Wow. Word Press says it’s been two months since I last posted. That can’t be right.
So, what’s happened the last two months (apart from my being sick enough with multiple viruses to not register the passing of time)? My grandmother died the end of February in northern Iowa, and I was there – without internet – for two weeks. It did give me a chance to try out one of my stories. Though, even with 600 kids running around aged 1-16, I still had trouble finding listeners. Okay, that’s not quite true, it was about 30 kids, but most of them were boys that were too old or babies that wouldn’t have understood. There were only about four kids that were the right age and they gave me mixed reactions. I’ll explain why after the story.
Nigel the monkey loved candy. Chocolate, peppermint, caramels – he loved them all. The zookeeper wouldn’t give Nigel any candy. He said monkeys only eat fruit and nuts and bugs. YUCK! Nigel didn’t eat bugs. He didn’t eat fruit or nuts either, but he especially didn’t eat bugs.
So Nigel had to try other things to get candy. Fortunately, people find monkeys cute. All Nigel had to do was stretch his hand through the bars, make his eyes really big, and wait for a child with candy. Sometimes he would get cotton candy, sometimes caramel popcorn, and once a little girl had even given him her ice cream cone.
The little girl’s parents had been upset and told the zookeeper what Nigel had done. Nigel felt bad. He hadn’t realized the little girl only wanted him to have a taste. He thought she was giving him the whole cone.
The next day the zookeeper brought over a sign. He showed it to Nigel. It said, “Please Do Not Feed the Monkeys.”
Nigel didn’t think that was fair. How was he going to eat if people weren’t allowed to give him candy? He had to figure out a way to get rid of that sign.
First he tried to pull the sign down. He kicked at it with his feet and pushed at it with sticks, but it was stuck tight. He would have to find a way to cover it up.
Nigel wondered what would be the right size. He wandered around the cage looking for something to use. He realized his blanket was the right size, but didn’t want to risk losing it. Then he remembered his sister had a blanket the same size. She didn’t like candy so she probably wouldn’t let him use it. Buy Nigel had to try.
Flora wasn’t watching when Nigel grabbed her blanket and he managed to collect two lollypops and a taffy before she missed it. Their mother made Nigel apologize and give the blanket back to his sister.
By now it was lunchtime and Nigel was hungry. He watched all the other monkeys eating the fruit the zookeeper brought and had an idea. The sign was red with white lettering and there were two big, bright red strawberries just within reach.
Nigel grabbed up those two strawberries and raced back over to the sign. He smashed first one strawberry and then the other in his hand and reached around the sign. He used that squishy red fruit to cover up the word “Not.” Now the sign read, “Please Do Feed the Monkeys.”
Nigel got more candy that afternoon than he ever had before. Candy bars, ice cream, caramel popcorn, cotton candy, and lots more. Candies he’d never even seen before. Nigel was in sugar heaven. He ate and ate and ate until he couldn’t eat anymore. The zookeeper came over to see why there was such a crowd around the cage. He quickly cleaned off the sign, but it was already too late. Nigel had eaten too much candy.
The zookeeper gathered Nigel up in his arms. Nigel buried his head in the man’s neck. His tummy was hurting and he was beginning to understand why the zookeeper had said no candy. The zookeeper took Nigel to the zoo’s veterinarian. She gave Nigel some icky tasting medicine and said he couldn’t have any more candy. He also had to stay for a few days to make sure all the candy was cleaned out of the cage.
Nigel didn’t mind too much. He did finally try the fruit and it wasn’t too bad. He still wouldn’t touch the bugs, but the zookeeper admitted he thought they were yucky as well. Nigel would miss candy, but not as much as before. He’d stolen a quick bite of the zookeeper’s lunch one day and now had a new favorite food. Now instead of being the monkey who loved candy, Nigel would be the monkey who loved…cheeseburgers.
I admit, I changed the ending slightly due to a four year old’s reaction. I wrote this for my nephew, hence the male character, but he was the only child that didn’t like the story. When I reached the part about Nigel being hungry he jumped right in with “and then he tried the fruit and liked it.” Oh. “Um, no,” I said. He frowned a little, but allowed me to continue until Nigel picked up the strawberries. “And then he ate them,” he crowed in triumph. I continued the story with the sinking realization that a four year old had come up with a better ending than I had. When I finished the story (minus the bit about Nigel finally eating the fruit, that’s the part I changed) my nephew glared at me and wanted to know why Nigel never tried the fruit. “It’s good. He’ll like it. Why didn’t his mommy make him take one bite?”
And this is why you should know your audience. Sigh. He did draw a picture of Nigel and his mother later, giving Nigel a big pile of candy and Nigel’s mother a big pile of fruit, so I don’t think he hated the story, just didn’t like the ending. Actually, it’s probably more that my nephew really loves his fruit. Grapes are a controlled substance as his house, because the child would eat them all day long if he could.
On the other hand, the little girls – age 3, 4, and 6 thought it was wonderful. They wanted it to continue. They plotted out Nigel escaping from the zoo and going hunting for more cheeseburgers. They wanted him to find a house with a little girl who would make him cheeseburgers. The chapter was supposed to be called The Lonely Little Girl because she lived alone. Now, according to a fellow writer, I have no idea how children’s books work because I questioned my niece as to how a little girl could be living in a house all alone. My niece’s answer was that she lived in a jungle. Which made no sense to me – there are no jungles in America. I guess that really just shows how far I have to go. I thought I was doing well having a monkey liking cheeseburgers. Apparently, you have to give up all logic when you’re writing children’s stories. Either that or quit arguing with a six year old and just write the story as she tells it.