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Bongo Bongo

Three kids on the block make some music from found objects and are almost thwarted by a car alarm.

Photo of Teis null
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Bongo Bongo

Little Leonardo, sitting on his stoop,

tapping on his bongo.

Bongo, bongo, bon bongo, bongo.

“Can I join?” asks Jules from next door.

She emptied a bottle, added some sand

Giving it a shake, she had a maraca in her hand.

So they played:

Shhhka, shhhka, shhhka, shhhka bongo, bongo.

From upstairs, the duo heard a shout.

“Turn off the TV and take this stinky trash out!”

Tony started stomping, carrying the trash:

Thunk! Slam! Stomp, stomp, CRASH.

“What a sound, Tony, join our band!

We’re in need of some cymbals man.”

And so they played:

Shhhka, shhhka, bongo, shhhka bongo, CRASH.

They got into a groove and Tony busted some moves,

But suddenly…





Mr. Hendrick’s car started to blare.

Tony screamed “Our music is ruined! This simply will not do”

Leonardo sat quietly and looked down at his shoe.

But Jules had an idea, and started to sway,

As if these sounds would sweep her away.

BRRRRRAAAAAAAP shhhka, shhhka, shhhka


WHOOOOOOOP WHOOOOOOOP stomp shhhka stomp

BONG BONG BONGo Bongo Bongo.

The band stayed out and played all day,

Filling in music and rocking away!

There was a bang, a bong, a clack and a clang,

And if you’ll believe it, Leonardo even sang.

So, next time you hear a car go


Listen closely for the trio’s song:

shhhka shhhka bongo bongo CRASH

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

We wished to create a fun reading experience for caregivers and their children, exploring the musicality that a story could bring.

Share your suggested book title

Bongo Bongo

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

We wanted to develop a reading experience that would be fun for adults and children alike that would prompt them to have new conversations while in their communities. The car alarm in our story not only creates a moment of tension by breaking the musical rhythm of the text, it can serve as a reminder for caregivers and children to discuss the story when they hear the sounds of cars in their neighborhood. In the end, the car alarm in not an adversary -- it is an opportunity for caregivers and children to laugh at the new sounds and leave with a valuable lesson: we can choose how we react to a situation, and adapt our behavior to be successful. In the process of writing this story, we also conducted our own original research, by visiting our local library to share our story with children and their caregivers, getting their feedback to improve and develop the story further.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

The setting of the story is intentionally urban filled with urban sounds: the stoop, empty bottles, metal trash cans and blaring car alarms. Additionally, in the city there aren't always great spaces that promote play -- our story exists outside the home, in the neighborhood, where children can create fun and music through their own ingenuity. Finally, in our illustrations, we wish to represent the diversity of urban life through the ethnicities of our three main charchters.

Location: Country


Location: State or Department

New York

Location: City


Website URL (optional question)

Tell us more about you / your team

We are two creatives working at non-profits. We live in Brooklyn, surrounded by noise, with few opportunities for play. It served as inspiration for our work.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

The Last Book

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • OpenIDEO announcement email
  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists


Join the conversation:

Photo of Marty lapointe-malchik

There's a lot to love about this! What a fabulous concept to use an impromptu band inspired by everyday city items including a car alarm that goes off. I found your explanation about choosing how to react to unexpected and typically annoying surprises to add even more depth to how you envision this rhythmic romp for toddlers. The bongo bongo parts were particularly pleasing to the ear. I wish you luck in the next round of submissions.

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