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How Ali Baba Got His Name
David Bernstein was eight years, five months, and seventeen days old when he chose his new name.
There were already four Davids in David Bernstein's third-grade class. Every time his teacher, Mrs. Booxbaum, called, "David," all four boys answered. David didn't like that one bit. He wished he had an exciting name like one of the explorers he learned about in social studies -- Vasco Da Gama. Once he found two unusual names on a program his parents brought home from a concert -- Zubin Mehta and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Now those were names with pizzazz!
David Bernstein might have gone along forever being just another David if it had not been for the book report that his teacher assigned.
"I will give extra credit for fat books," Mrs. Booxbaum told the class.
She didn't realize that all of her students would try to outdo one another. That afternoon when the third grade went to the school library, everyone tried to find the fattest book.
Melanie found a book with eighty pages.
Sam found a book with ninety-seven pages.
Jeffrey found a book with one hundred nineteen pages.
David K. and David S. each took a copy of the same book. It had one hundred forty-five pages.
None of the books were long enough for David Bernstein. He looked at a few that had over one hundred pages. He found one that had two hundred fourteen pages. But he wanted a book that had more pages than the total of all the pages in all the books his classmates were reading. He wanted to be the best student inthe class -- even in the entire school.
That afternoon he asked hismother what the fattest book was. Mrs. Bernstein thought for a minute. "I guess that would have to be the Manhattan telephone book," she said.
David Bernstein rushed to get the phone book. He lifted it up and opened to the last page. When he saw that it had over 1,578 pages, he was delighted.
He knew that no student in the history of P.S. 35 had ever read such a fat book. Just think how much extra credit he would get! David took the book and began to read name after name after name. After turning through all the A pages, he skipped to the name Bernstein. He found the listing for his father, Robert Bernstein. There were fifteen of them. Then he counted the number of David Bernsteins in the telephone book. There were seventeen. There was also a woman named Davida and a man named Davis, but he didn't count them. Right at that moment, David Bernstein decided two things: he would change his name and he would find another book to read.
The next day David went back to the school library. He asked the librarian to help him pick out a very fat book. "But it must be very exciting, too," he told her.
"I know just the thing for you," said the librarian.
She handed David a thick book with a bright red cover. It was The Arabian Nights. It had only three hundred thirty-seven pages, but it looked a lot more interesting than the phone book. David checked the book out of the library and spent the entire evening reading it. When he showed the book to his teacher the next day, she was very pleased.
"That is a good book," she said. "David, you have made a fine choice."
It was at that moment that David Bernstein announced his new name. He had found it in the library book.
"From now on," David said, "I want to be called Ali Baba Bernstein."
Mrs. Booxbaum was surprised. David's parents were even more surprised. "David is a beautiful name," said his mother. "It was my grandfather's name."
"You can't just go around changing your name when you feel like it," his father said. "How will I ever know who I'm talking to?"
"You'll know it's still me," Ali Baba told his parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Bernstein finally agreed, although both of them frequently forgot and called their son David.
So now in Mrs. Booxbaum's class, there were three Davids and one Ali Baba. Ali Baba Bernstein was very happy. He was sure that a boy with an exciting name would have truly exciting adventures.
Only time would tell.