What happens when a young girl of the mid-20th century finds a mini mule and hides it on her elementary school playground? For one thing, the mule decides to stay, and stay, and stay… Foreman’s whimsical fantasy [or is it a memoir?] and Hartsfield’s artwork secure a spot for Minnie Mule both on the McDowell School playground and in our hearts.
This picture is a rough draft drawing that appears on page 14 of my picture book Minnie Mule. The ten children in it have just arrived at school and have a little time to play before they go to their classrooms.
Three boys have already begun to see-saw and swing. Six of the others are in a happy hurry to get in as much playtime as they can before the bell rings. That leaves one little girl who is on her hands and knees beside a row of hedges. Who is she and why is she doing something different?
Her name is Ella, and she is about to begin her first day of a new school year. What the picture does not show is the little mule, Minnie, who’s under the hedges where Ella is squatted. The trouble is, the bell is about to ring, that hedgerow is not where Minnie ought to be, and Ella doesn’t have time to move her stubborn little mule.
Now: look again at the first sentence of this writing. Notice that the picture is called a rough draft. Rough drafts are like practice pictures that artists draw or paint when they first begin illustrating a book. Sometimes, an author likes one of these practice pictures so much that she decides to use the rough draft in the final book. When I saw Mrs. Hartsfield's rough draft of this playground scene, the children in the drawing looked so happy that I realized it had to be the one I used!