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Native Oklahoman turns children's book into musical

Richard Rosser's children's book “Piggy Nation” to have an off-Broadway run.
BY RICK ROGERS Published: March 24, 2013

Bad manners can manifest themselves in ways too numerous to ponder. Consider the father who cooks breakfast for his son but leaves the mess for his wife to clean up. Or the inconsiderate person who talks on his cellphone in a crowded restaurant.

They're situations that formed the basis of “Piggy Nation: A Day at Work With Dad,” a children's book that teaches young kids about the negative results of thoughtless behavior. Published in 2011, the book was recently adapted into a musical that opens this week at off-Broadway's Snapple Theatre Center.

The idea for “Piggy Nation” arose when author and native Oklahoman Richard Rosser watched a guy in a Corvette steal a parking space from his mother-in-law. Incensed with the man's selfish behavior, the California resident embarked on a mission to prevent “piggy” behavior.

Rosser teamed up with Shane Sowell, an illustrator who created the colorful visuals that brought the author's characters to life. The story follows a day in the young life of Sammy Hamhock. On his first day of summer vacation, Sammy gets to accompany his dad to work.

Whenever his father observes “piggy” behavior, the patrol officer tickets the offender.

But Sammy's father is oblivious to his own actions, which include driving his car through a flamingo's flower bed and creating a traffic jam when he stops to ticket a littering lizard. Asked to pick out the worst offender, Sammy decides to ticket his father for failing to realize his own “piggy” behavior.

Rosser decided to get his message about the importance of thoughtfulness and consideration by reading his story to groups of young school children. Trying to figure out the best way to open a school assembly, Rosser made his cellphone ring, then answered it while munching on potato chips.

“Right away, one of the kids said, ‘Hey mister, you can't talk (on a phone) during an assembly.' They were already clued into the whole ‘piggy' behavior thing,” Rosser said. “I wondered then if I could get some kids to do a little play based on the story. And if it could be a play, why not make it into a musical?”

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