story for children aged 3 – 7
By : Peter Allchin
Barnaby Rabbit was hot, very hot. It was the middle of a beautiful summer in Orange Blossom Wood. High above the trees and bushes, the sun shone in a blue cloudless sky, and even the leaves on the trees failed to stop the heat of the sun from penetrating through to the woodland floor where Barnaby Rabbit lived.
The birds, too hot to sing or fly, remained perched on the branches of the trees. No animals, large or small, scurried through the grasses and fallen branches looking for food, and it was certainly far too warm for the youngsters to play. Only the bees seemed to be going about their daily chores collecting nectar from the wild flowers. Their humming was a reminder to Barnaby Rabbit that life carried on in Orange Blossom Wood.
As Barnaby was lazing in his mother’s armchair, daydreaming of cooler days and playing with his friends, there came a knock at the door. “I’ll get it mum,” he said, glad for something to do.
It was Mrs. Hedgehog. “Hello Barnaby,” said Mrs Hedgehog. “Is Harry with you?”
“No,” replied Barnaby. “I haven’t seen Harry all morning.”
“Oh dear,” said Mrs. Hedgehog. “I’ve been to see all his other friends and no-one knows where he is. You were my last hope. Now I don’t know what to do.”
Barnaby Rabbit smiled at Mrs. Hedgehog. “Don’t worry Mrs. Hedgehog,” he said. “I’ll find him for you. Harry has probably curled up in a hollow log somewhere to keep cool.”
After saying goodbye to Mrs. Hedgehog, Barnaby Rabbit called an emergency meeting with his best pals, Peter Partridge and Philipa Pheasant, and soon they were all looking for Harry Hedgehog. First, they looked in all the hollow logs; no Harry Hedgehog. Then they searched under the thickest bushes; still no Harry Hedgehog.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do now,” said Philipa Pheasant. “Harry has never got lost before.”
Barnaby Rabbit suggested to Philipa Pheasant that she flew over Orange Blossom Wood to see if she could spot Harry Hedgehog from the air. Philipa flapped her wings, but it was no good; she was too hot and exhausted.
“I wish I were a duck so that I could fly over the wood,” said Peter Partridge.
“That’s it!” said Barnaby Rabbit. “The duck pond. I wonder if Harry went to the duck pond to cool down?”
“But Harry can’t swim,” said Philipa Pheasant.
“Then we had better hurry,” Barnaby Rabbit said, and headed off in the direction of the duck pond, followed closely by his two friends.
“Help! Help!” It was the voice of Harry Hedgehog. “Help! Help!”
The three friends arrived at the duck pond and saw Harry in the water, being held afloat by Mr. and Mrs. Duck. “We can’t hold him much longer,” said Mr. Duck. “And we are unable to push him to the bank; he’s too heavy. If we let go, Harry will sink!”
Barnaby Rabbit thought very quickly and soon came up with a plan. “We must find a long stick or branch that we can all carry,” he said.
“Hurry, oh please hurry!” spluttered Harry Hedgehog as his friends searched around the duck pond.
“Over here!” called Philipa, and soon, Barnaby Rabbit, Peter Partridge and Philipa Pheasant were dragging a long branch towards the edge of the duck pond. They lowered it onto the water and pushed it towards Harry Hedgehog, being careful not to let the branch out of their grip.
“Grab the end of the branch Harry and we’ll pull you out,” said Barnaby, and Harry Hedgehog grabbed the branch. With the help of Mr. and Mrs. Duck, who pushed, and Barnaby, Peter and Philipa, who pulled, Harry Hedgehog was soon on dry land. The four friends thanked Mr. and Mrs. Duck then made their way home.
“What on earth were you thinking of Harry? You could have drowned!” said Mrs. Hedgehog, annoyed that her only son could be so foolish.
“I’m sorry mum,” answered Harry, still dripping wet despite the heat. “The water looked so cool and inviting, so I just ran and jumped in. I didn’t know the duck pond was so deep!”
“It’s a good job Barnaby and his friends turned up when they did,” said Mrs. Hedgehog. “Never, ever, go in water that you don’t know the depth of, and always be with friends, especially when near water, in case something does goes wrong.”
The lesson was learned. Harry Hedgehog thanked Barnaby Rabbit, Peter Partridge and Philipa Pheasant and never went near water, without his friends, again.
Peter Allchin © 2006