Read an Excerpt
It was a crisp, sunny October afternoon and Benjamin, Thomas and Melinda Potter were visiting the Bramblewood Zoo.
They hadn't particularly wanted to visit the zoo, but Mrs. Potter had been very firm about it.
"Daddy has been working extremely hard," she had said,"and I think he needs an afternoon of peace and quiet. Here's some money. I suggest you go to the zoo."
There was no arguing with Mrs. Potter in this mood. So the three children had dutifully taken the bus from the stop at the corner of their street and had ridden through the pretty university town of Bramblewood as far as the zoo.
Although it was the end of October and very cold, the sun was shining brightly from an unusually clear sky. Only a few clouds on the horizon gave a hint of possible rain. Late autumn leaves blew along the pavement and rolled in through the main gates of the zoo as if inviting the children to follow.
On this lovely Sunday the place was crowded with visitors and there were popcorn sellers, balloon vendors and a man pushing a yellow cart piled high with toys. Children yelled happily as they scampered to the rides and to the animal cages.
In spite of their early reluctance to venture out, Benjamin, Thomas and Lindy had to admit, now that they were there, that the zoo didn't seem a bad place to visit after all.
"I want to see the tigers," Tom announced.
"I want to see the donkeys and the ducks," countered Lindy.
Donkeys and ducks," Tom scoffed. "Anyone can see a donkey or a duck, and you don't have to go to the zoo for it. That's just a waste of time."
"I know, I know," Lindy replied. "I justfeel like seeing a donkey and a duck today. I don't know why."
"Ohl look--if we're going to spend the afternoon trailing around, looking at animals like that. . ."
"Well, we're not,"' Ben interrupted firmly. He was used to his younger brother and sister squabbling with each other. 'Were going to see the elephants first. Because I'm the oldest and I'm in charge. C'mon."
The children visited the elephants and then the lions and the tigers.. They slowly moved on to see llamas and leopards and rhinos and reindeer; crocodiles and hippopotamuses and brown bears and polar bears. They watched the performing seals and Lindy saw three ducks and twelve penguins, which made her very happy.
Tom suggested that they visit the aquarium. They wandered through the dim corridors whose only light came from the many illuminated tanks in which turtles, sharks, eels and other underwater creatures were to be seen. It was gloomy and damp inside. Lindy was very glad when Ben chose to go to the reptile house. But she clung tightly to his hand as she gazed at the cobras and rattlesnakes and a giant python.
"I'd love one of those for a pet," Tom said enthusiastically.
"Ugh! I think they're gross. Really gross," Lindy exclaimed.
"You just say that 'cause you're scared of them."
"No, I don't. They're not my favorite things. But I'm not scared."
"Then why are you sucking your thumb?"
"I like the taste."
"Cut it out, you two," said Ben. "What shall we do next?"
Lindy announced that she was tired, cold and extremely hungry.
The children bought a bag of delicious, sticky looking doughnuts and three cups of hot, sugary chocolate. Carefully, they carried the steaming mugs to a bench that caught the late afternoon sunshine and which was close to a fenced yard containing two large, disdainful-looking giraffes.
Lindy had no sooner sat down than one of the giraffes spotted the doughnut she had in her hand and immediately undulated towards her on spindly legs, looking as though his knobby knees would buckle beneath him at any moment. The animal lifted his long neck over the wire netting and brought his face to within inches of Lindy's--just as she was about to take a large mouthful of her doughnut.
The giraffe and the child gazed at each other with serious concentration for a moment. Then Lindy solemnly said, "No," and moved herself and her doughnut farther along the bench out of the giraffe's way.
"That's really an extraordinary animal," mused Ben as he watched. "Imagine being born with a long neck like that. Imagine being able to reach the tops of trees quite easily."
"I'd like that," said Tom. "You could see the world from up there."
"I like giraffes a lot." Lindy spoke with her mouth full.
"If you could have any animal out of the zoo, which one would you like to take home?" Ben suddenly asked.
"The python." Tom spoke without hesitation.
"Gross," said Lindy. "I'd have a penguin. What would you have, Ben?"
"Mm, I dunno." Ben thought about it as he sipped his hot chocolate. "I'd like something unusual. An orangutan, perhaps. Or an anteater. Maybe a gorilla."
"You'll excuse my butting in," said a voice immediately behind the children. "But if You're looking for something really unusual, have YOU ever considered a Whangdoodle?"
The children spun around.
Sitting on the grass behind them knees drawn up almost to his chin, was a small man. He was holding a rolled umbrella made of clear plastic.
"I beg your pardon, sir," Ben said, "did you say something?"
"Yes, I did. I said, have you ever considered a Whangdoodle?"
The little man got up slowly. He had a round cheerful face with bright blue, sparkling eyes, and the few hairs still growing on his balding head were long and grey and flying in all directions. He wore an old brown sports jacket and a blue-checked shirt with a purple, yellow-spotted scarf tied in a casual bow.The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Copyright © by Julie Edwards. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.