The Story Behind The Tale of Bunny The Frog
By M. J. Di Rocco
Everything is white. The screeching noise envelops me in its cocoon of chaos. Pain. Noise. Chaos. My legs are convulsing uncontrollably. Shock. Faces come into focus through the veil of white. Through the noise I hear voices. I don't understand. What's happened? I don't understand.
"This is ambulance," one voice says, finally something I understand.
"Ambulance. We go hospital."
Everything is still white. I still feel nothing except the convulsing of my legs. "Calm down," I keep repeating to myself. Calm down. I will my legs to stop, they don't. I'm moving now, they're carrying me. The white light is mixed with other colours, more voices. One saying something I recognize. "You're at the hospital. You have been in an accident. Do you remember?" I mutter something inaudible about my legs and how they won't stop. I am given a needle, I fall asleep. Blissful and quiet sleep.
Waking up in the friendly confines of a Japanese hospital it all came back to me.
I was hit by a car while cycling.
My shoulder was dislocated and broken in several places, requiring surgery and, my lifelong souvenir from Japan, a titanium plate bolted to my left shoulder. When one is confined to the hospital and heavily medicated on painkillers one's brain seems to work on overtime. Once I was done annoying the young nurses with my lousy flirtations I began seriously think of my future.
Of my son.
Of my students.
As a father and as a teacher for all the good I want to instill in kids, I always feel the world is stronger than me.
Once upon a time, in my young, ambitious days, I was a filmmaker. I was bent on winning an Oscar and changing the medium of cinema forever. I was young, ambitious and stupid. I didn't necessarily make bad films, but my films didn't resonate the way I hoped they would because I made them for all the wrong reasons. I gave it a lot of thought while in the hospital. I got reacquainted with my soul.
Certainly as we age, we come to terms with our mortality. We start to wonder what we've done and what's left for us to do. Was this me? A kindergarten teacher knocking on 40, with a couple of films nobody has seen to his name? Wow. What the hell happened? Life happened. Nothing bad, but not as I'd planned. Not even close. Then again, for whom does life happen exactly as planned? Taking a deeper look, life has not been bad to me. It's been a fun, unexpected adventure and it's not over yet. There is still so much for me to do, but now I know why I do things (I'm a little less stupid, you see) I do things for my son, for my students, for others.
The only way my work and life have meaning is if I do it with the intention of helping others.
I'd been toying with the idea of a children's book for some time. Being a kindergarten teacher I read a lot of books to kids. So many times, while reading books, I began to wonder what the heck the stories were about and thought to myself some of these books make no sense. I knew I could do better.
Stories are an effective teaching tool when it comes to children.
And I think a writer has a responsibility to the world's youngest minds.
I knew the basic message I wanted to communicate, but really it caught fire after my accident. I felt an urgency to do better, to be better.
Fast-forward two years:
The book is finally published and available globally. Not without a long quest to find the perfect artist to illustrate. My vision for this book was very specific and I feel it's been achieved.
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A tiny story, about a frog that tries to make himself look like a rabbit so he will be accepted by his new friends, has traveled a long road to publication. But it's a message that I feel is important to communicate to our youngest minds.
Accept others; accept yourself, simple but sometimes difficult.
I chose to write a book because some of the most precious and effective time I spend with children is through stories. Spend any given amount of time reading with a child and you'll discover how ready they are willing and to communicate after they've absorbed a good story. Children learn quickly and when you least expect it, stories are a big part of that.
I'm knocking on 40 years of life. I had planned to win several Oscars by now. How I ended up as a kindergarten teacher in Japan is irrelevant because it's what I am. It's who I am. My stories will never change the history of cinema.
But my little story about the frog who wants to be a bunny did make my son smile, it made my students smile, it made children I've never met smile. It made them think, it made them feel, it made them learn. And I'd like to think that it made the world a teeny-tiny but better. For that I am grateful.
I am blessed that I could share a moment with families. I'm grateful and blessed because I realized that life isn't about what I want, it's about how I can help others.
The future, this planet, they belong to our children and we have an immense responsibility to them. They are the ones who will make the world a better place.
Our kids don't care about how many likes we get on Facebook, how many followers we have on Instagram, how many calories we eat per day or who we voted for.
Our kids care about us, simply being with us. They need us. And the world needs them.
Read to them, share stories with them and watch as they grow to be spectacular. After all, the only meaningful thing we can leave behind is beautiful memories.
MJ Di Rocco is an author and filmmaker. He has produced and directed three feature films and a dozen music videos and has previously published one book of poetry. He lives in Japan where he stumbled upon teaching and has chosen to teach kindergarten and lecture at university. The Tale of Bunny The Frog is his first children's book and is a story about self-acceptance and accepting others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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M. J. Di Rocco wrote the introduction to The Frank StoryTelling Program For Dating Workbook