One of the most exciting things on the last day of school – but for going out for eat-as-much-as-you-want and customize-your-own ice cream – was getting a book prize. The book was the school reward for good results and especially in the early grades most of the kids in the class would get one. I distinguishably remember sitting at my desk at the back of the classroom on the last day of school in my second grade and seeing the teacher coming in with a huge pile of books. Some of the books were thin, some the books were thick, some had a big title on their spine. And then, there was this one book that caught my eye – colourful, bright, vivid with the characters literally jumping out of the book and inviting you to join them and share the adventures. I crossed my fingers and toes and wished with all my heart for this book. The teacher opened each book, checked and called out the name written on the congratulations note on the front page. Kids came up to her desk and collected their books with a bashful bow and a muttered “thank-you”. The pile of books was getting smaller yet my book was still there. Luring and enchanting. I kept craving. The tension was soaring. For the 8-year-old me it was the paramount of the whole school year. The teacher opened the book and called out my name. Utter happiness. I felt like dashing to the teacher desk but composed myself and walked down with uncertain grace to grab the book. My precious.
The book told the crazy adventures of the people of the island of Umplee-Tumplee. Of Ala, the kind witch, and Zoozoo, the ultimate urchin. Of Big Purple Bird and friendly Dido Monster. Of Something-That-Is-Not-There. 25 adventures in 25 chapters. I read a chapter a day and it all started with the story of a flying octopus.
The following story is my translation from the book Latająca Ośmiornica by M.Stecewicz and L. Korn.
The Flying Octopus
On the southern coast of the Umplee-Tumplee Island, in the Volcanic Bay, there lived a giant, orange octopus. She comfortably dwelled on the seabed cosied up with seaweed and got on well with all her underwater neighbours: fish, crabs and turtles as well as ducks and swans swimming on the surface. The waters surrounding the Umplee-Tumplee Island were warm and calm all year round, so the octopus needed no clothes to cover up and keep her from the cold.
One summer though, the water in the Volcanic Bay was hotter than usual at this time of year. Actually, extremely hot. And it got hotter and hotter every day until one day the whole bay started to bubble and steam just like a huge pot on fire. The octopus was roasting but because she was wearing no clothes she had nothing to take off. She started to sweat heavily. She saw the birds flying carelessly high in the sky and thought with envy that they were neither too hot not too warm but just right.
“Aww,” sighed the octopus, “I wish I was a bird. I wish I was flying!”
No sooner did she say that than she flew up in the air. Very high and very fast.
“It’s going to be a good day, ” she thought, “My wishes come true this morning.”
Somehow she didn’t notice that, right next to her, rocks and ashes were zooming in the air as well and that it was the underwater volcano that caused all that. First, it heated up the water in the bay and then exploded and thrust everything that there was into the air. And the octopus paid no attention to the Mocking Birds poking fun at her and shouting, “A flying stocking. Look out! A flying stocking!”
The octopus was flying high above and the more she was flying the more she was enjoying herself. It is scary to think what would have happened to her if she had landed somewhere else but luckily she fell on a flock of ducks that brought her safely back to the water. And then she gave her lifesavers a big octopus hug.
Hope you are feeling summery already.