and all their families.  Our experiences with your students shall be forever treasured, keeping our hearts full with happy thoughts.

And selfishly, we can’t help but hope for more of the same.

God bless you Mustangs, as you have all greatly blessed us.  Have a summerload of fun!

 

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

 

For more excerpts from Otis Goes to School, click here!

To find out how/where you can purchase a book or schedule an appearance, click here!

UPDATE: Here’s a couple of treasures given to me by students after our first grade visit… I love the artwork, and the thought behind the stories!  Thank you to Scout and Esme for sharing your talents with me!  I’ll treasure them always.

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

 

Great story, Scout!  I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school.  I know you have fun!

Great story, Scout! I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school. I know you have fun!

 

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Otis the Mustang — Part ONE

*Please click here for Otis the Mustang — Part TWO, the second and first grades.*

Lipscomb Academy–to which my family still fondly refers as David Lipscomb, to pay homage to the school’s history as well as my sweet husband’s “Lifer” status (K-College)–has all but made a Mustang out of the certain canine for which this site is particularly designed to promote.

This spring found Otis at many an elementary school, even more than once at a couple of them… and Lipscomb invited Otis to visit almost every grade!  He made appearances for the pre-K and Kindergartners, and the 1st – 3rd grades.  The only students we missed were the pre-1st students (most of whom met Otis last year when he visited the Kindergarten), and the 4th graders (who all met Otis at last year’s Book Day).  Needless to say, though say it we must… Otis feels right at home in the classrooms of the Brewer Campus of Lipscomb Academy (David Lipscomb Campus School, for the Mustangs who go back that far.).

All dressed... white fur tie in place under the Lipscomb jersey, of course.

All dressed… white fur tie in place under the Lipscomb jersey, of course.

Of course, Lipscomb is quite special to our family, and to the book, Otis Goes to School.  After all, the chapters describe the very walls and halls of the building, the trees of the playgrounds, and even the goldfish pond behind the second grade classrooms.

When Otis goes for a ride to gather the two oldest of his three favorite children, it’s the Lipscomb pick-up line he knows best.  It’s the scents of lunch from waving hands and post-P.E. students that he recognizes.  He knows the security guards and teachers, and when to brace for the sharp turn to enter/exit the parking lot.  Lipscomb is another home for this dog, and because we live so close, he can probably smell it with his expert olfactory tracker from his very own backyard.

So we thoroughly enjoyed all the familiar faces (and new ones as well) that we saw at our first spring visit to Lipscomb: pre-K and Kindergarten Chapel!  Because this set was much younger, and because this was time set aside for a message sharing God’s love and creation, we read from the Ella and the Little Red Wagon series.  It being spring, we of course chose the Spring volume.

Ella and the Little Red Wagon - SPRING COVER

Ella and the Little Red WagonSpring (Not yet in stores, but coming soon!)

Lucky for me, my Ella’s first grade teacher let her tag along and introduce the book (and Otis) to the nearly 80 students present that day.  The little ones loved making the connection between a character in a book, and their real-life versions right in front of them.

The Ella series is all about discovering God’s world around us. With Otis as her faithful sidekick, Ella finds outdoor treasures of all sizes and shapes, and gathers them in her wagon.  She finds that these gems are sent to us as little reminders of the current season, and how much care God puts into each detail.

Ahhh… if He puts such focus into the tiniest of dappled freckles in the center of the tulip, or the dash of red on the robin’s breast, or the perfect pop of yellow on the bumblebee’s stripes, then how much–oh, how very much–love and attention and care He must put into each one of us.

No doubt, Ella’s favorite treasure in the book is Otis, so she gives him a ride in the wagon, too… a point certainly not lost on our very sharp and attentive pre-K/K audience.

We also read from Hello World, and remembered the importance of noticing everything around us.  It is most refreshing to see through the eyes of the youngest readers… these wide-eyed, clean-canvassed little thinkers.  Our youngest son, now age 3, says “Hello,” to everything… “Hello airplane, hello school bus, hello cloud… hello, Otis!”  Therein lies the inspiration for this picture book.

Hello World Book Cover

Hello World (Not yet in stores, but also coming soon.)

HW pgs34-35

Oh, these pre-k/K-ers had such wonderful questions!  We chatted about how to make a book, how to put all the pieces together, how to know what to write about, and when the story is finished.  We talked about Otis, and his history before joining our family.  And we talked, of course, about writing our own stories.

Who has a story?  Who has an imagination?  That’s right, littlest Lipscomb darlings… just like Haywood and St. Paul and Judson realized… we ALL do.  And I thank you so much for being a part of mine!

We made it into the grades' newsletter for May, put together by the teacher who so graciously invited us to speak in Chapel, Mrs. Austin!

We made it into the grades’ newsletter for May, put together by the teacher who so graciously invited us to speak in Chapel, Mrs. Austin!

 

The children were so patient and tender with Otis, and he loved every moment of lovin' these students could share!

The children were so patient and tender with Otis, and he loved every moment of lovin’ these students could share!

THANK YOU to the Mustang pre-K and Kindergarten classes!!  We had a wonderful morning with you, and we hope you’ll have us back next year!

***

THIRD GRADE BOOK DAY

Numerically speaking, 1st grade would come next… but Otis made the leap to third grade for the calendar’s sake.  For the second year in a row, we were invited to speak and read for Lipscomb Academy’s Third Grade Book Day!  This year was extra special, because our oldest son, Paul Kent, was an official third grader.  Students and teachers celebrate the day by dressing as their favorite storybook character, and my boy went as “himself.”  He is, after all, the “oldest boy” in Otis Goes to School.

Another reason for the extra special-ness of the day is that last year, when I read this book to the then-third graders, it was in the form of a 3-ring binder.  I had written the full manuscript in ink/pencil/crayon/marker–whatever I could grab that would write at the time–and I typed it into my computer, printed it out, punched holes with my lawyer-husband’s three-hole punch, clicked the rings closed, slapped a title page on the front and made my way as a fledgling author with tummy butterflies and a here-goes-everything approach, to my first appearance at Book Day.

Last year's Third Grade Book Day (2013)... a helpful parent keeps Otis in check while he gets his first dose of lovin' as a real life storybook character.

Last year’s Third Grade Book Day (2013)… a helpful parent keeps Otis in check while he gets his first dose of lovin’ as a real life storybook character.

This year, I was able to show the students a real book.  I held in my hands many months of work, of late hours, of doing and redoing and scrapping and re-redoing until the cover was just right.  I held in my hands the finished product of last year’s infant of a book, in its cradle of a binder closed with crossed fingers, hopes and prayers.  Last year’s third graders are this year’s seniors of the elementary school, and I remember them listening intently, responding to the character of Otis, and high-fiving me in the halls for the remainder of last spring, saying, “Hey, you read about Otis to us!  Is it in the library yet?”

Those comments encouraged me forth, and made me unable to hide a smile that foretells what I do hope for: that this book, all my books-in-the-works and books-to-be-thought-of, might be in that library, in libraries everywhere, in bookstores everywhere, in homes around the world, and most importantly for my children’s books, at home in the hands of a little one learning to follow the call of his or her imagination.

I brought the 3-ring binder and the finished, bookstore-ready copy to share with this year’s third grade… my oldest sitting close beside, my supportive husband keeping Otis calm, and my sweet girl beaming at being included in big brother’s class event (Preston was having a big time on a playdate with a pal, having had plenty of personal Otis-time before breakfast). Joy, it was, to hold proof in hand (there’s the lawyer in me) that hard work really does what the old saying indicates… it pays off.  It makes a difference.  It means everything.

Thank you, Mrs. Sanders and all the third grade teachers and students, for inviting us to return to Third Grade Book Day!  I’m hoping to share something brand new next year, if you’ll have us back!

This year's Third Grade Book Day (2014).  Now this is a bunch of characters!

This year’s Third Grade Book Day (2014). Now this is a bunch of characters!

Pre-K/K and Third Grade Book Day… Otis was just getting started!  There’s more?  Why of course, there’s always more in the experience of the long-winded writer.  Second and first grade stories are coming up… in that very order.

Please click here for PART TWO of Otis the Mustang, the second and first grades.

 

On sale at Fox’s Donut Den!

True words from the now-posted Chapter 5 excerpt of Otis Goes to School:

“As patience usually does procure perfect timing, so did Otis await the proper opportunity.”

Saturday was a great day, as Otis Goes to School was part of Saturday Morning Storytime at Parnassus Books in Green Hills.  And the blessings, as usual, were even beyond our expectations, as Ella and the Little Red Wagon was also included!  A post with information on this four-part series is coming soon.

For now, please enjoy some pictures from our debut… and for those of you asking where to buy a copy of Otis, it is now on sale at Fox’s Donut Den!  That’s the delicious, Nashville, Tennessee, landmark just around the corner from Parnassus.  So while you are out shopping, be sure to stop by, grab the yummiest apple fritter you’ll ever taste, a cup of hot coffee, and a copy of Otis!  THANK YOU Donut Den, for your amazing support!

This first photograph collage is truly special, as it was put together and shared with us by our oldest son’s wonderful third grade teacher, Mrs. Sanders.  She was one of many who came to show their support and excitement over Otis, and I am just eternally grateful for everyone who could make it out on such a cold morning, and to those as well who could not attend, but sent their loving thoughts and words our way.  Otis is glad to know he has such loyal fans!

We are so grateful to Mrs. Sanders, our oldest son's third grade teacher, for putting together this beautiful reflection of our morning at the bookstore.  Thank you!

We are so grateful to Mrs. Sanders, our oldest son’s third grade teacher, for putting together this beautiful reflection of our morning at the bookstore. Thank you!

The children's area was full!  Ella and the Little Red Wagon was a hit, and it was such a joy to introduce Otis to the youngest of Nashville readers.

The children’s area was full! Ella and the Little Red Wagon was a hit, and it was such a joy to introduce Otis to the youngest of Nashville readers.

Be sure to stop by Fox's Donut Den in Green Hills and pick up a copy of Otis Goes to School!  Thank you, Mr. Fox!!

Be sure to stop by Fox’s Donut Den in Green Hills and pick up a copy of Otis Goes to School! Thank you, Mr. Fox!!

We are excited about plans in the works to bring Otis Goes to School to other bookstores nearby, and to schools as well!  Third Graders at Lipscomb Academy will be enjoying the adventures of this lovable pup very soon, and we will be sharing details of a book signing coming up next month.  Thank you so much for following along with us on this journey.  Be sure to check out the excerpt from Chapter 5, and don’t forget the Glossary for critical readers!