Costume Shop Supervisor Proves Pen Is Mighter Than Needle
As an actress, Rebecca Cobo is inspired by meaningful plays, fantastic scripts and staged theater.
As an artist, she's inspired by beautiful fabric, dramatic costumes and theatrical creations.
As an author, she's inspired by country living, little kids and teeming ponds; that's the source of her latest endeavor, a book titled My Extraordinary Life by Thaddeus T.
Cobo, costume shop supervisor in the department of dance at Sam Houston State University, came up with the storyline while on a walk at her country home.
"My husband and I always look in the pond to see what's going on," Cobo said. "One day we noticed millions of tadpoles. We got to visiting everyday just to see what they were doing. They would come out and sort of look at you, then swim away real fast and hide under the leaves."
Cobo was fascinated by the antics of one little fellow in particular.
"He was coming up, drinking little sips of air, then going back down," Cobo said. "I walked into the house and the name just came to me. Thaddeus T. And then I began to write."
Thaddeus T.—known to his friends as Tad—takes readers on a journey as he tries to figure out what he will be when he grows up. He knows he's a tadpole, but as he swims across his pond and interacts with a snake, turtle, pig and ducks, he imagines he will grow up to be just like them. Ultimately, Thaddeus T. realizes he will evolve to be exactly what he's meant to be—and happily embraces the idea of frog-dom.
"He's so full of life, an ornery little critter," Cobo said, "and he's so curious."
Cobo's story landed in the hands of Timothy E. Smith, publisher at Tadpole Press…4 Kids, an imprint of Smooth Sailing Press.
"Rebecca Cobo delivered a manuscript that fit my criteria to perfection," Smith said. "Her story promotes self-exploration and self-esteem. It's my intent to put books in children's hands that will bring kindness and peace to their minds. My desire is that one of our books will be the last thing they read or think about as they go to sleep at night."
The book hit shelves in October, marketed towards elementary-school aged children.
In January, Cobo will read the book to students at Alpha Omega Academy in Huntsville, where she will give voice to Thaddeus T. and his friends.
Since Cobo is a regular both on-stage and behind the scenes at Huntsville Community Theatre, she shouldn't have any problem adding a few theatrics to the book's characters.
"My mother said I grew up performing," Cobo said. "She said she would look out the window, and I'd be standing on the propane tank pretending to direct an orchestra."
Originally from Oklahoma, Cobo grew up with a needle-wielding mother who instilled in her daughter a love of sewing.
"Quite a few years ago, my mother, who was just a sweet country lady, won the first national 'make-it-yourself-with-wool' contest. It was a wool suit—a jacket, pants and a blouse. And she always wears hats, so she added a jaunty little hat and a purse," Cobo said. "I like to tell people I was trained by a national-award winning seamstress."
Orbie, now 85, taught her daughter well. After Cobo received a theater degree from SHSU in 2006, she was hired to help sew costumes for the university's production of “The Nutcracker.” She's been in the costume department ever since.
That's why it's not too surprising that her book would have some type of clothing involved. Not for Thaddeus T., of course, because he does live in a pond, after all. But his friends are snappily clad in suspenders, top hats, vests, bonnets and spectacles.
It would take the talent of an incredibly creative illustrator to bring Cobo's vision to life. She found it in Shay Retzlaff.
"It was so much fun giving the characters personalities," Retzlaff said. "For a young child, pictures are so important in a story."
And that's why it was crucial to get things just right, especially when it came to Thaddeus T.
"When I started drawing him, I made him a little older than Rebecca wanted," Retzlaff said. "She wanted more of a baby face, so I just took some years off him and made him younger and sweeter."
When everything was perfect, Retzlaff got out the watercolors, using paint to finish what Cobo started with words—the extraordinary life of Thaddeus T.
And, in an extraordinary coincidence, Cobo discovered—after already hiring Retzlaff for the book—that she, too, is an SHSU alumna. Retzlaff graduated in 2009 with a major in studio arts and a minor in English.
This is the first full-length children's book for both Cobo and Retzlaff—and, of course, Thaddeus T.
Will there be more?
"That's the story of my extraordinary life so far," Thaddeus T. says at the end of the story. "But this is only the beginning. I can hardly wait to share my next adventure with you."
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