The Story of Yuckyrella

(I’ve started occasionally posting stories that I make up for my daughter here. This is the third one I’ve written up.)


The Story of Yuckyrella

Once upon a time there were a king and a queen who had seven daughters.Six of the princesses were very much alike. They were all dainty and wore beautiful clothes. They were all afraid of crawly things like snails and worms. They all tried to be the prettiest, and spent most of their days reclining on cushions in the royal palace.

But the seventh princess was different. Her name was Yuckyrella.

Unlike her sisters, Princess Yuckyrella liked running around and making noise. She wasn’t afraid of crawly things and her favorite outfit was a comfortable old flowered jumper with juice-stains on it. She preferred going on adventures to sitting around on a cushion.

Sometimes the other princesses made fun of Yuckyrella because she was different.

“Why can’t you be dainty like us?” they asked when she pretended to be a jellyfish.

“Princesses should be meek and polite!” they scolded when she practiced being a pirate.

“That’s disgusting!” they shrieked when Yuckyrella showed them the beetle she’d found in the queen’s flowerbed.

It made Yuckyrella sad when her sisters talked to her this way, but she couldn’t help it. The gooier, slimier, and dirtier things were, the more she seemed to like them.

She loved stomping in mud puddles. She adored tickling squirmy caterpillars. She was enraptured by the shimmery trails that snails left behind on leaves. Even her favorite foods were gloopy: yogurt, oatmeal and pudding.


One day when Yuckyrella was building a resort for the frogs that lived in the castle moat, a group of people came to see the king and queen. All of them looked worried. Yuckyrella was curious, so she followed them inside.

“Your majesties,” the people told the king and queen, “something terrible has happened! A giant slug has invaded the kingdom and is destroying the countryside!”

The queen frowned. “That is serious. Where has this terrible beast come from, and what is it doing?”

“We don’t know where it came from,” the people answered, “but it’s smashing our houses and ruining our gardens. Please, help us!”

“I will ride out with my bravest men and drive this brute of a slug away,” the king answered. He turned to the queen and the seven princesses. “Who will come with me?”

The queen turned pale. “Oh, darling, I can’t. I’m, going to get a haircut,” she said.

“A giant slug? Disgusting! We don’t want to go anywhere near it,” six of the princesses chorused.

Then Yuckyrella spoke up. “I’ll go!”

The king, and all of his bravest men on horseback, and Yuckyrella, found the giant slug in the middle of the village. The slug towered over the buildings and thrashed about furiously, knocking over nearby trees. The king and his men rode toward the slug but the horses slipped in the slime that the slug left behind. The men fell off their horses and all of them became frightened and ran away. Only Yuckyrella was left.

The slug was oozy and strange-looking, but that didn’t bother Yuckyrella. She had always enjoyed playing with slugs in the palace garden. And she knew that normally, slugs were peaceful creatures that didn’t bother anyone.

So in a quiet, kindly voice she asked, “What’s the matter, slug? Why are you behaving this way? You’re frightening everyone.”

When the giant slug heard her voice, it stopped rampaging. It looked at her, and then wriggled its eye-stalks toward its tail.

Yuckyrella looked closely, and saw that a splinter was poking into the slug’s soft body.

“So that’s why you’re so upset!” she exclaimed. “Here, let me help you.”

Yuckyrella waded through the slime. The slug remained very still. With both hands she tugged at the splinter and at last it came out.

The slug gave a shiver of happiness. It reached down and tickled Yuckyrella gently with its tentacles. Yuckyrella smiled and patted the slug. “You’re not a terrible beast at all. You just needed a friend, didn’t you?”

The slug nodded.

“But you can’t stay here,” Yuckyrella told the slug. “Come with me. I know the perfect place for you to live.”

She led the way to her favorite mud puddle behind the palace stables. The slug settled down with a contented sigh.

When the people saw that they were safe, they rushed to the castle to thank the king for saving them. But the king said, “Yuckyrella is the one you should thank.”

Then the king turned to the other six princesses. “You should learn from Yuckyrella’s example,” he told them. “Being a princess isn’t about daintiness or wearing beautiful clothes. A true princess is brave and smart, and most of all kind.”

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The Story of the Plastic Bottle Girl

(I’ve started posting stories that I make up for my daughter here. This is the second one I’ve written up.)

I took E- to the barber shop to get a haircut. While we were waiting, we started to leaf through a copy of Juxtapoz Magazine that happened to be lying around (it was that kind of barber shop) and came to this picture:
Stories for E-plastic bottle girl

E: (pointing to the blonde cartoon girl) Tell me the story of her!

Me: Well….

The Story of the Plastic Bottle Girl

Once upon a time, in a factory far, far away, a little plastic bottle was born. She was a cheerful little bottle and from the beginning of her life she knew exactly what she wanted to do in the world: she wanted to make people happy.

The little bottle was loaded into a truck with lots of her brothers and sisters and taken to another factory, and something was poured into her. Soon afterward, she was taken to a store and put on a shelf. She didn’t know what was inside her, but she was bursting with excitement: maybe she was full of delicious juice, or sweet perfume, or foamy bubble bath. Whatever it was, she was sure that it would make someone very happy.

Imagine her disappointment when a worried-looking woman came into the store, and bought her and took her home, and into a room where a sick little boy was lying in bed – and the sick little boy looked at her and said: “Ugh! Yucky medicine!”

That’s right: the little bottle realized that she was full of medicine. The only time she came out of her drawer in the bathroom was when someone was sick, and however much she tried to think sweet thoughts no one was ever happy to see her. For her entire life, the little bottle helped people feel better on many occasions but she never once made anyone smile.

Finally she was empty, and the woman dropped her into the recycling bin full of other empty bottles. “Well, that’s the end of me,” the little bottle thought sadly. “I only wish that once, just once, I could have made someone happy.”

She was loaded onto a truck with lots of other empty bottles and cans, and taken to a factory. The little bottle was put into a machine and felt herself becoming softer, stretching and changing. Something was stamped onto her. She wasn’t a bottle anymore, she realized. She was… well, she didn’t know what she was.

She was put into a bag and loaded onto another truck, and taken to a different store. But this was a very different store than the first one she’d been in: it was full of brightly colored toys and games.

Then a little girl came in with her mother. The little girl pointed to her, and the girl’s mother nodded. The girl took her off the shelf and carried her over to a man, who attached her to a nozzle. She felt herself swelling, and began to float up into the air. A string was attached to her, and the little girl held onto the string.

The little girl beamed up at her and, as they left the store, the once-upon-a-time bottle caught sight of her reflection in the glass: she was now a big, beautiful balloon with a laughing face! Everyone on the street who caught sight of her smiled, and the once-upon-a-time-bottle’s heart swelled with joy. Now, as she’d always wanted, she was making everyone happy.

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How the Sloth Got Its Slowness

(I’ve started posting stories that I make up for my daughter here. This is the first one I’ve written up.)

Me: You’re acting like a sloth this morning!

E: What’s a sloth?

Me: An animal that moves very slowly.

E: Why’s it so slow?

Me: Well….

The Story of the Three-Toed Sloth

Once upon a time, when the world was young, the sloth was the fastest of all the animals. The sloth was so swift that, when he ran, you could hardly see him; “I’m faster than lighting, faster than a thought,” he liked to boast.

One day the sloth went to visit his friend the Learned Astronomer, up in his observatory at the top of a mountain. When the sloth arrived he found the Astronomer in despair, leaning against his telescope and weeping.

“What is it?” asked the sloth. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s better if you don’t know,” the Astronomer said, wiping the tears off his glasses.

“Please,” begged the kindly sloth, “you’re my friend. I’d like to help. What’s the matter?”

“Well, if you must know,” the Astronomer sobbed, “it’s terrible news. The very worst. A huge asteroid is flying toward us through space. It will hit the earth in two days, and smash our beautiful planet.”

“That’s awful!” cried the sloth.

“I know. And there’s no way to stop it. That’s why it’s better if no one knows,” the Astronomer sighed.

“No way at all?” the sloth asked.

“Well – there is one thing. But it’s impossible. If there was a way to move the planet itself out of the way. If, say everyone jumped at the same instant, at two PM day after tomorrow. But as I said, it’s impossible,” the Astronomer concluded. He turned to the sloth – but the sloth was already gone.

The sloth raced out of the observatory and down the mountain, faster than he’d ever run before. Halfway down the mountain he saw a family of mice. “At two PM, day after tomorrow, all of you jump at once,” he shouted, barely slowing down. “Tell everyone else! It’s a matter of life and death!” As he reached the forest at the bottom of the mountain he passed a bear searching for berries. “Two PM, day after tomorrow,” he called, “jump up and down! Pass it on!”

For the next two days, without stopping, the sloth ran raster than any animal had run before in the history of the world. He sloth raced from one place to the next, telling every animal and person he saw to jump at the appointed time. Like a streak if lightning he raced across plains, over bridges, through valleys. Some of the creatures he told to jump didn’t hear him, or thought it was a joke. But most of them saw the sloth’s expression of desperate seriousness and realized this was important.

Before the asteroid arrived, the sloth managed to tell nearly every animal and person in the world the news. And when the time came, and the asteroid was about to hit, the sloth was so exhausted he barely had the strength left to give one mighty jump before collapsing to the ground. But he wasn’t alone. All the other animals and people jumped with him, at the exact same time, and all of those jumps together pushed the earth just slightly to the side, so that the asteroid passed harmlessly by.

The sloth had saved the world. But he was so tired from all that running that neither he, nor any of his children, or his children’s children, ever ran again. And that is why, to this day, the sloth is the slowest of animals.

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Stories for E-

When I was a kid, I loved making up stories. Most of them weren’t particularly polished or original: many didn’t even have clear plots or any kind of conclusion. Of course, this wasn’t anything special. Almost all children are natural storytellers (that is, when they aren’t sitting in front of a video game or TV show that tells the story for them). To watch a group of kindergarteners play together is to witness an act of collaborative, free-form narrative creation.

One of the many joys of parenthood is getting to see this in action. As a grownup, most of the narratives I engage with are relatively formal, prolonged, structured things. But being a father has helped bring me back to that childhood looseness and spontaneity. So at my daughter’s urging, I’ve started inventing ad-hoc stories again. They started out as our own private oral tradition: impromptu compositions to fill time while waiting for a haircut, during a long car drive.

Since then, though, I’ve decided to write down a few of our stories (the most coherent ones, and the ones I remember). These won’t be exercises in polished writing — they’ll be written the same way they were invented, as quickly as possible without any revision or planning. But that’s part of the point, and the pleasure, of these little anecdotes. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading them at least half as much as I enjoy making them up.

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