Happy birthday, trees! Here are my Tu Bishvat Riddles:
I have three possible ends:
To stay as I am,
To tan and to wrinkle,
Or to be trampled on, trickle, and perhaps even sparkle.
What am I?
I fall from your palms,
An outing for two,
The last of the seven,
In verses from heaven.
What am I?
I’m pretty in pink,
When crushed a white drink,
Or a balm for your skin,
Although mine is so thin.
What am I?
I’m tough on the outside,
And hard through and through,
By river and cave,
For the righteous I grew.
I sound like a fighter who fights with his glove,
But I’m old as the geezer who plants me for love.
What am I?
Got ‘em? Puzzled? Either way, go eat some dried fruit!
Yogi’s father was a sumo wrestler. Yogi’s brothers were sumo wrestlers. So was Yogi’s uncle, and all of his cousins. Yogi’s family had been sumo wrestlers for generations. And all of them were very, very large. Yogi’s father, Papa Yogi weighed over 300 pounds.
All of them except for Yogi. Yogi was as thin as a pencil. No matter how much Yogi ate, he still remained thin. This upset Yogi’s parents very much. Every day they fed him a huge breakfast, a huge lunch and an enormous dinner. For breakfast, Yogi ate cornflakes, then branflakes, then rice crispies, then yogurt, then oatmeal, then bananas, then cream, then rice cakes, then brownies then chocolate covered rye bread. For lunch, Yogi ate salami sandwiches (4 of them) then meat pie, then pundi rice, then Sheppard’s pie, then beef roast, then pot roast, then roast roast, then chips. For dinner, Yogi ate pizza, then lasagna, then glazed potatoes, then scrambled eggs, then pickled peppers, then noodles, then beans, then more scrambled eggs, and then ice cream. But not matter what Mama Yogi fed Yogi, Yogi remained as thin as anything.
“Yogi,” said Papa Yogi looking at his son, “You cannot become a famous sumo wrestler like me if you are so thin. You must get fat. You must!”
“I’m sorry,” said Yogi. “I try to get fat, but I can’t. I wish I was fat like you are, Papa Yogi.”
Yogi was not fat, but he was very fast. He was the fasted runner in his class. One day, Yogi’s father visited Yogi’s school to watch him in a wrestling match. Yogi was going to wrestle, Kakazumo, the largest, strongest, best sumo wrestler in the class.
“Good luck, Yogi!” encouraged Yogi’s father.
Yogi and Kakazumo circled each other in the ring as the students watched. Kakazumo reached out to grab Yogi, but Yogi dextrously dove under Kakazumo’s legs, and came up from behind him. Kakazumo lunged again, and this time, Yogi jumped up and bounded over Kakazumo’s shoulders, landing on the other side unharmed. Then Yogi ran around Kakazumo five times really fast, until Kakazumo almost toppled over from dizziness. Yogi turned his back to Kakazumo and waved his arms to the class in triumph. Unfortunately, then Kakazumo made a swipe and caught Yogi from his armpits, and slammed him down on the mat with a splat.
“1-2-3-Ipon!” cried the teacher. “Kakazumo wins again!”
Yogi limped off the mat all sore from his fall. “You must gain weight if you are to fight like Kakazumo,” scolded his father. “But I have a plan. Tonight it will begin. Tonight you will go to sleep early, Yogi.”
That night, Yogi got into bed early and tried to fall asleep. He could not, whenever he closed his eyes he saw himself being thrown to the mat by Kakazumo. Before he knew it, he was being shaken.
“Come with me,” said Papa Yogi, who had on his gi. “Get dressed quickly.” Yogi put on his gi and followed Papa Yogi out of the house, as everybody slept.
“Where are we going?” asked Yogi.
“To the top of the mountain,” whispered Papa Yogi.
“Who lives at the top of the mountain?” asked Yogi.
“You will see.”
Together, father and son scaled the Mountain that was behind their house. It was called Wakapeekoo Mountain. At the top of Wakapeekoo Mountain was an ancient hut, made of bamboo and surrounded by beautiful Saki Saki trees. The moon shimmered overhead like a glistening Uboo lamp.
“This, Yogi, is the home of your grandfather, Saba Yogi,” said Papa Yogi.
“Saba Yogi!” breathed Yogi. “The legendary sumo wrestler, who defeated the Kimono dragon of Kyoto! I did not know he was still alive!”
“He is very much alive,” said Papa Yogi, slowly opening the bamboo door. “And he very much wants to meet you.”
There, in perfect meditation, sat an old man, old but enormously fat, on the plain wooden floor. His eyes were closed, but he said in a smooth voice,
“Yogi, it is my pleasure to finally meet you.” Saba Yogi’s eyes fluttered open, and his mild gaze turned to sternness when he appraised his grandson.
“You are not pleased?” said Papa Yogi timidly.
“Not pleased?” said Saba Yogi, nimbly rising and coming over to approach them, “not pleased? How can I be pleased when my own grandson is as thin as a hau twig? What have you been feeding him?”
“Oh, Saba Yogi,” said Papa Yogi, “We feed him only the best foods, and so much of everything, but no matter what goes in, the poor boy remains as slim as a wire.”
Saba Yogi put his hand on Yogi’s shoulder. “Do you want to be a sumo wrestler, like your father and grandfather before you?” he asked, his sharp eyes piercing in to Yogi’s own.
“Um-yes, Saba Yogi,” said Yogi stammering, “but I also want to be a runner.”
“You want to what!” exclaimed Saba Yogi. “A runner is no profession. A runner is a job of messengers who take important messages from one sumo wrestler to another. A runner is no position for an important member of our famous sumo family. Bah! Runner. I will come down the mountain with you this very night, and teach you how to become a professional sumo wrestler.”
“You would leave your shrine for Yogi?” asked Papa Yogi in wonder.
“Of course I would,” said Saba Yogi, “We begin now!”
And so, the the surprise of Papa Yogi, Saba Yogi scaled down the mountain with the two of them like a agile jungle cat, and before long, they had reached Yogi’s home, where Yogi’s family was still asleep.
“Can I go to bed?” yawned Yogi, who was tired from his night’s adventure.
“You, can,” declared Saba Yogi, “But you must take me with you.”
“What do you mean,” asked Papa Yogi, “Won’t you sleep in our master bedroom?”
“Not at all,” said Saba Yogi, “I will following Yogi wherever he goes. I sleep in the same room as he does, I eat what he does, I drink what he does, and wherever he goes, I go.”
And so Saba Yogi spent the rest of the night sleeping on a simple mat on the floor next to Yogi. The next morning, he joined Yogi for breakfast, which was corn flakes, bran flakes, raisin bran, cheerios, oat meal, cinnamon toast, toast with jam, toast with jelly, four grapefruit and a giant bowl of cream.
“Hmmm,” said Saba Yogi, thoughtfully, “Good breakfast for a sumo wrestler.”
“Goodbye, Saba Yogi,” said Yogi putting on his school backpack, “I’ll see you when I get home from school.”
Saba Yogi made a sharp humph. “I am coming to school with you, Yogi!” Yogi’s eyes widened, but Saba Yogi wouldn’t hear of it. “This is the only way for me to figure out what your problem is,” he explained, “Lead on.”
And so Saba Yogi sat beside Yogi on the school bus and all the children wondered who the new 110-year-old student was.
At school, Saba Yogi sat behind Yogi in class. “I see we have a new student, Yogi,” said Yogi’s teacher. “And what is your name?” she asked Saba Yogi.
“My name is I-fight-your-best-student-and-turn-him-into-rice-pudding!” declared Saba Yogi. And so Saba Yogi jumped up and got into the side ring to face off against Kakazumo. They circled each other, but when Kakazumo reached over to grab Saba Yogi, Saba Yogi picked Kakazumo up with one hand, spun him around three times in the air, and then easily pinned him down with one elbow on the mat, gasping for breath.”
“Ohhh,” murmured the class appreciatively.
Saba Yogi joined Yogi for lunch after class was over. Together, they ate five salami sandwiches, six hamburgers, eight pieces of beef jerky, nine pickled herrings, and sixteen potato dumplings for dessert.
“Very good lunch,” Yogi said Saba Yogi, scratching his head.
At three o’clock it was recess time. “You stay here, Yogi,” said Saba Yogi, “I just go to use the boy’s room.” Saba Yogi went to the boy’s room for five minutes and then came back. Yogi was waiting for him in the same spot, but Saba Yogi noticed he was a little out of breath.
“What you do just now?” asked Saba Yogi.
“Oh, nothing, Saba Yogi,” said Yogi, “Just played hopscotch.”
At the end of the day, Saba Yogi road home with Yogi on the school bus and had dinner with Yogi’s family. Together, they had fifteen grilled cheese sandwiches, seventeen omelets, five ice cream cones, twenty two mandarin oranges, twelve pancakes, and giant lasagna, which was Mama Yogi’s specialty.
“Very very good dinner,” muttered Saba Yogi, with his eyes narrowing.
“Bed time,” announced Mama Yogi. Saba Yogi lay down beside Yogi and soon the two were snoring.
The next morning they woke up and did the whole thing over again.
And the next, and the next, and the next. Each day, Saba Yogi stayed with Yogi for the entire day, except of course for those five minutes when Saba Yogi would go to the boy’s room during three o’clock recess.
After twelve days, Saba Yogi took Yogi to the measuring scale.
“Great turtles! You are still the same weight as before!” he exclaimed. “I just don’t understand it!”
“Sorry, Saba Yogi,” said Yogi with his eyes downcast, ” I guess I just won’t be a great sumo wrestler like you.”
“Hmmmm…” said Saba Yogi, thinking hard.
On the thirteenth day, just as usual, Saba Yogi announced his three o’clock boy’s room trip. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, Yogi,” he said slyly.
But this time, instead of going to the boy’s room, Saba Yogi turned a corner and craftily leaned his head around it to observe his grandson.
Just as he did this, Yogi quickly slipped out of the recess yard, and through the door of the school, into the street. Just as quickly, Saba Yogi followed him.
Out in the street, Yogi took a deep breath and launched himself down the street, accelerating like a flying cheetah, rounding the school and then rounding it again, buzzing around like a flying zooku bird. Round, round, round, Yogi was running around the school at zip-zoom-zorch speed, ten time, twenty times, thirty times around!
On the thirty seventh time, Saba Yogi shot his arm out and caught Yogi by the neck.
“Aha!” he declared. “So this is what you do every day when I go to the boy’s room.”
“It is true, Saba Yogi,” panted Yogi. “Every day at this time, I run around the school at top speed fifty-three times.”
“So that is how you work off all those calories,” said Saba Yogi. “And that is why you stay so thin!”
“Does that mean I can’t run anymore?” said Yogi looking sadly at the street.
Saba Yogi was silent for a moment. “No,” he said finally.
“No?” asked Yogi, looking up with a glimmer of hope.
“No,” said Saba Yogi again. “You, Yogi will never be a great sumo wrestler.”
Yogi nodded glumly.
“But…” said Saba Yogi, “You will be a marvelous runner!”
Yogi’s face brightened into a smile. “Really?” he asked.
“Yes!” cried Saba Yogi. “You will be….Zoomo Yogi! The greatest runner in all of Japan!”
Yogi jumped up and down with joy. He did a twirl, and then, with a zap and a zirch, he bounded around the school another eighteen times, almost knocking over Saba Yogi with his whirling zoomo speed.
Finally, when it was over, he hugged Saba Yogi with all his might, and Saba Yogi beamed with happiness.
And from that day on, Yogi stopped trying to fatten himself up and become a sumo wrestler. He trained and he trained, and through luck and determination he became indeed the fasted youth ever to run through the mountains and forest of Japan, known far and wide as “Zoomo Yogi” winning the gold medal in every running competition and bringing pride and happiness to his family, who may have lost a sumo wrestler, but had gained something even more important, a happy boy.
I was squeed (oops, wrong conjugation of non-existent slang word) to catch this great review of Pickle Impossible from Booklist!:
Can average be extraordinary? It can if you are Pierre LaBouche, a boy with an almost superhuman ability to stand on middle ground. Pierre, who is neither fast nor slow, strong nor weak, a genius nor a dunce, has been entrusted with saving the family farm at the International Pickelympics in Bern, Switzerland. Along the way, his jar of pickles draws unexpected attention from a pickle rival, who will stop at nothing to sabotage the boy’s mission. Then Pierre meets Aurore, who initially sets out to steal the pickles but quickly changes sides. Aurore is also the story’s narrator, and she describes all the action with a good deal of panache. Cliff-hangers, puns, and all-around strangeness abound as Pierre and Aurore race to the end of their adventures. Stutz gets a lot of mileage from a slight premise, but because the writing is so lively and the twists so unexpected, readers will find much to enjoy here, and many middle-graders will see themselves in heroically average Pierre. Grades 4-6. –Kara Dean
The kids at Havelock school in Ontario are Pickle fans! I just got this great piece of fan mail from their teaching assistant:
Eli, My name is Jason and I am a CYW who just finished reading your book in the class I work in and the kids loveddddddddd it !!! They are Picklishishly Crazy over your book….I loved it too!! Talking to the classroom teacher we would love for you to come to our school to meet the kids? We are a small school in a small community in Havelock, Ontario. Not sure if this is something possible but we would love to have you. Regards, Jason
Yay! I know which class I’m visiting next time I’m in Canada!
Hear are mye best ecskooses for emali sginatures:
-Sent from my dreams, excuse the wacky randomness.
-Sent from me, ecxoose the spellig mistaeks. ITS JSUT MEE!
-Sent while bungy jumping, AHHHHHH!!!
-Sent from my iXZ4 Shinobi Vox Quadphone, excuse the condescension.
-Sent after a red hot chile pepper, excuse the zing.
-Sent from the future, excuse the past.
-Sent from my id, excuse the unbridled emotion and utter lack of manners.
-Sent from fring, bling, kring, shpling – get it? Huh?
-Sent from my mother.
-Sent from my Bubie. Zai g’zunt.
-Sent from my iPhone, which has a mind of it’s own.
Like an inverse voice of fire,
With a bloody autumn center.
How ironic from a people,
Who say sorry when they enter.
What am I?
….or will you?
Have I ever told you about the Za’atar Pact?
It is a most unusual tale. There was once a group of people who joined together in an unbreakable union. The unifying element was their love of za’atar, that Middle Eastern mix of herbs, sesame seeds and salt, most loved on pitas. This group of eight extraordinary individuals called themselves the ‘Za’atar Pact’, and no other loyalty or bond of friendship, nationality or brotherhood could trump their league.
For example, one year France and England played each other in the World Cup soccer finals. On the English team was one Za’atar Pact member, Lord Axel Van Burenberg, but on the French side their were two, Sihoban De Valenca and Mercurielle Zut. The English were ahead 2-1 and there was less than four minutes left to play. As Van Burenberg led his squad into the French zone, De Valenca, who was incognito at the time, flashed the Za’atar Pact byword, which was the throwing of a handful of Za’atar into the air followed by three brief, sharp, high-pitched whistles.
Seeing the signal, which could not be interpreted in two ways, Van Burenberg halted his offense in mid-stride, lunged for the ball and to the utter disbelief and chagrin of the British crowd, loped off the field, with the ball in tow, chanting ‘Za’atar, Za’atar!” arm in arm with his pact compatriots De Valenca and Zut. As the three pact-members hopped over the fence and stole off the field, the ensuing mob prevented the game from continuing, and the astounded referees were forced to call an unprecedented draw due to ‘a za’atar-induced riot’.
In another case, the young King of Denmark had chosen his Queen-to-be, Countess Westrina Hollenbroke of Liechtenstein. The royal wedding was to take place on the center square of Amelienborg Palace, in Copenhagen. There on the fresh, crisp grass, before the monumental equestrian statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V, a vast crowd of guests eagerly awaited the pristine moment when they would rise to applaud their new queen, as the reportedly rapturous couple pledged their vows.
Little did the crowd know that Countess Hollenbroke was a Za’atar. Just as the Archduke of Denmark posed the question to her, and she gazed into the eyes of her beloved husband and King-to-be, three shrill staccato whistles pierced the silence, and the countess’s nose inhaled the unquestionable whiff of za’atar fanning out through the tense, chill air. Without a shred of thought for her dashed life as monarch, wife and beloved public figure, she bounded off the altar, toppling her aghast mother-in-law and several of the bride’s maids, dove into the crowd, seized the hands of Mufti the Purple and Shmigloo M. Z., two other Za’atar Pact members, and shot out of the square into an awaiting taxi, leaving every single wedding guest but one open-mouthed in shock.
“’tis the ‘Za’atar Pact’ or I’m a melon,” breathed the great aunt of the King, Berta, who at 88 years still remembered the pact’s WWII exploits.
to be continued…
Waterlogged and exhausted, we just got back from ‘roughing it’ with a bunch of other hapless families in Northern Israel this week. I haven’t fished as many kids or adults out of as many natural waterways ever in my life. But it was hot. I mean, but it was fun. And here are the pics. Oh, and I got to mesmerize all the group’s kids with my zany stories…in HEBREW (see the video below – yes, they are enchanted).
Here are pics and clips from our whirlwind tour of Toronto (and some adventures elsewhere too!):