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An original bedtime story for children of all ages on the last night of the year.

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Juma who lived in the jungle. One day he said, “I miss Grandmother. I will go to see her today.” So Juma climbed into his little boat and paddled down the Big River. The water was smooth and quiet. The trees were tall and green. There were flowers everywhere.

“Where are you g-g-g-going, J-J-J-Juma?” chattered Monkey from the tree.

“I’m going to the next village to visit Grandmother,” said Juma.

“I’ve never been in a b-b-b-boat. Can I come too?” said Monkey.

“Yes,” said Juma. “But you must sit very still so the boat won’t tip over.”

Juma and Monkey drifted down the river. They saw Flamingo standing in the tall reeds.

“Where are you going?” sang Flamingo as she stood on one leg.

“To see Grandmother in the next village,” answered Juma.

“I’ve never seen a Grandmother,” said Flamingo. “Can I come too?”

“Yes,” said Juma. “But you must sit very still so the boat won’t tip over.”

So Juma and Monkey and Flamingo floated down the river. They came to a place where one part of the river went one way and the other part of the river went another way. They saw Giraffe eating the leaves off the top of a tall, tall tree.

“Which way should I go to get to the next village,” Juma asked Giraffe.

“If I tell you, will you take me for a ride?” said Giraffe.

“Yes,” said Juma, “but you must sit very still so the boat won’t tip over.”

Giraffe sat at the back of the boat. He stretched out his long neck and pointed. “That way!”

Juma and Monkey and Flamingo and Giraffe floated down the river. Then they saw Ostrich running up and down the shore.

“Help me!” shouted Ostrich. “I have to cross the river and I am afraid of deep water.”

“I’ll take you but you will have to sit very still so the boat won’t tip over,” said Juma.

“I will, I will,” said Ostrich. She sat in the middle of the boat, fluffed her feathers and stuck her head under the seat.

Juma and Monkey and Flamingo and Giraffe and Ostrich floated down the river until they saw Zebra.

“Hey-y-y-y-y there!” whinnied Zebra. “Where are you going?”

“We’re going to the next village to see Grandmother,” said Juma.

“What’s a village look like?” said Zebra. “I want to come too.”

“Okay,” said Juma. “But you must sit very still so the boat won’t tip over.”

“Okay-y-y-y! Let’s go!” said Zebra tossing his mane.

Juma and Monkey and Flamingo and Giraffe and Ostrich and Zebra floated down the river. They saw Aardvark on the shore.

“Where are you going?” called Aardvark twitching his long nose.

“To see Grandmother who lives in the next village,” answered Juma.

“I heard they had lots of good ants to eat there. Can I come too?” said Aardvark.

“If you come, you must sit very still so the boat won’t tip over,” said Juma.

Aardvark got in and sat very still. When he thought of ants he licked his lips.

Juma and Monkey and Flamingo and Giraffe and Ostrich and Zebra and Aardvark floated down the river. When they went around a bend they saw Lion waking up from a nap and stretching.

“ARE YOU GOING TO A PARTY?” roared Lion as he shook his great mane.

“No. We are going to visit my Grandmother,” said Juma.

“I LOVE GRANDMOTHERS,” roared Lion and bounded into the boat before Juma could say no.

Everybody squealed and shouted, “Sit still! Sit still!”

Lion sat down and purred while he washed his face.

Juma and Monkey and Flamingo and Giraffe and Ostrich and Zebra and Aardvark and Lion floated down the river. Then they bumped into Elephant who was taking a bath.

“Hey! Watch where you are going!” yelled Elephant.

“I’m sorry,” said Juma. “It is hard to see with so many passengers in the boat.”

“Where are you going,” asked Elephant as he squirted water on his back.

“To the next village to visit my Grandmother,” said Juma.

“Does she have any peanuts?” said Elephant.

“I think so,” said Juma.

“Then I’m coming too,” said Elephant and he climbed into the boat before Juma could stop him. The boat tipped this way and then that way.

Juma and Monkey and Flamingo and Giraffe and Ostrich and Zebra and Aardvark and Lion and Elephant floated down the river.  First they saw the smoke from the cooking fires. Then they saw the village!

“Hooray!” they all shouted.

“What’s all the shouting about?” squawked Parrot who was flying in the trees.

“We’ve come to see Grandmother,” said Juma, steering the little boat towards shore.

“I’ll show you where to go,” said Parrot and landed on Monkey’s head.

“G-g-g-g-get off me!” chattered Monkey as he scrambled up Giraffe’s neck.

“Stop it!” shouted Giraffe shaking his head and bumping into Zebra.

“Hey!” said Zebra who kicked out his feet and hit Lion.

“R-O-A-R!” said Lion so loud that Flamingo got scared and flapped her wings.

“Stop rocking the boat!” yelled Aardvark and knocked Ostrich backward.

“Help!” screeched Ostrich as she grabbed Elephant’s leg.

“That’s enough!” trumpeted Elephant, standing up.

“SIT STILL!” cried Juma.

The boat tipped this way and the boat tipped that way. Then the boat tipped that way and the boat tipped this way.  SPLASH! went Elephant.  SPLASH! went Ostrich.  SPLASH! went Aardvark. SPLASH! went Flamingo. SPLASH! went Lion. SPLASH! went Zebra. SPLASH! went Giraffe. SPLASH! went Monkey. SPLASH! went Juma.

Hippopotamus who had been eating his lunch called out, “Hold on to each other! I’ll help!”

Hippopotamus pulled Juma and Juma pulled Monkey and Monkey pulled Flamingo and Flamingo pulled Giraffe and Giraffe pulled Ostrich and Ostrich pulled Zebra and Zebra pulled Aardvark and Aarvark pulled Lion and Lion pulled Elephant. They all sat on the bank of the river and watched the boat bobbing up and down.

Grandmother came out of her house and saw them. She asked, “What happened.”

“We came to see you,” said Juma, “but the boat tipped over.”

“Next time, Juma, you must remember to tell everyone to sit very still,” she said and then gave him a big kiss.

 MORAL: No ride is free? Beware of hitchhikers? Don’t rock the boat?

(c) 2012 Marie Taylor

Happy New Year!

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