Ned's tale reminds me of a Taoist story about a farmer who maintains equanimity and stays calm and open throughout the highs and lows he experiences. Children may enjoy comparing the two stories, as well. Both stories present the opportunity to discuss reactivity and our responses to what life brings us, in a lighthearted and engaged manner.
After reading "Fortunately" (and the Zen story, if children are interested--see text below), re-tell the story through movement games and yoga poses with your child or class as suggested below. Finish by having children creatively tell or act out (or write!) their own story of ups and downs, with prompts given at the end of the movement suggestions.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"We'll see," the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
"We'll see," replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
"We'll see," answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
"We'll see" said the farmer.
See a simple animated version of the tale here: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/571544
Ned gets invited to Florida, but he is in New York City.
Skyscraper: Stand on tiptoes, legs together, arms stretched overhead with palms touching.
Palm Tree: Stand with feet together, arms out to sides, allowing upper body to sway while feet stay planted.
Alternate between these two poses, either by teacher calling out "Florida!" (everyone spreads out in the room and sways like palm trees) or "New York!" (students gather in middle of the room, close together in Skyscraper pose). Alternatively, use sound bites collected from YouTube or iTunes and use the sounds of a bustling city or a breezy beach to initiate the movements. Find city sounds here and beach sounds here.
Kindergarten and older: After they've explored the two landscapes, try turning all of it upside down!
Upside-down Skyscraper: Half Shoulderstand with legs straight and held together. Lay on back and kick legs up overhead, supporting your hips and waistline with your hands.
Upside-down Palm Tree: Half Shoulderstand with knees relaxed and legs swaying.
Ned flies an airplane until the engine breaks down.
Airplane: Warrior III. Stand with feet together and tilt forward at the waist with arms out to sides like wings. Lift one leg up behind you like the tail of a plane and balance. As the engine begins to break down, try Spinning Airplane, hopping in circles in Airplane Pose.
Ned floats down toward earth in a parachute that breaks. Eventually he ends up in the water being chased by sharks.
Parachute: Locust Variation. Lay on belly, reach arms to sides with elbows bent (cactus arms). Bend knees and touch heels together with feet flexed. Lift legs, arms and upper body off the floor, gently rocking side to side. If you have a large enough group to form a circle, you can hold hands and "jump" together. Land (missing a pitchfork in a haystack!) in the water and begin swimming by kicking legs and paddling arms. Then become a shark chasing Ned!
Shark: Still on belly, clasp hands at low back (or place hands on hips with elbows lifted). Lift legs with toes pointed and feet touching. Show a toothy shark-smile!
Ned gets chased by tigers, digs himself a tunnel, and ends up in a fancy ballroom, where it happens to be his own birthday party!
Tiger: Cat-like Stretch. On hands and knees, arch spine and growl. Stretch each limb one at a time away from body. Flex and curl fingers like claws.
Tunnel Crawl: Try crawling on forearms and knees, low to the ground.
Ballroom Dancer: Warrior 1 Variation. From standing, step one foot back, keeping back leg straight and front knee bent at a right angle. Place one hand on your hip and reach the other arm up, curving it slightly over your head. Take a big, graceful step and bring the back foot in front, to land in Warrior 1 on the other side. Switch arm placement. Move in a circle, gliding across the floor in large, lunging steps.
Birthday Cake Candle: Lie down on your back, reaching toes up to the ceiling. Let your back melt onto the floor like frosting onto a warm cake. Point your toes and wiggle your feet like the flickering fire of a candle. Make your wish and then blow all the air out of your lungs toward your toes and let your candle-legs drop to the floor. Rest.
I'm sure the kids' stories will be much better than mine--feel free to share in the comments below!
This post written especially for Kerry at the lovely Picture Books and Pirouettes blog, which I highly recommend as a great resource about using literature in movement activities for kids.