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Engaged with the World

Category: Children’s Stories

Original stories for children

Children’s Literature for Adults

Madeleine L’Engle is Dead.

I saw the headline in the online edition of the New York Times yesterday, and a wave of nostalgia washed over me. Meg Murray, the protagonist in L’Engle’s classic, Newberry Award winning series, is one of my favorite literary characters from childhood. I wanted to be her. I probably was her: nerdy, intelligent, sarcastic, a diamond (or at least a white topaz) beneath the rough adolescent exterior of too-thick glasses and a mother who didn’t pay attention to children’s fashion.

When Jack was old enough to read A Wrinkle in Time, I handed him the tattered, oversized paperback I had read so many times myself. He looked at it with a sneer. I sighed. It really was falling apart. I had actually taped a few pages back into it as I reread it before deciding that, yes, it was time for him to learn about fewmets and tesseracts.

Barnes and Noble carried the entire series in hardcover. I bought them. Besides looking really swell on the shelf in their matching dust jackets, I knew that these books would never get outdated. Jack’s children will read them, and maybe his grandchildren. Their grandmother- and great-grandmother-to-be has read them again as an adult and finds no reason not to keep them on the shelf. These are not the kind of children’s books that are outgrown and packed away for a future generation. Like our hardcover Narnia books in their cardboard display box, Madeleine L’Engle’s books are meant to be seen and read regardless of my age or Jack’s.

There are a lot of children’s books that are really, really good even for adults. It seems that the “phenomenon” of Harry Potter surprised some of my adult friends, as well as adults all over the world. Books written for and about adolescents don’t have to be sophomoric. Those that aren’t, that are well written and tell a good story, have universal appeal even if they are sold from the children’s section of the bookstore.

There is a trend to make movies of such books these days. Holes, by Louis Sachar, had a great box office return. The classic story of a teenager punished excessively for something he didn’t do, evil jailers with evil agendas, bullies, friendship, loyalty, and karma had just the right amount of symbolism, philosophy and mysticism to appeal to adult book clubs.

Eragon did poorly at the box office, but that should be no reflection on the book. In the tradition of S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders), Eragon was written by 16 year old Christopher Paolini, who followed it with Eldest. The third book in the trilogy is due to be published within the next year. Paolini is an amazing writer, and I expect to see him producing prolific amounts of real literature as his writing becomes more seasoned. Yes, adults who like science fiction, especially those of us who like dragons, will love Paolini’s books.

In the world of Eragon and Eldest, there are no more dragonriders, because the evil king, who has the only dragon left in the world, declared war on them and killed them all. When a dragon’s egg appears mysteriously in the mountains where Eragon, a teenage boy, is hunting, he takes it home. He thinks it is nothing more than an interesting stone until it hatches. Suddenly Eragon is bound to Sapphira, the young dragon hatchling, and the two embark on adventures that are destined to change their world, and hopefully depose the wicked king and bring back dragons and dragonriders. Elves, dwarves, battles fought on the backs of fierce fire-breathing dragons: it’s all there. Personally, I can’t think of anything more I need in a dragon book!

Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, is being put on celluloid. The Golden Compass, based on the first book in the series, is due to be released in December. I hope it does justice to the book. As always, I fear for the bastardization of the story. Pullman is a British author. In the UK, the first book in the trilogy was released as Northern Lights. For whatever reason the title of the book was changed to The Golden Compass when it was published in the US.

His Dark Materials have been called the antithesis of Narnia. Parallel universes serve as the backdrop for this series, and demons replace the souls which exist outside the bodies of their humans. Children are being kidnapped and used in horrible experiments with the element “dust” which the religious authority believes to be proof of original sin. The themes in the book pull at religion, authority, and justice without insulting any true existing form of religion. The church in Pullman’s books is perverted from the Christianity in our universe. These books challenge the reader think about authority and faith in different ways. I doubt the movie will be able to convey these themes. I will wait to see.

The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud hasn’t yet been brought to the silver screen, and hopefully it won’t be. In case you couldn’t tell form my comments already, I just hate it when movies ruin the fantastic books they claim to based upon. (I know, I know- they’re making a movie, not making the book. Still, I think the movie makers ought to be true to the story, dammit.) In the first Bartimaeus book, The Amulet of Samarkand, a boy with innate magical ability is fostered to a magician who neglects him. The boy is determined to learn magic anyway, so he studies on his own. He calls up a demon just because he can, and naturally all hell breaks loose. Bartimaeus is a sarcastic, secretly good-hearted demon, though, and quite a character. Together the boy and the demon expose corruption among the magicians, managing to topple the government of England in the process. Magical duels, subterfuge, roving gangs, other demons with other agendas, exploding buildings, daring rescues from inaccessible towers… sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Cornelia Funke is to German speaking kids what J.K. Rowling is to their English speaking contemporaries. Her first book to be translated into English was The Thief Lord, and it was all the rage among Jack’s 4th grade peers. Since it was a thick book (like Harry Potter), I picked it up. What a story! Think of Oliver Twist and a teenage Fagan doing their work in the labyrinthine canals of Venice. It’s dark, the water is scary, and someone is chasing our orphaned heros… Funke’s next book to be translated into English was probably better than The Thief Lord, though. In Inkheart, a character from a book is called into real existence when Meggie’s father reads aloud. Unfortunately, Meggie’s dad dooms her mother to becoming a character in the book. Someone has to replace the one that was removed, after all! The challenge is to get Meggie’s mom back out of the book, and to put the characters who have escaped back intro the books. Two minor characters, Dustfinger and Basta, really stand out as examples of how a writer creates a fantastic, fully dimensional character.

When Jack reads something and then presses it one me to read, I do it. He reads what I tell him to, as well. This means I’ve introduced him to other books about kids his age that were written for adults, and he’s introduced me to children’s books that ought to be read by more adults.

Jack and I have always shared books. When he was in kindergarten, I’d climb into bed with him and we’d read a chapter or two from whatever book I had chosen. We read the entire Narnia series aloud that year. We also read the first three Harry Potter books that way. I think Jack became a stronger reader because he would follow along in the books as I read them aloud, giggling when he caught me skipping words or saying something that wasn’t actually written. By the third grade he was reading adult level books on his own.

I asked him about books to mention in this blog, and he told me, “Most children’s books are terrible. It’s the same stories over and over again. Kid finds something magic, kid goes on quest, kid meets girl, kid and girl become friends during the quest, kid and girl almost don’t complete the quest, but then find that the thing they need to complete the quest is inside them the whole time, like it’s ‘love’ or something.” Jack liked and likes the books that are original, that have more complexity.

Jim Butcher, the author of the wonderful Harry Dresden, Wizard mysteries, has started a series about people who can call up the elements to do their bidding. Air, water, earth, metal, wood, and fire are at the beck and call of talented individuals in this post-Roman Empire alternate world. The main characters start as teenagers in the first two books, and by the third they begin to come of age. They fight deadly giant insects who possess people making them zombies, go to war against a race of wolf-like creatures, and they get involved in diplomatic maneuvering among nobility with powerful magic. I’m really looking forward to the fourth book in the Codex Alera.

Ender’s Game is a fantastic book to give to any kid who likes video games. Orson Scott Card’s Ender series is probably his best known work, although he is a prolific writer of several genres. The Ender series is pure science fiction. A six year old boy, Ender Wiggin, is sent to battle school where he spends countless hours playing battle-type video games. Although he is initially segregated from the other students, Ender’s status as a strategic battle prodigy earns him the respect of the other students to whom he teaches tactics after regular school hours. Ender deals with bullies among his peers as well as an adult military command that puts him in charge of battle groups over his objection. Spoiler: When it is finally revealed to Ender that every battle he has fought on the video screen has been a real battle against real enemies, he falls into a catatonic state for several days. He has destroyed an entire race of aliens, including their home planet. The books that follow all address xenophobia and mental illness in creative ways. The series should be a classic for adults and kids alike.

Card also wrote an alternate history series with a teenage boy as his primary protagonist. In Seventh Son, the first book in the Tales of Alvin Maker, Alvin is known to be a man of incredible talent. He has a “knack” for making things – out of virtually nothing. His almost god-like powers change the world, and in later books characters from history interact with Alvin and have their own “knacks.” Tecumseh, William Henry Harrison, and the Indian Prophet Tenska-Tewa make their appearances, and Tippecanoe isn’t quite the same.

My philosophy has been to give Jack books that are about kids his own age, and a little older. When I read a story of a teenager who goes on the quest, or is thrust into a position of having to use his wits to survive, I give it to him. Frank Herbert’s Dune is a good one for teenagers because a teenager is suddenly thrust into a position of authority and responsibility, and must act creatively and desperately to save himself. Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shanarra is the classic quest book that Jack complained of, but its complexity is sufficient to keep not only Jack but plenty of others entertained through a long series of books. Likewise, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is about adolescents who are prophesied to save the world and fight against the veritable gods of their reality.

I recently read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Maybe it is a bit of science fiction when a man is chronologically challenged, but when he materializes naked at the age of forty-three in front of his six year old future wife, things get interesting. The wife grows chronologically through the book, but never knows whether she will meet her husband in his future or his past.

A girl is identified by a homeless man to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary in The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn by Janis Hollowell. Although her mother tries to protect her from the headiness that comes with being suddenly invested with the power to heal and the power to bless, Francesca’s aunt is more avaricious and sees the potential for making a profit off the situation. As Francesca herself matures, so do her powers. Book clubs loved this selection, because of the possibility of a mass psychosis that either caused or resulted from Francesca’s powers.

I know my list is weighted heavily toward science fiction and fantasy because Jack and I both love the genre. There are other books out there about kids, though, that are great. I’d love to hear what others have read.

Meganeura Monyi

The story you are about to read is the second in a series I’ve written and told to children all over the Little Rock area. Jack and I started creating this series more than ten years ago – when he was in preschool. When he was little I would bring his dinosaur figures to the schools and teach the children a little about dinosaurs, fossils, paleontology, and (dare I say it?) evolution. I have about 30 of these stories.

Read Tony the Good T. Rex first if you missed when I posted it. You will then understand who Tony is and why he lives with plant eaters.

Meganeura Monyi

Tony the Good T. Rex settled comfortably into his life in the plant-eater part of the dinosaur jungle. He spent his days playing with his new best friend, Pete the Iguanodon. Pete introduced Tony to other dinosaurs who lived in the peaceful jungle.

The other dinosaurs soon learned that Tony was a helpful dinosaur to have in the peaceful jungle. Whenever a meat-eating dinosaur stumbled into the plant-eaters’ part of the jungle, Tony would politely tell it to go away. If the meat-eater didn’t leave, then Tony would tell it to go away in a way that was not so polite. Tony was very popular among the dinosaurs of the jungle.

But the plant eaters always hid when they saw Tony. Unless Pete or one of Tony’s other friends was with him, the plant eaters couldn’t tell if the T. Rex walking down the path was their friend or an enemy. Tony was sad that his new friends would hide from him, but he understood. He didn’t want one of them to greet a T. Rex and get eaten accidentally.

One day when Tony and Pete were lying in a field watching the clouds, a huge dragonfly flew overhead. The dragonfly flew back and forth looking for a place to land. Like the animals of the days of dinosaurs, the bugs back then were really big, too. This dragonfly was huge.

Tony sat up to get a better look at the colorful creature.

The dragonfly landed on Tony’s big head. Tony shook his head to make the dragonfly fly away, but the huge bug wouldn’t leave.

“Hey!” complained Tony. “Don’t block my eyes! I can’t see!”

“Oops. Sorry about that,” said the dragonfly. She crawled a step or two higher on Tony’s forehead. “Is that better?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Tony. He stopped shaking his head so hard.

“You look like you are wearing a dragonfly hat,” Pete told Tony, laughing.

Tony just grinned his big T. Rex grin.

“Why are you sitting on Tony’s head?” asked Pete. He was a curious little Iguanodon.

“I’m tired,” the dragonfly explained. “I have been flying all day and I need to rest.” She settled himself more comfortably on Tony’s head.

“My name is Pete, and the dinosaur who head you’re sitting on is Tony the Good T. Rex,” said Pete. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Meganeura Monyi,” said the dragonfly. “Call me Meg. It’s easier to say.”

“Meg, will you do me a favor?” Tony asked the big dragonfly.

“If I can, I will,” said the giant bug.

“Can you scratch right above my left eye? I’ve had a terrible itch there for quite some time but I can’t reach it with these short little arms of mine.”

“Sure!” said Meg, and scratched Tony’s eyebrow.

“Ahhh, that’s feels great!” Tony sighed. “You are very helpful.”

Just then a group of Hypsilophodons wandered into the field of flowers looking for good things to eat. They say the big T. Rex across the field and waved at him cheerfully. “Hello, Tony!” they called, and came toward him.

Pete was surprised and sat up quickly.

“How did you know he was Tony and not a meat-eater?” he asked the little Hypsilophodons when they came closer.

One of the little dinosaurs laughed. “A meat-eating T. Rex would never allow a giant dragonfly to sit on his head like that!”

Pete looked thoughtfully at Tony and the dragonfly hat. “If you could wear a dragonfly hat all the time, no one would ever think you were a bad T. Rex,” he said.

“You’re right!” Tony exclaimed.

“I could use a place to rest,” said Meg.

“Would you like to always be able to rest on my head?” asked Tony.

“Sure!” Meg exclaimed. “Your head is a nice resting place.”

From that day forward, there was never any question that Tony was the T. Rex walking through the peaceful jungle. No meat-eating T. Rex would wear a dragonfly for a hat.

The Little Cheetah (Don’t Run Away From Mommy at Wal-Mart)

 

The Little Cheetah lived in Africa with his family.  He had a Mommy Cheetah, a Daddy Cheetah, a Brother Cheetah, and a Sister Cheetah.

Little Cheetah loved his home in the wild flat Serengeti Plain.  He loved the tall, tall grass, the giant baobab and thorny acacia trees, and the endless sunshine.  He loved his family. But most of all, he loved antelope!

He loved to nibble and growl at the meat of the antelope.  But most of all, he loved to chase the antelopes!

Cheetahs are the fastest animals on land.  The Mommy and Daddy Cheetahs could almost always catch the antelopes they chased.  The Sister and Brother Cheetahs sometimes caught the antelope they chased.  Little Cheetah wasn’t yet fast enough to catch the antelope, but he loved to chase them.

One hot afternoon in the Serengeti the Little Cheetah played near his sister, who was gnawing on a bone.  To his sudden delight, he saw a herd of antelope bounding through the tall, tall grass nearby.  Little Cheetah was so excited!

The antelope were so graceful as they leaped through the tall grass!  Little Cheetah leaped, too!

The antelope were so beautiful as they ran through the tall, tall grass! Little Cheetah ran, too!

Little Cheetah chased the beautiful antelope through the tall, tall grass of the Serengeti. He chased them as they leaped this way and that, and chased them as they bounded through the tall, tall grass.

Little Cheetah became tired, though, because his legs were not as long as the legs of the pretty antelope. He lay down in the tall, tall grass and went to sleep.

He woke up when his tummy growled.  Chasing the antelope through the tall, tall grass of the Serengeti had made little Cheetah hungry.  He decided to see what Mommy had for him to eat.  He took a step, but was not sure if he should go that way.  Which way was home?  He looked all around and all he could see was the tall, tall grass of the Serengeti.  He could not see his family.

He looked to the north.  All he could see was tall, tall grass.
He looked to the east.  All he could see was tall, tall grass.
He looked to the south.  All he could see was tall, tall grass.
He looked to the west, and saw the tall, tall grass and a rhinoceros!  He looked at the rhinoceros and the rhinoceros looked at him.  He looked back at the rhinoceros and the rhinoceros looked back at him! He looked at the rhinoceros and squealed and the rhinoceros turned and ran away!

Little Cheetah was scared and lonely.  He wanted his Mommy.  He sat down in the tall, tall grass and began to cry.

Mommy Cheetah knew it was time for Little Cheetah to eat.  She had food for him, but he did not come when she called.  Mommy saw Sister Cheetah and Brother Cheetah, but the Little Cheetah was not with them.  She and Daddy began hunting for Little Cheetah.  Sister Cheetah remembered seeing a herd of antelope bounding by through the tall, tall grass and Mommy and Daddy thought they knew what had happened to Little Cheetah.  They began walking through the tall, tall grass of the Serengeti looking for their Little Cheetah.

They could see that the antelope had leaped this way and that through the tall, tall grass.  They could see that the antelope had run a long way.

They came upon a family of lions.  The lions had not seen Little Cheetah, so the Mommy and Daddy Cheetah continued to search.

They came upon a family of giraffes.  The giraffes had not seen Little Cheetah, so the Mommy and Daddy Cheetah continued to look.

They came upon a family of hippopotamuses.  The hippos had not seen Little Cheetah, so the Mommy and Daddy Cheetah continued to look.

They came upon a family of rhinoceroses.  The rhinos had not seen Little Cheetah, so the Mommy and Daddy Cheetah turned away to continue to look.  Suddenly, a little rhino remembered he had seen a little cheetah!  He told the Mommy and Daddy Cheetah which way to go, and the Mommy and Daddy Cheetah went back into the tall, tall grass.

They found Little Cheetah very quickly because they could hear him crying as they came closer.  The Mommy scolded Little Cheetah for running away, but she and Daddy Cheetah were very happy to have their baby back.

Little Cheetah ate a good meal when he was back home.  He knew his Mommy loved him.

Tony the Good T. Rex

When Jack was a little guy he was dinosaur crazy. Well, truth be known, his mama was (is) dinosaur crazy and she decided it would be a good thing for Jack to be crazy about them, too, so she made sure he knew about dinosaurs.

One of the main things I did was tell him stories. We told lots of stories, but his favorite ones were a series of stories about dinosaurs. The main character in all of the dinosaur stories was Tony the Good T. Rex, a vegetarian carnivore. We took The Tony Show on the road when he started school. I would bring his plastic dinos to school and tell his class stories. Each kid would get a dino and would act out the part that dino had in the story.

I continued this through fourth grade, when Jack’s teacher turned his class over to me for two hours every Thursday afternoon all year long. We had a great time. At the end of the year, I got some of my lawyer buddies together and we put on a trial for the class. I want to post that trial, because it was so much fun, but I have to work my way up to it. You need to have the same background as the kids did so the story makes the most sense.

Here is the very first story that introduces Tony.

Tony the Good T. Rex

Many, many years ago there lived a young Tyrannosaurus Rex named Tony. Tony lived with his family in the deep caves high in the mountains.

Tony did not like the food his family liked to eat. They liked hamburgers, steaks, and any other kind of meat they could find to eat. Tony preferred sweet fruits and vegetables, fluffy bread, salads, and berries from all sorts of plants. He hated meat.

In the mountains where Tony lived no plants could grow. The ground was much too rocky and steep. Tony had to wander very far from home to find the kinds of foods he liked.

Tony’s brothers and sisters laughed at him for eating fruits and vegetables. “What kind of T-Rex are you, anyway, Tony?” teased his older brother.

“Yes,” added his younger sister. “You eat the weirdest things. Yuck.”

None of the other young dinosaurs in the neighborhood would play with Tony either, and Tony was very lonely. He decided to go look for friends in other places. Surely there was someplace in the world where dinosaurs ate fruit and vegetables.

Tony’s mother was sorry to see him go, but she understood. Tony’s father was a big, tough, brawny T-Rex, was disgusted, because he always hoped Tony would develop a taste for meat. Tony’s brothers and sisters just laughed at him.

“Yeah, right! You think you’re going to find plant eaters to be friends with!” the other dinosaur kids taunted. Tony turned his back on them and headed down toward the lush green forest below his mountain home.

The further he walked, the greener the land became. Tony snagged a mouthful of pine needles. “Mmmmm, crunchy!” he thought as he munched happily. He dipped his head and took a bite of the broad leaves of a plant growing near water. What a wonderful taste! He came upon a bush that had lots of plump, juicy fruit. He picked the fruit with the claws on his hands and ate until he was stuffed. Yes! This was the place for him!

Tony spent his first night away from home lying in the lush green grass looking up at the stars. Somehow the stars seemed closer here, even though he knew the mountains where he was born were higher than the plains were he found himself now. He fell asleep thinking happy thoughts.

The next day Tony decided to look for friends. The food was wonderful, but everyone should have friends to share dinner with. He was very happy and began humming a little song and dancing just a little bit as he wandered along.

Before long, he came to the edge of a lake. Across the lake he saw two dinosaurs with incredibly long, thin necks and very. He decided to try to make friends with them.

“Hallloooo!” he called, and jumped and waved so the other two dinosaurs would be sure to see him. The strange dinosaurs turned their long, graceful necks to look at him, and almost before he realized what was happening, the both had walked into the lake and began moving away from him.

“Come back! Come back!” Tony called. “Let’s be friends!” But the two long dinosaurs swam away from him a little faster. Tony might have followed them, but he did not know how to swim.

Tony was disappointed that the two dinosaurs were not interested in making new friends, but he did not let it bother him. He knew he would find friends soon. Sure enough, as he continued wandering through the green land, he came upon two other dinosaurs.

These two dinosaurs were even stranger looking than the two with the really long necks and tails. They had little, bitty heads that were low to the ground, high arching backs, and spikes at the ends of their tails. And all along their tops they had funny looking rocks.

Tony knew how to make friends, though. “He walked straight toward them with a big grin and said, “Hi! My name is Tony and I want to be your friend!”

He was startled at the reaction these two dinosaurs had. The bigger one immediately turned his back and waved the spiky end of its tail at Tony in a threatening manner. The smaller one got into the same position right behind the first.

“Don’t come any closer or we’ll poke you full of holes!” shouted the bigger of the two.

“But I just want to be your friend!” Tony protested.

“Forget it!” yelled the smaller one. “Go away!”

This made Tony sad, but if the two strange looking dinosaurs didn’t want to be friends Tony knew he could not force them. He wandered on through the green places. He wasn’t humming his happy song, and he wasn’t dancing any more. He had no idea that making friends would be so hard!

Tony came to a wide open field. He saw a family of dinosaurs in the field. There was a mother, a father, and a baby. The mother and father had three long horns that stuck out from their heads. The baby didn’t have the long horns yet, but he looked as though he was trying to grow them.

“Haaalllllooooo!” Tony called across the field. “My name is Tony and I want to be your friend and play with you!”

The dinosaur family looked up and the baby dinosaur immediately started running across the field toward Tony. “Okay!” the baby called in a squeaky baby voice.

But his parents had other ideas. The huge daddy started to run toward Tony, too, but he ran with his long sharp horns pointed right at Tony’s soft belly. The large mommy ran toward the baby and blocked his way so he couldn’t reach Tony.

“Go away, meat eater!” shouted the daddy as soon as he saw the mommy had stopped the baby. “We don’t want your kind around here!”

Tony was horrified. He took two steps back and ran toward the trees near the field. He didn’t stop running until he was deep in the jungle. His sides hurt from running so far and he was out of breath. He saw a big boulder and sat down on it.

He thought about the friends he had not made. The two dinosaurs with the long, long tails and long, slender necks hadn’t said anything mean, but they had run away from him as fast as they could. The two dinosaurs with the spiky tails and the funny rocks on their backs had threatened to poke him full of holes. The father of the baby who was willing to play with him said that Tony’s kind was not wanted. Tony felt very sad. In fact, he felt so sad he began to cry.

This part of the jungle had never heard a T. Rex cry. Tony cried very loudly because the more he thought about his day the more he felt sorry for himself. And the more he cried the louder he cried. Pretty soon all the leaves on the trees nearby had fallen off because of how loud Tony was crying.

The animals who lived in that part of the jungle had never heard a T. Rex cry, either. One by one, then in twos, they came to see what was making such a strange noise. They all stayed hidden in the jungle, though, when they saw it was a T. Rex.

All of them stayed hidden but one, that is. A young Iguanodon named Pete, who was about the same age as Tony, finally decided to find out what the problem was.

“Why are you crying?” asked Pete.

Tony looked up and saw Pete standing a little way away. He blinked away his tears. “I’m crying because no one will be my friend,” he said.

“Why are you looking for friends in this part of the world?” asked Pete. “Why aren’t you looking for friends in the part of the world that has other dinosaurs like you?”

“Because they make fun of me for eating fruits and vegetables,” explained Tony.

The dinosaurs hidden in the jungle began whispering to each other.

“It’s a trick!”

“How does a T. Rex know about fruits and vegetables?”

“Pete had better be careful or he’s going to be that T. Rex’s dinner!”
Pete heard what the other dinosaurs were saying, and he knew that dinosaurs like Tony were not usually very friendly.

“I think everyone is afraid you’re going to eat them,” Pete told Tony.

“I won’t! I only like green food and sweet food! I hate meat!” Tony declared.

There was more whispering.

“When Dip Diplodocus and I were at the lake, this T. Rex called to us and said he wanted to be our friend,” said one of the long dinosaurs.

“He said the same thing to us, didn’t he?” exclaimed the little stegosaurus to her brother.

“That’s exactly what he said to us, too!” piped up the baby triceratops.

There was more murmuring and whispering among the gathered dinosaurs.

“I have an idea,” said Pete. “Let’s gather leaves and fruits and see if he really does eat them. If he does, then we will know he’s telling the truth.”

“Good idea,” agreed the Daddy Triceratops. Everyone knows that meat-eaters like him don’t eat salads. If he does eat it, then we’ll know he’s not trying to fool us.”

So the dinosaurs gathered the leaves that had fallen from the trees and brought them to Tony. They placed all the fruits and vegetables and leaves in a big pile.

“I hope you’re hungry for this,” said Pete.

Tony grinned his big T. Rex grin and started eating. “Yum, yum!” he said as he gulped down a huge serving of fruit. “This is delicious!” he said, smacking his lips after a mouthful of leaves. Pretty soon he had eaten the entire pile of fruits and vegetables and leaves.

“Do you ever eat meat?” asked Pete.

“No,” said Tony. “I don’t like meat at all.”

Pete grinned. He looked at the rest of the dinosaurs gathered around.

“What do you say?” he asked Daddy Triceratops.

“I think he’s telling the truth,” said the big horned dinosaur. The mommy triceratops, standing next to him, nodded. The two dinosaurs with the long, long necks dipped their heads in agreement.

Pete stuck his hand out toward Tony. “My name is Pete and I’m an iguanodon,” he said. “See how my thumb sticks up?”

Tony grinned and put out his own two-fingered hand. “I’m Tony, and I’m a T. Rex who eats fruits and vegetables,” he said as he shook Pete’s hand.

And that’s how Tony found his first friends in the plant-eater part of the world, and how he met his very best friend, Pete.

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