Saturday, November 10, 2018

WHEN A PIG FLEW at Storyberries



When people say “When pigs fly” what they really mean is “never” because, as we all know, pigs cannot fly. But the next time someone tells you something will only happen “when pigs fly,” you might want to inform them that this has already happened, and tell them all about Tracey.

Tracey was a pig. And like many other pigs, she had her hopes and dreams and ambitions. Her greatest dream was to fly. All her life she had watched the birds flying overhead and wondered what it must be like. She even tried flying herself. She climbed up onto a bale of hay and jumped, but that didn’t work. She tried running and jumping into the wind, but that didn’t work. Once she even persuaded a flock of geese to try lifting her up off the ground….that one didn’t really go well for anyone involved.

She was just about ready to give up, which would have made this story very short but easy to tell, when an old sheep who knew about stuff said, “If you want to fly, why not visit the Spirit of the Woods?”

“Woods? What woods?”

“Oh, you know, the thousand acre forest of dense trees just outside the farm. Over there, see?”

Tracey looked and, indeed, there was an enormous forest just outside the farm. Funny how she’d never noticed it before.

And what happened to Tracey in the woods? Did she ever get to fly? Are there or are there not any monkeys in this story? The answer to these and other questions can be found by reading the full story HERE (And, yes, there are monkeys).

LEROY MAKES A FRIEND at Storyberries


One day, while walking down a busy street, Leroy the penguin happened to see something he never expected to see here in the big city: another penguin! He had been quite used to seeing penguins when he was living in Antarctica, but now he lived in Chicago and he hadn’t seen a penguin in months.


To find out what happens to Leroy and his new "friend," visit Storyberries HERE and read the full story.

QUEEN RAGGY at Storyberries


The King died, which is sad. But when a king dies, there isn't much time to be too sad because of needing to find a new king to take his place. Normally, that's the king's son, the prince, except this particular king made a slight mistake and died before managing to have any sons. Or daughters, for that matter. Which meant that not only was the king dead, but there was nobody to take his place.

The Chancellor (sort of like the king's assistant) went to the Court Wizard and asked him what was to be done. Unfortunately, the Court Wizard, whose name was Roy, was a fraud. He could no more do magic than an elephant could take up ballet. He'd been faking it for years with simple tricks and illusions and hoping that the day would never come when anyone would need any real magic from him. Now that the day had come, Roy was in trouble.

“I'll need to consult the High Council Of Spirits,” he said. “Go away and come back tomorrow.”

The Chancellor did go away and come back tomorrow, by which time the Court Wizard had come up with something that he thought would pass muster.

“I have consulted the High Council of Spirits,” he said, “and they have delivered to me this prophecy.” So saying, he unfurled a scroll on which he had written nonsense chicken scratch which he pretended was a foreign language only he could understand and recited the following poem:

“Red of hair and blue of eyes,
Never speaks in any tone,
Always stuffed but never eats.
This is the one who must sit on the throne.
And if, a fortnight from this day,
A person like this cannot be found,
Then the person who delivered these words
Is the one who must be given the crown.”

As poems go, it was pretty terrible, but the message was clear. The next ruler of the kingdom would be someone with red hair and blue eyes who never spoke or ate but was, somehow, always “stuffed.” And if someone like that could not be found in a fortnight (that's two weeks) the Wizard himself would have to be made king...which, of course, was the Wizard's plan all along. He figured they'd never find someone like that, so he'd be crowned instead.


Will the Evil not-really-a-wizard succeed in his cunning plan? Find out HERE.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

THE HISTORY LESSON: A Shelly Hobbes Story


It was while driving home from work that Warren realized it. Something had been at the back of his mind all day and he hadn’t been able to put his finger on it until now. Quite what it was that shook loose the old memory, we may never know. But halfway between his clinic and his house, Warren remembered what day it was and it was for this reason that he made an unexpected detour. His wife was not the type who was all that interested in flowers, cards, chocolates or jewelry, which meant that Warren had to make slightly more effort than most married men when it came to spontaneous romantic gestures.

“Where have you been?” Shelly asked as she kissed her husband. “You’re usually home by six-thirty and it’s already past seven.”

“I had to stop and pick something up,” said Warren, with the smug, satisfied air of a man who is about to score major points with the woman he loves. Not having had time to wrap the article, he’d had no choice but to conceal it in the old, slightly tattered briefcase he carried with him to work. He drew it out now and handed it to his wife. “It’s nothing, really, but I couldn’t let today pass without doing something.”

“Why not?” asked Shelly, smiling as she looked at the book on beekeeping Warren had brought her. Her longtime idol, Sherlock Holmes, had, in his later years, given up detective work and retired to the country to study bees, so Warren knew that this book would bring a smile to his wife’s face.

“Well, you know…” Warren began. But, the blank expression on Shelly’s face led him to believe that she did not know. “It’s October 9th.”

“Yeah. And?”

“Don’t you remember what today is?”

“Let me see, October 9th…er…well, the Washington Monument was opened to the public on October 9th, 1888.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. But that’s not why you gave me this, is it?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Let’s see, October 9th…Battle of Yorktown,1781?”

“Yes, Shelly, I got you a gift to commemorate the Battle of Yorktown, as is custom among husband and wives.”

Frantically, Shelly started rattling off everything that had ever happened on October 9th. “Henry VI restored to the throne? Harvard begins admitting women? John Lennon was born? Che Guevara died?”

“It’s the day we met!”

There was silence in the room. It had been twenty-five years ago that very day that Warren had, as a small child, stepped into a room in a foster home and met a girl called Shelly. The day he met his best friend. The day he became her Dr. Watson. The day his life began.

“Oh…my god…” said Shelly, looking stunned and ashamed. “Warren, how could I…I can’t believe I would forget that.”

“Well,” began Warren, about to tell her that he had only remembered himself about an hour ago…but then he reflected on how seldom it was that he remembered something when Shelly didn’t, and decided on a slightly less noble path.

“Well,” he began again, “I won’t say I’m not a little disappointed.”

“Oh, Warren, I’m so sorry. I can never forgive myself for forgetting something so important.”

It was at this stage that Warren intended to put his arms around Shelly and magnanimously forgive her for the oversight. But before he had the chance, Shelly seemed to become distraught and ran to the bedroom. Moments later, Warren heard loud sobs coming from that direction.

This was, of course, not at all what he had wanted. He just wanted to enjoy one-upping the Master Detective for once. Hating himself, he ran into the bedroom where he expected to find Shelly prostrate on the bed, crying her eyes out.

Instead, she was sitting, quite happily at the foot of the bed, next to an object Warren had never seen before. It was a brand new briefcase with a large red bow on it. The exact one he had been wanting for months to replace his old one. He walked across the room and picked it up. He looked at it from every angle. Then he flipped it open. Just on the inside, there was a small window of clear plastic where the owner could slip a business card. There was a printed card in this window, but not one of Warren’s. It read:

Of course I remembered what today was, you dope!
Love, Shelly

Warren grinned. He looked at Shelly. She was grinning, too.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

TIMMY VS. THE MONSTER

Storyberries is a really great site full of FREE stories for kids of all ages. Classic fairy tales, poetry, and original tales to enrich and entertain little ones.

They were cool enough to publish one of my stories, Timmy Vs. The Monster.  Timmy (six years old) is very sure that there is a monster in his closet, but his mommy and daddy say there isn't. He is, therefore, forced to take matters into his own very small hands. But how is one little boy in rocket ship jammies going to defend himself against a big, scary monster?

You can find out HERE. And, after you've finished, stick around and check out some of the other stories on the site. Storyberries is a great resource for parents, kids, teachers, or anyone who loves stories as much as I do.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

THE WATCH-CAT











We had talked about getting a watchdog for a long time. It wasn’t until our neighbors’ house was broken into that we decided it was finally time to do something. So, we took out an ad in the paper:

WANTED
Watch Dog For Family Of Four

Free room and board
Personalized collar
Affectionate daughters to play/cuddle with

Only housebroken pets need apply

We ended up hiring the very first applicant for the job, though he was not at all what we were expecting. The day the ad first ran in the paper, we heard a knock on the door. We opened it to find a cat.

“Hi there!” said the cat. “My name is Wayne. I’m here about the job.”

“Um…the job?”

“Yeah. See, I have the clipping right here.” And, indeed, he did.

“Right, but, this ad is for a watch dog.”

“I know.”

“And…you’re a cat.”

“I know that, too. But I assumed you were an equal opportunity employer.”

“Huh?”

“I mean, are you really going to discriminate against me because of my race?”    

“Is being a cat a race?”

“I think so. I can do all the things a watchdog can do. Plus, I have my own watch.” He held up his paw to show me his wristwatch.

“Yeah, that’s great,” I said, “but are you sure you can do everything a watchdog does?”

“Of course. Here, I’ll show you…” (he cleared his throat) “Bark! Bark bark! Woof! Grrrr! Arf! Bark bark bark! Grrrr!” He then proceeded to sit up and beg, roll over and chase his own tail. “Also,” he said, “did I mention about the watch? See, when the big hand goes around…”

“Okay, okay. I guess we can try it for a night. You are housebroken, right?”

“You bet!”

My wife wasn’t too pleased to come home from work and see a cat instead of a dog. But, she saw that Wayne was very eager, and agreed to give him a try. And it’s a lucky thing we did, because, that very night, we were nearly robbed!

We were all fast asleep while Wayne patrolled the front porch. Suddenly, I was awakened. It was partly because of the loud barking (Wayne was a surprisingly good barker for a cat) but also because of the loud sneezing. The burglar was allergic to cat hair. He couldn’t get within two feet of the house without his allergies going nuts.

And that’s how Wayne became our family’s official watch-cat.

It seemed strange at the time, hiring a cat to be a watchdog, but now we’re all so used to Wayne, it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing his job. It was a little embarrassing at first because we had bought things in expectation of a dog. A dog dish, a dog bed, a dog collar (they all had pictures of bones all over them). We offered to take it all back and get cat stuff, but Wayne said it was fine. So, we had the name “Wayne” printed on the tag on the collar, and that was that. Wayne was our cat.

But, a few weeks after he came to us, Wayne seemed kind of upset about something. I asked him what was wrong.

“Well,” he said, “I was talking to some other cats today and…never mind.”

“No, go on.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.”

Wayne sighed and told me what had happened.


MY BAD DAY
By Wayne

I saw the cats all hanging out in the alley, and I went over to say hi. But they didn’t answer. I figured they hadn’t heard me, so I said hi again, a little louder.

“In case no one told you,” one of them said, “dogs don’t talk to cats.”

“What?” I said. “I’m not a dog. I’m a cat. See? Meow. Prrrrr. Cat. Just like you.”

“Oh yeah?” said the other cat. “What’s that around your neck?”

“My collar.”

“With a bone-shaped tag.”

“Yeah, but…”

“What kind of bed do you sleep in?”       

“A dog bed. But I’m—”

“And your food dish?”

“Well, it was made for a dog, but it still—”

“And you guard your humans’ house? And bark when there’s trouble?”

“Meowing isn’t very loud, so—”

“You act like a dog, you live like a dog…you are a dog.”

“And we cats don’t want anything to do with dogs.”

And they put their tails in the air and walked away.



I was deeply affected by Wayne’s story. Of course, my family and I, who knew Wayne, didn’t think there was anything wrong with his sleeping in a dog bed or doing the job of a dog. We understood Wayne and we liked him just the way he was. It never occurred to me that other people (or, indeed, cats) might have some kind of a problem with him.

“You know, Wayne,” I said. “If you want us to buy you cat stuff and get rid of the dog stuff, that’s not a problem.”

“Well…maybe…but…”

“But what?”

“Well…I like my bed! I don’t care that it has dog bones all over it. It’s comfy. And I like my collar. And I love being your watchcat. I’m happy with things the way they are.”

“Then you shouldn’t let what those other cats say bother you. As long as you know who you are, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.”

Now, I’m not saying that Wayne never had any trouble again from other cats. And I’m not saying that he didn’t sometimes get his feelings hurt by people who didn’t understand. What I am saying is that, a few days later, I heard him talking to those same cats. He was standing his post on our front step when they came walking by.

“Hey, look at Fido!” one said.

“Here, Rover! C’mere, boy!” said the other.

“Oh, shut up!” said Wayne. “I’m a cat, not a dog.”

“If you do all the things that a dog does, how does that make you different from a dog?”

“Because I say I’m a cat! Yes, I bark when there’s trouble and I wear a collar with a bone on it. But I also take naps all day and purr and lick myself clean. What I do doesn’t make me a cat. How I feel is what makes me a cat. I can do whatever I want—I can act like a mongoose or a reindeer or a walrus—as long as I know I’m a cat! You don’t get to decide what it means to be a cat. And nobody gets to decide who or what I am except me. And I’m Wayne…and I’m a Watch Cat! Now get out of our yard!”



So, remember, you guys: If you know in your heart that you’re a cat, that’s all that matters. Doesn’t matter if the whole world tells you you’re a dog or a pig or a cashew or a chair or a boy or a girl. You get to decide who and what you are.


THE END

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How NOT To Time Travel! (Sneak Preview)

Here is a short excerpt from my next book for young readers, How NOT To Time Travel. 




On the Thursday on which our story begins, the gym at Sydney Newman Middle School was full of students who, ordinarily, would have preferred to stay as far away from the gym as possible. Normally, the gym brought them nothing but pain, misery and torture of both the physical and psychological variety.
Also know as “P. E.”
Today, however, the gym was the site of the Annual Science Fair. Instead of portable soccer nets, orange plastic cones and large, metal bins full of basketballs, the room was full of long, folding tables on which the eager young scholars had set up their projects, waiting for the judges to come by.
The sole remaining vestige of gym class still looming over the students’ heads was Coach Hartnell who was, for reasons passing understanding, serving as one of the Fair’s judges, along with Mrs. Troughton, the science teacher, and Assistant Principal Pertwee. This intimidated the students a little, but they took solace in the fact that, in his capacity as judge, Coach Hartnell would not be able to throw dodgeballs at them or force them to run a lap.
The three judges walked down the lines of tables, inspecting the projects, asking the students for demonstrations and making small, discreet notes on their clipboards. Occasionally they would make vaguely encouraging comments like “very nice” or “good effort” regardless of whether the project had any chance of winning or not.
Then they got to Hugo’s project.
Hugo Wells—the twelve-year-old hero of our story—was a genius. And I mean that literally. Lots of people use the word “genius” to describe everyone from professional rappers to dogs who can stand on their back legs. But Hugo was an honest-to-goodness, genuine, bona fide, true blue genius of the highest order.
Oddly enough, this would be the first year Hugo ever took part in a science fair. I know, it sounds weird. You’d think someone that clever would leap at the chance to enter and win the Science Fair. But Hugo just wasn’t into it.
Like many people who are highly intelligent, Hugo found that social situations made him very uncomfortable. He didn’t want too much attention, hated to think that people were looking at him, dreaded being called on in class (despite the fact that he always knew the answer to whatever question the teacher was asking) and had absolutely no friends, preferring to spend his downtime on his own, reading or tinkering with some gadget he had invented.
Hugo’s mother understood her son’s reluctance to enter the Science Fair, but thought it might help him to get over this social anxiety, which is why she said what she said:
“If you don’t enter the Science Fair, you can’t go to the midnight launch of the last Beanstalk Chronicles book.”
Hugo loved to read all kinds of books. But his favorites were The Beanstalk Chronicles by I. M. Jacques. And the final book in the series was going on sale soon. Hugo just had to be the first one to read it!
“It’s no big deal,” Hugo’s father added. “You’ve got all kinds of inventions and whatnot in your room. Just pick one, slap a label on it and bring it in.”
So, he did…and it changed his life forever.
         “So, Hugo,” said Mr. Pertwee as he and his fellow judges approached his project, “what do you have for us?”
“A time machine,” Hugo said, matter-of-factly.
“Um…what?” said Ms. Troughton.
“A time machine,” repeated Hugo. “A machine that allows you to travel through time?”
“Yes,” said Coach Hartnell, “we’re familiar with the concept. You’re saying you’ve actually built one?”
“Of course. See?”
The judges looked at Hugo’s project.
Standing upright on the table was a sheet of cardboard, folded into thirds and covered with equations and formulae. These, Hugo hoped, would explain the theory behind the object directly in front of the cardboard, which looked very much like a shoebox with a lot of wires and tiny flashing lights attached to it.
Mainly because it was a shoebox with a lot of wires and tiny flashing lights attached to it.
“This is just a miniature prototype, of course,” said Hugo, as though the idea of a twelve-year-old kid inventing a working time machine was not ludicrous on the face of it. “The interior of the shoebox is lined with steel mesh, which acts as a Faraday cage for anything traveling inside the box. The controls are…”
“Okay,” said Mr. Pertwee. He had known that Hugo hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic about taking part, so he assumed this was some kind of sarcasm or a practical joke. “This is cute and all, Hugo, but we have real projects to evaluate. So, if you—”
“I can prove it works!” Hugo said, much more forcefully than he had meant to. Being so smart (indeed, smarter than many grownups in his life) was not easy and Hugo was used to being talked down to by people who didn’t take him seriously because of his age. But he didn’t like it.
Reaching into his backpack, Hugo removed two digital wristwatches. He showed them to the judges. “Both watches show the exact same time, down to the second. Correct?” The judges nodded. “Now. Watch.”
Hugo put one of the watches into the shoebox and laid the other on the table, outside the box. Then, using a pair of tweezers, he set the dials and buttons on the tiny control panel. Then he stood back.
Before the startled eyes of all three judges (and pretty much everyone else at the Science Fair, who had started to gather around as soon as they had heard the words “time machine”), the shoebox disappeared into thin air!
“Where did it go?” asked Coach Hartnell.
There was a long, painful silence.
“Really?” said Hugo. “No one’s going to say it? I’m going to have to say it?” He sighed. “Fine: I think you mean…when did it go?”
“Wait,” said Ms. Troughton, “you’re seriously saying…”
“Yes. I sent the watch exactly one minute into the future. It will return, in the exact same spot, precisely forty-three seconds from now.
The entire gymnasium waited with baited breath as the seconds ticked away. At the exact instant that Hugo had said it would, the shoebox and the watch returned. Hugo took the watch out of the shoebox and held it up along with the other.
“See? The one that went into the time machine is one minute slow. Because it skipped over that minute. From this watch’s perspective, that minute never happened.”
Hugo stood proudly. He had proved, definitively, that his time machine worked.
Or, so he thought.
Mr. Pertwee laughed. “Yes, very nice, Hugo,” he said in a condescending tone of voice that Hugo had come to know all too well. “A very cute magic trick.”
“M—magic trick? But, Mr. Pertwee…”
“Yes, very creative. Come on.”
The judges moved along to the next project. Hugo said “but” a few more times, but to no avail. They were already looking at Susie Johnson’s potato battery.

But that's not the end of Hugo's adventures through time! Find out what happens next when How NOT To Time Travel is released in July 2018!