A little girl and an extraordinary teddy bear share the secrets of a wondrous, sometimes puzzling world in this charming children’s tale that celebrates diversity, from the acclaimed author of the schoolroom classic To Sir, With Love
Lisbeth has a new best friend, her toy bear, Billingsly, who has one perfectly formed ear that is ideal for hearing what goes on in the world around him. But with his left ear, which is misshapen, he listens to Lisbeth alone. When she speaks into Billingsly’s crinkled ear, Billingsly speaks back, though he’ll talk to no one but Lisbeth because adults would never listen to him the way she does, and other children tend to shun him because he is different. When Lisbeth is in school, Billingsly enjoys adventures from his perch on the windowsill in her bedroom with animals roaming the outside world and magical creatures like the Tooth Fairy and the other bear in the mirror. But his greatest adventures take place when he is in Lisbeth’s arms, for nothing is more magical than a little girl’s love.
Filled with wit and wonder, Billingsly is the tale of an extraordinary friendship that is sure to enchant children of all ages, and adults who are young at heart.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||4.60(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||4 - 8 Years|
About the Author
E. R. Braithwaite was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1912. Educated at the City College of New York and the University of Cambridge, he served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Braithwaite spent 1950 to 1960 in London, first as a schoolteacher and then as a welfare worker—experiences he described in To Sir, With Love and Paid Servant , respectively. In 1966 he was appointed Guyana’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations. He also held positions at the World Veterans Federation and UNESCO, was a professor of English at New York University’s Institute for Afro-American Affairs, taught creative writing at Howard University, and was the author of five nonfiction books and two novels. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 104.
Read an Excerpt
The Bear with the Crinkled Ear
By E. R. Braithwaite
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2013 Edward Eustace Braithwaite
All rights reserved.
MR. BILLINGS WAS WORRIED. He was late leaving his office and still had two errands to run before taking the railway to be home in time for his daughter's birthday party: he now had only to collect her birthday cake from the bakery, then hurry to the toy shop for her gift.
Lisbeth, his six-year-old daughter, wanted a teddy-bear. He had seen one in the window of Blake's Toy Shop on Main Street a few days ago, and now, as he hurried to the bakery, he hoped it was still there.
Luckily, both the bakery and toy shop were within easy walking distance and, if he hurried, he would not be late. At the bakery, the cake was packed and ready. With the box under his arm he walked quickly to the toy shop. The teddy-bear was still in the window.
"I'd like to buy a teddy-bear," he said to the saleslady who was standing behind the counter.
"I'm sorry," she replied. "We've sold all our bears. Someone bought the last one this morning. However, I expect we'll have some more early next week."
"Oh, no!" he exclaimed. "That would be much too late. I need one now. I promised my little daughter I'd get her one today. It's her birthday, you see."
"Oh, I'm sorry," the saleslady said. "However, there's another toy shop on River Road. It's not far, just about ten minutes from here. Maybe you can get one there."
"That won't do," he told her. "There's not enough time. I don't want to miss my train. What about that one in the window?"
"That one's not for sale," the saleslady said.
"Why not?" he asked.
"It has a fault and we're returning it to the factory," she explained.
"What kind of fault? It looks perfectly fine to me," he said.
The saleslady took a key and opened the shop window. She picked up the teddy-bear and handed it to him.
"One ear is crooked, as you can see," she said. "It may have happened when it was made or when it was packed to be sent to us. Whenever we receive a toy with a fault we return it to the factory and they send us a replacement."
Mr. Billings turned the bear over and over in his hand, noticing that it was perfect except for the right ear which was curled inward. He pulled the ear straight, but as soon as he released it, it again curled back upon itself.
"What an odd little fellow," he said, smiling. "Would you sell him to me? I really don't mind the fault."
"Of course," the saleslady said. "It will be five dollars cheaper because of the fault. However, if your little girl does not like him, bring him back and as soon as we have some others I will replace him for you."
She fetched a box into which she carefully packed the bear, then wrapped it into an attractive parcel. He paid her and was soon on his way to the railway station.
I do hope Lisbeth likes her teddy-bear, he thought as he settled into his seat for the ride home. After all, except for the oddly curled ear, it was a lovely little bear.
At home his wife was busily preparing for their daughter's birthday party. Several of Lisbeth's young neighbours and school friends had been invited and the living room was gaily decorated with bunting and balloons. A large table, covered with a colourful tablecloth, was in the centre of the room, already set with paper cups and plates and a funny hat for each guest.
When Mr. Billings arrived home he gave his wife the cake, Lisbeth heard him at the door and rushed to greet him. He picked her up and she kissed him, asking anxiously, "Did you bring my teddy-bear, Daddy?"
"Yes, here it is," he replied, "but it is not to be opened until it is time to open all your gifts." Laughing happily, Lisbeth ran to put the parcel beside her other gifts.
While her Daddy went upstairs to wash up, Lisbeth helped her Mummy to unpack the cake and place it in the centre of the table. Six tiny candles were stuck on top of the cake and around it were arranged lots of fruit and candles and pretty paper decorations.
Soon the guests began to arrive and Lisbeth, in her lovely new party dress, welcomed them. Before long the room was noisy with the sound of young voices as the children played their favourite games. When all the games had been played and all the songs had been sung the children sat at the table, each wearing a funny hat. They had cool drinks and cakes and ice cream and candy. Then Mr. Billings lit the candles on Lisbeth's cake and, with a huff and a puff she blew them all out. Everybody sang: "Happy birthday, Lisbeth."
Now it was time to open her birthday presents. Each one of her friends had brought a little gift, and everybody cheered as she opened each one. Her Aunt Nancy sent a large colouring book; there was a lovely old-fashioned doll from her granny and a shiny scooter from her Uncle Bobby. Her mother's gift was a pretty gold chain with a tiny pendant.
Mr. Billings watched anxiously as Lisbeth carefully unwrapped the parcel containing the teddy-bear. Her eyes grew round as she lifted him from the box.
"Oh! He's so beautiful!" she cried, and ran to give her Daddy a big kiss. The guests gathered around.
"It has a funny ear," Joanie Bates said, pointing to the curled ear.
Peter Bates tried to pull the ear straight but it curled back upon itself.
"Don't!" scolded Lisbeth, hugging her bear protectively in her arms.
"What's wrong with his ear?" asked Lucy Parker.
"Nothing's wrong with it," replied Lisbeth, keeping the bear well away from the reach of her friends.
"This is a very special bear," Mr. Billings said. "It is the only bear in England with a crinkled ear. As a matter of fact, I do believe that it is the only bear in the whole world with a crinkled ear."
This seemed to please Lisbeth very much and her friends now crowded closer for a better look at this very special bear, this bear with the crinkled ear.
"What will you call him?" asked Joanie.
"Call him Teddy," suggested Timmy Wilkins.
"There are lots of Teddies already," said Jill Harris.
Each child suggested a name but none seemed to be quite suitable.
"What shall we call him, Daddy?" Lisbeth finally asked her father.
"Because he's so special, let's give him a very special name," her father replied, "let's call him Billingsly."
"Yes, yes," said Lisbeth. "Billingsly, it is. There's no other bear with such a name."
Everybody agreed that Billingsly was a very special name for a very special bear.
When it was bedtime Lisbeth kept Billingsly close beside her on her pillow and, still excited by all that had happened at her birthday party, began talking to him about her parents and other members of her family, her friends, her other toys and the school which she attended.
She was happily chatting away when she noticed something quite strange. As she spoke, Billingsly was nodding his head, and, what was even stranger, both his ears were sticking up, quite straight.
"Billingsly!" she exclaimed, "your ear."
"What about my ear?" Billingsly replied, and Lisbeth was even further amazed to hear him speak. She sat up in bed, gazing open mouthed at the little bear.
"What about my ear?" Billingsly repeated.
"It's no longer crinkled," Lisbeth said, staring at him.
"Oh that's because I'm listening to you. You're speaking to me and I can't listen if my ear is all crinkled up, can I?"
"And you're talking," Lisbeth said, her eyes large with wonder.
"Well," Billingsly replied. "You started it, you know. You began talking to me, so I began listening to you, and whenever I listen, I can speak."
"Are you always able to hear and speak?" Lisbeth asked, quickly becoming accustomed to having her new toy listen and speak to her.
"I don't know, really," Billingsly replied. "For as long as I can remember I could hear what was said around me. I could hear and understand, but none of it was meant for me. I could hear people talking about all kinds of things, but you are the first person who ever really talked to me and I was quite surprised to find myself listening. Not just hearing, you see, but listening."
Lisbeth could hardly believe what she was hearing.
"When I was in the window of the toy shop," Billingsly continued, "people would sometimes stop to look at me. Grown-ups and children, I could hear them say I was a cute little bear and then they would say something about my funny ear and walk away." He paused, nodding his head.
"One day your Daddy stopped and looked in the shop window. He looked at me for a long time then went away. Can you imagine how surprised I was when, a few days later, he returned and bought me? I heard him tell the saleslady that I was a gift for his daughter and I was afraid that you might not like me because of my ear and he would take me back to the shop. But, when you gave me such a big warm hug I knew you'd keep me."
"Oh Billingsly!" Lisbeth cried, "I love you just the way you are and I love your ear just the way it is."
"That's fine," said Billingsly, "so I'll tell you a secret. It's only for you. My left ear is for hearing things, all sorts of things. They're just sounds and are not important to me. But my right ear is for listening. It will open only when someone speaks directly to me, the way you did. When you're not talking to me it will curl up again. You're the only person who has ever talked to me and you're the only person for whom my listening ear has opened."
"Oh, Billingsly, how clever," Lisbeth said.
"Not really," Billingsly said. "I can hear anything at any time, but listening is special and I can only listen when someone speaks directly to me. I think that I'm your special somebody for listening. I will listen to you at any time. If you're happy or sad, it won't matter, I'll always listen to you."
"Will you listen to Daddy and Mummy, too?" Lisbeth asked.
"No, no," Billingsly said. "They'll never talk to me the way you do. They'll never believe I can hear them and my ear will never open for listening to them. Listening and talking will be between you and me. That's our secret. Have you noticed anything else about me?" Billingsly asked.
Lisbeth looked at him carefully for several moments, wondering what it could be that she might have missed; she looked at his eyes, his ears, and his legs, but everything seemed to be in order.
"What else should I notice?" she asked.
"My mouth," said Billingsly.
"What about your mouth?" asked Lisbeth. "I can't see anything wrong with it."
"Oh, there's nothing wrong with it," Billingsly said, with a smile in his voice. "But don't you see? It does not move when I speak to you, yet you can hear me. No one else can see or hear me speak to you, but you will hear every word I say."
"Oh Billingsly, how clever!" Lisbeth exclaimed. "How wonderful!"
"Well, I suppose it is. So, you see, I can talk to you at any time, and you can talk to me at any time and no one will think it strange because children are always talking to their toys. Always."
"Oh, Billingsly," Lisbeth replied, "then I'll always talk to you, about everything." A little tear formed at the corner of her eye and slowly made way down her cheek.
"Fine," said Billingsly. "Now it's time to sleep. Your Daddy and Mummy will soon come to kiss you good night."
With that, his right ear slowly curled upon itself, Lisbeth cradled him in her arms and soon drifted off to sleep.
Lisbeth came awake slowly. She became aware of the scratching sound of the branch of the magnolia tree against her bedroom windowpane and watched as the leafy fingers brushed to and fro across the glass. Her daddy had often talked about cutting that branch but Lisbeth had begged him to let it stay. The sound it made against the window was a pleasant, friendly sound.
On some days, when the weather was wet and windy, the branch would move quickly, sweeping the rain across the pane; on calm, sunny days it moved slowly, lazily brushing the window as if too sleepy to care.
Lisbeth looked at Billingsly on the pillow beside her. She was not sure if he was asleep or awake because his eyes were always open and shiny bright. She leaned close to him.
"Billingsly," she whispered, "are you awake?" Slowly his right ear unfolded.
"I am, now," he answered, nodding his head.
"It's Wednesday," she told him. "I must get up now to prepare for school."
"I know," Billingsly said.
"What will you do while I'm at school?" she asked.
"Well, if you leave me on the window seat I will look outside and enjoy the sights and sounds," he replied.
"Won't you mind being all by yourself?" she asked.
"Not really," he answered. "Before coming here I was nearly always by myself, even though there were many other toys in that shop window. They couldn't speak to me and I couldn't speak to them."
"Oh, dear," Lisbeth said. "I don't want to think of you all alone all day. How I wish I could take you to school with me."
"Don't worry, I'll be fine right here," Billingsly replied.
While having breakfast Lisbeth asked her mother to leave Billingsly on the window seat so he could see what was going on in the garden.
"But Billingsly cannot see," her mother said.
"I know," Lisbeth answered. "But I think he'll enjoy being near the window."
Mrs. Billings smiled, remembering her own childhood when she too had had long conversations with her dolls, her kitten, her Scotch terrier puppy and even the bubbling stream at the bottom of her parents' garden. Later that morning, after taking Lisbeth to school, she tidied her daughter's room and found a large, soft cushion for Billingsly so that he had a clear view of the garden.
"Now you can see everything that's going on outside," she said to him, smiling. On the way downstairs she wondered if her eyes were playing tricks on her. Did Billingsly nod his head?
After she left the room Billingsly looked out into the garden. Everywhere there seemed to be movement. Yellow butterflies were fluttering about as if undecided where to go or what to do; bees were buzzing from flower to flower as if quite determined not to miss a single one, and several sparrows were chirping to each other as they hopped about on the privet hedge. Suddenly, the air was filled with the clear sweet song of a mockingbird which sat on the topmost branch of the magnolia tree, but it quickly flew away at the loud, rattling noise of a lawn mower being pushed back and forth across the lawn next door.
In the early afternoon Billingsly heard Mrs. Billings' car starting up and he knew that she was on her way to fetch Lisbeth from school. Not long afterwards he heard the sound of wheels on the driveway, then Lisbeth's voice calling to him as she bounded up the stairs.
She picked him up from the window seat, gave him a big hug and took him out into the garden. "I have a new friend," she said to him, "her name is Michelle."
Billingsly's ear unfolded as he nodded his head.
"This is her first day at school," Lisbeth went on, "and Miss Peters put her to sit beside me. She is very nice."
Billingsly nodded again.
"Michelle was born far away, in France. Her daddy is very tall, I saw him when he came to fetch her at school. When we went to play in the park we made a double line to cross the street. I held hands with Michelle. Her hair is very long, all the way down to here." And she turned to show him the small of her back. "Have you ever seen a girl with such long hair?"
"Oh, yes, I have," Billingsly replied. "When I was in the toy shop window I saw many boys and girls. They would be with their parents and would press their faces against the glass to get a better look inside; it was wonderful to see the pleasure in their eyes. Blue eyes and brown eyes and grey eyes and even green eyes. Black faces and brown faces and white faces. Black hair and red hair and blonde hair. All those faces and eyes and hair. All different."
"Michelle has blonde hair," Lisbeth said.
"Sometimes I think ..." Billingsly began, then paused.
"What do you sometimes think?" Lisbeth asked.
"Sometimes I think how nice it is that faces and eyes and hair are so different. It would be so dull, so boring if they were all the same," nodding his head as he said this.
"Yes, it would be boring," Lisbeth agreed.
They heard the sharp call of a bird from somewhere in the garden.
"That's a redbird. A cardinal," Lisbeth said.
"I heard the mockingbird this morning, and I saw the sparrows playing games in the hedge. It's so nice that everything's different."
"Like the flowers," Lisbeth said, looking around the garden.
"Leaves are different, too," said Billingsly, making a game of it.
"So are fish," Lisbeth added, as she thought of the fish in her aquarium indoors, the goldfish, the neon tetras and the very graceful angel fish. "Fish are very different," she said.
Excerpted from Billingsly by E. R. Braithwaite. Copyright © 2013 Edward Eustace Braithwaite. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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