Our final Ten Word Tale by the Story Spinner - #10 - All the Difference
A story inspired by 10 words chosen by Fatima, Fahimah and Surrya Bajwa.
Spot the 10 words - mound, cartwheel, delightful, bookshop, deck, island, haunted, majestic, sprinting, crisp-pastry-parcel - and enjoy the story!
At half past five Miss May shut up the bookshop, The Bookworm. She switched off the lights above the bookshelves, picked up a book to be posted to Mr Walker and locked the door.
As Miss May walked home she passed the teashop, The Teaspoon, which stayed open until six, in case people needed to buy cakes or biscuits on the way home. “Goodnight Miss May,” shouted Nicki and Vicki who ran the shop. Vicki ran out and gave Miss May a little paper bag containing a gingerbread man, something she did every day. “Goodnight girls,” called Miss May. “Thank you.” She dropped the parcel in the postbox.
Next she passed the huge bright doors of the hotel, The Majestic. Inside a thousand lights burned in a hundred chandeliers; the guests of the hotel ate and slept in soft pillowy comfort in soft pillowy beds and ate lovely food in the dining room. “Goodnight Miss May,” called Mr Clare, the hotel manager, waving through the window of his office. “See you tomorrow!”
Two roads and a twisty lane later, Miss May came to her own little house. She made macaroni cheese and put it in the oven and poured a cup of tea. She read her post, leaving a large blue envelope till the last. On the outside were the words The Booksellers Association.
“But I don’t belong to The Booksellers Association,” said Miss May, opening the envelope curiously. Inside was a white card with gold edges. “Congratulations,” it said. “You are a finalist in The Best Bookshop Award and are invited to the celebration dinner.”
Miss May was so surprised she felt quite faint: she took a steadying sip from her tea and bit off the head of the little gingerbread man. A finalist!
All through the night and the next morning, Miss May was haunted by the word Finalist. How had that happened? How could she be a finalist in a competition she did not know she had entered? As she passed The Teaspoon, she popped in to tell Nicki and Vicki all about it. They hugged her and congratulated her. “We’re not surprised,” said Nicki. “We wouldn’t be running this shop if it wasn’t for you.”
“Whatever do you mean?” asked Miss May, shocked.
“When we were younger and came into The Bookworm, you always tried to find books we would like. You knew we loved baking and suggested books with recipes and then lives of chefs and stories about restaurants. You understood what would make us love reading and love baking! Someone like us must have told the judges all about you.”
Miss May wondered, Who? She spent the day as usual in the shop, chatting to parents and children, suggesting books, selling books, packing the next book for sending to Mr Walker. On the way home she waved to Nicki and Vicki, and received her usual biscuit.
She looked up at Mr Clare’s window when she heard his voice calling her name. He came sprinting through the doors of the Majestic. “The girls told me about the Award!” he said, hugging her enthusiastically. “The celebration dinner is being held at the hotel. I’m so excited. I’m sure you’ll win. I would never have opened this hotel if it wasn’t for you and the bookshop.”
Miss May was shocked again. “Why? What did I do?”
“When I was about 11 my mum brought me into the shop and asked you for help because I didn’t like reading. First of all, you didn’t talk to my mum as if I wasn’t there. That’s always the sign of a good grown-up. You didn’t push me to buy a book about trains or football or spies or magic. You just talked to me. You asked what interested me and you told me to come back the next day. You had really thought about all I told you. You suggested exciting books of adventure, but not long ones, and there were true books and I liked those, with facts and information.”
“How did that make you a hotel-opener?”
“Firstly you made me comfortable. You thought about what I needed. It’s a wonderful feeling. That’s what a good hotel does. You gave me a variety of things to try, and some of those books taught me about planning and hoping. That was very useful. After that, I often came to the Worm or went to the library when I needed a book to help me.”
“That’s what we all called it at school. We loved it. We thought it was funny. Children are very fond of worms remember. Now it’s been delightful to chat but I have to dash. See you at the banquet.”
Miss May went home all of a flutter, remembering to post Mr Walker’s parcel. She was feeling a little afraid now: ‘banquet’ sounded so grand. Nicki, Vicki and Mr Clare insisted they had not put her name forward for the Award so the mystery remained. Who had?
Over the days before the Best Bookshop Award lots of people told Miss May they hoped she would win, even a friend who worked at the Big Book Bonanza, which was a large bookshop in the neighbouring town, and also a finalist. Every time someone said 'Thank you. You really helped me love reading' Miss May felt happy but mystified.
She was happy, not because they were paying her compliments, though that’s always nice, but because they told her so many stories of books they loved or books that helped them or books that gave them ideas. She was mystified because she still did not know what secret friend had suggested The Bookworm and given her name.
Mr Clare kept on telling her details of the banquet. Each course sounded delicious but the dessert choices sounded best of all, a crisp pastry parcel filled with apricots, ginger, orange and almonds, or a mound of strawberries, including tiny wild strawberries (Mr Clare’s favourite), all served with cream. It sounded amazing.
On the day of the celebration dinner, Miss May carried on as normal, to keep herself calm. When she shut up the shop she felt a bit trembly. Nicki and Vicki gave her hugs, two gingerbread men (for courage) and said they would see her later. They were going to be her guests. She dropped the usual parcel into the postbox. At home she had a bath, a cup of tea and one of the gingerbread men; she climbed into her silky dress, added a silver necklace and set off to the Majestic.
Between courses there were speeches about books, speeches by authors, speeches by publishers and bookshop owners. At last it was time for the Award. Each finalist had a recommender except Miss May. The chairman, Mr Chesterfield, stood up. “This is unusual but our last speech recommending a Bookshop and Bookseller is not here in person because he lives on a South Sea Island in, well, the South Seas, but he is with us tonight on Zoom ...”
“Welcome Mr Walker!”
There was quiet in the room as Mr Walker’s face zoomed into the room via Zoom. He was an old gentleman with grey-white hair, sitting on a red and white striped deck-chair, waving.
“Greetings to you all tonight. I am far away on an island called Waihiki, where I have lived since I was ten. This is the story of me and the Bookworm. I have had many adventures, some happy and some sad. After a sad one I came back to England to visit some friends who live near The Bookworm.
One day I went inside and started to talk to Miss May about books. She told me how stories could change everything, introduce you to new worlds, teach you about other people, how information in books could even save a life. She told me little stories about her own favourite books. I did not tell her I was feeling sad but when she had finished I felt better. The next day I went home. Every day since that day I have ordered a book from her so she will recognise my name and my address. She does not know what I have done with those books. I am going to show you.”
He disappeared for a minute, the camera twisted up and down and there were whisperings; then the camera turned right round and everyone could see an amazing sight. There was a wide white beach with crashing blue waves in the background. There was a long wooden hut and a sign saying LIBRARY. In front of the hut were children holding books and a few grown-ups, in front of them were another group of children smiling and waving.
One child stood forward and said in a very serious voice, “Thank you Miss May for all our books. You have made a library on the beach of an island far faraway, Thank You.” The children seemed to explode, as they had been keeping still for a while. The ladies and gentlemen in the Majestic saw them leap and cartwheel and cheer. Mr Smith reappeared on camera. “I have recommended you Miss May because you understand books make all the difference and because you and your bookshop has made a difference on the other side of the world.”
Miss May, who had been feeling trembly for a while, felt very trembly indeed, but also happy, very happy indeed too.
The Majestic was full of the sound of its own cheering too. The chairman spoke into the microphone, “And for that reason you will not be surprised to know that Miss May who owns The Bookworm has won the award. She has made a difference to many far and wide but we don’t want her to ever be different. She’s perfect as she is.”
The cheering got louder. Miss May collected the award, a tiny golden book. “It isn’t me that’s makes the difference, it’s the books, but thank you,” she said. “Thank you. Thank you.”
© JSS forL2L2Read, June 2020
This is the tenth and final story in our series of Ten Word Tales, specially written for Learn to Love to Read during the Coronavirus lockdown of Spring 2020. We are hugely grateful to our amazing Story Spinner for her wonderful words and illustrations. We hope these stories will inspire children to learn to love to read!