Table of Contents
In a small town on a long, long street there walked a man. He was a very tall man. He wore a black suit with a tie and he carried a briefcase. Everything about him was pressed and polished and tidy, except for his walk. One of his very expensive, polished black shoes was hurting his foot, and this made him limp. Even with the limp, he was a very distinguished individual. His name was Mr. Greene, and he lived at the very end of Hummingbird Lane at number 37.
At that moment, he was walking down his street towards his house. Because it was such a very long street, he had a very long way to walk. Just as he reached the very center of the long, long street, he stopped walking very suddenly. He saw a very small object hurtling through the air straight for him.
“Goodness!” he cried and dropped his briefcase. The small object swerved around him and came to the ground at a run before it stopped. Now that it was not zooming through the air towards him, he could see that it was, in fact, a very small girl.
If Mr. Greene had to guess her age from her size, he would probably guess that she was two years old. Then again, he might just as easily guess that she was ten; Mr. Greene did not know very much about small children.
The girl was not two or ten. She was six years old and she was wearing what looked like a rocket pack on her back, except that it did not seem to contain a rocket. She was also wearing a helmet. Beneath the helmet Mr. Greene could see bright red hair struggling to be free. She looked up at him with one blue eye and one green.
“Excuse me, Mr. Greene” said the girl, “I didn’t mean to frighten you.” She picked up his briefcase for him and lifted it for him to take. Because she was so very small, she had to lift it up high over her head. It was not too difficult to do; there didn’t seem to be anything inside the briefcase.
“Little Maria Martin isn’t it?” Mr. Greene asked as he took back his briefcase, “How are you doing?”
“I am fine,” the girl answered, “But it is Mathew Maria Martin. Mathew is my first name.” She had been named after her grandfather, but sometimes people seemed to have trouble calling her by her name. They would say that Mathew is a boy’s name, so they would just call her Maria.
“Still leaving your house in that flying contraption?” Mr. Greene continued, “Hasn’t your mother built an elevator?” They were standing in front of Mathew Maria’s house now, though they were some ways below it.
In the spot where a house would normally be, there was a large yard. Where the backyard would normally be, most of the space was taken up by a humongous tree. The tree overshadowed the entire street. And high in the branches of this humongous tree, there was a house. This was where Mathew Maria lived with her four sisters and two parents. Mathew Maria’s mother was an inventor, and she had invented the flying pack that was on Mathew Maria’s back.
“My mom is working on an elevator,” Mathew Maria explained to Mr. Greene, “She didn’t have enough supplies to build it though. She has to buy more before she can build it, so for now we use our flying packs to go up and down.”
Mr. Greene looked up and up into the tree. He could not see the Martin’s house, because the branches were in the way. He did see what looked like a tube slide made out of clear plastic winding around the trunk to the tree. It did not come all the way down to the ground.
He had been inside the Martin’s house before and so he knew that it was not a slide. It was Mrs. Martin’s fabulous elevator invention. They used one instead of stairs inside their house, though of course that one was much shorter. To go downstairs, one slid down it exactly like a slide. To go upstairs, one climbed inside the tube and pushed the button. Then the tube sucked the person up all the way to the second floor. It looked like the elevator winding around the tree was going to be exactly the same, but it wasn’t finished yet.
“Yes,” Mr. Greene said, “Yes I see. Well then. Good day, er, Mathew Maria. I’ll be seeing you around.”
“Good day, Mr. Greene,” Mathew Maria answered, “I’m sorry for scaring you. I’m sure the elevator will be fixed soon.” And Mr. Greene continued limping down the street until he reached his house.
Mr. Firecracker and Mrs. Mouse
Mathew Maria watched him go and then turned to face her yard. She followed a walkway that led over the front lawn. The walkway stopped where the house used to be. Now there was a lot of dirt. Nothing was growing there yet.
She walked across the dirt until she reached what had been the back yard. Most of it was taken up by the trunk to the humongous tree, but there were also very tall flower plants, and when she walked around the tree trunk she saw many other plants. They were all very big. She also found her father. He was not very big. Nor was he very small. He was a regular sized man. He had red hair, like Mathew Maria, and he was very busy looking after his garden.
“Hello,” he said when he saw her, “Have you come to help me?”
“Yes,” answered Mathew Maria, who loved to help her father in his garden. He was very busy pulling out enormous weeds.
“Even the weeds have grown large,” he said, as he pulled one up, “The harp and flute that your mother invented to make plants grow certainly worked well.”
Mathew Maria tried to help him, but the weeds were much too big for her. They had very strong roots.
“Never mind,” said Mr. Martin, “You can help me think of what to plant in the front yard. Now that the house is in the tree, there is a great big space that can become a garden.”
So Mathew Maria thought about this while her father pulled up weeds. While she was thinking and he was working, another person approached them. Mathew Maria noticed him first.
“Good day, Mr. Firecracker,” she said. Mr. Firecracker jumped at the sound of her voice. He was a very tiny man, though much bigger than Mathew Maria, and very shy. He never seemed to know where he was going or what he was doing. Mathew Maria noticed that he had a tennis shoe on one foot and a sandal on the other.
“Yes, yes, fine,” he agreed swiftly, with a slight tremor in his voice, “Yes, a day that is good, that is what we have. Very, er, sunny. Yes.”
Mathew Maria looked up into the sky, frowning. It might have been a very sunny day, but she could not see the sky. The tree cast shade over the entire street.
“Did you want something Mr. Firecracker?” Mr. Martin asked, looking up from his weeds.
“Did I…well no, not really, not at all in fact,” Mr. Firecracker answered, “Just passing and…well…but while I am here you know, on this lovely day, I thought I might say…”
“Yes?” Mr. Martin prompted, smiling to encourage him. Mr. Firecracker always needed a lot of encouragement to speak.
“Sunny days are very nice,” Mr. Firecracker began, “And, well, it would be nice to see it being sunny. I mean, I love shade, of course I do, and I don’t mean to trouble you at all…in fact, forget about the sun, we don’t need sun. Yes, forget about me coming. Good day to you Mr., er, Mr. Mountain. Good day Martha.” And before Mr. Martin could say that he was not Mr. Mountain, and that Mathew Maria was not named Martha, Mr. Firecracker had run away.
“What do you suppose he meant?” Mathew Maria asked. She did not mind Mr. Firecracker calling her Martha. Mr. Firecracker could never remember anyone’s name. Mr. Martin thought for a moment, staring at where Mr. Firecracker had been.
“I think he was trying to complain about the tree,” Mr. Martin said. “I think he wanted to say that it was too much shade. But he didn’t want to hurt our feelings by saying it.”
Mathew Maria thought about what Mr. Firecracker had said. She thought her father was probably right. Mr. Martin started weeding again. He had a very large pile of weeds. Mathew Maria sat and watched him work. After a while, he started to speak again.
“It is nice to work in the shade,” he said, “But plants do need sunlight to grow. I hope this shade won’t hurt them.” At that moment, another person approached them. Mathew Maria looked up to see a very large woman with dark piercing eyes.
“Good…” Mathew Maria began to say. She was going to say ‘good day, Mrs. Mouse’ because that was the person’s name. But Mrs. Mouse did not let Mathew Maria finish speaking.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said in a loud, firm voice. She was not speaking to Mathew Maria. She was speaking to Mr. Martin. Before Mr. Martin could say hello, she started speaking again.
“This tree is a menace,” said Mrs. Mouse. “It has cast the entire street in darkness. Something needs to be done about it.”
“I’m sorry the tree grew so big, Mrs. Mouse,” Mr. Martin said. “It was an accident. But now that it is done, I don’t think it can be undone.”
“It can,” insisted Mrs. Mouse, “It can be cut down. It can be stripped of leaves. Many things can be done, Mr. Martin.” Mr. Martin made a noise when Mrs. Mouse said this. It sounded like a squeak. He looked as though Mrs. Mouse had suggested cutting him down.
“Cut down my beautiful orange tree?” he asked, staring up at Mrs. Mouse.
“Something must be done,” she insisted, “And soon. Or else I’ll be forced to take action.” Then Mrs. Mouse turned and marched back the way she came.
“Goodbye Mrs. Mouse,” Mathew Maria said. Mr. Martin didn’t say anything. He stared after her looking frightened.
“Don’t worry,” Mathew Maria said, “We won’t let them cut down the tree. We will find another way to bring sunlight to the street. Maybe Mom can invent something.” So Mr. Martin agreed to ask Mrs. Martin to help him bring sunlight back to the street.
“After all,” he said, “my garden needs the sunlight too. Plants can’t grow without sunlight.”
Putting on his own flying pack, Mr. Martin and Mathew Maria flew high into the air into the branches of the giant orange tree and went into their house. Below them, the weeds continued to grow.
The house looked like a very normal house from the outside. It was painted blue and had a small porch with steps leading down it. The only unusual thing about it was that those steps led to a large branch instead of the ground.
Inside the house, it did not look very normal. The door opened on a long hallway with three doors on the right, three on the left, and one at the very end. The one at the end had clear glass and opened to the outside. The other doors all led into bedrooms, except for the one beneath the stairs on the right, which was in fact a closet.
Along the wall next to the closet there were many pegs. These had been made to hang up their flying packs and helmets after they came inside. Aside from the pegs for the flying packs, the hallway did not look very unusual. The staircase, on the other hand, was very unusual. There was a garden growing on it, complete with a fountain at the top. The water spouted up and then it came falling down the stairs in a waterfall to a pool at the bottom. The Martin family did not use the stairs. They used Mrs. Martin’s elevator invention.
Mathew Maria and Mr. Martin did not think their house looked very odd. They were used to it. Normally they would now take off their packs and their helmets and hang them on their pegs. There was only one problem. The house had been moved very suddenly into the tree by a storm, and all the electrical wires had been disconnected. There was no electricity powering the house, and so there was no electricity powering the elevator. Since there was a garden on the stairs, everyone had been using their flying packs to go up to the second floor. Mathew Maria and Mr. Martin did this now, landing in the living room.
All the rooms that most houses have downstairs were upstairs in the Martin household. There was a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and Mrs. Martin’s wonderful workshop where she built all her fantastic inventions. No one else was allowed in there, except on special occasions. Usually the door was closed.
Today the workshop was wide open. It was filled with paper. Long rolls of paper flowed out the door and covered the living room. The paper was covered in writing and drawings. Mr. Martin and Mathew Maria stared at the living room and all the paper. Because the paper was white, except for the writing and drawings, it looked rather as though it had snowed.
“Your mom certainly has been busy,” said Mr. Martin.
“She says sometimes she has to see her ideas outside her head, before she can understand them inside,” Mathew Maria answered, “I think that is what she is doing.”
They waded through the paper, looking for Mrs. Martin. There were drawings of pipes and lightning bolts and one that looked like an electric fan. Beneath it Mrs. Martin had written ‘wind?’ and more lightning bolts. There were also pictures of a tea kettle and animals. Mathew Maria didn’t understand that at all.
Suddenly, they heard a triumphant cry from inside the workshop. Mr. Martin quickly waded through the paper towards his wife. Mathew Maria was too short to wade through the paper. Instead she waded under it. Before they reached the workshop, Mrs. Martin came marching out. She was holding a small mirror triumphantly.
“Oh, hello,” she said when she almost ran into Mr. Martin. She did not see Mathew Maria because she was hidden beneath the paper.
“Hello,” Mr. Martin said, and he was so curious about the mirror that he forgot to tell her about his own problem.
“I believe I have figured out our electric problems,” his wife exclaimed, holding the mirror aloft, “We will use the sun!”
“With a mirror?” Mr. Martin asked, confused. He did not know you could use a mirror to make electricity.
“Not with a mirror,” Mrs. Martin explained, “It was just the mirror that reminded me. We will use solar panels. They soak up the sun’s rays and turn it into electricity. If we have enough then we can make our own electricity. And the best part is, solar panels don’t pollute the air. It will be clean energy.”
Mr. Martin did not see how a mirror could make someone think of using the sun for energy, but then he was a gardener, not an inventor. He was glad that Mrs. Martin had solved their problem.
“What about the wind?” a voice asked from beneath the paper. Mrs. Martin jumped. Then she pulled back the paper to reveal Mathew Maria standing there. Mathew Maria knew that Mrs. Martin had also been working on how to create electricity from the wind. She had seen a lot of drawings for it on the paper. Mrs. Martin was working out a lot of things on all the paper.
“Yes, yes, I was going to build a wind generator,” Mrs. Martin agreed, “but it would be more difficult to build that on a tree.”
“A good idea,” Mr. Martin agreed. “Do you need help building all this?”
“Right now,” said Mrs. Martin, “I need enough material to build it. I need material to make the solar panels. And pipes for the plumbing. And the elevator. So I need to go shopping. When I get back, then I will need your help. I will need all the girls’ help too.” And having said this, she went flying out the front door. Mr. Martin and Mathew Maria watched her leave.
“Oh no!” cried Mr. Martin, “I forgot to ask her to invent something to create sunlight!”
“Perhaps she can think of something when she comes back,” Mathew Maria suggested. But Mr. Martin looked very sad. He was thinking of all his plants in the dark, with no sunlight to give them energy. He also thought about Mrs. Mouse. He imagined her coming with a giant ax to cut down his beautiful tree.
Mathew Maria saw that he was worried. She wanted to help him. Even though she was very small, she was also very smart. She tried to think of a way to help her father. At that moment, something very interesting happened.
Mrs. Martin had been holding a small mirror when she came out of the workshop, but she did not want to carry it around while she was shopping. She had set it down on a table near the staircase garden.
Above the garden there is a large round skylight. Mr. Martin had cut this window in the roof himself for his garden. At the moment, even his staircase garden didn’t get much sunlight, because the leaves in the tree blocked it. But because they were high up in the branches of the tree, sometimes the sun was able to get through.
At that moment, just as Mathew Maria was wondering how to bring sunlight to the ground, a single ray of the sun made its way through the leaves, through the skylight, and struck the mirror. The mirror shone with a radiant light that hurt the eyes. Mathew Maria saw the light. It was as though a lightbulb had just gone off in her head, except this was outside her head and it was a mirror.
“We don’t need to create sunlight!” she exclaimed, “We just need to move it!” Mr. Martin stared at her. He did not understand what she meant. Mathew Maria picked up the mirror. She angled it so that the sunlight was shining towards Mr. Martin’s eyes.
“We use mirrors,” she explained, “A lot of mirrors. And they will bounce the sunlight back and forth until it reaches the ground!” Then Mr. Martin was very happy. He hugged Mathew Maria. He hugged the mirror. He would have hugged the sun if that was possible.
“Of course!” he cried, “We will need a lot of mirrors! We must buy hundreds!” And he wanted to set off at once to bring sunlight back to Hummingbird Lane. There was only one problem with Mr. Martin’s plan.
Mr. Martin wanted to set out at once to buy mirrors. But Mrs. Martin had already left to go shopping. And the Martins only had one car.
“No matter,” said Mr. Martin, “I will use my flying pack and catch up with her. Then we can go shopping together.”
But there was another problem with this plan. Mr. Martin did not think it was a good idea to bring his six year old daughter flying over busy streets. But he couldn’t leave her all alone in the house. Nor did he want to leave her sisters alone in the house.
Mathew Maria had four sisters. Mathew Maria was the youngest. Then came Mary, Moira and Mia, and Melanie. Mathew Maria’s sisters did not look like Mathew Maria. They looked more like their mother. They all had long blond hair and green eyes. At that moment, they were all sitting in the twins’ room playing a board game. Moira and Mia had the largest bedroom of the girls because they shared while the other girls got their own room.
“Oh dear!” Mr. Martin said, “I shall never get my mirrors!”
“Mom has only just left,” Mathew Maria reminded him. “If you left now you could tell her and then come back. It would hardly take any time at all. Melanie can watch us.”
Mr. Martin thought about this. Melanie was ten years old. He was not sure that was old enough to be left alone with four children.
“It is only for a moment,” Mathew Maria said, “And we will all be good.” So Mr. Martin and Mathew Maria slid down to the first floor to find her sisters. They were all sitting together playing a game.
“I am leaving for a few minutes to buy some mirrors,” he told them, “Melanie is in charge.” Then he went flying out the door.
The girls watched him leave. Then they went back to their game. Mathew Maria watched them play. It was not long before they finished. Melanie had won.
“Melanie always wins,” Mary complained. Mary did not like losing. She was only one year older than Mathew Maria, and she was not very good at games.
“Let’s play again,” Melanie said. She liked playing games.
“I don’t want to play,” Mary said, “I never win.”
“Then we will play without you,” Melanie said, and she began to set up the board.
“Perhaps we should play something else,” Mathew Maria suggested. She didn’t want to leave Mary out. But Melanie didn’t want to play a different game.
“Dad said I’m in charge,” Melanie insisted, “And I say we play this game.” So Melanie, Mia, and Moira all got ready to play. Mathew Maria looked at the game and then she looked at Mary. Mary did not look happy.
“I’m going to find my own friends,” Mary said, “They will play games I like.” Then she went marching out of the room.
Mathew Maria looked at the game. She did like to play games. But she also wanted to play with Mary. Finally she decided to go with Mary and play with her. Then no one would be left out.
Melanie, Moira, and Mia all played the game by themselves. Melanie had just won the game again when Mr. Martin returned. He came into their room to find his daughters. He was surprised when he saw that two were missing.
“I’m back,” he said, “Where are Mary and Mathew Maria?”
“They didn’t want to play this game,” Melanie answered, “So they went to play by themselves.”
Mr. Martin started looking for them. They were not in Mathew Maria’s room or Mary’s room. They were not in any of the bedrooms. They were not anywhere upstairs or downstairs. They were not in the house. Mr. Martin began to worry.
Melanie, Moira, and Mia had finished their game. They came to help him look, but they still couldn’t find their missing sisters. Melanie began to feel bad. She had lost her sisters! She tried to think about where they might go.
“Mary said she was going to find her own friends,” she said. Everyone tried to think about who she might go to.
“Mary likes animals,” Melanie remembered, “Last time she was missing she had gone to the squirrels. Perhaps she went to see them again, and Mathew Maria went with her.”
When the orange tree had grown big, the animals in it had grown big too. There was a family of giant squirrels living in the tree. There was also a nest of giant cardinals. Mr. Martin and the twins thought Melanie was probably right. They all went out of their house and called for Mary and Mathew Maria. No one answered. They saw a giant squirrel nearby, but Mathew Maria and Mary were not with it.
“If only we could talk to the squirrel,” Melanie said, “Perhaps it could tell us where they went.”
“That’s it!” cried Mr. Martin, “We must talk to the squirrel!” His three daughters stared at him.
“But we can’t talk to the squirrel,” Mia said.
“It doesn’t understand English,” Moira agreed.
“That is true,” Mr. Martin said, “But we will change that. Your mom has invented a drink. She wanted to surprise Mary with it. If we drink it, and the squirrels drink it, we can understand each other.” And having said that, Mr. Martin ran back into the house, flew upstairs, and walked into Mrs. Martin’s workshop.
It was still covered in paper. Beneath the paper there were many interesting things. In one corner there was a machine that made bubbles that never go pop. In another there was a harp and a flute covered in wires and lights that made plants grow big.
Sitting on a table in the middle of the room was a tray. On the tray were a tea kettle and a whole row of teacups. There was also a large teabag. Mr. Martin took the tray and carried it out of the workshop.
He filled the kettle with water and pushed a button on its side. The tea kettle began to heat the water. It heated very fast. The kettle began to whistle. Mr. Martin pushed the button again and then dropped the tea bag into the water. He put down the lid. Melanie, Mia, and Moira watched.
“Now all we have to do is have tea with the squirrels,” said Mr. Martin, “Then we will be able to talk to each other.”
Mr. Martin picked up the tray and carried it outside. Melanie, Moira, and Mia followed carrying chairs and a small, folding table. Together, they set everything out for tea. It was not long before they were ready for their tree tea party with the squirrels. Soon they should know what happened to Mary and Mathew Maria.
The Talking Tea Tree Party
Tree tea parties with squirrels are finicky affairs. First they had to arrange the chairs. There wasn’t a railing on the tree branch. Mr. Martin didn’t want to put a chair where it might tip backwards. It was a long way to the ground. Then, once the chairs were in place, the girls looked at the table. It had the tray with the teapot resting on top of it, and nothing else.
Mathew Maria joined her sisters. Of course, everyone should have turned to look at her at once. Mathew Maria and Mary were missing, after all. But everyone’s heads were so full with plans to find them that no one even noticed that they were already there.
“What are you looking at?” asked Mathew Maria.
“We are having a tea party with the squirrels so that we can find you and Mary,” answered her sister Moira. Moira answered her but she didn’t see her. She was thinking about tea cups.
“Are we missing?” asked Mathew Maria.
“Yes, what is missing?” asked their second sister Mia. She was not paying attention to Mathew Maria either. She was thinking too hard about saucers.
“Oh, lovely, a tea party,” said the missing sister, Mary. Mary had followed Mathew Maria. “Are we inviting the squirrels? I was just playing with them.”
“Of course we’re inviting the squirrels,” said their third sister Melanie. “That’s the whole point. How else are we going to talk to them and find you?” Melanie was not paying proper attention to Mathew Maria or Mary. She was thinking too hard about finding them. She felt bad because she lost them. She also thought the table needed a table cloth.
None of their sisters or their dad had really noticed Mathew Maria or Mary. They heard them and they spoke to them, but they didn’t see them. So all five girls and Mr. Martin went in and out of the house to fetch things for the party.
Melanie found a lovely pink table cloth. Moira and Mia gathered all their tea cups and saucers from their play set. Mr. Martin found some extra special super glue and started gluing the chairs to the tree. Mathew Maria and Mary went to the kitchen and brought back celery and sun butter. Sun butter is like peanut butter but it is made out of sunflower seeds. You can’t have a proper tea party for squirrels up in a tree without tea cups, saucers, a table cloth, and celery with sun butter. It simply isn’t done.
Finally they were all ready. Melanie poured the tea because she was the oldest child. Mr. Martin was older, but he had also glued his fingers together and was not able to pour.
“How does it work?” all the children wanted to know. “Do we just drink the tea?”
“You must drink it,” said Mr. Martin, “and then the squirrels must drink it.”
Each girl picked up their tea cup. They all took a sip. The tea tasted hot and spicy. There was a taste like cinnamon, and honey, and strawberry, and lime, and tin, and grass, and ocean, and what soap smells like it should taste like, rather than what soap actually does taste like if you try to lick it. All of these tastes together were the taste of the tea.
Mr. Martin also had a sip, but Moira and Mia had to help him because he couldn’t hold his cup.
“I hope your mom can unglue me when she gets home,” said Mr. Martin. “Now, we must get the squirrels to drink the tea.”
Three squirrels were very close by. Normal squirrels are very small and very shy. These squirrels were very big. The smallest squirrel was the same size as Mathew Maria. The largest squirrel was a little bit taller than Melanie, and Melanie was tall for a ten year old. Small squirrels are cute. Giant squirrels are a little bit scary.
The girls weren’t frightened of these squirrels. Not even when they showed their sharp teeth. They knew that squirrels like to eat nuts, not little girls. Mary loved to play with the squirrels. They were good friends.
The thing about squirrels is, they are very good at eating nuts. They aren’t very good at cups and saucers and tea. Mary brought them a cup and saucer. The squirrels looked at it. Their paws touched it. The cup fell over and all the tea and cup and saucer fell down to the ground, far far below.
“Oh dear,” said Mr. Martin, “If they don’t drink the tea, we can’t talk to them. If we can’t talk to them, we can’t ask about Mathew Maria and Mary. And if we can’t ask, they’ll be lost forever. Oh dear, oh dear.”
“Don’t worry,” said Mathew Maria. “I know how to make them drink the tea.” Mathew Maria was very smart. She knew a lot about plants. She knew that plants drink water. She knew that tea is mostly water. Mathew Maria stuck the celery sticks into the teapot.
“Look!” cried her sisters, “The celery is drinking up the tea!” The celery pulled the tea up through its stalks. The celery changed from pale green to emerald green.
When all the celery was glowing green, Mathew Maria pulled them out. Then she took the sun butter. She put the sun butter on the celery. Sun butter and celery sticks make a very good snack. They also make a good way to give squirrels their Talking Tea.
Mary brought the squirrels the celery. The squirrels sniffed it. Then they gobbled the treat down.
“Yay!” cried the Martin family. The squirrels and the girls and Mr. Martin all had the Talking Tea inside them.
“Now what?” they asked Mr. Martin. “How do we talk to them?”
Then an amazing thing happened. The largest squirrel spoke. It had a surprisingly soft, gentle voice. It didn’t sound squeaky at all like everyone expected. It sounded like a lady.
“I say,” said the squirrel, “When did you learn to speak squirrel?”
“We aren’t speaking squirrel,” Melanie answered for them all, “You’re speaking human.”
“How wonderful,” said the second squirrel. This one had a loud, booming voice.
“We can talk, we can talk!” Mary and the smallest squirrel squealed together. They both had high, child voices.
“Excuse me,” said Mr. Martin, “I’m looking for my youngest daughters, Mathew Maria and Mary. Mathew Maria is tiny and has red hair. Mary is also tiny, but taller, and she has blond hair. Have you seen them?”
“I see them right now,” said the tall squirrel with the gentle voice. “They are right next to you.”
Mr. Martin and his three older daughters spun around.
“Mary!” they cried, “Mathew Maria! We found you!”
Mr. Martin tried to hold his arms out for a big hug. He forgot his fingers were glued together. Instead of hugging them, his elbows flew up and he fell over. He hit the table.
Mr. Martin had carefully glued down each and every chair to the tree. He had not glued the table to the tree. The table wobbled. The teacups on the table rattled. The saucers clinked. And the teapot holding all the rest of the wonderful Talking Tea tumbled over, bumped and rolled, and went crashing right off the table. It fell off the tree. Hot tea and the tea pot went crashing down down to the ground far far below.
Everyone looked down.
That is exactly when Mrs. Martin came home.
Mrs. Martin sees the fallen tea pot.
“Did you give Talking Tea to the squirrels?!” she shouts up at them, “Perfect! Ask them for help!” And she held up some mirrors and solar panels.
So for the rest of the afternoon, Mary, Mia, Moira, Melanie, Mathew Maria, Mr. Martin, and the squirrels all helped Mrs. Martin to put mirrors and solar panels all up and down the tree.
Soon the tree was filled with sunbeams and light. Sunlight sparkled in the branches. Light bounced off mirrors and into eyes, and finally down to the dark street below. The rosy golden beams of the setting sun seemed to set the tree on fire with light.
Mr. Martin’s garden was aglow. So were the giant weeds. Quietly, gently, a green vine uncurled from beneath the teapot and reached for the sun.
The sun set. The Martin family went inside.
The Wilderness Garden
For the past week, whenever the sun set, the Martin family’s house would grow very dark. It didn’t have electricity. Instead, they all lit candles and turned on flashlights and camping lanterns.
This night, they did not light candles or turn on flashlights or camping lanterns. They flipped switches. Their lights turned on. The solar panels had worked! All the sun’s power was saved up inside a battery, and the house had electricity again!
“We have power, we have power, we have the power from the sun!” everyone chanted gleefully as they danced around the house. Moonlight and starlight twinkled outside their windows, reflected on the mirrors.
“Now, the entire street will have sunlight,” said Mr. Martin, “And my garden will grow, and Mr. Firecracker and Mrs. Mouse and all the street will be happy again. No one will want to cut down our tree!”
Then the Martin family went to bed. Far down below them, the plants grew. Mr. Martin’s flowers grew. His vegetables grew. His cactus grew. Everything in his garden was very large. And between the flowers and the vegetables and the cactus and the tree, there grew a plant. It had great green leaves the size of canoes. It had a stem so big and tall that it looked like the trunk of a tree. It had great yellow blossoms like futons. And at the top of the great tall stem, a ball of feathery white cotton sprouted.
Around it were other plants. They weren’t pretty like the flowers. They looked fierce. They had creeping vines and spiky leaves and stinging spikes. They were weeds, and they were growing. Then the wind blew. The leaves swayed. The great tall stem bent. And the ball of fluff at the very top puffed away and danced upon the wind.
The next morning, Mr. Martin awoke bright and early. The sun was reflecting off a mirror and into his eyes. Mr. Martin blinked his eyes. Then he jumped out of bed.
“Morning is here!” he said, “It’s time to check on my garden!” And whistling a merry tune, he got ready to go outside. He whistled while he made breakfast. He whistled while he put on a kettle. He whistled while the kettle whistled. He did not whistle while he ate. That would be messy. Then he whistled while he put on his flying jet pack and stepped outside.
The birds were singing. Most birds have high voices. These birds had deep voices because they belonged to the family of giant cardinals. Mr. Martin whistled to the cardinals and then he flew down and down to his garden below.
Then he stopped whistling and he stared and stared.
“Oh,” he said, “Oh dear.”
When he went to bed, his garden had looked safe and tame. Overnight, his garden had turned into a wilderness. It was like a jungle.
Savage plants climbed over the ground and twisted around each other. There were thorny plants and spiky plants and plants that crept like snakes across the lawn. There were plants with huge blossoms and plants that seemed to have mouths and snapped at passing bugs. It didn’t look like a garden at all. It didn’t look safe.
“MR. MARTIN!!!” A voice like a siren screamed through the morning calm. Mrs. Mouse was marching towards him. She did not look happy.
“Oh…er…good morning, Mrs. Mouse,” said Mr. Martin. “We brought you sunlight.”
“It is not a good morning,” said Mrs. Mouse, “It is not a good morning at all. Just look at the street! There are mutant weeds everywhere!”
“Oh,” said Mr. Martin. He looked up and down the street. Mrs. Mouse was right. Everyone’s nice and neat front lawns were covered in plants. The giant weeds were everywhere. None were as big or as wild as the ones in Mr. Martin’s garden.
“We’re calling a street meeting at nine o’clock,” said Mrs. Mouse, “We’ll decide what to do then. I know what I want to be done. We should poison and burn the lot of them!”
“You want to poison and burn all the weeds?” Mr. Martin asked. He sounded horrified. He never killed plants. When he weeded his garden, he would pull up the weeds and take them away to the woods. No one cares if weeds grow in the woods.
“Yes I do!” shouted Mrs. Mouse. Then she stomped away. In Mr. Martin’s garden, something trembled. The plants shook.
“Oh dear,” said Mr. Martin. He looked into the jungle. “Well, time to get to work. I suppose you are all thirsty.” He went to find the hose. Somehow he didn’t think a watering can was going to be enough.
Meanwhile, Mathew Maria and all her sisters woke up. Mrs. Martin made them all breakfast. Mrs. Martin was not a very good cook, but she was very smart. She made many wonderful machines to cook for her.
Her toaster would toast any type of bread she put into it, and then she could push buttons to make it spread on butter or jam or cinnamon or syrup or cheese. Her frying pan had buttons to cook eggs just how each person liked them best. It even did omelets with vegetables or sweet crepes with fruit. For juice, she put a single giant orange from their giant orange tree into her juicer. It made enough orange juice for an entire week.
Melanie ate blueberry crepes and yogurt. Mia and Moira ate toast with strawberry jam and eggs with cheese. Mary ate cinnamon toast and eggs with strawberries. No one else liked eggs with strawberries. This was Mary’s favorite. Mathew Maria ate banana crepes and eggs over easy. That means the yolk is runny. None of her sisters liked runny yolk. They all drank orange juice. They all liked orange juice. Mrs. Martin made herself a vegetable omelet and yogurt with fruit. Then she turned on her clean up machine and it cleaned all the dishes. She went into her workshop to work.
The five girls didn’t have to go to school that day. They could have fun. They talked together. They wanted to do something really fun, but they didn’t know what.
“Let’s play a board game,” said Mary.
“No!” shouted Melanie. Last time they played board games, Mary got angry and went missing. She didn’t want her sisters to go missing.
“Let’s do a music concert,” said Mia.
“Yes,” said Moira. “I like music.”
“I like dancing,” said Mary.
“I like stories,” said Mathew Maria. Reading is Mathew Maria’s favorite activity.
Melanie listened to her sisters. They all liked different things. But all these different things gave her a great idea.
“I know!” said Melanie. “We can play music, and dance, and tell a story, all at the same time! We can put on a play!”
All her sister clapped their hands. A play sounded like a lot of fun. But there were only five of them. A play is more fun when there are lots of people. Mathew Maria was very smart. She knew how to make a play even more fun.
“Let’s invite all the other kids in our street,” she said. “We can put on our play for all of our parents!”
“Hurray!” shouted her sisters. So they put on their helmets and their flying packs and they flew out of their house. They wanted to go find the other children. But when they came to the ground, they did not find children. They found the huge tangle of plants where their garden used to be.
“It’s horrible!” shouted Melanie.
“It’s hideous!” shouted the twins.
“It’s scary!” shouted Mary.
Then one plant moved. It uncoiled its long vine from the depths of a dark patch of thorns. It looked like a massive green snake. It even had a head, which was a sort of purple flower with a green snapping mouth. This head rose up and up over the girls until it towered over them, and it seemed to be looking right at them. Somehow, the plant had grown eyes like a snail’s; they were on stalks on either side of its flowery face and its horrible mouth. That mouth opened wide, showing its spiky green teeth.
The girls cowered in terror. Was the plant going to eat them?
The plant did not eat them. It spoke.
“Excuse me,” it said, “But that is very rude. I am not horrible or hideous or scary.” And then it closed its mouth and looked at them and waited.
Friend or Foe
“I’m sorry,” said Mathew Maria. “We didn’t mean to be rude. We didn’t know you could understand us. We never met a talking plant before.”
“That’s okay,” said the plant. “But you should know that plants always listen; we like music and we don’t like shouting. But I never spoke to anyone before. This is new. I was just a normal little weed. Then one day I drank up some water, just like I usually do. Then I found myself really listening when the Gardener came to water us, and his words make sense. Now I know that I can answer back.”
“How strange,” said the five girls. It was Mathew Maria who remembered the teapot.
“The Talking Tea!” she exclaimed. “It fell out of the tree! The plant must have drunk the Tea up.” They knew that the tea let them talk to animals. They didn’t know that it worked on plants.
“What’s your name?” asked Mathew Maria.
“I don’t know,” answered the plant. “I never had a name before. What do you think is a good name?”
The girls all thought about this.
“How about ‘Spikey’?” asked Melanie.
“No,” said the plant, “Too violent.”
“How about ‘Greeny’?” asked Mary.
“No,” said the plant, “Too simple. I want a fancy name.”
“How about ‘Spygren’?” asked Mathew Maria. She made up that name. It was a mixture of ‘Spike’ and ‘Green’. The plant thought about this name.
“I like it,” the plant said at last. “My name is Spygren.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Spygren,” said the girls. Then they thought about that. “Or are you Ms. Spygren? Are you a boy plant or a girl plant?”
“Neither,” answered the plant. “Or rather, I am both. Just call me Spygren. You don’t have to say ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.’.” The girls thought about this.
“But do we call you ‘he’ or ‘she’?” they asked.
“Neither,” answered Spygren. “Call me ‘they’.” So the five girls all greeted their new friend. They wanted to find their father so they could say to him: ‘This is Spygren. They are a plant who can talk.’ But their father was not there.
“Did any of the other plants drink the Talking Tea?” asked Mathew Maria. “Can they talk too?”
“Come and see,” said Spygren, and their head snaked its way back into the overgrown jungle of the garden. Before, the jungle had looked frightening and dark. Now that they had a friend, the girls were not scared. They crawled through a gap between some huge thorny vines and they soon found themselves deep inside the plants. There it was not scary at all. It was like a secret, magical garden.
On all sides the great plants grew up tall, but in the middle there were flowers and butterflies and green light. More plants like Spygren crawled around them. Flowers towered over them like trees. Ferns sprawled like giant green houses. In fact, some plants looked a bit like slides, some like swings, and some like tunnels and things to climb.
Anyone who has ever known the joy of climbing a tree can imagine the joy that might be found in such a remarkable garden. It was not just plants; it was a playground! So the children climbed and swung and slid and crawled and had all sorts of fun with their new plant friends. All of the plants seemed to be able to move and to listen, but only Spygren could talk.
They never saw Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin was not in the garden. He did not see the plant that spoke to his children. He was far away. He had spent the morning watering his garden, and then he had gone to the large building at the end of the street. It was the meeting house. The street was holding a meeting.
“The mutant weeds are taking over the entire street!” screamed Mrs. Mouse. “We must kill them all!”
“No!” cried Mr. Martin. “I’m sorry you don’t like the plants, but they are living beings. You can’t just kill something that is living.”
“Yes you can!” shouted Mrs. Mouse. “I kill bugs I don’t like, and I kill mice, and I kill weeds! If something is very small and makes messes and bites or stings or eats my food, then you can kill them!”
“Just because something is very small, that does not mean it can’t be important,” said Mr. Martin. “If you kill all the bugs, what will birds eat? Who will sing music to us? And if there are no plants, we will have no flowers. Sometimes something that is bad can also be good. If we kill all the bad things, the good things will die too, and then there will be nothing left.”
“Nonsense!” shouted Mrs. Mouse. “I don’t want to kill every plant in the world. I just want to kill the giant mutant weeds. They are too big and too horrible and too scary. They are making holes in our yards. I saw one squirt water at my cat. I saw one eat a fly with its big teeth. I saw one wrap around a car and pick it up!”
“What if they get into our house?” Mr. Firecracker asked in a soft, timid voice. “What if they hurt us? I’m sorry, Mr…er…Mutton. I don’t like these weeds.”
Everyone talked at once. Nobody liked the mutant plants. They were all scared. They were all worried. They all wanted the mutant weeds to go away. Only Mr. Martin seemed to like the plants. He wanted to cry. Then one voice rose above the clamor.
“I like these plants!” It was not Mr. Martin. It was Mr. Greene. Everyone was so surprised that they stopped talking.
“You like these plants?” asked Mrs. Mouse. She sounded angry.
“You like these plants?” asked Mr. Martin. He sounded pleased.
“You like these plants?” asked everyone else. They sounded surprised.
“I do! I woke up this morning. I walked out the door, and I saw flowers! I saw butterflies. I like flowers and butterflies more than a yard of grass. The plants make our street more interesting. Plants are very important.”
“They will tear up our street!” said Mrs. Mouse. “They will pick up our cars! We won’t be able to drive!”
“Good,” said Mr. Greene. Everyone was surprised again. It was good to not be able to drive?
“Do you know why I limp?” asked Mr. Greene. “It is because I walk a long way in very uncomfortable shoes. I need nice shoes for work, but they are not nice for walking. I walk because I don’t have a car. Cars hurt our planet. Walking does not. Every day, I walk to the train and I ride it to work. My feet are sore, but I am happy. I like plants.”
“Well I hate weeds!” said Mrs. Mouse. “Let’s have a vote. If most of us want to kill the weeds, then we will. If most of us want to save the weeds, then we will. Vote now!”
Everyone thought about this. The flowers are pretty but the spiky plants are scary. They don’t know what the plants might do. They might hurt them. They might hurt their children. They might tear apart their houses.
Mr. Greene and Mr. Martin vote to save the plants. Everyone else votes to destroy them.
“We will take all the weeds and we will burn them all!” said Mrs. Mouse. Then Mr. Martin cried.
Fueling the Flame
The children did not know about the meeting. They were having fun. The Martin girls played in the jungle. Then they went out to the street. They wanted to find their friends.
The other children came. They wanted to see the wild jungle. They didn’t come too close though.
“It’s dark,” the children said. “It’s scary!”
“It’s not dark!” Mathew Maria told them. “It’s not scary. This is our friend. Their name is Spygren.”
Spygren the plant bowed their head to the children.
“Hello,” said Spygren.
“See!” the Melanie said. “They can talk!”
But the children did not look amazed. They looked scared. They didn’t hear the plant say anything. They just saw a plant snapping its teeth.
“What are the children saying?” asked Spygren. “Their sounds make no sense.”
“Ahh!” the children screamed. “It’s going to eat us!” And they ran away back down the street. They were scared of all the wild plants.
The Martin girls were puzzled. Why couldn’t the other kids hear Spygren speak?
“Oh, I know!” said Mathew Maria. “They haven’t drunk the Talking Tea. They have to drink the tea too.”
“We need more tea,” Melanie decided. Then the girls flew back up to their house. They went to find their mother. She was in her workshop. The girls knocked on the door.
“Mom, mom!” the five girls cried, “We need tea! We need tea!”
“Goodness,” said Mrs. Martin. She came out. “Whatever is the matter?”
So the five girls explained about the plants, and about Spygren, and about the other children. They explained that they needed more Talking Tea. Then all the children and all the plants can understand each other.
“Oh dear,” said Mrs. Martin. “We drank all the Talking Tea. I will have to brew some more. Luckily, I have more tea in my workshop. Perhaps I can invent an extra big teapot. The normal teapot won’t make enough. We want at least a hundred cups worth.”
But before Mrs. Martin could begin to make a teapot, Mr. Martin came home. He was so upset he had flown into the house through an upstairs window. He landed with a bounce on the sofa. He was still crying.
“What is the matter?” cried Mrs. Martin.
“They want to kill all the plants!” cried Mr. Marin. “They voted. The others are scared of the plants. They’re going to kill them!”
“They can’t kill Spygren!” Mathew Maria said. “He’s our friend!” All the girls were very upset.
“Don’t worry!” Mrs. Martin cried. “We’ll go and talk to them. We’ll explain that the plants are alive. I mean, that they can talk. Then they won’t kill them!”
So Mr. Martin flew back out the window and Mrs. Martin slid down the elevator and together they went to the meeting house.
“That’s okay, then,” said Mathew Maria. “They will make them listen. They won’t kill Spygren. You can kill weeds, but you can’t kill people. Spygren is a person.”
Her sisters nodded their heads. Their mom and dad would fix everything.
They were very, very wrong.
Mrs. Martin and Mr. Martin found the other grownups. Mrs. Mouse was gathering firewood. She was gathering gasoline.
“We are going to burn the weeds!” Mrs. Mouse said. “We are going to have a giant bonfire.”
“You can’t kill the weeds,” Mrs. Martin said. “The weeds aren’t just plants. They’re people. You can’t kill people.”
“Weeds are not people,” Mrs. Mouse answered. “That’s insane.”
“It’s true!” Mrs. Martin insisted. “My daughters talked to a plant named Spygren. I can show you!”
So all the grownups followed Mrs. Martin and Mr. Martin to the jungle. Spygren saw them coming.
“Hello,” Spygren said. “How are you?”
“Goodness!” said Mr. Martin. “You really can speak! I’m very well, thank you.”
The other grownups did not say hello. They did not say they were well. They had not drunken the Talking Tea. They had not heard the plant talk. They only heard Mr. Martin answer.
“I know you can’t hear them,” Mrs. Martin said to the other grownups, “But they are speaking. Spygren! Show you can hear! Tap a leaf three times!”
But the grownups didn’t want to listen.
“This is nonsense!” Mrs. Mouse exclaimed. Weeds aren’t people! Weeds don’t talk!” And they didn’t see Spygren tap their leaf three times. They all turned around and left. They went back to the meeting house. They went back to gathering firewood. They went back to gathering gasoline.
“Wait!” cried Mr. Greene. “I think we should listen!”
They did not wait. They did not listen. People who are afraid can do horrible, terrible things. These people were very afraid. They were afraid of the plants. They thought the plants were monsters. They wanted the plants to go away.
They wanted the Martins to go away too. Mr. Martin was throwing away their firewood. Mrs. Martin was stealing their gasoline. Mrs. and Mr. Martin were shouting at them to stop.
“They’re insane!” Mrs. Mouse cried. “Lock them in the closet! Don’t let them stop us!”
When people are very scared, they can make bad choices. The grownups listened to Mrs. Mouse. They shoved Mrs. Martin and Mr. Martin into the meeting house closet. They locked the door. Then they went back to their firewood and gasoline. Mrs. Mouse pulled out a matchbook. She lit a match.
“Oh dear,” said Mr. Greene. He felt very small and alone. Mrs. Mouse lit the firewood. It started to burn.
The Martin children waited in the house. They looked out the window. They saw the grownups march down the street. They saw them talk to Spygren. Then they saw them march away again. And they saw when the bonfire was lit. They could see very well from up in their tree.
“Oh no!” Mary cried. “There’s a fire!”
All the girls talked together at once. The grownups didn’t listen! They didn’t hear! They were going to kill Spygren! They were going to kill the plants! What could they do!
They flew down to the jungle. They wanted to talk to Spygren. Maybe Spygren would have an idea. But Spygren was very upset.
“The other plants know about the fire!” Spygren said. “They are scared of the humans! They think they’re monsters! They want to fight. They want to destroy them!”
“They can’t destroy them!” the girls cried. “They’re people! You can’t destroy people!”
“The other plants don’t understand,” Spygren said. “They think you’re all wild animals. They can’t talk to you like I can.”
“Oh dear!” said Mathew Maria, “The humans want to kill the plants. The plants want to kill the humans. No one knows they’re all people!”
“If only we had more Talking Tea!” Melanie exclaimed. “Then they could all understand each other!”
Mathew Maria thought about this. She was very smart. The only way to save everyone was to make more tea. They needed a lot more tea. A lot more than one teapot. But their mother never made the giant teapot!
“We have to invent the teapot!” Mathew Maria said. “We have to make a thousand cups of tea. And we have to make them now!”
In order to make tea, they needed four things: water, tealeaves, something to put them in, and heat. To make a whole lot of tea, they needed a lot of everything. They needed something very big to put it into.
“What is the biggest thing we have?” Mathew Maria asked. “What can hold the water?” All the girls and Spygren thought.
“The cooking pot,” said Melanie. Mathew Maria thought about this. She did math in her head. She was thinking about how many people needed to drink the tea.
“It’s too small,” Mathew Maria said. “It must be much bigger.”
“The bathtub!” said Moira and Mia.
“Too small,” said Mathew Maria. “It needs to be a bit bigger than that.”
The girls thought hard. What was bigger than the bathtub? What could hold water?
“What about a bed?” Mary asked.
“That would be the right size,” Mathew Maria answered. “But beds don’t hold water. It has to hold water.”
“But it does hold water!” Mary answered. “It holds a lot of water! It’s a water bed!”
Mr. Martin and Mrs. Martin slept on a water bed. A water bed has a mattress that is filled with water. It’s bouncy and soft to lie on.
“Oh!” said Mathew Maria. “That’s exactly the right size!”
The girls flew back up to their house. They went into their parent’s bedroom. They pulled off the pillows. They pulled off the sheets. They look at the mattress. It sat in a giant metal frame.
“Let’s pull out the mattress,” said Mathew Maria. “Then we can fill up the frame. It’s made to hold water, just in case the bed leaks. We can fill it up.”
So they all tugged at the mattress. It was very heavy. Water weighs a lot. It sloshed about. It was like picking up a massive water balloon. It took all five girls to shove the mattress out of the frame. Then they got a hose. Soon they had filled up the bed frame. It looked like a pool.
“Now we need the tea!” Melanie said. The girls raced upstairs. They found their mother’s tealeaves. Luckily, there was quite a lot. They were in her workshop. Normally, they weren’t allowed in the workshop alone. The workshop could be dangerous. This was an emergency.
They put the tea into the water. They stirred it with an umbrella.
“Now what?” they asked.
“It needs heat,” Mathew Maria said. “We need to make the water very hot. We need to boil the water.”
“How?” the other girls cried. They couldn’t start a fire in their parent’s room.
“If only we could take it to the bonfire,” said Mary. “Then it would be easy.” But there was no way to take a bed all the way to the bonfire. They had to heat it in the bedroom.
“What else makes heat?” Mathew Maria asked.
“Electricity,” said Mia.
“Too dangerous,” said Melanie. “It would kill us.” The girls thought harder.
“The sun,” said Moira.
“Not hot enough,” said Melanie. “It has to get really, really hot.”
“But the sun is really, really hot!” Mathew Maria exclaimed. “It is hot enough! We just have to use a lot of it!”
Her sisters did not understand.
“We have to make several sunbeams hit the same place,” Mathew Maria said. “One sunbeam is a bit hot. Lots of sunbeams are very hot. We can use the mirrors and some glass. Then it will shoot all the sunlight into the water and the water will boil.”
So the girls went out into the tree. The tree was full of mirrors. The mirrors were to bring sunlight to the street.
“We have to make all the mirrors shoot the sunlight into the bedroom!” Mathew Maria said. They began to move the mirrors. The squirrels came out to see what they were doing.
“I say!” said the big squirrel. “Why are you moving the light into the bedroom?”
“We have to make it hot!” Mary explained. “We have to make more Talking Tea.”
“I don’t understand,” said the smaller squirrel, “but I will help.” Soon the girls and the squirrels were all moving mirrors. More and more light shone into the water. It grew very warm. It still didn’t boil.
“It’s not enough!” Melanie cried.
“I know what it needs,” said Mathew Maria. She went to get a magnifying glass. Mathew Maria held her magnifying glass in the sunlight. It made one single beam go into the water. The beam was very bright. It was very hot.
The tea water grew very very hot. It bubbled.
“Hurray!” they shouted. They had boiled the tea. Mathew Maria put down the magnifying glass. The girls moved the mirrors back.
“We have Talking Tea!” they sang. “We have Talking Tea!”
Then they looked down at the bonfire. The bonfire had grown very big. But look! There were plants around the bonfire. Were they going to be burned? No! They were waving their leaves! They were knocking the fire back. Oh no! They were blowing the fire into the meeting hall. They were setting fire to the building!
The fire was huge! It was scary. It could kill everyone! It could destroy the whole street! They had to stop it. They had to make the plants listen. They had to make the humans listen. They had to give them all the tea. But how?
“We can’t bring them a bedframe full of tea,” said Melanie. “It’s too big and heavy.”
While they thought, they sat on the waterbed mattress. It was very bouncy. The girls liked to bounce. They bounced and they thought. Mary bounced so hard she almost bounced into the tea.
“Be careful!” Melanie said. “The tea is hot! And don’t bounce so hard. The mattress will break, and there will be water everywhere!”
“That’s it!” Mathew Maria exclaimed. Her sisters looked at her. They didn’t understand.
“We need to make water balloons. Lots and lots of water balloons. Then they will burst on the plants, and the plants will drink the tea.”
“That will work for the plants,” said Melanie. “But what about the people? They have to drink it. What if they don’t want to drink it?”
“Can we stick it in celery with sun butter?” Mary asked. “That worked with the squirrels.” But they didn’t think it would work with humans.
“We will just have to ask very nicely,” said Mathew Maria. “And bring them cups. They can’t drink water balloons.”
So the girls set to work. Some of them filled up water balloons and watering cans. Some of them filled up cups. It was a lot of work. And all the time they worked, the fire rose higher and higher. The sky was filling with black smoke.
“Water balloons are ready!” cried Mia and Moira.
“Teacups are ready!” cried Melanie.
“We’re ready!” cried Mary and Mathew Maria. The older girls carried the teacups. They had to be careful. They didn’t want to spill the tea. The younger girls carried the water balloons. They had to be careful. They didn’t want to drop them.
Mathew Maria and Mary flew over the jungle. They threw their water balloons at the plants.
Splash! Splash! Splash!
They had a lot of water balloons. There were a lot of plants. Mary flew all up and down the street. Mathew Maria did not fly up and down the street. She flew towards the fire.
By the fire, the plants were going wild. They were breaking the street with their roots. They were squirting people in the face. They were blowing on the bonfire. They were blowing it into the meeting house. The meeting house’s roof was burning.
“Our meeting house!” the people cried. “Burn the weeds! Burn the weeds!”
Mathew Maria dropped her Talking Tea balloons on the plants.
Soon, she could hear the plants speak.
“Burn the wild animals!” they screamed. “They’re monsters!”
The grownups didn’t hear the plants speak. They hadn’t drunken any tea. Moira, Mia, and Melanie had the teacups. But they couldn’t fly fast with teacups. The teacups would spill. They had to walk.
“The meeting house is burning!” shouted Mr. Greene.
“We know!” the others shouted back.
“The Martins are in there!” Mr. Greene shouted. “They’re locked in the closet!”
The others did not shout back. They were stunned into silence. They had forgotten the Martins.
“Mom!” Mathew Maria shouted. “Dad!” The fire would hurt them!
“We must save them!” Mrs. Mouse shouted. “We must go in there!”
But the fire was so hot that they couldn’t go into the door.
Luckily, Mr. Martin and Mrs. Martin were not near the fire. They were not hurt. They were still trapped. They could smell smoke.
“Help!” they shouted. “Help!”
“What can we do?” the people shouted outside.
“Burn all the monsters!” the plants shouted.
“Drink your tea!” Melanie shouted. The girls had arrived with the tea! They had arrived quite fast. They had arrived much faster than walking. How had they come so fast?
They didn’t walk. They didn’t fly. Melanie held the tea on a tray. Moira and Mia didn’t have tea. They had a flute and a harp. It was the fantastic flute and harp that Mrs. Martin had invented. It made plants grow huge. They were playing very softly and quietly, so that just one plant could hear them.
Spygren had grown. They hadn’t grown bigger; they grew longer. Spygren had stretched and stretched until their head reached all the way to the bonfire. Moira, Mia and Melanie rode on their back. Melanie held the tea.
“Drink the tea!” Melanie shouted. “Please drink the tea.”
“This is no time for tea!” the grownups shouted. “We are fighting for our lives!”
“Listen!” shouted Mathew Maria. She shouted at loud as she could. The grownups heard her. So did the plants. And the plants understood her. They had already drunken the Talking Tea. The plants paused. So did the grownups. The fire raged.
“You must listen!” shouted Mathew Maria. “You are hurting people! The plants are people and the humans are people! Please, please, please trust me. Drink the tea.”
The people looked at Mathew Maria. The plants looked at Mathew Maria.
“Well,” said Mr. Firecracker. “I am thirsty.” And he took up a glass, and he drank the Talking Tea. Mrs. Mouse took a cup too. Soon, everyone was drinking the Talking Tea.
“Hello,” Spygren said again. “It’s nice to meet you all. My name is Spygren.”
“The plant really is speaking!” Mrs. Mouse cried. She was amazed.
“The animals really are speaking!” the other plants cried. They were amazed.
“Help!” shouted Mrs. And Mr. Martin. They were still trapped in the closet. The fire was still burning.
“Oh no!” Mrs. Mouse cried. “We must put the fire out.”
The plants tried blowing harder. The fire didn’t go out. It rose higher.
“We need more water!” Mathew Maria shouted. “Water puts out fire! Air just feeds it!”
“Water puts out fire?” said the plants. “We can do water.” And several plants squirted water at the fire. The fire hissed.
“Let’s help them!” shouted Mrs. Mouse. “We need hoses!” Everyone ran for hoses. Mr. Greene took off his nice shoes. He wanted to run fast. His nice shoes were not nice for running. He tossed them in the fire. He ran fast in his socks.
Soon the plants and the humans were spraying the fire. It hissed. It smoked. The flames died away. The humans ran into the meeting house. They ran to the closet. Mrs. Mouse unlocked the door.
Mrs. Martin and Mr. Martin came out of the closet.
“Mom!” the girls cried. “Dad!” The Martin family hugged. Spygren hugged all of them. They were a very good hugger. Everyone was alright.
The Talking Tea had saved the day. Everyone was talking. No one was fighting. The fire died.
Bonus Excerpt: Eleanor Rosaline Kidnaps a Dragon
Princess Eleanor Rosaline
Eleanor Rosaline loved being a princess. She loved wearing long pink dresses. She loved wearing roses in her hair. She loved her tiara and her bracelets and rings. She loved dancing. She loved being looked at.
“Aren’t you bored?” asked Princess Penelope. “I’m bored. We have nothing to do but look pretty.”
“I love looking pretty,” answered Eleanor Rosaline. But she thought about what her friend said. ‘It’s nice to look pretty,’ she thought to herself, ‘but I will be more than pretty.’
“Come princesses! Come young ladies! It is time for your Glamor Lesson!” The royal schoolmistress came out into the garden. All Eleanor Rosaline’s friends lined up. They were going to learn how to look their best. It was Eleanor Rosaline’s favorite class. It was better than Artful Swooning. It was better than Poise. It was way better than Art or Conversation. It was even better than Dance.
But on this day, Eleanor Rosaline thought about Penelope’s words. Was there more to being a princess than looking pretty? At least the princes and the lords all got to take Horse Riding and Dragon Fighting. All that princesses learned were Pony Sitting and Spectator Sports. Princesses were supposed to watch the boys fight, and swoon when things got scary.
Princess Eleanor Rosaline walked slowly behind the class on the way to their Glamor Lesson. She thought about her mom. Her mom was a great beauty. She spent her day walking in the gardens. Sometimes she sat on a throne next to Eleanor Rosaline’s dad. He was a king. The King would listen to people. He would tell people what to do. The Queen just sat and looked beautiful. Sometimes she would tell the King he was wonderful. Then her dad would sit up tall and proud.
‘I do like being a princess,’ thought Eleanor Rosaline. ‘I do like being pretty. I like to dress up and to play with my hair. I like putting ribbons on my pony. But I don’t want to be just pretty. I don’t want to tell a king he’s wonderful. I want to be wonderful myself.’
As she thought these thoughts, her footsteps went slower and slower. It was like her thoughts were heavy weights. In fact, she walked so slowly that soon the royal schoolmistress and all the children were out of sight.
Eleanor Rosaline did not mean to sneak away. But somehow, as she was slowly walking by the library, her feet stopped walking. She looked into the Royal Library. It was filled with books and scrolls of every kind. The shelves went up so high one needed a ladder to reach the top.
Princesses do not read books. They read poems in Art. They read about scores in Spectator Sports. That’s all. Eleanor Rosaline never wanted to read a book. Now, she looked at them.
‘Maybe,’ she thought, ‘there’s a book about a wonderful princess.’
There were books about knights and books about kings. There were books about cakes and books about gardens. There were books about laws. There were books about animals. Finally, she found a book about princesses.
It was not a very good book. It said princesses are pretty. Eleanor Rosaline knew that. It said princesses get kidnapped by dragons. Or giants. Or witches. They swoon. Then a prince rescues them. They get married. The End.
‘Yuck,’ thought Eleanor Rosaline, ‘What if the prince is horrid?’ She didn’t like all the boys in the palace. Prince Gallant liked to put worms in her hair. What would she do if Prince Gallant rescued her from a dragon? She didn’t want to marry him. Why did she have to wait for a prince to rescue her? If princesses are always kidnapped, why don’t they have Dragon Fighting Lessons? It seemed like a useful skill for a princess to have.
She found more books to read. That day, Eleanor Rosaline did not go to her Glamor Lesson. She did not go to Art or to Conversation. She was nowhere to be found during Dance or Pony Sitting. She did not Swoon. That day, Eleanor Rosaline learned something new. Princess Eleanor Rosaline loved to read.
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About the Author
Mir Foote grew up in the country, in a small community called Whitehawk. There she had the woods for her playground, dirt roads for her adventures, and an entire wilderness for inspiration. She was lulled to sleep at night by the sound of drums and coyote calls. By day, she explored.
Now, the world is her playground. She spent a year of school in France and another month in Prague. She taught English for a year in South Korea. She has walked on the Great Wall of China, escaped a forest fire in the mountains of Wyoming, and stood in the ruins of Pompeii.
Mir Foote is a world traveler, an amateur linguist, and lover of the written word. Currently, she is planning her next adventure, exploring new stories, and working on her next book.
For more information on Mir Foote or her books, please go to her website at:
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