Listen to Chapter 2
Gooney Bird adjusted the pink ballet tutu she was wearing over a pair of green stretch pants. Her T-shirt was decorated with polka dots. Her red hair was pulled into two pigtails and held there with blue scrunchies.
She pulled carefully on one of her pigtails, rearranging it neatly, because the scrunchie was coming loose. She felt her earlobes, which were small and pink and empty.
"I should have worn the dangling diamond earrings that I got from the prince," she told the class. "Maybe I'll wear them next week."
"Diamond earrings? Prince?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked.
"Well, actually, the prince didn't give me the earrings. I got them at the palace," Gooney Bird explained.
"Why were you at the palace?"
"Well, first I was in jail, and then—" Gooney Bird interrupted herself. "It's a long story." She reached down and tidied her socks.
"May I come up to the front of the room to begin?" she asked the teacher after she had adjusted her clothes. "I like to be absolutely the center of attention."
Mrs. Pidgeon nodded and stepped aside so that there was room for Gooney Bird to stand in the front of the class.
"You might as well sit down, Mrs. Pidgeon," Gooney Bird said politely. "Take a load off your feet."
Mrs. Pidgeon sat down in the chair behind her cluttered desk. She looked at the clock on the wall. "We have fifteen minutes," she said, "before arithmetic."
"Class," Gooney Bird said, "you heard Mrs. Pidgeon. We have just fifteen minutes. There are many Gooney Bird stories I might tell you, but I have time for only one today. Who has a suggestion for a story?"
Ben's hand shot up. "Tell about how you came from China," he said.
Nicholas called, "Why are you named Gooney Bird?"
Chelsea was wiggling and wiggling in her seat. "The palace!" she said. "Tell about jail, and the palace, and the diamond earrings!"
Other hands were waving, but Gooney Bird motioned for those children to put their hands down. She looked around the room, thinking.
"This is the title of the story," she said at last. "'How Gooney Bird Got Her Name.'"
"Just like How the Leopard Got His Spots," Barry Tuckerman said in a loud whisper.
"Barry, pay attention, please," Gooney Bird said. "I like to have absolutely all eyes on me." Then, when the class was silent, and all eyes, except those of Felicia Ann, who always looked at the floor, were on her, she began.
How Gooney Bird Got Her Name
Once upon a time, eight years ago, a man and a woman named Mr. and Mrs. Greene—that's Greene with a silent 'e' at the end—discovered that they were expecting a baby girl.
The man's name was Gordon Greene. His wife was Barbara Greene.
They decided to name their baby girl with their initials. G for Gordon, B for Barbara.
They thought of many different names.
"Gail Beth," said Mrs. Greene. She liked short names.
"Gwendolyn Belinda," said Mr. Greene. He liked long names.
They discussed and discussed. They never argued or fought. But they had many discussions.
Once, in the middle of the night, Mrs. Greene woke up. She had had a dream about a name. She nudged Mr. Greene until he woke up a little bit. Then she said, "Georgina Babette."
"No," he said, and went back to sleep.
One night Mr. Greene woke up, nudged his wife, and told her that he had had a dream. "Gazpacho Banana," he said.
"That was a nightmare you had," his wife said. He agreed. They both went back to sleep.
Finally, because they could not make up their minds about a name, they decided that they would wait until the baby girl was born. Then they would look at the baby and somehow they would know that her name should be Grace Bridget, or Gloria Bonnie, or some other name.
They waited and waited for the baby's birth. It takes many months, as you know.
Gooney Bird paused in her story. She could see that many of the children wanted to wave their hands in the air and say things.
"Class?" she said. "Any comments so far? Any questions?"
"We have nine minutes left," Mrs. Pidgeon reminded them, "before arithmetic."
Keiko asked in a small voice, "Did he really say Gazpacho Banana?"
"Yes, he did," Gooney Bird said. "I tell only absolutely true stories."
Barry Tuckerman stood up beside his desk. "I was named a B name for my grandfather," he said. "My grandfather's name was Benjamin."
"That's my name!" Ben called out.
"My grandfather was in college when my grandmother went to jail," Barry added, "or he would have gone with her."
Tricia raised her hand. "My cat's name is Fluffernutter," she said.
"Four more minutes!" Mrs. Pidgeon announced. "Let's let Gooney Bird get back to her story so that we can hear the ending.
"Did you notice, class," she added, "how she uses characters and dialogue? And her story is full of suspense. It's a cliffhanger, isn't it? What a good storyteller Gooney Bird is!"
"Ready?" Gooney Bird asked.
"Ready!" shouted the class, all but Felicia Ann, who never shouted.
"Okay. Here comes the ending."
Finally, one spring morning, the baby girl was born. She weighed six pounds and fourteen ounces. She had red hair.
"Look!" said her mother. "She wiggles her head around, looking for food when she's hungry. Isn't that cute! It reminds me of something, but I forget what."
Her father peered down at the new baby in his wife's arms. He smiled. "She has very big feet! Isn't that cute! It reminds me of something, but I forget what."
Mr. and Mrs. Greene looked at their sweet baby. They thought and thought.
"It's coming back to me," Mr. Greene said at last. "Do you remember when we went on that bird-watching trip to various islands in the Pacific Ocean, and we saw all kinds of marine birds?"
"That's it!" his wife said. "She looks very much like one of those birds. But which one?"
"Let's get our photograph album from that trip," Mr. Greene said.
Together they turned the pages of the album.
"Doubled-crested cormorant?" Mrs. Greene said. They looked down at the baby. No. She didn't look like a double-crested cormorant.
"Red-necked grebe?" Mr. Greene suggested. They looked at the baby again.
"She does have a red neck," Mr. Greene said.
"She does not!" said Mrs. Greene. "It's pink." They turned the pages some more. Suddenly they both said, "Oh!"
Very carefully they looked at the photograph. Then very carefully they looked at the baby.
"Big feet," Mr. Green said. "Just like our baby's."
"A head that bobs around," Mrs. Greene said. "Just like our baby's."
"That's the one," they agreed.
They read the label under the photograph. "Laysan Albatross," the label said.
"I don't think Laysan Albatross Greene is a very pretty name for a baby girl," Mrs. Greene said sadly. "It sounds too scientific."
"I agree," Mr. Greene said. "But look at the small print."
Together Mr. and Mrs. Greene read the words in the small print: OFTEN CALLED GOONEY BIRD.
"Gooney Bird Greene!" they said.
"I like the sound of it!" Mrs. Greene said. "And it has a G and a B."
"It does indeed," said Mr. Greene.
So they decided to name their new baby girl Gooney Bird Greene. Then everyone, including a doctor, a midwife, and a cleaning lady, hugged and kissed and did a Viennese waltz together.
"What a lovely story!" Mrs. Pidgeon said. "And it gives us a chance do some science research. We will look up 'Laysan Albatross' in the encyclopedia. Thank you, Gooney Bird. You may take your seat now, and we'll turn to our arithmetic."
"Wait! Wait!" Beanie's hand was waving in the air.
"Yes, Beanie?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked. "What's wrong?"
"I want to hear about the diamond earrings, and the palace!"
"That's a different story," Gooney Bird said. She was walking back to her desk.
"Tell it! Tell it!" the children called.
Barry Tuckerman jumped up and stood beside his desk. "I want to hear how Gooney Bird came from China!" he said.
"I came on a flying carpet," Gooney Bird said. "But that's a different story, too." She adjusted her pink tutu and sat down.
"Tell it! Tell it!" the children called.
Mrs. Pidgeon laughed. "I'm sure Gooney Bird was just joking about the prince and the palace and the diamond earrings," she said, "and the flying carpet, too."
Gooney Bird had already opened her arithmetic book. She looked up in surprise. "No," she said. "I wasn't joking. I tell only absolutely true stories."
"Well," said Mrs. Pidgeon, "will you tell us another tomorrow?"
"Of course," Gooney Bird said.
Gooney Bird Greene >