- Ask your child this what-if before reading the story below. Talk about the question and how they (and you!) might answer.
- Help your child develop their own questions before they start writing and as they go if needed.
- Talk with them about all sorts of possibilites - get creative and even outrageous if that helps. Is there anything they've ever wondered about? Something they wished could happen? Imagination is the key to making this fun.
- Maybe share some of your own what-ifs - what are some things that you wished could happen? Kids love to see their parents dream, too!
This is an easy what-if for me, because it kind of really happened. But maybe not in this exact same way...
First, I asked this question: What if your dog ran away and changed his name?
Then, I thought about why a dog might run away. What if he was sad about something?
Murphy the Dog was sweet. Loving. Fiercely loyal.
But he wasn’t very smart.
No dog had ever loved a family as much as Murphy loved his.
But today he was sad.
First, he had been happy – wildly, rambunctiously happy. Happier, he thought, than any dog could possibly be.
His family had a new person. A new, tiny, wiggling, noisy little person.
She didn’t do much other than cry. But she didn’t seem to mind his kisses, which made her all right. And he thought she smelled nice, even when his other people didn’t seem to think so.
Murphy was excited to have her around. Perhaps a little too excited, because he knocked over a table and was sent directly out into the backyard.
Murphy moped a bit. He lay in the shade of a tree, wondering why he wasn’t welcome.
Now I asked myself: Why would he leave the yard? What if he chases a squirrel?
But then he stopped worrying. Instead, he spotted a squirrel leaping off the gate into the front yard.
So, of course, being a dog and also being not-so-smart, Murphy jumped over the gate after that squirrel.
So, now that we know why he ran away, we need to figure out why he changed his name. What if he takes a little walk first?
Over-the-gate was an exciting place. Murphy had never been there without a leash. He felt so free!
He looked all over for that squirrely squirrel, who at this point had already climbed the tallest tree and was chattering at him in a teasing tone.
Murphy decided instead to do a bit of exploring.
Now – where can he go where his name might get changed? What if he meets a child?
He sniffed trees, fire hydrants, flowers, and bushes. He trotted and stood still like a statue and then trotted some more. He looked and listened and lifted his leg where he probably shouldn’t. And then he heard a voice.
“Come here, boy!”
Murphy, who was, as we’ve said, sweet, loving, and fiercely loyal, saw the boy he’d never seen before and scampered over to him, his tail wagging so quickly it could propel a boat. The boy, who’d just moved to the neighborhood, had always wanted a dog.
The boy wrapped his arms around Murphy’s neck.
“Mom! Can we keep him?” he called into his house.
“Sam!” the boy’s mother replied. “He has a collar. I’m sure he has an owner. Let’s see what his name is.”
As his mother looked for Murphy’s tags, the boy announced, “I think I’ll call him James.”
“James,” thought Murphy. “That’s a nice name. I like it.”
Now that we know how he changed his name: How does he get home? What if his family finds him?
“Sweetie,” the boy’s mother said, jingling Murphy’s tags. “His name is Murphy. He lives up the street.”
Just then, Murphy heard his other name – his real name. His family ran frantically toward him. His tongue bounced from his slobbery mouth as he watched.
“There you are!” they cried. Murphy got more hugs. All of this attention was nice. He wasn't feeling so sad anymore.
“Oh, James.” Sam had tears in his eyes. “I mean, Murphy. I’ll miss you.”
“You can come visit,” said Murphy’s person, introducing himself to Sam and his mother. “You're welcome to play with him anytime. Hey, James is a pretty good name. Maybe we can call him Murphy James. Thank you for finding him!”
Sam nodded happily.
“Murphy James,” Murphy thought. “I like the sound of that.”
What a fantastic day! He had two new people to love. And now he had two names!
Murphy James headed home, proudly carrying his new name with him.
See! Writing isn’t so hard if you keep asking questions as you go. What if you tried this one on your own? What would happen? Give it a try!