A Donkey’s Hind Leg

So, there I was a couple of months ago, trying to draw the hind legs of a donkey for my new children’s book Zando, a re-telling of the classic folktale, “The Bremen Town Musicians.”

Although I have been known to talk the hind leg off a donkey, I had never attempted to render one. (On second thought, it’s probably not a good idea to use the word “render” and “donkey” in the same sentence—sorry PETA).

I tried once. I tried twice. No go.

Next I pulled How to Draw Horses by Walter Foster off my studio shelf. I bought this book with allowance money in 1972 when I was 8. Walter helped, but I was still having a tough time getting all the joints and angles figured out. I gave up.

That night in bed, I lay there thinking about my animal characters. In the original folktale, evicted from their homes, the donkey, dog, cat, and rooster band together to travel to Bremen Town to become street musicians. I had already decided my characters would have musical names. The donkey, for instance, is called Zando—short for “sforzando,” which means “suddenly LOUD!”

I thought about Zando’s hind legs. I raised my hand and started tracing lines and curves in the darkness.

And it hit me! What I was tracing looked an awful lot like the musical symbol for a quarter-rest!

Next morning I confirmed it. I studied other symbols and incorporated them into designing all the animals: Marcato, the dog (a French poodle who barks “with a marked accent”); Fermata, the cat (who “pauses” at the door before going outside); and Poco-A-Poco, the rooster (who sings earlier “little by little” each morning).

I relocated the story to Italy, and am happily writing and illustrating the animals’ journey toward Siena, and their unexpected detour into the deep, dark woods.

Stay tuned! (Pun fully intended… but you knew that)!

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