I collect ideas from many places-life experiences, dreams, and things that interest me. I put my ideas in a huge box and call it my "Idea Box". Our son Bruce was almost six, the age when birthdays seem most magical. His father (Don Wood) and I wanted his birthday to be the best he'd ever had. Bruce loved to create imaginary worlds of his own in our back yard-blankets draped over bushes, rocks stacked together; he would use anything, so this tendency in our son provided a theme for his party.
Weeks before the party, we began to collect refrigerator boxes or large appliance cartons of various sizes and shapes from local dealers. The boxes stacked up mysteriously in our garage.
The day before the party, his father, Bruce, and I went to work. With tape and tabs we connected the boxes together in a fantastic construction. We detached the slide from the swing set and mounted it on the avocado tree to form a slide entrance into the first room of the house.
From there, the cardboard structure zigzagged and circled throughout the entire yard. Some of the boxes were stacked one upon the other to create large, two storied rooms. There were peek holes galore; trap doors; long boxes on their sides for tunnels; tall, skinny boxes for towers; inner courtyards accessed by spacious double doors; and star- and heart-shaped windows everywhere.
As instructed in the invitations, each child brought an oversized adult shirt to use as a painting smock, and when the party began, large paint brushes, pots of poster paint, and stacks of wallpaper samples were passed out.Then the guests went to work. For the next three hours, the children created their own "backyard surprise." The drab cardboard boxes were transformed, inside and out, into a fantastic wonderland of color and design. There were wild animals, underwater creatures, bubbles, and sunny landscapes. Flowers sprouted from the windows and a dragon's tail dangled from a porthole.
Eventually, ice cream and cake were served inside the children's creation, and the guests played in it until it was time to go home.Bruce begged us not to dismantle the construction. With the help of neighborhood friends, he transformed the structure several more times. Eventually it disintegrated. To this day, he remembers the magic backyard house as not only his best birthday party ever, but one of his fondest childhood memories.
The party was the genesis of The Flying Dragon Room. After witnessing how much fun it was for children to create a world of their own in our backyard, it seemed natural to write a book celebrating this heady mixture of creativity and imagination.