The tiniest sunflower
peeks its head out.
Its petals unfurl
to face the sun.
Yellow as butter.
Perfect like a picture.
The sun warms its face
and if flowers could have feelings,
then this one is happy.
The tiniest sunflower
peeks its head out.
Its petals unfurl
to face the sun.
Yellow as butter.
Perfect like a picture.
The sun warms its face
and if flowers could have feelings,
then this one is happy.
The wind whispering
Through chilly trees
Sounds like sand on shore
After a wave hits.
One dry yellow leaf
Swiftly falls from its
mother tree’s branch
And an apple clumps
Softly on the lawn.
A toad hides under
A fallen leaf,
Alert for danger.
The labrador jumps,
Trying to catch him:
But misses by miles, Settles instead for
Chomping a spider.
Her web-smeared black
Nose sniffing loudly,
Hoping for more snacks.
She smells wood fire
On the breeze. Shivering,
Heads back inside to
Her humans’ sofa.
6 October 2022 is National Poetry Day.
Why don’t you write a poem? It’s easy to do and doesn’t have to rhyme. Write about what you like, or how you are feeling. 🙂
For more info, go to:
The National Literacy Trust helps children and families to develop a love of reading and writing. They have great resources and a local site for people from Swindon, called Swindon Stories.
The Sparrows call call call
Loudly to each other
From the rooftops, seven
On a Sunday morning.
The magpies soar soar soar
Their black and white feathers
Flashing in the spring sun
As they look for breakfast.
The blackbird sing sing sings
His beautiful song from
The apple tree’s bent branch
Whose buds are still tiny.
Fluffy clouds fly fly fly
Past high above my head,
In a rush, places to
Go, people to rain on.
Timmy was a mouse. He lived with his Mummy, Daddy and big sister Dorothy at Number 12, The Hedge. Although he was little, he was brave. When he wasn’t at school, he loved to go on adventures. He had been camping with his dad, climbed right to the top of tall trees, and gone swimming in the lake. It was the school holidays, so Timmy had the whole week to explore.
He had been reading about some children that made a raft, so wanted to have a go doing that himself. He had seen several branches that had been cut down at the local lake, so he found some rope in the garage to tie the branches together. He put the rope in his favourite red backpack. Whenever he went, Tommy carried his red backpack. In it, he always packed a bottle of water, a large slice of cheese, a notepad and pencil. Timmy liked to write about his adventures in his notebook, and you never knew when you might need a snack.
When he got to the lake, Timmy collected as many big branches together as he could, and wrapped the rope around them, just like the book showed him to do. After that, he felt very tired, so he sat down in the sun and drank some water and ate half of the cheese. Timmy wished that he had brought more cheese. The young mouse wanted to take the raft to the island at the centre of the lake. He had never been there before, and was desperate to explore it. Maybe it had pirates? Or treasure? Or maybe even a dragon!
Timmy pulled the raft carefully into the water. It floated! He jumped on board and used a long branch as a paddle. Thankfully the wind was on his side and before long he landed on the island in the centre of the lake. Timmy jumped off the raft, pulled it up the beach and grabbed his backpack.
The island was bigger than it looked. It was overgrown, with trees, bushes and flowers everywhere. He could hear some sparrows singing nearby. It was beautiful.
Timmy decided to head to the interior of the island. If there was any treasure or dragon, it was probably there. He put his red backpack on and set off down an almost invisible path through the foliage.
It was hard going, and soon he was thirsty. He stopped to have a drink from his water bottle, emptying it after a few gulps.
“Oh no! I can’t enjoy an adventure if I am thirsty,” he said to himself.
Timmy decided that he would need to find a clean water source as soon as possible. A clean water source is one that isn’t polluted and isn’t salty. Timmy knew from reading survival books with his Daddy, that you will die quickly if you drink too much salt water. It also makes you even more thirsty.
The young mouse was sure that there would be a small stream or at least a puddle on the island. He had gone too far to walk all the way back to the shore where he had landed. After what felt like a long time, he sat down underneath a huge oak tree near a clearing. He was tired and extremely thirsty. He wrote about what had happened so far that day in his notebook. He reminded himself to pack more water and cheese next time.
He was starting to feel worried, when he noticed a movement in the grass ahead. It was a pretty young frog. She wore a pink hat. She was jumping towards him.
“Hello there, mouse. Are you ok? You look lost,” she said kindly.
“Hello. I am not really lost… well it is my first time on this island, and I am looking for water. Do you know anywhere nearby where I can get a drink?” he asked.
“Oh, you poor thing. You do look worn out. I know where a stream is. I could show you that… or would you prefer a hot chocolate? My cabin isn’t far from here, and I would be happy to share with you.”
“Oh, thank you so much! That would be amazing. I love hot chocolate. Are you sure that it would be ok?” Timmy asked.
“Of course. Follow me.”
She turned and jumped back through the clearing. Timmy followed her, feeling relieved.
They went along a winding path through the trees, to find the frog’s cabin. It was wooden, with small windows and a tall chimney. It looked ancient and had a well out the front. A well is a deep hole in the ground where you can get water from, if you have a bucket attached to a rope.
“Your garden is pretty,” said Timmy.
“Thank you. I love tending my flowers and herbs. The venus flycatchers are my favourite. I keep the grass very short with special scissors, as you can see. Appearances are important, don’t you think?”
She licked her lips.
“Welcome to my home,” the friendly frog said as they walked through the door.
Timmy’s eyes adjusted to the gloomy interior. It was cosy, with a large fireplace in the middle of the room. A black cauldron sat over a roaring fire. Timmy suspected that the frog was making soup for her lunch.
“It’s small, but we love it. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask your name?”
“It’s Timmy, pleased to meet you. What is your name?”
“I am Gretchen. Please, have a seat and I will make you some hot chocolate.”
Timmy sat down on a wooden rocking chair in front of the fire. He noticed a shadow in the corner of the room. Two shiny eyes were watching him. It was a crow.
“Oh, don’t mind Cain, he’s my pet. He doesn’t say much but is very loyal. Cain, say hello to Timmy.”
“Caw,” squawked the crow.
He couldn’t actually talk, because he was a crow.
“Um, hello,” replied Timmy nervously.
Gretchen asked him about his family as they drank hot chocolates together. The drink was warm and delicious. Soon, Timmy started to feel sleepy and couldn’t stop himself yawning.
“I am sorry, I suppose that it’s been a tiring morning,” apologised Timmy after another large yawn.
“Please do not worry. I am glad that you are comfortable. Feel free to close your eyes and have a little rest,” she replied kindly.
Timmy soon dropped off into a deep sleep.
He awoke with a fuzzy head and feeling confused. Then he remembered about the friendly frog. He stretched and yawned, thinking that he should probably get on with his adventure. Maybe Gretchen would give him some cheese for lunch?
“Good morning sleepy head,” whispered Gretchen from behind him.
Timmy blinked and opened his eyes, looking around. Good morning?
“You slept all through the afternoon and night, my dear. You must have been extremely tired,” Gretchen said.
She jumped to stand in front of him.
“Gretchen? Is that you? You look different!” Timmy exclaimed.
“Yes, my small mouse friend. It is I, Gretchen. Is something wrong?”
“Well yes… I mean no… it’s just that I thought you were a young frog lady, but now I see that you are a little older that I remember, and… are you a toad?”
“Yes, I am a toad, my frog disguise is a little trick that I play sometimes. For some reason, others don’t always take kindly to an ugly old warty toad,” she replied.
“Oh,” replied Timmy, confused, “I am sorry to have taken up so much of your time, I will leave now. My parents will be worried about me. Please may I fill up my water bottle at your well before I go?”
“Oh, my dear, you will not be leaving,” she smiled.
“Pardon? Thank you for having me, but I really do need to go…” answered Timmy.
“I think that you misunderstand me,” Gretchen replied calmly, “you may want to leave, but you cannot.”
“I can and I will!” shouted Timmy, terrified.
He tried to jump up from the rocking chair, but he could not move. He tried again, pushing his arms down hard on the armrests to stand up. He could not physically get up from the chair.
“What have you done to me?”
“It is a simple potion that I use sometimes. You don’t feel any different, but you won’t be able to leave that chair, until I give you the antidote that is. By the way, did you enjoy the hot chocolate?”
“You put the potion in my hot chocolate, didn’t you? Why did you do that?” Timmy cried.
“Yes, clever mouse boy. And the reason that I did it is because I need you,” she grinned with her big, ugly toad mouth.
“Why?” Timmy’s voice shook with fear.
“I need your legs for my latest job. You see, my customer Silas Snake requires a magical potion for… well, not nice reasons, shall we say. One important ingredient is mouse legs, which you will provide me with.”
“No! Are you joking?” Timmy tried and failed again to stand up.
“I have no sense of humour when it comes to magic. Mr Snake pays very well and expects his potion urgently. It was lucky that I ran into you yesterday.”
“But… but I need my… l… legs,” spluttered poor Timmy.
“I only require two. Do not worry, I will offer you a painkiller potion while I perform the double amputation: I am not a monster,” she chuckled, then licked her bulging eyes with her huge pink tongue.
Poor Timmy did not know what to do. He just wanted to go home to his Mummy and Daddy. He was trying to be brave, but it was difficult.
Cain stared at him with his deep black eyes. He clacked his beak angrily.
“Good morning sweetie,” said Gretchen brightly, looking up.
“Morning Mum, who is this?”
Timmy looked at her. A young toad stood in front of him, frowning.
“Oh, don’t worry about him. That’s Timmy Mouse, I need two of his legs for Mr Snakes’ potion. Did you have a good sleepover at your friend’s house?” replied Gretchen.
“Yes, I did, we had roast flies and marshmallows over a firepit in her garden,” the young toad replied.
“That’s lovely. Now, I just need to pop to the stream for some fish eyes, and then I will perform the amputation. I didn’t do it last night as I need the ingredients as fresh as possible. Would you make Timmy some toast please? We don’t want him to go hungry,” said Gretchen.
“Mum, not again! Can’t you get a real job?” sighed the girl toad.
“This is my real job! Don’t you start on me – I pay the bills and feed you with the income from my potions. Right, I am off to the stream. Don’t forget to feed the mouse. Oh, and could you give Cain some more corn please?” Gretchen left, carrying a basket and a sharp knife.
The young toad introduced herself as Tiana. She fed the crow, who then flew away.
“He’s probably gone to catch some worms, won’t be back for a while,” she told Timmy as she made him some toast with butter and honey. She also gave him a glass of water.
She sat down on the floor next to Timmy, watching him eat.
“I am sorry about Mum, she can be nasty sometimes. Did she lure you to our cabin with the promise of a snack?”
“Hot chocolate,” replied the mouse, between bites of toast. He was starving.
“Typical,” replied the young toad, “well, I don’t suppose that you want to lose two of your legs, do you?”
“Definitely not,” he replied, “is your Mum a witch?”
“Yes, she is. Her parents wanted her to be an accountant, but she thought this would be more profitable. She does seem to delight in tormenting other creatures,” Tiana sighed.
“I would run away, but I can’t. I want my Mummy and Daddy!”
Timmy couldn’t be brave anymore. Fat tears poured down his whiskery face.
“Oh, you poor thing. Let’s get you out of here. I know the recipe for the antidote. A couple of sips of that and you will be able to move again,” said Tiana.
“But won’t your Mum be cross? Won’t you be punished?” sniffed Timmy.
“She will be furious, but I will blame Cain. He is loyal but can be a troublemaker too. And he does enjoy the taste of mice…”
“Eeep!” squeaked Timmy in fright.
“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t let the stupid crow anywhere near you. You will be long gone by the time either of them returns,” she smiled.
“Thank you! Why are you helping me?”
“I am fed up with Mum and her silly potions. Besides, I like you. And I don’t want you to be hurt,” she replied.
“Thank you, thank you!”
“You’re welcome. Now, let me make this antidote quickly. Finish your breakfast.”
As she made the potion, she asked Timmy about where he lived and how to came to be on the island. He explained about his raft on the shore.
Timmy enjoyed the meal despite the circumstances. He hoped that Tiana wasn’t playing a mean trick on him… what if she gave him another sleeping potion and cut his legs off herself? No, he liked her, she seemed genuinely kind. He breathed slowly, in and out, trying to stay calm.
She finished the antidote and got Timmy to take two sips. After a few minutes, he was able to carefully stand up.
“At last!” shouted Timmy happily.
“Great, I am glad that it worked, I’ve only made that potion once before. Now, you should leave before Mum or Cain get back. I will show you a shortcut out the back of our cabin to get you to the beach.”
“Thank you for helping me, I will never forget your kindness,” grinned Timmy, giving Tiana a big hug.
“Oh, your fur tickles! No worries, come on, this way. Don’t forget your red backpack. Go as quickly as you can. Mum will probably be back any minute. I tell you what… she has an old camouflage potion around here…”
Tiana searched the dusty shelves for a small blue bottle of camouflage potion. She told him to take a sip.
Timmy did so, and felt a tingle.
“That’s better – I can see you as I know that you are there and am looking directly at you. But you will blend in nicely with the trees as you walk to your raft – even Cain with his good eyesight would struggle to spot you.”
She pointed out the path to take back to the beach.
“Goodbye,” she whispered, “good luck.”
“Goodbye Tiana. I hope that you won’t get into any trouble because of this. If you ever need my help for anything, I live at number 12 The Hedge,” smiled Timmy.
“Ok, nice to meet you,” she waved and went back into the cabin, shutting the door behind her.
Timmy strode quickly but quietly along the path. His heart beat furiously in his chest. He couldn’t wait to get safely to the raft and home again. Mummy, Daddy and Dorothy would be amazed to hear his story! They must be worried about him.
The adventurous little mouse finally found his way back to his raft and set off from the island.
When he got home, Mummy, Daddy and Dorothy all gave him a huge hug and then told him off for scaring them.
“Where were you all night?” asked Mummy, crying tears of joy as she held her son close.
“I had an awesome adventure on the island! You probably won’t believe me when I tell you what happened! There was a nasty witch toad, an angry crow and a kind toad, too…” Timmy spoke quickly.
“All right, let’s get you comfy on the sofa… would you like a hot chocolate?” asked Daddy.
“No thank you, not hot chocolate! Anything but that!” shouted Timmy.
26 February is National Tell a Fairy Tale day. What is your favourite fairy tale?
The hero in this story was a mouse; maybe you would like to write a story about your favourite animal or pet?
My daughter Bethany helped me to write this story: we talked about who would have the adventure, what animals the witch and her daughter would be, and what would make it a good story.
Fairy tales often have:
A hero. A bad guy. A problem to solve, or a journey. Some magic, which might be used for good or bad. A happy ending.
You could ask your grown up to help you to tell or write a fairy tale together. 🙂✍🧙♂️
For more resources and stories to read with your children, go to www.literacytrust.org.uk
Clara is a puppy who is excited for her first Christmas. She wants to know why we celebrate, and what everyone loves most about it.
Clara was a puppy. She lived with her Mummy and twin brother Rudy and their humans, Norah and Jasper. Clara was excited because it was Christmas soon. Clara wasn’t sure exactly what Christmas was, but by the sound of it, it involved lots of food, baubles to chew, and extra cuddles with their humans. It sounded amazing!
But today, Clara and Rudy were in the dog house. Apparently, trying to climb up the Christmas tree to eat the baubles was ‘incredibly naughty’.
The puppies had been told ‘no more treats today’. This made Clara sad. Her tummy was rumbling, and it was ages until dinner time.
“It’s not fair,” moaned Rudy, “I just wanted to eat that shiny star at the top of the tree. I love baubles.”
“Well, I wish that I hadn’t followed you. It was all your idea, and now I am in trouble too,” huffed Clara.
“You didn’t have to follow me up the tree!” Replied Rudy.
“I know that, but you called me a coward!” Said Clara.
“Stop arguing, puppies,” said Mum, “I am trying to have a nap.”
Clara walked to the back door and stared out at the garden. It was raining. Her tummy rumbled again. She sighed.
The next day, Clara tried to be well behaved, to please her humans. It was tricky. She really wanted to climb that tree and eat some more baubles. Sometimes it was hard being a puppy.
Jasper took her, Rudy and Mummy out for a walk to the park. Norah was wrapping presents, and apparently didn’t need their help, which was a shame. Clara loved the park: they could run around and meet other dogs. There were so many smells: grass, dogs, squirrels, poo. Jasper let them off the lead, and Rudy ran to smell a lamppost. Clara saw a friend, an old English sheepdog called Bert, and went to smell him. Then she licked his face.
“Bert, you are old and have had many Christmases,” said Clara, “what do you love most at Christmas?”
“Well,” replied Bert, “I love many things, but I suppose that my favourite is having my humans around, all of the kids come and visit over the holidays.”
Bert’s humans were grandparents, and had their whole family round on Christmas Day.
“Oh,” said Clara. “I don’t know what I will love most, because this will be my first Christmas. It might be pigs in blankets. Bert?”
“Why do we have Christmas?” Asked the puppy.
“Well, many years ago there was a baby born in Bethlehem. He was a special baby: he was called Jesus, the son of God.”
“The son of God? That sounds important. Why was he born?”
“To give hope to all people. He told everyone about God, and how much he loves them. In fact, Jesus died for our humans.”
“Oh. Does Jesus love dogs too?”
“Oh yes,” he loves everyone.”
Bert and his human walked away, and Clara went to chase Rudy around a tree.
When they got back home, Norah had hidden all of the presents: Clara had been hoping to have a peek. She was tired after her walk, so curled up next to Mummy and fell asleep. She dreamed of dancing pigs wearing tinsel.
It was Christmas Eve. Clara was so excited that she struggled to fall asleep. She closed her eyes and then thought of all the food and presents that she would get the next day, and jumped up, wide awake again. Rudy kept asking Mummy silly questions like how much food they would be able to eat, and whether it was allowed for puppies to climb trees and eat baubles on Christmas Day. Finally, after Mummy told her and Rudy a bedtime story called ‘The night before Christmas’, she nodded off.
Clara suddenly jolted awake. She looked around, sniffing the air. What had woken her? She climbed gently out of bed so as not to wake her mum or brother. There! What was that sound? It sounded like… like… bells! Little bells jingling. She looked out at the back garden, but couldn’t see anything. Then she heard something from the living room. Very quietly, she pawed the kitchen door open. She popped her nose through the gap, sniffing hard. There was a new smell: similar to her humans’. Was there a burglar come to steal all of their Christmas presents? She would teach them a lesson! She would bite them hard on the bottom.
Clara crept on tip-paws over the living room carpet. There, a fat man was standing by the Christmas tree! She would sneak up and bite him on his bottom before he even realised that she was there.
Clara took a small bite of the man’s red trouser bottoms.
“Yowch!” He shouted, jumping a couple of feet in the air.
He turned around. He had a big white beard and bright blue eyes. His hat was red… hang on, he looked familiar.
“Oh no!” Barked Clara, “are you Father Christmas?”
“Ho ho, yes I am, young puppy. You have extremely sharp teeth.”
“I am so sorry, I thought that you were stealing our presents. Please don’t put me on the naughty list?”
“Well, seeing as you were just trying to protect your home, I will let you off.” Father Christmas smiled.
“Yes, Mr Christmas. I promise to be a good puppy from now on. Please don’t tell Mummy that I bit you on the bottom?”
He patted Clara gently on the head.
“Ok, I won’t.”
Clara noticed another smell and looked behind Santa: there was a small puppy, looking scared.
“Oh, Clara meet my newest pet, I just found her today. I was delivering over Finland when I noticed a little black nose sticking up out of a snowdrift. I flew in for a closer look, and found her, freezing cold. I put her in my coat to warm her up. Her name is Estella.”
The tiny puppy looked at Clara wide-eyed. Her brown fur looked like it needed a brush.
“Hello Estella, my name is Clara. Would you like a treat?”
She nodded her head.
Clara gave her a puppy treat from her Christmas stocking that was hanging over the fireplace.
“I probably shouldn’t be looking in here, but my humans would understand.”
She ate it up quickly, “thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” smiled Clara.
“Father Christmas, could I ask you a question?”
“What do you love most about Christmas?” Asked Clara.
“Oh, that’s a good question. Let me see… well I love the snow; I love my big Christmas dinner that Mother Christmas makes me after I have delivered all of the gifts; but most of all I love making sure that everyone has a gift that they can treasure. Sometimes it is something small, but it brings them great joy.”
“Now, help me to put your family’s presents under the tree, please?” He asked.
Clara helped him to arrange them all neatly under the tree: Norah’s, Jasper’s, Mummy’s, hers and Rudy’s. She started sniffing her gift, but stopped when Santa looked at her.
“Could I open mine now please?”
“Ho ho, no young Clara,” laughed the plump old man, “you have to wait until the morning, like all of the other people and pets. Now, I must get on, it’s a busy night for me, you know.”
“OK, bye bye Father Christmas! Thank you for our presents. Goodbye Estella!”
“You’re welcome. Goodnight.” He popped the tiny dog into his front coat pocket.
“Bye bye,” whispered Estella sleepily.
“Goodnight, safe journey! Sorry about your trousers.”
Santa turned around and headed back up the chimney. Clara noticed that he was wearing snowman pants underneath his red trousers.
She went back to bed, giving her present one more quick sniff on the way past.
“It’s Christmas!” Rudy was panting in her face.
“Get off!” Clara laughed, pushing him off her.
Rudy started running around the kitchen in circles, chasing his tail and then biting it.
Clara stretched and smelled the air. It smelled like turkey, roast potatoes and joy.
“Good morning puppies,” grinned Norah.
She was putting something delicious-smelling in the oven.
Rudy and Clara went to her for pats and cuddles, licking her hands happily.
“Where’s Mummy?” Clara asked Rudy.
“She is in the living room, let’s go see what Father Christmas brought us!” Replied her brother.
Clara remembered what had happened the night before, and smiled to herself as she followed Rudy out of the kitchen.
Jasper was handing Rudy his Christmas present – Clara recognised it as one that Father Christmas had brought.
“This must be from Norah,” Jasper said, “I don’t remember it.”
Rudy jumped in excitement and tore at the wrapping with his teeth. It was a squirrel squeaky chew toy. He threw it up in the air and caught it, tail wagging.
“And here is one for you, Clara,” said Jasper.
It was also one from Santa. She opened it – a snuffle mat with small treats hidden in it. Wonderful!
Mummy opened her present: it was a cosy red blanket.
“Let’s save your other gifts until after dinner, shall we?” Suggested Jasper.
Clara didn’t think that was a great idea, but she could be patient.
Jasper started cutting up vegetables and stirring things in big pots on the stove, so Norah took them for a walk. The frost on the grass was cold under her paws and looked like icing sugar, sparkling in the winter sunshine. All the humans were wishing each other “Merry Christmas” and they saw Bert again, wearing a fluffy red and white hat. They had a lovely walk but were in a hurry to get home, ready for Christmas dinner.
After a delicious meal of turkey, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, honey parsnips and carrots, the family were snoozing in front of the fire. They would open presents after the Queen’s speech.
“Mummy, what do you love best about Christmas?” Asked Clara.
“The thing that I love most about Christmas is seeing your and Rudy’s happy faces and wagging tails. And also the food,” Mummy smiled.
Clara thought that she loved everything about Christmas.
What do you love most about Christmas? Can you draw it? Have you written to Father Christmas yet this year?
For more literacy resources and stories for kids, please go to https://literacytrust.org.uk/
This story is dedicated to my labrador puppy. It will be her first Christmas this year. ❤
Chapter two: a storm and a squirrel
Sophie was on her way to visit her Gran who lived in the forest. A summer storm had sprung up and she was getting soaked. She met someone who offered to help her get shelter in an old house- it was a squirrel.
“You are not mad, silly human. I talk, so what? You got a problem with talking squirrels?” He asked, looking angry and holding tightly to the bag of peanuts.
“No… no, I don’t have a… problem with talking squirrels…am I still asleep? That’s what happened… I didn’t wake up earlier. I am having a lovely nap under that big tree, and the last hour or so has been a dream…” Sophie mumbled.
“You are awake. This is why I don’t talk to humans so often – they act all crazy like this. The last human that I spoke to jumped into a pond when I asked him for the weather forecast. Honestly, it’s like they think they are the only ones on the whole planet who can talk.” The squirrel grumbled.
“Oh, um, so I am awake, and this is real… and squirrels can talk English… sure, why not?”
“Ok, Mr Squirrel, so do you own this house? Because I am getting very wet, and I would like to get inside and have a lay down.”
“First, my name is not Mr Squirrel, is your name Miss Human? Huh? And secondly, no I do not own the house- you think banks give mortgages to wildlife now? Goodness me. But I can open the door for you, see? Then you can have a lay down on the sofa for as long as you like, ok?”
“Oh, ok. Sure, do you have the key?”
“Do I look like I have pockets?” He rolled his eyes. “No, but the door is on a latch, and I can sneak into that small gap in the door and unlatch it for you. Do you want me to, or do you want to spend the rest of the day chatting out here?”
“Y… yes please, do open the door… I would be most grateful.” Sophie swallowed nervously. She had never spoken to a squirrel before and wasn’t sure of the etiquette.
“Sure, no problem, Miss Human.”
The squirrel squeezed into a small hole at the bottom of the wooden door, and a few seconds later, it squeaked open on rusted hinges.
“Oh, thank you so much, here are your peanuts!”
Sophie ran into the old house, nearly soaked to the bone, but grateful to escape the storm.
“See you later then, human, and thanks for the nuts.”
The squirrel ran up a tree, bag of peanuts firmly clenched in his teeth.
Sophie sat down on the old leather sofa in a daze.
After a minute, she looked around. The house had obviously not been lived in for a long time: there were spiderwebs everywhere. The furniture was covered in dust. There was a small fireplace, and next to it, a book. Besides the sofa, there was a rough-looking table with two rickety chairs, and in the kitchen a stove that looked like it came out of the 19th century – a black one that needed a fire. Also, a table and a sink. A couple of plates and cups sat near the sink, as though someone had been doing the washing up before they decided to leave the house and never return. There were no electric lights – just a few candles dotted around the room. There was also another door that she assumed lead to a bedroom.
“Hmm, I wonder who owns this place,” she said to herself, “I think there is probably an interesting story here.”
Behind the door was a small bed. Underneath a grimy window, she could make out a wooden writing desk and chair. The desk had a pad of paper and a pencil. She read the paper – it said:
Difficult night. Getting low on firewood – going to have to cut down another tree soon. Don’t feel happy about leaving the clearing. It feels like I am being watched.
Oh dear, that didn’t sound good.
Sophie walked through the kitchen and opened the back door – it had a key still in the lock – and saw a small outhouse and a pile of firewood in the ‘back garden’ area. Another rumble of thunder, and two seconds later, a flash of lightning. The rain was barrelling down. It obviously used to be a clearing, but nature had encroached and there were thick brambles and weeds. The outhouse, Sophie knew from stories that her Gran told her about her childhood, was a small outdoor toilet. They were used before running water was installed, many years ago. The toilet didn’t flush – it was just a deep hole in the ground – a long-drop. Sophie thought that there must be a well nearby too, unless the owner used to visit the river for their water.
Sophie went back into the house. She snuggled up on the sofa, underneath a blanket that she found. She felt wiped out – as though she had been walking through the forest for days. After a rest and some food, Sophie managed to find a box of matches, and got a small fire going in the hearth. She took off her outer clothes and hung them up on the fireguard to dry off. While they were drying, she looked at the book.
“Carpentry for beginners. Sounds fascinating.”
Sophie wondered whether she should text her Mum to let her know that she wasn’t at Gran’s yet, and had got stuck in a storm, and that a talking squirrel had helped her get into a spooky old house…
“No, maybe not. I’ll text Mum when I actually get to Gran’s. That way she won’t worry.” She told herself.
After a while the storm moved on and the rain slowed to a drizzle.
She went back into the garden to look for the well – her water bottle was nearly empty. She spotted it in a tangle of brambles. How was she going to get to it without being scratched to shreds by the thorns? She looked around and found an axe near the firewood pile, as well as some wet gardening gloves. She put on the gloves, that were too big, and chopped at the brambles, trying to make a way to reach the well. Pouring with sweat, Sophie finally hit bricks. Thankfully, there was a bucket on a rope with which she could reach the water – she just hoped that it wasn’t full of mud. She drew up the water, and it wasn’t too bad, besides a few leaves and a water boatman, which she threw onto the grass. Remembering a survival show that she had watched once, she thought it would be better to boil the water before drinking it, so that she didn’t get a tummy bug.
She looked in the kitchen cupboards and found a battered pot, which she filled with the well water. She lit the kitchen stove and boiled the water. Once it had boiled, she let it cool a little before having a drink. By this time, she was very thirsty so gulped it down gladly. With the remaining water, she filled her bottle. She needed the toilet, so braved the outhouse. It was full of cobwebs.
I should probably get going now, she thought, Gran will be expecting me. Maybe I should write a quick note though.
Sophie went back to the bedroom and wrote on the paper that she had found.
I used your house today to escape from a storm and drew some water from your well. Thank you. I know that you weren’t here to ask, but I do appreciate it. I hope that you are ok.
Sophie (age 12)
Sophie felt her clothes – they were nearly dry, so got dressed and carefully put out the fires in the living room and stove. She didn’t want to accidently burn down the house. She saw that the rain had stopped, and the sun had come out.
She switched on her phone to check for any messages and took a photo of the living room, mostly to prove to herself that it hadn’t been a dream. She had a quick look at the map of the route to Gran’s house. She still seemed to be heading in the right direction. She tried to pick up a GPS signal to check her location, but it didn’t work, and her battery was now at only 3%. She switched the phone off again.
“Goodbye house,” she smiled as she left, pulling the front door shut behind her. She looked for the grumpy squirrel but couldn’t see him.
Sophie set off down the path, hopeful that there would be no more problems, or talking animals, on the way.
It was well into the afternoon now, and she was hoping that she would get to her Gran’s house before sunset. Her feet ached. She sat in the shade of a twisted tree which had the initials AH + JB scratched into its trunk. She wondered who those people were. After a few minutes, she got up and kept walking. Sophie started to worry that she might be lost – she had taken a path off the main track a while ago, thinking that it was a shortcut. Now she wasn’t sure.
“Stay calm, Sophie. Everything is ok. You have no reason to be scared. It’s just a forest. With talking squirrels.”
After a while, she passed an old tree – it seemed familiar. Was that… initials scratched into its bark? She looked closer. AH + JB! Oh no! She had been walking in circles! Sophie sat down. It was time to text Mum. She switched on her phone, planning to send a quick text. The phone lit up, asked for her password or thumbprint, and just as she pressed her thumb to the screen, the phone switched off. She tried again- as soon as she switched the phone on, it switched itself off again.
Sophie put her head on her knees and sobbed.
“Are you ok?”
“Not really,” Sophie sniffed, looking up. “Oh wow, you’re a crow. A crow is talking to me. Why am I even surprised?”
That’s all for today. Join me soon for the next chapter. Have you ever met a talking bird?
For more literacy resources for families, go to www.SwindonStories.org.uk
Once there was a girl called Sophie. She lived in town with her Mum. Her Mum was always busy at work. Her Grandmother was poorly so Sophie was going to visit her. Gran lived in an ancient cottage in the forest and didn’t have electricity. She only had a landline phone, not a mobile. She didn’t even have wi-fi.
Sophie’s mum was preparing food for Gran as she wasn’t well enough to cook for herself; and making sandwiches and packing snacks for Sophie’s journey.
“Now, you have the map to Gran’s cottage on your phone, don’t you?”
“Yes Mum, it’s all here. And I will have my GPS on, so I won’t get lost,” replied Sophie.
“That’s good. Have you packed your toothbrush?”
Sophie was going to stay the night at Gran’s house. It was a long walk, and it was the summer holidays.
“What about a cardigan? It can get chilly in the forest at night.” Said Mum, squeezing in a bag of crisps and some fruit.
The rucksack was so full that it would be difficult to close.
“Yes, it’s all there.”
“Text me when you get there, but I won’t be able to check my phone for a while.”
Mum zipped the bag closed with a sigh of relief, and picked up her thermos of coffee, heading out of the door, “I packed a first aid kit too. It’s got all sorts in there – you never can be too careful. Gran said that she is ok, just a cough and feeling run-down, but she isn’t one to moan. Right, I’m off to work a double shift. See you tomorrow evening.”
Mum gave Sophie a quick hug.
“See you later Mum, have a good time at work.”
Sometimes her Mum did double-shifts and spent the night at work. There was a small side room where she would catch a couple of hours’ sleep if she could.
Soon afterwards, Sophie set off for Gran’s cottage. She used her GPS and the map on her phone to help find her way there: she had walked there a couple of times with her Mum, but it was a long journey, so they usually drove a different way, missing out most of the forest.
It was hot, and Sophie had to stop a few times to rest in the shade of a tree for a drink. She sat under an old oak tree and rested her eyes for a minute- she wasn’t used to walking this far. Suddenly she jolted awake, and looked around, confused. She must have been asleep for a while- the sun was higher in the sky. She checked her phone before setting off.
“What, battery only 5% How did that happen?”
Oh no, the GPS had drained her battery, and she had forgotten to charge her phone the night before! She looked around – it was obvious that she had to go down that path, as she had definitely come from the other way. But would she really be able to find the rest of the way to Gran’s cottage herself? Sophie wasn’t sure, but as she had come so far already and had to get the food and medicine to Gran, she couldn’t go back home now.
Sophie looked around. The trees were huge here, and so close together. In the heat of the day, the birds were silent, and the silence felt oppressive. Almost like she was being watched. Sophie shook her head and told herself to stop being silly. She switched her phone off, to save the last few dregs of battery power.
She had been walking for a while, fairly confident that she was following the correct path, when it started to go dark. Oh no, not a storm? Luckily the trees would stop her from being drenched, but it wouldn’t be comfortable. She knew that there were a few old houses scattered around the forest but didn’t know if anyone was friendly or would take pity on her.
A crack of thunder made her jump in fright. She looked around for somewhere to shelter, perhaps a hole at the base of a tree. Not finding anywhere, Sophie decided to keep walking. Fat warm drops of rain started falling, and she moved to the shade of the trees to the side of the path. The sky got darker and the rain heavier. Sophie felt tired, wet and miserable.
Up ahead, she spotted a falling-down house in a clearing. Thank goodness! Hopefully the owner would let her inside until the storm ended. She knocked loudly on the door, but there was no answer. She peered through the grubby front windows: it was dark, but she could see an old sofa. Then she checked around the back, also knocking on that door and calling loudly. She tried both doors. The house seemed to be empty. How annoying!
She sighed and sat down at the front of the house, holding her backpack above her head to keep some of the rain off.
She looked up, glimpsing a movement in the bushes.
“Hello… my name is Sophie. I don’t want to cause any trouble. I just want to go into the house until the storm passes. Do you own the house?”
“I have some food that I could share with you… a sandwich, or um, some grapes? Would you like some?”
No reply. Sophie thought that maybe her imagination was in overdrive, and she was talking to herself.
A quick flash of orange. Was the owner a hermit who never spoke to other people?
“Oh,” said Sophie, rooting through her backpack to find something to tempt the shy person, “I have a first-aid kit here, if you need a plaster or something? No? Oh, there are some peanuts here too… Gran loves peanuts… oh bother.”
Sophie sunk her head onto her knees and tried not to cry.
“I like peanuts.”
Sophie smiled to herself. She didn’t look up straight away, as she didn’t want to scare the hermit.
“Oh brilliant, thank you. If you let me shelter in your house, just while it’s raining, you can have all of the peanuts,” she replied.
“Ok, hand the bag over, and I will open up the house for you.”
Sophie looked up.
“Wait, where are you?” She looked around, confused. She was sure that they had been standing nearby, but now all that she could see besides trees and rain, was a squirrel – a red squirrel. They were quite rare.
“It’s ok, I will get the peanuts out of my bag now- so you can see I am not lying.”
Sophie took the nuts out and lay the bag at her feet.
“Ok, they are here for you to take – are you behind that chestnut tree? You can come out now.”
The squirrel darted forward and grabbed the nuts.
“Oh no, a squirrel has just nicked the bag of peanuts! I am so sorry; I will get them back… here squirrel squirrel…”
Sophie crawled forward slowly, trying to grab the snack before the animal ran into a tree.
“What, do you think I’m an idiot?” Asked the squirrel.
“What? Argh, a squirrel just spoke to me! I am going mad!” Sophie cried.
I hope that you are enjoying the story so far. Join me soon for the next chapter.
For more literacy resources for families, go to www.SwindonStories.org.uk
A video of me reading this chapter:
Even during lockdown winter, you can look out for birds in your garden and local park.
If you have a garden, why not put down some seeds, fat balls or fruit, and see which birds visit? Make sure that they are bird safe and don’t have any added salt. For some healthy bird food ideas, go to https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-you-can-help-birds/feeding-birds/
When you spot a bird, you could draw a picture of it. If it was too far away, or you didn’t get a good look, ask your grown up to find a picture of the bird for you. Then you can take your time drawing a picture. Take note of the shape of their body, their beak and what colours they are.
You could also look up some interesting facts about the bird that you spotted.
You could find out:
What they eat (diet),
Who eats them (predators),
Where they usually live (habitat),
How many eggs they lay each year,
And their size.
Then you could write down the best facts on your drawing. Soon you will have a fact file of birds, to keep and show your teacher and friends one day. 🙂🐦
Two good websites for finding bird facts are https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-kids/facts-about-nature/
I have made some fact sheets about three birds that I saw in my garden: robin, blackbird and house sparrow.
What birds will you spot?
For more fun ideas on how to encourage your child to enjoy reading and writing, go to https://wordsforlife.org.uk/
was morning, and Autumn the fox and Fluffy the hedgehog were sitting at the kitchen table, doing homeschooling.
“I just want to go back to normal,” Autumn sighed, “I miss all of our friends at school.”
“I miss them too,” agreed Fluffy, “and Mrs Badger too.”
The friends were learning maths, and it was tricky. Mr Hedgehog was trying to teach them, but he was a firefighter not a teacher.
“Just write 8,” huffed Mr Hedgehog.
“But how did you get the answer 8?” asked Autumn.
“I can’t explain, but the answer is 8,” he sighed.
Mr Hedgehog was brave and kind and an excellent firefighter, but he did not like maths.
“Can we have a break please Daddy? My brain hurts,” asked Fluffy.
“No, you can’t. Finish your maths first,” replied Mr Hedgehog.
“But we don’t understand it!” said Autumn.
She burst into tears and ran to her bedroom. She hated homeschooling and she hated lockdown. She lay down on her bed and cried.
Mr Hedgehog was sad. He didn’t mean to upset Autumn.
“I will go and have a chat with Autumn,” he said to his son Fluffy, “I know that you are both struggling with being at home all of the time.”
“I have a better idea, who don’t you make us both a hot chocolate, and bring it upstairs in a few minutes? I am going to do something to cheer Autumn up,” said the little hedgehog.
“Ok, that sounds like a good plan.”
So Fluffy got out the things that he needed for the surprise for his friend.
After a few minutes, he was finished.
“Ok Dad, are the hot chocolates ready?” He asked.
“Yes,” replied Mr Hedgehog, “with extra marshmallows.”
The two hedgehogs walked up the stairs to Autumn’s bedroom. She was still on her bed.
“I am sorry that you are sad,” said Fluffy, sitting down on the bed with the gift, “I made you something to cheer you up.”
Autumn sat up, wiping the tears from her furry cheeks.
“You got me something?” She sniffed.
“Well, I made you something.” He handed the gift to Autumn.
Mr Hedgehog put the hot chocolates onto the bedside table.
“Thank you,” said Autumn.
Autumn looked at the gift that Fluffy had made her.
“It’s a drawing of us!” She laughed, “thank you Fluffy, it’s lovely.” She gave her friend a big hug.
“You’re welcome,” smiled Fluffy.
“Look, we are in the forest where we met the sleeping bear last year,” said Autumn.
Autumn felt happy that her friend Fluffy was so kind and had made her a gift. Fluffy felt pleased that he had cheered up his friend.
After their drinks, the friends went back downstairs to finish their maths. Mr Hedgehog showed them a video about the work that they were learning, which helped them to understand.
That evening they uploaded a photo of Fluffy’s drawing for Mrs Badger to see.
“Well done, you have been kind to your friend,” wrote Mrs Badger, “two house points to Fluffy.”
Fluffy felt proud of himself. It was good to be kind.
Illustrations by Bethany, age 7.
It was a grey and rainy day. Autumn watched the raindrops hitting the window. She sighed.
“Why does it have to rain so much?” She wondered aloud. “When can we go back to proper school?”
Autumn’s Mummy looked up from helping Fluffy with a maths question.
“All the grass would turn brown if it didn’t rain,” she replied, “and wouldn’t that be sad?”
“Hmph.” Answered Autumn.
“And as for going back to proper school, I don’t know the answer to that… we will have to wait until it is safer, don’t you think?” Mummy said.
“But why isn’t it safe now? I miss my friends. I miss my school playground with the basketball net and forest school pond.” The young fox moaned.
“We all wish it were safe, don’t we Fluffy?” Asked Autumn’s Mummy.
“Yes. I miss school too. Although, I am glad that we live in the same house so that I can still play with you,” answered Fluffy. “Imagine if we lived apart? No friends to run around the garden with, or play games with then.”
“You’re right. I am glad that we live together too.” Autumn smiled for the first time that day.
“I still miss normal life though. School dinners were much tastier, you got lots of rice pudding for dessert…”
“Thanks a lot!” Laughed Mummy.
“Sorry Mummy.” Said Autumn with a cheeky grin.
“Oh, it’s time for your live English lesson soon.” Said Mummy. “I will just start up the laptop. Have you got your pencils and paper ready?”
“Yes Autumn’s Mummy.”
The friends had some live lessons with their teacher on the computer. They couldn’t have all of their classes that way because their teacher Mrs Badger had to teach the key workers’ children at school too. It was quite complicated.
The live lesson started.
“Good morning class.” Said Mrs Badger on the computer screen.
“Good morning Mrs Badger!” Chimed the children simultaneously.
“Today we are going to practice writing the letter G.” Announced Mrs Badger. “So make sure that you have your sharpened pencils ready, as well as some lined paper. But first I will read you a story. Have you ever heard of Hansel and Gretel?” She asked.
A few children said yes but some said no.
“Right, well, let me show you the cover first…”
The teacher showed them the cover of the book with the title ‘Hansel and Gretel’ on it, and a picture of a gingerbread house.
“Can anyone find the letter G on the cover?” Asked Mrs Badger.
“I can!” Answered a boy called Fido. “There it is, in the title.”
“Well done Fido!” That’s right, because Gretel starts with the letter G.” Mrs Badger pointed to the letter.
“Once upon a time, there was a boy called Hansel and his sister, called Gretel. They lived in a little wooden cottage in the woods. They were very poor. One day…”
The laptop suddenly froze, with a still picture of Mrs Badger reading the book, stuck on it.
“Oh no!” Sighed Fluffy.
“Mummy, the laptop froze again!” Shouted Autumn angrily.
Mummy came rushing from the other room, where she had been trying to do some work on her computer.
“Oh not again. Let me have a look at it.”
Mummy pressed a few buttons on the laptop, but nothing happened.
“Why does it always go wrong?” Sniffed Autumn. “I am fed up with this home schooling!”
Autumn jumped up from the table and ran upstairs to her room.
Fluffy looked sad and watched as Autumn’s Mummy tried to fix the computer. Eventually, the picture and sound came back.
“Well done.” Smiled Fluffy.
“Thank you.” Said Mrs Fox.
He called up the stairs to Autumn that the laptop was working again.
Fluffy really enjoyed the story of Hansel and Gretel, even though she had missed some of it. He explained to Mrs Badger that his computer had gone wrong part way though. Mrs Badger said that she would send the story as a file to read with their grown-ups, for anyone whose video or computer wasn’t working.
Finally, Autumn stomped back downstairs. She still looked cross.
“I see that the stupid laptop is finally working again.” She said, sitting down at the table.
“Yes, your Mummy fixed it.” Replied Fluffy.
Fluffy’s Daddy came downstairs for a cup of coffee. He made one for Autumn’s Mummy too. He was a firefighter. He was working that night, so resting in the day.
“How are you getting on with the home schooling today?” He asked.
“Badly!” Replied Autumn. “Our laptop is so old that it doesn’t work properly. I just want to go back to real school now.”
Fluffy’s Daddy sipped his coffee thoughtfully.
“Do you know why you have to home school now?” He asked Autumn.
“Yes, because of the virus. It is safer for us to stay at home.” Said Autumn.
“The more we mix with other people, the more people will get sick.” Added Fluffy.
“That’s right,” replied Mr Hedgehog. “So even though home schooling is difficult and sometimes annoying, you are both helping to keep everyone safe.”
“Yes, but it’s not fair that we have an old computer. I missed the story today because it went wrong!” Answered Autumn.
“We are lucky to have two computers to use: one for your school work and one for Mrs Fox’s work. Some people can’t afford any computers. Did you know that?” Fluffy’s Dad asked.
“No.” Said Autumn. “How do they do their school work at home then?”
“Some of them just can’t. Others have to borrow their Mum or Dad’s phone, when they can.” Replied Mr Hedgehog.
“Oh,” said Autumn, “I didn’t know that. I suppose that our old laptop isn’t that bad after all.”
“Yes, it does work most of the time.” Agreed Fluffy.
“I helped put out a fire at a house last night,” said Mr Hedgehog. “They lost all of their clothes, toys and computers in the fire. That was very sad.”
“Oh no, were they all ok?” Asked Autumn.
“Yes, we got them all out safely.” He replied. “Look, the rain has stopped. Should we all go outside to play football for a while? It can be your PE lesson. After that, we can have hot chocolate with marshmellows.”
“Yes please!” Said Autumn and Fluffy excitedly.
Autumn thought that home school wasn’t so bad after all.
I wrote this story, and my daughter Bethany drew the illustrations. We enjoy making up stories together.
If you have kids, there are many ways to encourage their love of books. You can read to them; make up your own silly stories; or draw your favourite story-book characters. 🙂
If you would like to find more literacy based activities, and stories to read with your child, have a look at https://literacytrust.org.uk
They have a wealth of resources for all ages.