The Complete Adventures of Shelby F. Squirrel and Friends
by: Eleanor Lawrie
Shelby’s First Christmas Eve:
Shelby F. Squirrel and his sister Darby were playing in the forest one night after a hunt for food with their mother. They had become quite adept at getting around in the snow by now and set off to the meadow at the edge of the woods. It was a little bit foggy and they liked to play tag on the ground for a change, especially in fog because they liked the out-of-focus feeling that the fog made.
As they came closer to the meadow they heard sounds that were out of place in the forest. First a sharp whistle, then several more, all with a downturn at the end. Then a great WHOOSHING sound, followed by tinkling, silvery ringing. They hurried to the edge of the field just in time to hear stamping of feet and a big, bass “Ho, ho, ho!”
They stopped at the edge of the grass, and stared at the scene before them. It was a roly-poly man with a long white beard, wearing a red suit with a black belt and black boots. He was riding in a huge sleigh and an enormous bag sat behind him.
The animals pulling the sleigh were long-legged, and mostly brown and looked a lot like the deer that sometimes grazed in this very field. In a few seconds they were loosed from their straps and began wandering and feeding, chewing at the grass that was just below the snow.
Then one of the lead animals was suddenly closer to Shelby and Darby, causing Shelby to gasp in alarm. The big breath made him hiccup loudly, upon which the creature swung his head and looked straight at Shelby with big inquiring brown eyes.
The most mysterious thing about him was his nose. It was decidedly red! And it was actually glowing in the semi-dark! Shelby started to hiccup in earnest, he was so excited and afraid all at the same time.
“What kind of noise is that?” asked the animal. “Who made that noise?” And he came much closer bending his head to see better.
“Oh, that’s just my brother hiccuping!” offered Darby, always able to keep much calmer than Shelby. “He hiccups when he gets excited or scared!”
“Well, you have nothing to be afraid of,” said the creature.
“Who are you? And why is your nose red and shining like that?” said Shelby, forgetting his manners altogether, he was so curious, and ending up with a resounding “HIC!”
“No, you first, tell me about yourselves!!”
“We’re squirrels,” they both chorused.
“Squirrels hibernate in winter! Why are you not sleeping?” was the response.
“We’re – HIC! – flying squirrels!! HIC! – We don’t hibernate! And we’re nocturnal, we – HIC! – like being awake at night!” hiccuped Shelby.
“And we’re twins,” added Darby. “Now it’s your turn!!”
“Okay, then. My name is Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer. All these other reindeer and I pull Santa Claus around in his sleigh every Christmas Eve. I get to lead because of my red nose, especially on foggy nights. We stop here every year because of the tender grass for a short break. I think I better take you to see Santa now, what do you say?” He bent his head really low to the ground and said, “Hop up and hang on to my antlers, they’re a lot like tree branches so it should be easy for you.” Up they jumped and Rudolph raised his head slowly and trotted off toward the sleigh. The red-suited round man watched as they approached and smiled with a warm twinkle in his eye.
“My, my, we have visitors!” he exclaimed. After introductions done smoothly by Rudolph, he stated firmly, “You need to know more about me, I think. Well, every year on this night I travel all over the world and deliver toys to children. This big sack on my sleigh is magic and it never gets emptied no matter how many toys I take out of it. Let me see now, I wonder if I can find something in it for two little flying squirrels!”
With that he turned his back and started rummaging in the sack. He grabbed at things and tossed them aside, muttering to himself, “No, not that! No, not that!” as he went. Then he stopped digging and turned around with his hands upturned, and came back toward Shelby and Darby and Rudolph. His eyes gleamed with satisfaction.
“Look! These are pecans, from Alabama, and these are macadamia nuts from Hawaii. Here are some lychee nuts from China! And these are Brazil nuts – the name will tell you where they are from. And this is the reindeers’ favorite lichen, from the nearest trees to the North Pole!! And here are some dried cranberries that are especially sweet!”
He handed the treats to Shelby and Darby with a great flourish and watched happily as they stuffed everything into their cheeks.
Shelby started to dance up and down and was soon hiccuping all over again in his effort to say thank you to Santa.
Darby composed herself and said very slowly, around the full cheeks, “Oh, thank you so much! We’ll share these with our mother and remember this night forever!”
It was time for the team to continue on its journey, so Santa gathered all the reindeer from their grazing and soon had them properly hitched into their harnesses. He jumped into his sleigh and gave a loud whistle, followed by more, all of them with an upward turn at the end.
Shelby’s and Darby’s eyes got bigger and bigger as the sleigh lurched forward and, after one really long whistle, left the ground in a cloud of snow and jingle bells.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!!” they all heard Santa yell as his sleigh and the reindeer disappeared into the fog. What a story they had to tell their mother this time!
1. Why do you think Darby never seems to be afraid?
a) It’s a girl thing.
b) She uses reason to decide whether something is scary.
c) She isn’t very smart.
2. Shelby forgot his manners by asking Rudolf about his nose. The right thing to do is:
c) be respectful and polite.
3. Rudolf was:
a) rude and snobbish.
b) polite and friendly.
c) mean and distant.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Have you ever wondered if Santa’s reindeer might get hungry on Christmas Eve?
2. Would you have remembered to say thank-you to Santa?
3. What do you think Mother might have said when Shelby and Darby got home with their cheeks full of such unusual foods?
Special thanks to Eleanor Lawrie for providing us this excerpt from her wonderful book.