Years ago, I reluctantly planted a vegetable garden. I wasn’t especially compelled to dig around in the dirt, but my then-first grader desperately wanted to grow veggies. So I did what all good mothers do, I initiated a bonding, life-enriching experience with my child. Of course, I got stuck doing it all by myself once the kid lost interest (which was about two hours into the project).
So there I am planting lettuce, green beans, pumpkins, onions. And strangely, I began feeling proud about those plants. Every day, I went out to admire my handiwork, and gasp at the fact that the darn things actually grew a little taller, and a little fuller every day.
Then one morning…rabbits!
I built fences. I put up owl statues. I planted marigolds. Nothing worked. I slowly came to the realization that the only place I could beat those pesky pufftails was in a book.
Ta da! The inspiration.
As for the imagination, I turned myself into an old grump named Mr. McGreely, and I changed those marigolds and owl statues into a moat and a gigantic fort complete with barbed wire and searchlights.
Initially, I also imagined the gardener succeeding in his bunny-free quest, and I actually wrote the first draft that way. You know, the gardener cheers, “I beat the bunnies,” and then he happily eats the carrots all by himself.
I liked that ending.
But I knew my readers wouldn’t.
Aware of the fact that readers of this story are most likely kindergartners, I knew the bunnies needed to be victorious. Symbolically they are children in the story; children who must outwit the grownup.