Penny the Puppy is trying to learn something very important in schoolhow to count. The only problem is that Penny keeps getting distracted. How is a puppy supposed to concentrate on her numbers when Misty Wood is so beautiful and interesting? With help from some new friends, Penny might just find a way!
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Penny the Puppy loved going to school. She loved playing with her friends. She loved her teacher, Miss Pammy. And she loved learning how to be a good little Pollen Puppy.
There was just one problem. The Fairy Animals of Misty Wood went to school outdoors. And on sunny spring mornings, there was no place in the world more glorious than Misty Wood.
There were flowers blooming all around, trees rustling in the breeze, and the sky was always a brilliant shade of sapphire blue. There were so many beautiful things to gaze at that it was hard for Penny to concentrate on her lessons!
Today, the young Pollen Puppies were having a lesson in Bluebell Glade. Penny looked around at the carpet of violet blossoms swaying in the warm breeze. She sniffed deeply as their sweet perfume wafted over her, blending with the fresh, earthy smell of Misty Wood. Mmm — it was lovely!
Penny closed her big chocolaty-brown eyes for a moment. She imagined herself rolling around and around in the flowers, until her golden fur was covered in their scent.
A gentle voice interrupted her daydream. "Didn't you get enough sleep last night, Penny?"
Penny's eyes flew open wide. Oops! Her teacher had caught her daydreaming again.
"N-no, miss," said Penny. "I mean, yes." She sighed dreamily and tried to explain. "It's just that the bluebells are so pretty and sweet smelling. I was wondering what it would be like to roll around in them."
"The bluebells are beautiful, Penny," Miss Pammy said kindly. "But today's lesson is very important, so please pay attention."
Then Miss Pammy turned back to the rest of the class. "As you know, all the fairy animals in Misty Wood have important jobs to do," she said. "We are Pollen Puppies, so we flick our tails to send pollen into the air. Can anyone tell me why?"
Penny's friend Perry, a perky little puppy with brown and white patches, flapped his sparkling wings frantically. "To make more flowers grow!" he answered.
Miss Pammy smiled. "That's correct, Perry."
Penny sighed. She wished she could be clever like Perry. He never seemed to get distracted.
"But it's important to flick only five flowers at a time," Miss Pammy said. "Otherwise you will fill the air with too much pollen." Gazing around at the eager puppies, she asked, "Does anyone know why we don't want too much pollen in the air?"
Once again, Perry knew the answer. He bounced up and down, wagging his tail furiously until Miss Pammy called on him. "Because it will make other fairy animals sneeze, miss!" he said.
Fluttering over to a cluster of bluebells, Miss Pammy showed the class what to do.
Everyone counted along as she wagged her fluffy tail over five stems of bluebells. Every time her tail swished over a flower, a little cloud of pollen floated into the air.
"Now it's your turn," Miss Pammy told the class. "I want you to spread out and practice counting to five."
Bluebell Glade was suddenly filled with a flurry of sparkling wings. They glittered like jewels in the sunlight as Pollen Puppies flew around, looking for a good spot to practice counting.
Penny landed softly among a cluster of bluebells. Nearby, Perry was already hard at work. His brown tail flicked back and forth over the flowers as he loudly counted to five.
Determined to show her teacher that she had been paying attention, Penny brushed her tail over one flower.
"ONE," she said loudly as a puff of pollen rose into the air.
"TWO," she said, carefully wagging her tail over another graceful stem of bluebells.
"THREE," she said, sweeping her tail over a third stem.
Penny took a deep breath, enjoying the delicious scent of the bluebells. Then she shook her head and forced herself to concentrate. She didn't want to make a mistake.
What comes after three? she asked herself.
As she tried to remember, Penny peered down at the delicate bluish-purple flower by her paws. With their curling petals, the dainty blossoms really did look like tiny bells.
Her ears pricked up with curiosity. Penny wondered what bluebells would sound like if they could make music. She was sure it would be a sweet, chiming sound. Suddenly, Penny imagined a tune played by hundreds of bluebells tinkling on the breeze.
The song was so lively that Penny couldn't resist dancing. Fluttering her glittering wings and swishing her tail back and forth to the rhythm, Penny danced around Bluebell Glade to the imaginary sound of a bluebell band.
"La, di-da, la-la," she sang happily, under her breath. "La-la-la —"
Suddenly, a very loud noise interrupted the music in Penny's head.
It was Chloe the Cobweb Kitten, flying back from her morning duty of decorating cobwebs with sparkling dewdrops. Her pretty eyes were streaming, and her pink nose twitched as she sneezed again and again.
Penny looked up in dismay. All around her was a huge cloud of pollen, drifting into the sky. She'd lost count of how many bluebells she was flicking!
"I'm so sorry!" Penny called to Chloe. But the Cobweb Kitten couldn't reply. She sneezed and spluttered as she tried to get away from the pollen.
Miss Pammy hurried over. "Penny! How many bluebells did you flick?"
Penny hung her head. "I'm not sure, miss. I counted to three, but then I started thinking about bluebells making music and ... er ... I lost count."
"It's lovely that you have such a big imagination, Penny." Miss Pammy sighed. "But being a Pollen Puppy is a very important job. And to do it properly, you need to be able to count."
"I'm sorry, miss," Penny said sadly, her eyes brimming with tears.
"Let's try again," her teacher said gently. "You said you flicked three bluebells. So if you flicked two more, how many bluebells would that make altogether?"
"Er ... four?" Penny guessed.
Miss Pammy shook her head sadly. "No, dear."
Perry bounded over. "The answer's five!" he barked.
As usual, Perry was right.
"I'm never going to be a good Pollen Puppy," Penny whimpered, her pink wings drooping.
Her teacher patted her with a soft paw. "Of course you will," she said. "You just need to concentrate harder on your schoolwork, and practice your counting. Can you try that for me?"
Penny's wings perked up again. "I will," she promised, nodding so hard that her ears flapped. "I'm going to learn how to count to five today, and by tomorrow I'll be perfect at it!"
Penny was determined to be a good Pollen Puppy and make Miss Pammy proud. She would learn how to count to five — even if it meant never daydreaming again!
Tea for Two
For the rest of the lesson, Penny listened carefully as her teacher explained how to tell when bluebells were ready to make pollen. Her attention didn't wander once, even when a nearby bird chirped a beautiful song. Nor when she saw a pretty blue beetle scuttle by, so shiny that it looked like a precious gem.
Before long, Miss Pammy announced that it was time to go home. The frisky Pollen Puppies yipped joyfully and frolicked around Bluebell Glade.
"Remember," Miss Pammy called after the playful puppies, "only five flowers at a time!"
Perry dashed over to Penny. "We're going to play sliding down the rainbow," he said, wagging his tail excitedly. "Want to come?"
"I can't," Penny answered reluctantly. "I need to learn how to count."
Penny loved sliding down the rainbow with her friends. It was one of her favorite things to do. But she had promised Miss Pammy that she would practice counting.
"You can count the colors of the rainbow," Perry suggested. He pointed a paw at the enormous rainbow that shone in the sky above Misty Wood. "It's easy — there are seven colors." Then Perry rattled them off. "Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet!"
Penny tried to count the beautiful bands of color sparkling in the sunlight. "One ... two ... three," she counted slowly.
But before she'd even counted half the colors, she was picturing herself whooshing down the rainbow at top speed.
"I'm sorry, Perry," she said sadly. "Rainbows are just too much fun. I need to find something really boring to count."
"Okay," Perry said. "Good luck!" Waving good-bye with his paw, he flew into the air and caught up with a group of Pollen Puppies heading toward the rainbow slide.
Penny heaved a sigh. She wished she could join her friends. But she wished even more that she could be a good Pollen Puppy — and to do that, she needed to know how to count to five.
Fluttering her wings, Penny rose into the sky. Below her, Misty Wood spread out in a sea of color. Beyond the violet carpet of Bluebell Glade, Dandelion Dell glowed with hundreds of golden dandelions bobbing in the sunshine.
The silvery waters of Moonshine Pond sparkled invitingly and Honeydew Meadow was a vibrant emerald green, dotted with white daisies. In the very heart of Misty Wood was a cluster of ancient trees. Penny decided to head there first.
* * *
Penny landed in a clearing surrounded by mighty oak trees. Their glossy green leaves rustled in the breeze. She thought it sounded like they were whispering. What secrets could the oak trees be telling one another? she wondered.
Maybe they're talking about the secret to becoming so tall, she thought, smiling, or how to grow so many leaves.
But then she caught herself starting to daydream and shook her head sternly. Focus, Penny!
Penny put her little nose to the ground and started sniffing. She padded around the clearing, looking for something boring to count. It wasn't easy, as everything in Misty Wood was so interesting!
At the base of a tall tree with a gnarled trunk, Penny found a hollow lined with soft moss. She felt around inside it with her paw and discovered a stash of acorns.
Acorns aren't very interesting, thought Penny. They're perfect for practicing counting.
Taking a deep breath, Penny began to count. She picked the acorns up one at a time and carefully lined them in a row. "One ... two ..."
But when Penny picked up the third acorn, its cap fell off. Holding the little cap in her paw, Penny peered at it closely.
It looks like a hat made for a teeny tiny elf, she thought with a giggle. She turned it over. Now it looked like a dainty little cup.
Penny suddenly imagined herself at a tea party. All the guests were fairy animals, looking their very best! Their wings glittered, their fur gleamed, and beautiful flower garlands sparkled around their necks.
"Do have some rosehip tea, dear," Penny said, pretending to be a host offering tea to her guests.
"Why, thank you," Penny replied in her poshest voice. "How kind of you to offer, Madame Rosehip Blossom." She lifted the tiny acorn cap to her mouth and pretended to sip from it. She could practically taste the sweet rosehip tea.
"My name isn't Madame Rosehip Blossom," someone said crossly, making Penny jump. "And I didn't offer you my acorns."
Penny swirled around and saw a Stardust Squirrel staring at her suspiciously.
"Oh, no, I wasn't eating your acorns," Penny explained. "I was just pretending to drink from them." She showed him the acorn cap. "See? It looks like a cute little cup."
The Stardust Squirrel squinted at the acorn cap. "Oh. They do look like little cups!" He smiled at Penny. "My name's Sammy, by the way."
"I'm Penny. Do you want to have a fairy tea party with me?" Penny asked her new friend. Sammy nodded eagerly.
"That can be our table," Penny said, pointing to an old tree stump. "Let's make it look pretty enough for a fairy party!"
Sammy set the tree stump table with acorn caps. Penny picked a small bunch of violets and arranged them in the middle.
"It looks lovely," Penny said happily.
"Wait, something's missing," Sammy said. He twirled around, giving his tail a shake, and suddenly the whole table was sparkling. The Stardust Squirrels' special job was to sprinkle Misty Wood with stardust from their big bushy tails. Now the clearing looked even more beautiful!
"I'll be Madame Rosehip Blossom," Penny said, picking up a twig and pretending it was a magic wand. "Can I offer you some delicious rosehip tea?"
Sammy giggled. "If it's all right with you, Madame Rosehip Blossom, I'd rather eat the acorns!"
So Sammy munched on acorns, while Penny sipped cup after cup of pretend rosehip tea.
"What lovely weather we've been having," Penny said, glancing at the sunlight streaming through the branches overhead. She hoped this was the sort of thing you talked about at tea parties.
Sammy just nodded. His cheeks were too full of nuts to speak!
Suddenly, a voice from up in a tree called out, "Sammy! Where are you?"
Sammy sprang to his feet. "Oh no! My mom told me to bring five acorns home for lunch. I've got to go! It's been really fun playing with you, Penny — let's play again soon."
Sammy waved good-bye to Penny, and then quickly gathered up five acorns. He scampered up a nearby tree, leaving a trail of shimmering stardust behind him.
When Penny heard Sammy say five, she suddenly remembered what she'd come into the woods to do.
"Oh, dear," she said, looking around the clearing. She was supposed to be practicing counting — not having a fairy tea party with a new friend! Who knew that acorns were so interesting?
The warm sun was shining high above Misty Wood, so there was still plenty of time to find something else to count. Something really boring, that wouldn't make her want to daydream or play. Penny just needed to find it!
Penny fluttered her wings and flew high into the air. As she left the trees behind, her big brown eyes scanned the ground, searching for something to count.
Far below, Honeydew Meadow rippled in the breeze like a sea of green. But what were all those little white spots?
Penny let out a yelp of excitement. Daisies! There were lots and lots of them, so they'd be just right for counting practice.
She landed in the meadow and bounded around, picking daisies until she had a big bunch.
Right, she thought firmly. This time I won't let anything distract me!
"One," she said, picking up a daisy and setting it aside. "Two," she counted, carefully placing a second daisy next to the first one. "Three," she said, putting another flower in the row.
I'm counting! Penny thought proudly. She stopped for a moment to admire how pretty the flowers looked, lined up in a row.
Penny thought that the daisies' snowy-white petals looked like little crowns around their yellow heads. And that gave Penny a brilliant idea. Daisies weren't just good for counting — they were also perfect for making crowns!
Penny picked up two daisies and wove their delicate stems together. Then she added another, and another, until she had a long chain of daisies. She joined the two ends together to make a circle and placed the crown on top of her head.
Penny stood on her hind legs and pranced around the meadow. "I am Princess Penny, ruler of Honeydew Meadow!" she barked at the flowers around her. "I am in charge of everyone, and you all have to do whatever I say!"
"Oh, no, I don't," said a soft voice.
Startled, Penny dropped down on all fours and spun around to see a silvery Bud Bunny. The bunny's soft whiskers trembled as she stared at Penny.
"Oh, hello," Penny said, hoping she hadn't upset the bunny. "I'm Penny. I was just playing at being a princess. I was trying to boss around the daisies, not you!"
The Bud Bunny giggled, making her fluffy tail shake. "Phew!" she said. "Can I play, too?"
Penny wagged her tail in delight. Games were always much more fun if you had a friend to play with. "Of course! What's your name?" she asked the Bud Bunny.
"Bella," the bunny replied.
"Come on, then, Princess Bella," Penny said. "We need to make you a crown!"
Penny and Bella dashed around the meadow, picking more daisies.
Whenever they came across a flower that hadn't opened yet, Bella nudged the bud with her velvety nose and the petals unfurled as if by magic.
It was the Bud Bunnies' job to make flowers blossom, and Penny loved watching it happen.
When they'd gathered big bunches of daisies, Penny and Bella sat down in the sunshine and wove the stems together with their paws. But they didn't stop when they'd finished making Bella's crown. They made daisy collars for each other, too, and pretty daisy cuffs to go around their paws.
Penny thought that she and her new friend looked very grand. "Let's have a princess parade!" she exclaimed.
"Good idea," cried Bella. "We can greet all of our loyal subjects!"
Penny scampered across the meadow, with Bella hopping along behind her. The two princesses waved to a pair of bright orange butterflies that were flitting from flower to flower.
"Good day, beautiful butterflies," Princess Penny shouted in her grandest voice.
"Oh, you sound very royal," Bella whispered, giggling.
They waved to a Dream Deer grazing on the meadow, and a snail inching up a blade of grass.
"Greetings, loyal subjects of Honeydew Kingdom," Penny called, while Princess Bella nodded regally to everyone they passed.
They waved to the bees buzzing back to their hive, to the robins building a nest, and to a spider busy spinning a web.
After parading around the whole meadow, Penny and Bella were tired. "These can be our thrones!" Penny panted, flopping down onto a big rock. Bella sat on a rock next to Penny's.
Perched on their rock thrones, the two pretend princesses looked out over the meadow.
Excerpted from "Penny the Puppy"
Copyright © 2015 Houthouse Fiction Ltd..
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter One School Bells,
Chapter Two Tea for Two,
Chapter Three Princess Penny,
Chapter Four Smooth Sailing,
Chapter Five Sweet Dreams,
Chapter Six Five New Friends,
Other Books in the Fairy Animals,
About the Author,