Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Break for the Holidays: Who Wants to Talk About Business?

Back to creative thinking in business after the New Year.

For a holiday break, here's another children's story. As Daniel, 9, would put it, it's a tale only for those who understand what the different between the terms "figurative" and "literal".

Daniel is very wise.

Child Tested, Parent Approved: A Dedication

Anecdotal esearch (eg family, friends, total strangers in airports with screaming kids) suggests this work for all ages.

Barkthur is dedicated to those experts who helped in its development. Daniel was a very helpful literary critic in his approach to stories generally. Erin, (4) and Sarabeth, (5) find puns second only to complete nonsense in their hilarity. They told me which ones were funny. Wriquey (15) and Dylan (12) are big on Medieval stories of any kind, and Emily, Paddy, and Henry will laugh at almost anything (1 year-old each), and Julia and Oliver will like it, too, according to their parents who expect them in the Spring.

To that point, this is also dedicated Michael, Sue (over 29, shall we say) and to the parents who have told me that they have appreciated it most after about the ninth or tenth reading when getting their kids to bed.

But First, A Note on The Children's Book Industry

I've included details of the single drawing done for this piece by Ron Barrett (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Pickles to Pittsburgh, Old MacDonald Had An Apartment House). It was never completed because publishers (again) felt there was nothing new in it.

As with It's a Drag to Be a Dragon, feel free to share this with interested children. The only requirement is that it's read aloud (no kidding).

And Now To Our Story . . .

King Barkthur & The Nights At The Hounds' Table
(A Tail that Gives One Paws)

Once upon a time in a land called Canine-Lot, there lived a good, kind, and frisky pup named Barkthur. He fetched beautifully, spoke when spoken to, and washed his paws after every meal. He loved more than anything else to play and bark.

He sure wasn't the kind of dog that thought about becoming king.

Now Barkthur had a sister, named Dogbone Lamee. Dogbone was Barkthur's older sister, and everyone knows that older sisters are smart (if you want to check, just ask one).

In her heart of hearts, Dogbone Lamee knew that she was a natural leader of dogs. And because she could run with the pack and because she was smart, she knew that there was only one job for her.

She wanted to be Queen of Canine-Lot.

This is what happened instead.

One day, Barkthur and his friends were digging up the yard. Suddenly, Barkthur's nose hit something hard. It was a bone—a bone in a stone.

Barkthur licked his chops, took the bone in his teeth, and pulled it out.

The sky turned dark. Lightning flashed. Out of nowhere, an old shaggy dog appeared.

She looked around very slowly, and began to tell a shaggy dog story.

"I am the old sister of the old old king," she announced. "Before he died, he put this bone in this stone and he buried it here, deep deep in the ground. My brother said that whoever pulled the bone from the stone must be the next king.

Looking at Barkthur, she said, “Sorry, kid. All hail. In Dog We Trust.”

In a puff of smoke, she disappeared.

Barkthur knew that his days as a pup were over. He was now King Barkthur of Canine-Lot.

When Barkthur’s sister, Dogbone Lamee, heard what had happened, she howled with anger. "Whoever heard of becoming king simply from pulling a bone from a stone! What about brains? What about leadership skills?"

To be fair, she was right. Dogbone would make a great queen. There was only one thing to do. She headed for Canine-Lot to take the throne from her brother, the king.

Meanwhile, back at the castle, Barkthur appointed Furlin the Wizard as his advisor.

Furlin was the wisest animal in the kingdom. "If you listen to me you'll be a brilliant king. If you don't, you'll end up chasing your own tail."

And with Furlin's help, Barkthur did become a pretty good king.

But as we know, trouble was on the way.

Dogbone knew the name of every grumpy dog in the area. These dogs were bullies, and their gang was called the Ruff-Ruffians.

The Ruff-Ruffians chased smaller animals. They howled late at night when everyone else was trying to sleep. Ruff- Ruffians ran in packs. They upset every apple cart, and they dug up other people's lawns.

And so when Dogbone Lamee made her plan, she recognized right away that the best way to cause trouble for Barkthur (or throw a bone in the works, if you will) was to become the leader of the Ruff-Ruffians.

Dogbone arrived in the kingdom at midnight. Not being the sort to let sleeping dogs lie, she immediately got the Ruff-Ruffians all worked up. She rubbed their fur backwards, and made them chase their own tails.

With Dogbone Lamee at the lead, the Ruff-Ruffians jumped in lakes and shook their wet fur on everyone. They were taught to roll over and sit on smaller dogs -- in short, they learned every mean trick in the book.

Meanwhile, King Barkthur knew that something had to be done. Furlin wisely suggested Barkthur call the best and brightest dogs of the kingdom to help sort out the Ruff-Ruffian problem.

From all corners of the kingdom, dogs came running. Large dogs, strong dogs, dogs that could run very fast, dogs that could take orders, dogs that were loyal -- they all showed up at the castle and gathered around a large table to hear the king speak.

This was the famous Hounds' Table - perhaps you've heard of it?

Barkthur thanked them all for coming. He explained about the Ruff-Ruffians and his sister, Dogbone Lamee. It was a pretty good speech (Furlin wrote it).

When it was over, Barkthur asked the dogs if they would help him.

"I think you'd better keep your day jobs," he added, "just in case things don't work out." So from that day forward, the dogs began spending their nights at the Hounds' Table to protect the kingdom.

It was a big deal to be a Knight of the Hounds Table. One of the knights that everyone liked was called Sir Galahound. He was especially loved by the ladies. It was all he could do to keep them at bay.

Another popular pup was Sir Woof-A-Lot. Everyone knew when he was nearby. Sir Woof-A Lot woofed so much that he hardly ever heard anybody else. No one could even get a growl in edgewise.

Woof-A-Lot and Galahound were fun to play with. They became Barkthur's best friends.

And one day, Sir Woof-A-Lot's cousin, Kennel-Dear, came visiting from the kingdom next door. Kennel-Dear and Barkthur romped all over the place together.

They had such a good time that they decided to cut to the chase and get married. There were many milk toasts. It was a great day throughout the kingdom.

And guess what?

When Dogbone Lamee heard that someone else had become queen, she really became a mad dog! "This is so unfair, " she cried. "I'm the smart one. I know how to be a leader. I should be queen!"

So Dogbone made a second and better evil plan. There was a law back then with special claws, and the claws said that said anyone who traveled outside the kingdom was not allowed to return.

You see, there were fleas out there, and it was important not to wander off and then bring them back.

Dogbone Lamee told the Ruff Ruffians to steal Queen Kennel-dear's favorite dogbone and to throw it out past the kingdom's borders, with the fleas.

Poor Kennel-Dear stood at the edge of the kingdom and howled and cried and whimpered.

As luck would have it, Sir Woof-A-Lot wasn't woofing as much as usual (he was whistling instead). He happened to hear the Queen.

Because Woof-A-Lot was a very good knight, he ran outside the kingdom to fetch the bone. "But now I can't come back," Woof-A-Lot said, scratching at the fleas. "It's the law."

Kennel-Dear quickly trotted back to ask Barkthur to change the law. Barkthur thought that was a fine idea. But Furlin disagreed.

“If we change the law to make Woof-a-Lot happy,” he said, “we’ll end up making everyone else miserable. We’ll have fleas everywhere.”

And then Furlin repeated the word “fleas” a thousand times to show what he meant by a flea problem.

Several hours later, King Barkthur growled at his wizard," Thank you Furlin. I get your point." Barkthur lay down and put his chin on his paws. He thought and he thought and he thought. Finally, he raised his head.

"I know," Barkthur said. "I never wanted to be king in the first place. I'll let Dogbone become queen! Then Kennel-Dear and I can go off and play with Woof-A-Lot and Galahound. Everyone will happy!."

"Aren't you forgetting the fleas?" Furlin asked. Barkthur smiled.

"As my last duty as king, I command you to figure out a way to get rid of fleas. You're a wizard," Barkthur said. "You'll think of something."

And so Barkthur turned the throne over to his sister, who was very happy indeed. The first thing Queen Dogbone did was to tell the Ruff-Ruffians to behave. They did, and peace fell upon the land. She then moved on to agrarian reform.

Furlin put a magic spell on everyone's neckwear, thus inventing the flea collar. And since he knew that some dogs didn't like wearing collars, he also invented a magic flea powder that could be rubbed into the fur (Kennel-Dear liked this).

The flea law was abolished. Goods and services traveled freely between kingdoms from that day forward. And so did dogs.

And they all lived yappily ever after.

Copyright 2002 Annette Kramer; Images copyright 2002 Ron Barrett

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