Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears?
Another story dragged from my archives.
In 1992 I was studying a course called "Writing for Profit" through The Writing School and this is a story I wrote for one of the assignments.
The assignment was as follows:
"Write a story of about 1000 words for one of the following age groups: under-5s; 6 to 10s; towards the teens, indicating which age group you have in mind. Before you start, if you are not familiar with children's literature today, read a few books and see if you gauge the tone and style of the authors."
I chose the early readers group 6 to 10 years and stated that it would be essential that the text be accompanied by illustrations to help keep the children's attention. "Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in Children's Ears?" is a version of the popular West African folk tale and children's book by Verna Aardema that I adapted to incorporate Australian native fauna.
At the end of the story I will relate the feedback this story received from my tutor and welcome feedback and suggestions by my readers here at Hub pages.
Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears?
by John Hansen © 2015
One fine morning a mosquito met a goanna drinking at a water hole. The mosquito said excitedly, "Goanna, guess what I saw yesterday?"
"I've no idea," replied the goanna who was too busy drinking to be interested in anything a mosquito might have to say.
"You'll never believe it," the mosquito persisted.
"For God's sake, tell me!" yelled the goanna, anxious to be rid of the annoying mosquito.
"I saw some women digging yams that were almost as big as I am," she replied proudly.
"A mosquito is nothing compared to a yam," snapped the goanna grumpily. "I would rather be deaf than listen to such nonsense!" With that he stuck two pebbles in his ears and trudged off through the reeds.
The goanna was still grumbling to himself as he swaggered past a python sunning itself on a rock. The large snake raised its head and offered a greeting, "Good morning Goanna.How are you on this fine day?"
The goanna did not answer but lumbered on, bobbing his head as he went.
"Not very talkative today, are we?" said the python sarcastically. "I must have done something to upset him," he added quietly to himself, "I bet he's plotting some revenge against me."
The python began looking for somewhere to hide. The first suitable place he found was a bandicoot hole, and in he slithered.
When the bandicoot saw the big snake entering her hole, she was terrified. he scurried out through another exit and raced across the clearing.
A crow saw the bandicoot running for her life. He flew into the bush crying, "Kaa, kaa, kaa!" It was his duty to spread the alarm if danger was threatening.
A possum heard the crow's cries. Sure that some dangerous creature was close by he began scurrying and leaping through the trees to help warn the other animals. While jumping from tree to tree, he happened to land on a dead, rotting branch. It snapped suddenly, and he quickly jumped onto another limb and into the next tree.
Father Kookaburra had been guarding the nest while his mate was out hunting for food to satisfy their two hungry babies. He had seen a possum leap into the tree and was about to shout a warning, when the branch broke and came crashing down onto the hole in the tree which served as the kookaburras' nest.
When Mother Kookaburra returned, she was heartbroken. One of her chicks had been killed by the twig which had pierced the nest. Her mate told her that the possum had caused the death, and all day long, and all night long, they sat in the tree, so sad, so very sad.
Now, it was the kookaburras' job to wake the sun each morning with hearty laughter, so that the dawn could come. But this time when they should have laughed for the sun, they did not do it. They did not feel like laughing at all. The night grew longer and longer. The animals in the bush knew the darkness was lasting much too long. They feared the sun would never return.
At last, King Kangaroo called a meeting of all the animals. They came and gathered around a council fire. The kookaburras failed to arrive, so a koala was sent to fetch them.
When they finally showed up, King Kangaroo asked, "Kookaburras, why haven't you called the sun? The night has lasted much too long, and everyone is worried."
Father Kookaburra spoke up, "Possum killed one of our chicks. We are too upset to laugh for the sun."
The King faced the large gathering. "Possum," he called, "come forward!" The possum came before him, glancing nervously from side to side at the crowd. "Why did you kill the kookaburras' chick?" King Kangaroo asked sternly.
"Please King," pleaded the possum, "It was the crow's fault. he was calling to warn us of danger and I went leaping through the trees to help. Suddenly, a branch broke under me, and it fell down onto the kookaburras' nest.
The King turned to the council: "So it was the crow who alarmed the possum, who killed the kookaburra chick. Now the kookaburras won't wake the sun so that the day may come."
Next, the King summoned the crow. The black bird flew down from a nearby tree. "King Kangaroo," he pleaded, "it was the bandicoot's fault! I saw her running in the daytime when she usually sleeps. To me, that signalled danger, and I had to spread the alarm."
The King nodded thoughtfully, and said: "So, it was the bandicoot who startled the crow, who alarmed the possum, who killed the kookaburra chick. Now the kookaburras won't wake the sun so that the day can come."
Then, King Kangaroo called the bandicoot. The shy little creature cowered before him, trembling. "Bandicoot," scolded the King, "why did you break a law of nature and go running in the daytime?'
"Oh, King," said the bandicoot nervousy, "it was the python's fault. I was in my house sleeping when that huge snake came in and tried to eat me. I ran for my life."
Once again the King addressed the council: "So, it was the python who scared the bandicoot, who startled the crow, who alarmed the possum, who killed the kookaburra chick. Now the kookaburras won't wake the sun so that the day may come."
The python was called, and came slithering through between the other animals. The King said impatiently, "Python, why did you try to eat the bandicoot in her own home?"
"But King," he cried, "I wasn't trying to eat her. It was the goanna's fault! He wouldn't speak to me, and I thought he was plotting against me. I only crawled into the bandicoot's hole looking for somewhere to hide."
King said to the gathering: "So, it was the goanna who frightened the python, who scared the bandicoot, who startled the crow, who alarmed the possum, who killed the kookaburra chick. Now the kookaburras won't wake the sun so that the day can come."
Of course the goanna was not at the meeting, because he had not heard the King's summons. This time an emu was sent to fetch him. The animals all began laughing when the goanna arrived, and they noticed the pebbles in his ears. All, that is, except for the kookaburras who were still grieving the death of their chick.
King Kangaroo pulled out the stones, pop! pop! Then he asked, "Goanna, what evil have you been plotting against the python?"
"I haven't been plotting, I swear!" pleaded the goanna, "Python is my friend."
"Then why wouldn't you say good morning to me?" demanded the snake.
"I didn't hear you," replied the goanna. "Mosquito told me such a big lie, that I put pebbles in my ears so I didn't have to listen."
This time King Kangaroo said to the animals: "so, it was the mosquito who annoyed the goanna, who frightened the python, who scared the bandicoot, who startled the crow, who alarmed the possum, who killed the kookaburra chick. Now the kookaburras won't wake the sun so the day can come."
"Punish the mosquito! Punish the mosquito!" cried all the animals in unison.
When the kookaburras heard this they were satisfied. Though still sad, they turned their heads to the east and laughed, "Haahaahaahaahoohoohoo!"
And the sun came up.
The King called the mosquito but she could not be found. She had listened to it all from a nearby bush. When the animals said that she should be punished, the mosquito had crawled under a curly leaf and hidden. She was never brought before the council.
Because of this the mosquito has always had a guilty conscience. To this day she flies around whining in people's ears, "Zeee, zeee, zeee! is everyone still angry at me?" When she does that, she usually gets an honest answer - Kapow!
Final Points and My Tutor's Synopsis
Although I aimed this at the 6 to 10 year olds, I realise that most children in this group would have trouble reading this story themselves. I do think that at this age most kids are still read bedtime stories by their parents and that I what I was aiming for with this story. Although it was recommended to keep the story at around 1000 words, I had trouble with that.and ended up with around 1300. I have included my tutor's synopsis below as his advice may be helpful to anyone else who is considering writing for children.
Tutor's synopsis: "This is a good story for young people, John. I would estimate the audience as being the 6 to 8 age group. The story is pitched at the right level of interest and in a style that suits. the level of language is most appropriate for the topic and the age group.This is a very lucrative age group to write for and there are a lot of excellent Australian writers around. If you are interested in pursuing this genre you should read as much as you can from established authors.
It is always a good bet to write like this about Australian bushlife if you want to appeal to kids. The personification of the animals is a good tactic and most Aussie kids these days are attuned to it. Perhaps at times the level is just a little difficult, but the subject matter is just right. It is too long for these kids though. They need it to be shorter, but this would not be hard to change as it is a fairly episodic sort of tory. I like the ending which is funny and packs a punch that kids would appreciate." Michael
Seeking Your Help
As you see in the comment above, my tale (even though it is an adaption of an existing story) is a little too long for the age group I aimed at. If anyone has any advice in regard to shortening this I would be pleased to get your suggestions. For instance, do you think the King's addresses to the council are too repetitive? Could the dialogue be reduced? Also in regard to simplifying the language or anywhere else you feel it needs improvement.
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