Out of the shoebox . . .

I used to imagine myself writing for children, I seemed to always come up short in my efforts though. I decided to take a course dedicated to writing for children. How hard could it be? For me, very. I could never find my voice in the realm of children’s literature, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Frustrated by my futile attempts, I enrolled in a children’s writing course. I floundered. My instructor praised my every effort without providing me with much instruction, constructive criticism or critique. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t finish the course.

Sifting through my shoeboxes again, I came upon the first assignment I submitted. A simple little story which took me weeks to put together and left me feeling like a dismal failure. Every now and then, I still try to eke out a story for the little ones, Each time I do I’m reminded I am better at writing about them instead of for them . . .

Oct. 24, 1992
# ED75006

Roberta’s Secret Ingredient

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Roberta Rabbit awoke early to prepare for the big pie contest. She wanted to start her pies before the other pie makers. “I just know I’m going to win a blue ribbon today.” she mumbled to herself as she slipped out of bed. Roberta was still sleepy. She stayed up most of the night thinking about the contest.

“No one can top my recipe for sweet carrot pie!” thought Roberta as she made her way to the kitchen. She cheerfully began gathering her ingredients while singing a little tune, “Eggs and sugar, flour and spice, are some of the things that make my pies so nice. The sweetest of carrots grown with rain from above, all mixed together with a spoonful of love. A pinch of this and a dash of that, then my secret ingredient…” suddenly, Roberta stopped singing and was no longer very cheerful. As a matter of fact, she was quite upset.

Before she went to bed she’d placed her secret ingredient on the cupboard and now it was gone! She searched everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. Roberta was so busy running about the kitchen she almost didn’t see the little mouse who was eating the last little bit of the secret ingredient.

“Little mouse!” cried Roberta, “I needed that for my pies!” The mouse just looked at her and scurried away. “How will I ever win now?” she sighed.

Hoping to find more, Roberta decided to go to the market. She put on her hat and coat and began her walk. As she rounded the corner she almost ran right into Mrs. Grumble Bunny. “Excuse me,” said Roberta, “I’m in an awful hurry, I’m so sorry.”

Mrs. Grumble Bunny frowned, “Well dearie, I’m in a hurry myself, I have a contest to win. Good day Roberta.” and she continued hopping down the lane.

Roberta continued on her way. When she reached the market she quickly found what she was looking for. She was so relieved she began singing her song again. Roberta heard a voice behind her. Startled, she turned around to see Harriet Hare.

“What are you singing Roberta?” she asked.

“Nothing in particular.” replied Roberta.

“I thought I heard something about a secret ingredient. Is that your secret there?” said Harriet pointing to the jar in Roberta’s hand.

Roberta was too nervous to answer, she was worried she’d given it away. “Are you entering a pie today Harriet?” she asked.

Harriet smiled, “Of course I am, my recipe is sure to win! See at the contest!”

Roberta waved goodbye and hurried along to pay for the secret ingredient. She rushed home and began baking her pies. Once again, Roberta was cheerful and happy. When the pies were finished she set them out on the window sill to cool, She plopped down in her comfy chair and watched carefully for the little mouse. As she sat there, she nodded off to sleep and dreamed of her pies and the blue ribbon she hoped to win.

As Roberta rested, her pies were drawing quite an audience. The wind carried the scent of her sweet carrot pies throughout the neighborhood. Roberta awoke to find the whole town outside her window.

“What are you doing out there?” she asked.

“We could smell your wonderful pies, we came to see if we could have a taste.” one of the gentlemen replied.

Roberta gave it some thought, “Of course, come inside.” Everyone sat down as Roberta served the pie.

“This is the best pie I’ve ever tasted!” said someone.

“You really must give me your recipe,” said another. Even grumpy old Mrs. Grumble Bunny was smiling.

Harriet Hare went to Roberta, “You deserve to win this contest, I’d sure like to know your secret.”

“Sorry,” replied Roberta with a big grin, “I can’t give away my secret but I’ll bake you a pie anytime you like!”

“It’s almost time for the contest.” said Roberta, “We’d all better get going if we don’t want to be late.”

“Wait!” yelled a voice from the crowd, “All the judges are here and we’ve decided if it’s alright with everyone, we’d like to award Roberta with first place right now!”

There wasn’t a word of protest from anyone. Roberta was given the most beautiful ribbon she’d ever seen. She was so happy she gave everyone another slice of pie. When they’d all gone, Roberta hung her ribbon where she could always see it, she was very proud of having won first place.

After that day, Roberta always sang her song whenever someone asked for her secret. “Eggs and sugar, flour and spice, are some of the things that make my pies so nice. The sweetest of carrots, grown with rain from above, all mixed together with a spoonful of love. A pinch of this and a dash of that, then my secret ingredient…” but she’d always stop before finishing the tune and walk away with a smile on her face.

Crystal R. Cook

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