How The Toys Discovered Never-Ending Stories
Perfectly suited for going to sleep, this collection of very short stories follows the adventures of the toys who live in a bookshelf in Cape Town, South Africa.
How the Toys Discovered Never-Ending Stories is a selection of inserts from the Never-Ending News newsletter. The story follows the adventures of the toys who live in a bookshelf in Cape Town, South Africa.
The author, Lesley Carr, has also written a collection of stories for children aged from 4 to 10. The audio stories are each about 20 minutes long and can be downloaded from her website, www.awarebears.co.za.
Aware Bears is Lesley’s cerebral palsy awareness programme. To find out more you can download ‘A Bear Named Helen’ from her website. Lesley was born with CP and had a stroke in 2009. She is a qualified teacher who runs Aware Bears and volunteers doing reading enrichment around Cape Town.
Lesley also writes letters of support for children. You can read more here
There is a corner in my garage where a group of long lost forgotten toys live. You have to listen and look very closely to find them. There is Martha Mouse who is always cleaning, Timid Timothy the tortoise, Eager Emily the squirrel and high at the top of the garage sits Confident Charlie.
A gust of wind from outside caused two loose tiles on the roof to clink together causing a reverberation in Never-ending Stories. Timid Timothy sunk deeper into his shell. He didn’t like the wind. He liked it even less when he was all alone. His friend Eager Emily was out looking for provisions of nuts to stock up for the winter months. This by the look of it, in Timid Timothy’s opinion was not far away. Oh, how he wished he had said yes to her when she had woken him up earlier this morning. But he had been so very cosy then under his warm blanket that he had mumbled no. Oh how he regretted that now as another gust of wind rattled the loose tiles again…
Quietly he started to hum, whenever I feel afraid I hold my head erect. I whistle a happy tune, so no one ever knows I’m afraid. Make believe you’re brave and the trick will take you far, you may be as brave as you make believe you are... It didn’t take long and he was feeling a little better. By the end of the song the wind didn’t sound as loud and the clanking didn’t bother him as much. But Timid Timothy wasn’t the only one bothered by the loose-fitting tiles. Martha Mouse knew that if the wind blew any harder the tiles would work themselves free and a piece of the roof would be exposed. She had to act quickly before this happened.
While Martha worked, moving the books, pencils, rulers and crayons to one side, she heard the soft sniffles of Timid Timothy. She briefly stopped what she was doing and wondered whether she should go check in on him. She was about to stop colour coding the pencil crayons when she heard the faint sounds of a familiar tune echoing in the silence. She knew there was no need to check in on him and resumed what she had been softly humming as she did so.
Time ticked away and before she knew it Martha had been busy for an hour. While locking the cupboard behind her she noticed that a pile of rubbish had appeared in the corner. Wearily she looked up to find that the tiles had finally wedged themselves free and a hole had appeared in the ceiling. Martha was a little concerned as to Emily’s whereabouts not because she was incapable of looking after herself but rather that the wind had suddenly picked up speed. To be honest she slept a lot more peacefully when she knew the younger toys were safely back under her care.
Deciding that it could wait till the morning, she peeked in on Timid Timothy to find him curled up in his shell with his blanket covering him. Before heading for bed she checked that the candle that led all the forgotten toys to Never-Ending Stories was still lit.
With winter fast approaching Martha Mouse shivered as she headed off to bed. She heard the side door creak as a forgotten toy entered the room looking for warmth. She was glad she remembered to put a pot of tea on and left a few biscuits with a blanket at the welcome mat. She smiled as she nodded off to sleep.
As she nodded off, Martha Mouse remembered that there was an old piece of plastic to cover the bookshelves. She had a sinking feeling that they had forgotten to hang it out to dry last spring and it would be covered in thick, green mould. I must remind Confident Charlie and Eager Emily to clamber into the rafters to inspect the tiles, she thought. Perhaps Timid Timothy’s suggestion of using the pine needles from the field for insulation would work.
The following morning all the toys bundled outside in their warmest coats and headed for the field. They were amazed to see how much pine straw there was lying on the ground. It took several trips before Confident Charlie was satisfied that they had enough to repair the roof. They stood in a row and worked merrily beside each other as they passed on the material to Confident Charlie, who knew what he was doing. Nobody felt cold as they sang and danced. They were all quite surprised when Martha Mouse said it was time for tea.
Something rather curious has been happening in Never-ending Stories recently and at first everyone thought it was Sally. But as time moved on and things went missing it became clear it wasn’t Sally, as she was with everyone. Curiouser and curiouser I tell you!?!
At first it was small, insignificant things like a piece of thread, an old shoelace or a hairclip. It seemed to happen in a flash. Before you could blink, in fact. At first Martha Mouse thought she was getting old and misplacing things until she asked Eager Emily one morning to help.
She was helping Martha Mouse repack the pencils and beads when she noticed a movement out of the corner of her eye. She quickly motioned to Martha Mouse to come. As quietly as they could, they tiptoed around the corner to see if they could spy the culprit, but alas whoever or whatever it was had disappeared, taking with them an old hairpin. Who – or what – on earth could it be? Why on earth would they need an old hairpin?
After the incident with the hairpin nothing unusual has happened, but that’s not to say that anything mightn’t still happen, but for now all is quiet. Perhaps the mysterious stranger had left?
And then, just when she was about to give up, she caught a glimpse of the culprit, and it wasn’t who she thought. She saw a small figure with a portly belly wearing a red beret with thick rectangular glasses and an orange frame. She was about to confront him when he disappeared.
The following day Eager Emily waited patiently making sure she didn’t make it too obvious to the other toys, or the curious visitor, that she was hoping to meet them. At dinner time she set aside an extra portion of food and at first no one noticed, but when she did it a third time Martha Mouse asked if she was feeling alright. She made the excuse that she had a stomach ache and with all the hot weather she wasn’t up too eating too much. When she was certain all the others were occupied, she placed a plate and a small cup behind the bicycle stand, careful to hide it from the view of others. She found a spot to conceal herself and waited. At first nothing happened, and her eyelids grew droopy. When she awoke, she peered around the corner. The mysterious stranger had helped themselves to the plate with the knife and fork neatly placed in the centre. When she lifted it, she saw a note that said in thick bold neatly written script “thanking you kindly.” And so, an unusual friendship began…
This year Timid Timothy has made a promise to himself that he will try take steps, even small ones, to try and be more confident. He hasn’t shared this with anyone just in case he can’t do it, gets laughed at or thought silly. Each night before he goes to sleep he gazes at each toy and sees one quality he’d really like. How brave one must be to sit on the highest shelf, he thought sleepily, as he drifted off to sleep.
Over the next month Timid Timothy carefully observed each of his friends. He knew immediately what qualities he admired in Martha Mouse and Eager Emily: to be organised and have a sense of adventure. He even knew what he admired most about Grandpa Ben. But when it came to Sally he got a bit stuck. She was notorious for being naughty and always getting into trouble. Not on purpose, of course. For deep down Timid Timothy knew she had a good heart but somehow, she always got into trouble. When she first arrived at Never-Ending Stories he had stayed clear of her, but as time wore on he realised that perhaps she was just misunderstood. He was pinning up new words when he realised what quality he admired most about her: her tenacity. Her never-give-up attitude. Something he was, admittedly, not very good at, and needed to get better at doing.
Sally secretly admired Timothy’s efforts to improve his confidence and only wished she was brave enough to do the same. Well, not exactly the same, of course. But somehow it seemed easier if everyone assumed she was naughty than try proving them wrong. Besides, all her efforts so far were in vain and she always ended up in hot water. She longed to shout out which were her favourite books and games but she never did. She always ended up being overly excited and shouting, or she would be sullen and impatient. Both these approaches ensured she never dropped her guard or let others in. She did, however, manage to let Martha Mouse know she disliked tomatoes, and thankfully was no longer forced to eat them. Maybe she needed to be a bit kinder, less insistent when it came to volunteering, to help and give others a try, but she didn’t know how. Nor did she know how to ask for it. Perhaps it was she who needed to learn from Timid Timothy…
Emily couldn’t hold in her excitement as Arbour Day grew closer. It was the one month of the year where Martha Mouse allowed her to choose the books and the places they would visit. It was also the one month of the year where she really missed the outdoors, the smell of the fresh pine cones and the change in the air when autumn came along. Don’t get her wrong, she loved living in Never-ending Stories with all the toys, and she could never imagine leaving her friend Timid Timothy. It was just when Arbour Day arrived she missed it a bit more. But, she thought, as she found her tree book hidden on the top shelf under a few dusty boxes, it was a time when she got to teach all the toys about the different types of trees there were in the world. And one must always be aware of the small positive things around us, she thought, as she began giving it a good clean with her tail.
Mother’s Day is this month and Martha wasn’t her usual chirpy, happy self. She felt a bit out of sorts. There was always something to mend, a book to dust or a shelf to clean. It was never ending. All the toys noticed how tired she was looking and what she really needed was a few days’ rest. One afternoon while Martha was bustling about on a shelf they gathered together and started planning her Mother’s Day surprise. They each quietly admitted they rarely said thank you and yet Martha was always willing to help all of them. Whether it was mending Timid Timothy’s blanket or helping Eager Emily gather nuts, she seldom said no to any of their requests. That’s why this year they were going to make an extra effort….
Timid Timothy decided it was time to start feeling less afraid of Confident Charlie. Martha Mouse told him that the only way to overcome fear was to face it and that’s exactly what he decided to do. He wasn’t entirely sure why Confident Charlie scared him so much. Perhaps it was that he lived on the highest shelf of the bookcase and was always rather imposing when he ventured down, or maybe it was that he knew so little about him. Whatever the reason was he decided that he was going to do something about it. So straightening up his head (or as best as tortoises can) he set to work investigating. Not alone of course, for he’d already enlisted Eager Emily’s help. Grandpa Ben was a completely different story. Everyone loved his visits. He was warm and generous with a hearty laugh. His pockets were filled with biscuits and sweets. He and Confident Charlie were very different. So, with Father’s Day around the corner, Timid Timothy set himself a goal to learn as much as he could…
This winter the toys decided to explore the jungle, and instead of being caught up in the doom and gloom of the grey weather they would explore the richness of jungle life. It all started when Funny Fran found some old jungle-type masks stuffed at the bottom of a worn black chest. Soon all the toys were shouting ideas. Eager Emily knew all about the types of trees found in jungles and set about cutting and creating them from real branches and scraps of old cardboard and materials which she held together with glue and netting. She ended up solving the leaking roof too.
Since it’s still so dark and dreary the toys have decided to do a bit of indoor camping. They’ve gathered as many old blankets and sheets as they can find and placed the chairs in a triangle and ‘gone camping’. The first night there was a bit of a scare as they heard a hoo hoo and a rustling. I wonder who it could be? None of the toys have noticed that the netting has started hanging lower and lower. I do hope nothing too serious happens…
Sally felt a little apprehensive. She knew everyone thought she was up to no good as she could not always explain where she had been during her long absences when she should have been doing her chores. She hoped she wouldn’t get into too much trouble having hidden her new friend Oliver and assisted him in mending his broken wing. She knew she should have told Martha or Grandpa Ben about him but she wanted to prove to the other toys and to herself that she was caring and responsible. When Oliver was discovered in the corner, hidden under the warmth of old newspapers, with Grandpa Ben‘s missing mitten and Timid Timothy’s old blanket, everyone curiously looked at him as he emerged. He said, “Hello Sally, I wondered when I’d see you.” He was about to speak again when there was a huge gushing noise, as Eager Emily’s makeshift canopy started to break, and everyone was flooded with water.
So the story of how Oliver came to be hidden slowly unfolded. It turned out that all the toys were very impressed with Sally and saw her in a new light. One that was less harsh. As for Sally herself she too began to realise she wasn’t all bad. It turned out Oliver had quite a few useful tips for the toys when it came to making adjustments especially since his own experience had made him realise the value of having two wings. No one was sadder to see Oliver leave than Sally. For once she had made a friend that saw her for herself and liked her in spite of all her misgivings. And for that she was very grateful. Everyone tried to persuade Oliver to stay but he promised he’d return next year. So instead, they made a special corner just for him above Confident Charlie’s shelf and on days when Sally was a bit low she’d sit there looking out for him.
Emily felt incredibly proud of both her friends Timothy and Sally. She realised that perhaps she, above everyone else, had prejudged Sally. Hearing how kind she had been to Oliver made Emily realise that perhaps she needed to look at herself and her actions before she judged others.
As the festive season draws nearer and the holidays closer all the toys started making celebration plans. Balloons and fairy lights decorated the garage. Soon all the darkened corners of the garage took on a magical enchanted feeling. Over this period Confident Charlie and Grandpa Ben made a special effort to remind the toys of all the other places around the world who also celebrated and to remember that, no matter what you believed to be important, to be mindful and respectful of others; even if you disagree with them. Each toy made up a special package and left it at the entrance of the garage with a plate of treats and a warm drink so that anyone passing by could help themselves. Each evening it was replaced with a new package and the plate of food was replenished.
On the morning of the first of February the toys awoke to a wondrous sight. The normally dull garage was transformed with fairy lights and decorated with pink and red hearts. While the other toys slept, Eager Emily, Martha Mouse and Sally Scribbler had worked through the night. Each toy had a heart with their name on it and a book of coupons with special things to do for someone else.
The ongoing water shortage has also begun to affect the toys. Sally had to be reminded numerous times not to leave the water running while she washes her hands or brushes her teeth. Large posters have been placed all around the garage reminding everyone to be waterwise. Emily has been most concerned about the birds and has persuaded Martha Mouse to use some of the water she’s saved for them and the smaller animals.
It seems at last the rain dance Sally and Timothy insisted the toys do has paid off and everyone was delighted to discover the pitter-patter of soft rain on the tin roof when they awoke. It’s as if nature took a paint brush and dipped it in green, changing the landscape.
The toys almost completely forgot about Mother’s Day but were saved when Confident Charlie showed them the beautiful new recycled glasses case he had patiently repainted. Because of the focus on the water shortages and finding ways to save water they had all but forgotten about Mother’s Day and Earth Day. To make up for it they decided to let Martha sleep for as long as she wanted, they would make as many cups of tea as she was able to drink and they would all (without mumbling or grumbling) dust and repack the shelves. As the thunderstorm crashed noisily outside Martha breathed a sigh of relief when she realised all the books were safe and quietly reminded herself to thank Confident Charlie for his insistence on cleaning the roof gutters when they heard the first rain forecast.
Africa Day was spent exploring the African continent, learning about the different languages spoken in the continent and all the toys, except Grandpa Ben of course, were surprised that English wasn’t the only language spoken. They learnt that South Africa was surrounded by more than one country. Timid Timothy commented that if he were ever brave enough to venture beyond the garage he thought would quite like to see the ocean and dip his paws and possibly dip his shell in the water. He just can’t remember which ocean is the warmer one. He thinks it starts with an I.
With the recent rain, there has been an unexpected influx of unwelcome guests that have made their home in Never-ending Stories. They are small and slimy with hard shells and if you are not careful you can crush them with your feet. The only toy not perturbed by them is Timid Timothy. They were discovered quite by accident when the toys noticed the garden drain was blocked, and after much discussion and teamwork the drain cover was dislodged. The visitors who then came inside and made themselves rather comfortable was a group of snails.
Grandpa Ben was on his way to visit the toys when his train stopped abruptly. He looked out the carriage window to see that part of the train line was missing. The loudspeaker crackled and all the passengers aboard were instructed to leave and look for alternative means of transport. Everyone grumbled and squished out of the double sliding doors bumping poor Grandpa Ben in the stomach. Grandpa Ben had only ever travelled by train to the toys and was a little apprehensive about how to catch a taxi so he looked around for a friendly face who would explain to him what to do…
Grandpa Ben was delighted with all the efforts the toys had made in his absence and said that the crossword would come in most useful on his return journey. He admitted he had been a little nervous but he had been very lucky to meet a friendly passenger named Bethany. She explained how the taxi system worked, how you paid, how much the fair was and what all the hand signals meant. He said now that he knew a little more about them he wouldn’t be so fearful of getting into one the next time he got stuck without a train ride. But if he had a choice he preferred the train.
With all the silliness Funny Fran had brought along there was a bit of an accident. Eager Emily and Timid Timothy mixed two paints up and created orange. Eager Emily’s tail swished back and forth as she laughed hysterically at Grandpa Ben’s impression of running up a hill and the paint spread over the paper turning it orange. Their friend Helen the Aware Bear couldn’t visit the toys this year as she had special visits to make, so Martha Mouse made sure that each toy remembered to wear their green ribbon. She also made a list of ways that they could help Helen the next time she visited.
The toys were sound asleep in the garage when Confident Charlie was first alerted to an odd noise on the roof and a sort of scratching. Slowly and quietly he tip-pawed off the top shelf of the bookcase and made his way to Martha Mouse, who had heard the sound too, and was just putting on her glasses just as he reached the shelf where she slept. Together they made their way towards the sound, only this time they heard a crash and two voices which they didn’t recognize trying unsuccessfully hard to whisper, “Oh bother”. Led by Confident Charlie the two headed towards the sound to investigate. Upon opening the door, they found two figures in the middle of an argument. “No sir, I insist. It’s your fault.” “No, it can’t be mine. If you had only looked up.” They turned as the door opened in mid-sentence to find Martha Mouse and Confident Charlie staring at them. At the door were Norman, Martha Mouse’s nephew, and Sally’s friend, Oliver Owl staring back at them. “Well hello Aunty M,” began Norman…
Slowly the story of how Norman had come to be at the door revealed itself. Martha Mouse was nothing if not annoyed with Norman at first and insisted that he telephone his mother at once and let her know that he was safe and sound. Knowing her sister the way that she did, Martha knew that Mildred would be beside herself with worry. While Martha Mouse and Confident Charlie sympathized with Norman when he told them how his mother wouldn’t let him stay up as late as all his friends, and in anger he had left home, they were still angry with him for the way he went about dealing with his feelings. All the younger toys were also sympathetic as they weren’t allowed to stay up late either. Norman admitted he hadn’t intended to run away but he just hadn’t known how to say he was sorry so decided to come to Never-ending Stories instead. That said, he still felt he was old enough to stay up later.
While everyone was happy to have Naughty Norman and Oliver Owl stay for a while it became a little awkward when the toys started noticing that Naughty Norman was a little more wasteful than they were used to. With the severe drought and water being so precious each toy was trying to do their bit to save as much as possible. Martha Mouse became increasingly angry with her nephew as she saw him wasting water each morning when he left the tap open. But it was Timid Timothy who finally lost his temper.
After a while Norman started to miss home and his mom. He didn’t like that he couldn’t do what he wanted, and it was very annoying to switch the water off every time he didn’t need to use it. One morning, when the toys awoke, they found a note from Norman saying he was sorry, but he was going home, and he’d write when he had arrived safely. All the toys heaved a sigh of relief because, while they had enjoyed having Norman as a visitor, it had been stressful to always share and make sure he was following the rules of the bookshelf and respecting others.
Then it was all too soon for Oliver Owl to say goodbye. Each toy’s heart felt heavy as they watched their feathered friend prepare to leave. They would miss the animal whose feathers shed everywhere and who only came alive at night when others were trying to sleep. The extra pair of paws or, in his case talons, would be missed. Especially when it came to hauling heavy buckets of water from the kitchen and bathroom into the garden. However, unlike Norman, he didn’t leave without saying goodbye. Instead he left the toys with a surprise but said they’d have to wait until nightfall to see what it was. Then he turned his head and winked before flying from the window ledge.
That evening, as Martha Mouse and Sally Scribbler got ready to lift the heavy buckets and water the garden they noticed that each bucket they were using had a set of wheels attached to the bottom making it easier move about. Martha Mouse and Confident Charlie locked the doors and switched off the lights for the night, they were both taken by surprise as the ceiling of Never-ending Stories lit up with dozens of fairy lights. They both felt a little guilty as there had often been times during Oliver Owls stay when they had grumbled at the noise he’d made. Now they discovered what he’d really been up to and it was a wonderful surprise.
Timid Timothy was in a deep sleep when he felt like he was floating. He was getting rather annoyed with Eager Emily because she kept tapping on his shell, and what was she tapping him with as he was getting wetter and wetter? He was going to have words with her, but as he woke up from his sleep he realised he really was floating…
As calmly as he was able, Timid Timothy alerted the other toys that Never-ending Stories was flooding. Every toy scampered into action and together began to work as a team and rescue everything that was of value. They formed a line and worked tirelessly through the night. The most important items of course were their books. By morning they were exhausted and Never-ending Stories was in a disarray as piles of books, dusters, chalkboards, paints, bedding and shelves were scattered everywhere. Confident Charlie and Eager Emily climbed onto the roof and inspected where the leaks could have come from only to find that there weren’t any. It was Sally Scribbler who noticed first how wet the entrance was and they decided that this was where the leak may have come from.
It was Sally who first heard the dripping sound like a tap not closed properly. It took a bit of playing ‘hot and cold’ to realise that the sound was coming from the drainpipe that ran along the roof of the garage out into the road. It turned out that the flooding had come from under the garage floor. A bit of investigating showed that the strong winds they had had lately had caused the drains to become rather blocked. Working together as a unit the toys managed to clear the drains of the twigs and leaves. To be on the safe side they filled plastic bags with soil and laid them against the entrance. Eager Emily used an old piece of wood and created a funnel to side-track the water, so it could escape outside. Between them Confident Charlie and Eager Emily took it upon themselves to be on the lookout for heavy rains and Sally Scribbler volunteered to climb up the ladder and clear the drainpipes more regularly. She liked a bit of danger, she said. After everything was cleared the toys waited to see if their efforts had worked. Only time would tell.
With Spring settled in the toys decided one Monday afternoon to have a picnic under the pine trees. They packed their favourite red and pink rectangle blankets. Sally Scribbler and Eager Emily worked together to make cheese and jam and ham and cheese sandwiches. Martha Mouse packed some orange juice and made sure to include a packet of biscuits. She almost forgot the cups. The toys were about to begin eating when they heard a humming sound. They looked at each other, behind them and then above. They saw a swarm of bees gathering above their heads……
No one wanted to be stung by a swarm of bees. Everyone froze. The picnic continued in the back garden only this time under the purple umbrella. As the toys sat lazily enjoying the sun, they each shared what their highlight had been for the year. Martha Mouse, without a doubt, thought the fairy lights left by Oliver Owl were hers; Sally Scribbler’s was realizing where the leak had come from, and being proud of herself for noticing; Confident Charlie thought Africa Day was his best and that next year he may even be adventurous and try African food. Everyone agreed that Naughty Norman’s unexpected stay had been an adventure, but Eager Emily hoped he wasn’t fighting with his mom again. Martha Mouse shook her head and shook her whiskers as she only hoped that were true. The picnic lasted late into the afternoon as the toys jabbered away, knowing that there were more lazy summer afternoons to look forward to. Whatever the summer months held for them, they knew the most important thing was their friendships with each other.
Audio story read by Bill Knight
1. The toys of the Never-Ending Stories bookshelf are good friends. Why do you think they are good friends?
2. What kinds of things do good friends do for one another?