If there are ever any words or phrases posed next to my name, usually it’s something like, “Honorable Mention,” or “Also Ran,” or even, “Thanks for showing up!” Not no more. This week I got notice from the Literary Classics International Book Awards that my one children’s book, ABOUT A FARM, has won the 2013 Award for Best, First Chapter Book. Yep, right there next to an illustration of my book and my name was the word, “BEST!” As Katy Perry would say…HEAR ME ROOOOAAAAR!
So, with all due respect to you guys, my loyal blog followers, please allow me, for once, to brag about this achievement which, by the way, I share with ABOUT A FARM’S illustrator, Lynda Mangoro. Lynda’s crafty artwork brings the characters to life and are a tremendous enhancement to the stories told in the book.
If you are interested, you can learn more about the book at aboutafarm.com or purchase it in paperback or Kindle at amazon.com, or Nook at barnesandnoble.com. In the meantime, I am reposting an excerpt from ABOUT A FARM. I hope you enjoy it.
Okay, here is Chapter 2 from ABOUT A FARM. This chapter deals with goal setting and sharing. It’s called…
ABOUT A LOLLIPOP
The ants formed a long, slowly swirling line of hundreds of marching legs, one behind the other, making its way across the patch of dirt just in front of the barn door. As the brigade traveled, it maneuvered around, up over and tunneled under one obstacle after another. What appeared to most of the farm animals as normal droppings or clumps of dirt, or half-chewed wads of grass and weed, presented an altogether different picture to the ants. To them, their road trips were challenging treks across a barnyard terrain obstructed by mounds of goo, jagged walls of coagulated waste and mountainous piles of gloppy garbage. It was never an easy march for the ants. Even though they far outnumbered all the other animals on the farm, they still represented just about the smallest creatures in the neighborhood.
Their mission had awakened them extra early this morning. Just before sundown the night before, two scouts had reported back to headquarters that Linda Lou, Farmer Fred’s young granddaughter, was visiting for the weekend. Grandma Emily, they knew, would be smothering Linda Lou with all kinds of delectable treats, like chewy candy, drippy popsicles and homemade chocolate chip cookies—ohhhh, the cookies were the best! This time, according to the scouts, Linda Lou had left a partially licked red cherry lollipop on the back stoop of the farmhouse. She had moistened it just enough so that it had become a sticky, slurpy sludge of cherry wonderfulness.
So, an hour before dawn, the ants had formed and begun their long journey to the stoop. Their mission was clear: secure the lollipop and bring as much of it as possible back to the colony. The success of the mission wasn’t even questioned. That was because leading the march was Colonel Antony “Legs” Wallenford. The Colonel was a highly decorated military leader, especially known for his conquests during the Grasshopper Wars several years before. The story of his attack and ultimate taking of Pizza Dough Hill was told and glamorized to every school-aged ant. And, his relentless pounding of Fort Frankfurter was, well, let’s just say a military masterpiece. Now, called out of retirement to lead the lollipop brigade, the expectations for a cherry jubilee in the colony had the ants in a frenzy.
Most of the ants’ presence in the barnyard this morning went unnoticed. Some of the lower-snouted animals picked up their scent but, other than the pig, no one seemed very interested. The pig, meanwhile, sniffed at the meandering line of insects, even sucking up a few who now clung to the outer rims of the pig’s nostrils screaming for their lives. Eventually, the pig would snort them off and they would rejoin their place in the ant line, little the worse.
“Keep you antennae on the prize,” Colonel Legs yelled, “and we’ll be cherry merry by noon.”
Success of the mission relied on many things that happened daily on the farm. And, these things took place on a very fine timeline. First of all, at exactly 5:20 each morning, Farmer Fred awoke and made himself a thermos of coffee. This he would take with him and drink while he did his morning chores. He would leave the farmhouse by the back kitchen door and step down the stoop onto the path that led to the barn. If he noticed the lollipop it was an even chance that he would either ignore it or pick it up and toss it into the field behind the barn.
Eighteen minutes and forty-two seconds later, Colonel Wallenford had calculated, Emily would come out the same kitchen door. She would have her basket in hand as she stepped down the same stoop and headed over to the chicken coop to collect the morning eggs. Whether or not Emily would spot the lollipop was entirely more difficult to predict. First, her eyesight was not as good as Farmer Fred’s. But, Emily was a real stickler for muss and fuss. She would not have a dirty house, a cluttered kitchen and certainly not a stoop with sticky goo drooling down from one step onto another.
Ideally, the ants would have to get to the lollipop before Farmer Fred came out the back door. That would prove difficult based on the progress they were making across the barnyard this morning. However, they could not chance Emily spotting the lollipop. Then, for sure, it’d be gone. They must arrive, dislodge the lollipop and be carrying it off before Emily left to collect the eggs. Timing was critical. “Legs” ordered the ants to march double time.
There was one thing different from usual on the farm this morning…and that was Linda Lou. She usually wasn’t there. But, when she was, she liked getting up with her grandmother and going to the hen house to collect the eggs. And so, this morning there was an additional person coming out the back kitchen door and making her way down the stoop. While the Colonel had factored in the habits and personal traits of both Farmer Fred and his wife Emily, he knew very little about granddaughter Linda Lou. Would she see the lollipop? Would she pick it up? If she did, what would she do with it? If the Colonel made one wrong calculation the mission could be lost. There was one thing for sure: Colonel Antony “Legs” Wallenford did not like to lose.
The ants arrived at the stoop just as Farmer Fred was pouring his coffee into his thermos. He screwed on the cap, grabbed his favorite green hat and headed for the back kitchen door. He took a moment at the top of the stoop to breath in the fresh morning air.
“How good it smelled,” he thought, and then he clumped down the steps in his heavy work boots and continued down the dirt path that led to the barn. He never…saw…the lollipop! “Legs” had bet on this and now he knew he had to move fast.
“Attack!” he yelled at the top of his voice. Hundreds of ants began working their way up the bottom step. It wasn’t long before they smothered the delectable cherry lump and attempted to lift it up off the step. This would take some effort. The warm air of a fresh spring night had partially melted the lollipop and it had molded itself into the grains of the wood plank of the middle step. The Colonel was about to call for the demolition squad when, suddenly, the most unexpected turn of events occurred.
Emily and Linda Lou came bounding out the back door and onto the top step of the stoop.
“Ahhh,” said Emily, “smell the fresh spring air, Linda Lou. You don’t get that smell in the big city where you live.”
Linda Lou inhaled a big breath and smiled in delight.
“That’s why we’re getting an extra early start this morning, Grandma,” she said. “I want to take in as much of the farm as I can!”
“Extra early!” cried the Colonel. “It’s only five minutes since Farmer Fred left. This is a SUPER extra early start.”
Emily and Linda Lou then proceeded down the steps. The ants retreated every which way trying to avoid the huge human feet descending upon them. Those standing guard on the upper step were sure to have casualties while those below had only split seconds to get out of the way. The ants were in total disarray as Emily and Linda Lou stepped off the stoop and onto the dirt path. The Colonel sighed the biggest sigh in his military history. While near total devastation threatened his troops, it was amazing that only a few were hurt, and none seriously. And the lollipop? The lollipop remained in its place.
“Target stabilized,” he thought to himself. But no, what was this? Emily was turning around and coming back.
“I thought I saw something on the step,” she said to Linda Lou. “Yes, I did see something,” she exclaimed as she leaned closer to the ruby red glob that was glistening in the porch light on the middle step of the back door stoop.
“It’s that lollipop I gave you yesterday afternoon,” Emily said. “It’s a yucky mess! I have to clean that up.”
Linda Lou looked down at her discarded treat from the day before.
“Oh no, Grandma,” she cried, “you have to leave it there.”
Emily was confused. In fact, the Colonel was confused, too. And so were all the ants.
“Why in mercy’s sake, my little girl,” said Emily, “would you want that to stay there? You know, it won’t be long before your grandpa comes back and sure as I’m standing here, he’ll step right in that mess and track into the house and all over the kitchen floor. Nope, we have to clean it up,” she insisted.
“But don’t you see the ants, Grandma?” Linda Lou shouted. “They will clean it up for you; just give them a little time. That way everybody will be happy. You’ll have a clean step and the ants will have a delicious treat.”
Emily stepped back and put her hands on her hips, the empty egg basket swinging on her arm.
“Well,” she said, “I have to say you are a very special little girl to think about the ants that way.”
“It’s called ‘sharing’,” Grandma,” said Linda Lou, a bit proud of herself. “I learned that in the big city.”
Emily smiled and took Linda Lou by the hand and they headed on down to the chicken coop. Colonel Antony “Legs” Wallenford was flabbergasted.
“Well men,” he scowled, “just don’t stand there, get some legs up. We’ve got a lollipop to take home!”