"This is the title of the story," she said at last. "'How Gooney Bird Got Her Name.'"

"Just like How the Leopard Got His Spots," Barry Tuckerman said in a loud whisper.


"Barry, pay attention, please," Gooney Bird said. "I like to have absolutely all eyes on me." Then, when the class was silent, and all eyes, except those of Felicia Ann, who always looked at the floor, were on her, she began.

How Gooney Bird Got Her Name

Once upon a time, eight years ago, a man and a woman named Mr. and Mrs. Greene—that's Greene with a silent 'e' at the end—discovered that they were expecting a baby girl.

The man's name was Gordon Greene. His wife was Barbara Greene.

They decided to name their baby girl with their initials. G for Gordon, B for Barbara.

They thought of many different names.

"Gail Beth," said Mrs. Greene. She liked short names.

"Gwendolyn Belinda," said Mr. Greene. He liked long names.

They discussed and discussed. They never argued or fought. But they had many discussions.

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Once, in the middle of the night, Mrs. Greene woke up. She had had a dream about a name. She nudged Mr. Greene until he woke up a little bit. Then she said, "Georgina Babette."

"No," he said, and went back to sleep.

One night Mr. Greene woke up, nudged his wife, and told her that he had had a dream. "Gazpacho Banana," he said.

"That was a nightmare you had," his wife said. He agreed. They both went back to sleep.

Finally, because they could not make up their minds about a name, they decided that they would wait until the baby girl was born. Then they would look at the baby and somehow they would know that her name should be Grace Bridget, or Gloria Bonnie, or some other name.

They waited and waited for the baby's birth. It takes many months, as you know.

Gooney Bird paused in her story. She could see that many of the children wanted to wave their hands in the air and say things.

"Class?" she said. "Any comments so far? Any questions?"

"We have nine minutes left," Mrs. Pidgeon reminded them, "before arithmetic."

Keiko asked in a small voice, "Did he really say Gazpacho Banana?"

"Yes, he did," Gooney Bird said. "I tell only absolutely true stories."

Barry Tuckerman stood up beside his desk. "I was named a B name for my grandfather," he said. "My grandfather's name was Benjamin."

"That's my name!" Ben called out.

"My grandfather was in college when my grandmother went to jail," Barry added, "or he would have gone with her."

Tricia raised her hand. "My cat's name is Fluffernutter," she said.

"Four more minutes!" Mrs. Pidgeon announced. "Let's let Gooney Bird get back to her story so that we can hear the ending.

"Did you notice, class," she added, "how she uses characters and dialogue? And her story is full of suspense. It's a cliffhanger, isn't it? What a good storyteller Gooney Bird is!"

"Ready?" Gooney Bird asked.

"Ready!" shouted the class, all but Felicia Ann, who never shouted.

"Okay. Here comes the ending."

Finally, one spring morning, the baby girl was born. She weighed six pounds and fourteen ounces. She had red hair.

"Look!" said her mother. "She wiggles her head around, looking for food when she's hungry. Isn't that cute! It reminds me of something, but I forget what."

Her father peered down at the new baby in his wife's arms. He smiled. "She has very big feet! Isn't that cute! It reminds me of something, but I forget what."

Mr. and Mrs. Greene looked at their sweet baby. They thought and thought.

"It's coming back to me," Mr. Greene said at last. "Do you remember when we went on that bird-watching trip to various islands in the Pacific Ocean, and we saw all kinds of marine birds?"

"That's it!" his wife said. "She looks very much like one of those birds. But which one?"

"Let's get our photograph album from that trip," Mr. Greene said.

Together they turned the pages of the album.

"Doubled-crested cormorant?" Mrs. Greene said. They looked down at the baby. No. She didn't look like a double-crested cormorant.

"Red-necked grebe?" Mr. Greene suggested. They looked at the baby again.

"She does have a red neck," Mr. Greene said.

"She does not!" said Mrs. Greene. "It's pink." They turned the pages some more. Suddenly they both said, "Oh!"

Very carefully they looked at the photograph. Then very carefully they looked at the baby.

"Big feet," Mr. Green said. "Just like our baby's."

"A head that bobs around," Mrs. Greene said. "Just like our baby's."

"That's the one," they agreed.

They read the label under the photograph. "Laysan Albatross," the label said.

"I don't think Laysan Albatross Greene is a very pretty name for a baby girl," Mrs. Greene said sadly. "It sounds too scientific."

"I agree," Mr. Greene said. "But look at the small print."

Together Mr. and Mrs. Greene read the words in the small print: OFTEN CALLED GOONEY BIRD.

"Gooney Bird Greene!" they said.

"I like the sound of it!" Mrs. Greene said. "And it has a G and a B."

"It does indeed," said Mr. Greene.

So they decided to name their new baby girl Gooney Bird Greene. Then everyone, including a doctor, a midwife, and a cleaning lady, hugged and kissed and did a Viennese waltz together.

The End

"What a lovely story!" Mrs. Pidgeon said. "And it gives us a chance do some science research. We will look up 'Laysan Albatross' in the encyclopedia. Thank you, Gooney Bird. You may take your seat now, and we'll turn to our arithmetic."

"Wait! Wait!" Beanie's hand was waving in the air.

"Yes, Beanie?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked. "What's wrong?"

"I want to hear about the diamond earrings, and the palace!"

"That's a different story," Gooney Bird said. She was walking back to her desk.

"Tell it! Tell it!" the children called.

Barry Tuckerman jumped up and stood beside his desk. "I want to hear how Gooney Bird came from China!" he said.

"I came on a flying carpet," Gooney Bird said. "But that's a different story, too." She adjusted her pink tutu and sat down.

"Tell it! Tell it!" the children called.

Mrs. Pidgeon laughed. "I'm sure Gooney Bird was just joking about the prince and the palace and the diamond earrings," she said, "and the flying carpet, too."

Gooney Bird had already opened her arithmetic book. She looked up in surprise. "No," she said. "I wasn't joking. I tell only absolutely true stories."

"Well," said Mrs. Pidgeon, "will you tell us another tomorrow?"

"Of course," Gooney Bird said.


On Friday, Gooney Bird was wearing Capri pants, a satin tank top, and a long string of pearls. Her red hair was twisted into one long braid, which was decorated with plastic flowers. There were flip-flops on her feet.

"You look beautiful," Keiko said to Gooney Bird in an admiring whisper.

"Yes, I know," Gooney Bird replied. "Thank you, Keiko." She walked to the front of the classroom when Mrs. Pidgeon told her it was time.

Malcolm was back in the classroom. He was at his desk, writing "I will never put anything in my nose" one hundred times on a piece of lined paper. The nurse had told him to do that. She said it would keep his hands busy.

"How come Gooney Bird gets to go stand in front of the class?" Malcolm asked.

"Shhhhh," everybody, except Felicia Ann, said to Malcolm. "Listen."

"Today," Gooney Bird said, "I have a very exciting story to tell you. In my story there is a long journey, a mystery, and a rescue."

Mrs. Pidgeon, seated at her desk, had begun correcting some spelling papers. She looked up. "Listen, second-graders," she said. "Hear the different things that Gooney Bird is putting into her story? That is what good storytellers do."

Gooney Bird listened patiently to the teacher. Then she stood up straight and did some breathing exercises. Finally she took a deep breath and looked at the class. "I am ready to begin," she said at last. "The title of the story for today will be 'How Gooney Bird Came from China on a Flying Carpet.'"

"Just like Aladdin," Barry Tuckerman said in a loud whisper.

"Barry, pay attention, please," Gooney Bird said. "I like to have absolutely all eyes on me." Then, when the class became silent—all except Felicia Ann, who had been silent all along—and almost all eyes, even Mrs. Pidgeon's, were on her, she began.

How Gooney Bird Came from China on a Flying Carpet

Once upon a time, just last month, Mr. and Mrs. Greene decided to take their little girl, Gooney Bird, and move away from the place where they had always lived.

They had always lived in China. But now Mr. Greene had a new job, and his new job was in Watertower.

"That's here!" Chelsea said aloud. "I live in Watertower!"

Gooney Bird stopped talking. She arranged her pearl necklace so that it was draped over one shoulder.

"Me too!" Tricia said.

"We all live in Watertower!" Ben pointed out. "That's why we go to the Watertower Elementary School."

"Class—" Mrs. Pidgeon warned.

"Mrs. Pidgeon," Gooney Bird said politely, "let me take care of this.

"Children," she said in a firm voice, "I cannot tell a story if I am constantly interrupted. There will be time for questions and comments. Please raise your hand if you want to say something. It's very distracting for me if you call out."

"Sorry," Tricia said.

"Sorry," Chelsea said.

"Sorry," Ben added.

The class waited. Gooney Bird looked at them all sternly. Then she did some breathing exercises and began again.

They had always lived in China. But now Mr. Greene had a new job, and his new job was in Watertower.

So they packed carefully. It took many days. First Mr. Greene had to pack forty-three sets of false teeth. Then Mrs. Greene had to pack her dancing shoes and her bathing suits. And Gooney Bird had to pack all of her belongings, which included a money collection.

Finally their furniture was loaded onto a moving van, and the Greene family waved goodbye as the moving van drove away from China and started its journey to Watertower.

Gooney Bird stopped. Every child in the classroom had a hand raised. And even Mrs. Pidgeon was waving her arm.

"I'll have an intermission now, for questions," Gooney Bird said. "Chelsea? Yours first."

"Why did Mr. Greene have forty-three pairs of false teeth?" Chelsea asked.

"The false teeth are not part of this story," Gooney Bird said. "Malcolm?"

Malcolm had looked up from his "I will not put anything in my nose" paper. His eyes were very wide. "Tell about the money collection!" he said.

"That's another story," Gooney Bird said. "Beanie?"

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