Bess liked to do things like this. Surprise questions were one of the best ways to stretch out the time before going to bed. "I know what mine is," she added. "I'll tell you, but I want to know yours first." She gathered up the crayons and the drawing pad she had been coloring and waited for an answer.
"I'm not sure I have a favorite," her dad replied. "Blue is nice, but too much of it would be like too much cake. It would be dull. Each color is special in a different way. Speaking of special, Bess, you know that tomorrow is your special day. You'll be five years old. You'll need a good night's sleep because we have a lot to do."
Bess wondered how eating cake could ever be dull. "Well Dad," she said, "I have a favorite color. Do you want to know what it is?"
When he said yes, Bess replied proudly: "Red is my favorite. Red is used for valentines and at Christmas time, especially with gifts. Santa Claus is dressed in red, too."
"That's true, Bess," Dad agreed, as they both walked up the hall stairs to her room. Red is a pretty color, and I'm sure that a lot of people like it as much as you do."
Midway up the stairs, Bess changed her mind. "I like blue, too, Dad. Come to think of it, my favorite jammies are blue, the sky in the daytime is always blue, and my jeans are blue. Red is a nice color, but blue is my favorite."
She hopped in bed and Dad tucked her in. I'm glad, little princess, that you decided on a favorite. Sweet dreams and have a good rest," he said. "We have a big day, a very special day ahead of us tomorrow."
As her father kissed her good night, Bess looked down at the crayons scattered by her bed. Just before he turned out the light, she changed her mind again. "Guess what, Dad? Blue is not really my favorite color. Yellow is. I really mean it this time, no kidding. Good night."
When he left, Bess turned over on her stomach and propped her head on the pillow. Why should yellow be a favorite over red and blue? When she had glanced at the crayons before the light was turned off, all of them seemed so bright and pretty. This was getting confusing. Tomorrow she would have to make up her mind once and for all. What a day to look forward to; a birthday to celebrate, lots of gifts and cards to read, and this matter about the colors to decide.
Before falling asleep, her last thought was trying to guess what color her birthday cake would be. Finally, she turned over, pulled up the covers and her dream began.
It all started when Bess found herself sitting under a big maple tree, much like the one in her back yard, except this one was even bigger. She thought she heard something on the other side of the huge tree trunk and decided to crawl around and have a look. What she saw and heard was hard to believe!
| There, with his back toward her, was what appeared to
be a big white crayon, come to life. He was all dressed in white, with top
hat, bowtie and tails. Over one arm was a white walking cane, and he carried
a white rocking horse. In a very merry way, the crayon was reciting a poem
Whittle whoa, whipple wee,
"Thank you," replied the crayon, a little surprised at finding someone behind him, "But who are you?"
"I asked first."
"Very well," he agreed, "although I'm quite amazed you don't already know. I am the great and famous Master White, and I am on my way to the palace to offer my gift to the King for..."
"Palace, gift, King?"
"Don't you know child? Today is the Princess's fifth birthday and, in honor of that, a great contest has been created. Five of us will present a gift, BUT ONLY IN OUR OWN COLOR, for the King to decide. Personally, I don't see how any of the others stands a chance against me. Yet, I just know that Gentleman Red will be there and (as always) very loud and bossy. As for Mistress Blue, well..."
"To decide what?" asked Bess, thinking Master White to be very conceited. "And please don't call me 'child.' My name is Bess."
"To decide, Bess, which is BEST, of course! For the Princess, now that she is almost five, cannot make up her mind which color she prefers above the rest. What better way to settle it but in fair competition. Oh, to be chosen the favorite of the Princess. It thrills the pigment within me!
| "The poem you just heard," Master White continued, "is
what I will first tell the King. He must know why white is indeed best of
all colors. Then, he will hear a second poem about my excellent gift. It
will go like this..."
Inside her room
He proudly showed the rocking horse to Bess, who was really impressed. Master White may be conceited, but he sure made a case for himself. Besides, he did seem pretty friendly.
"Come along, Bess," he said with a twinkle. "We shall go to the palace together. It's not far away."
"May I come too?" asked a very gentle female voice, almost in a whisper.
They both turned, and again Bess was amazed to see another living crayon. This time it was a lady, with a blue dress, high button shoes and a frilly blue hat. Dainty and little, she came up to greet them carrying a dazzling blue chair.
"Why Mistress Blue," greeted Master White, "I was just talking about you a moment ago. Meet a new friend, Bess, who is coming to the palace to meet the King and the Princess." Bess shook hands with the little lady crayon, noticing the frown Master White gave the chair. The blue crayon, however, was just as happy to meet Bess as Bess was to meet her. With fluttering eyes, she said:
| How do you do?
I am Mistress Blue,
The color of bluebirds and blueberries,
The sea and the sky.
No other color
Will so please the eye.
Light blue is gentle.
Dark blue is strong.
There's so much to choose from,
One could never go wrong!
Take it from me, it's true---
The most beautiful color is blue.
"That was just so nice," Bess sighed.
"Not bad, not bad," growled Master White. "But come now," he followed, "you don't really think your blue chair can equal my white rocking horse! Why on this horse the Princess can pretend to great adventures, meet a prince, even..."
"Certainly your white rocking horse can do many things, Master White," replied Mistress Blue sweetly. "If you'll listen, you'll find that my gift too has much to offer."
|For a Princess, indeed,
There's no finer thing
Than to sit near her father
When he rules as King;
Or watch the flowers and animals
And birds so fair,
Seated in the garden
In her pretty blue chair.
Bess almost started to clap her hands, but decided not to since she didn't want to hurt Master White's feelings. She looked at the blue chair with the birds and flowers stenciled on it and then turned to the sparkling, shiny white rocking horse. How could a choice be made between these two wonderful gifts, let alone five! She was glad it was the king and not she who had to decide.
The three proceeded to the palace when up ahead a golden presence appeared. Getting closer, Bess could see that it was another crayon: a tall yellow one, dressed as a cowboy and carrying a lasso. He waved to Master White and Mistress Blue as if they were old friends. Seeing Bess, he kicked up his spurs, pulled off his ten-gallon hat and exclaimed:
| I'm Bronco Yellow,
The happiest fellow.
Life would be dull
If it weren't for me.
Ask Mr. Sun,
He'd surely agree.
Mine is the color
Of joy and play.
Mine is the color
That lights the day.
What is more golden, more mellow,
Than cheerful, wonderful yellow!
Bess knew at once that she liked Bronco Yellow just as much as Master White and Mistress Blue, especially since she had never met a real cowboy before. Still, when she looked at the lasso, shiny as gold, she wondered if it would be as good a gift for the Princess as the white rocking horse or the blue chair. As if he could read her mind, Bronco Yellow said:
Twirling a lasso
Bronco Yellow was so jolly and charming that even Master White couldn't resist smiling. They would still all remain friends despite the contest. So, the four headed on toward the palace and had just reached the drawbridge when, from opposite sides, they heard loud, urgent calls: "Wait for me!" "Hold it, I'm coming!" The voice from one side was a woman's, with a southern accent. The other was clearly a man's, rich and deep like an actor.
"Howdy-do Lady Green," welcomed Bronco Yellow. "So nice to meet you again Gentleman Red," added Mistress Blue. Master White introduced Bess to both newcomers.
Lady Green, a little out of breath from catching up, was the first to speak. Holding a green parasol, she was big and attractive, with a shiny green dress, high heels and emerald handbag. With a graceful bow, she began:
| Keen and serene,
That's me, Lady Green.
Can you guess the color
Of things that grow?
The plants and flowers
In the forest know.
Think of springtime and emeralds
And shade that is cool,
Then you'll know why
Green is Nature's tool.
Forever young, a delight to be seen;
So lovely always is the color green!
"I enjoyed it also," smiled Mistress Blue, shaking Lady Green's hand. "One of my favorite thoughts is:
No other sight is nicer to view
Than a field that is green
With a sky that is blue.
"Oh, enough of this!" shouted Master White. "Do you really believe that your parasol, and I'll admit it IS pretty, will bring as much joy to the Princess as my white rocking horse?"
"Or my beautiful blue chair?" hinted Mistress Blue.
"Or my golden lasso?" added Bronco Yellow, putting his hat back on.
Meanwhile, Bess could see Gentleman Red getting very fidgety. His face seemed to be getting more red by the second. He was just about to open his mouth, when Lady Green gave her answer to everyone.
| The Princess will need
Many times in the year,
This shield to protect her
When the weather's severe.
Or she can spin it in play
When taking a stroll.
How gorgeous she'll be
With her green parasol!
He was a short, stocky figure, sporting a derby hat, a fancy suit with rose in the lapel, and a big scarlet bowtie. With his deep voice and peppy manner, Bess guessed that he must be in show business. He certainly wasted no time with small talk.
| Who would choose yellow,
Except a dull fellow!
As for white,---
It's too light.
There's no steam.
Whoever picks blue
Has a head made of glue!
We want music and emotion,
Courage and devotion.
You heard what I said:
It's RED! RED! RED!
As if to make this statement more clear, the chains of the drawbridge gave a crashing bang, showing that it was now safe to cross. The time had come to enter the palace! But where was Gentleman Red's gift? Surely, he wouldn't come empty-handed.
In answer to this (and to keep the others from rushing in ahead of him), Gentleman Red held up one hand, and with the other pulled out from behind his back a little music box. Its happy, graceful tune made everybody feel cheerful. "So you see," he chuckled:
| The Princess will play
For many a year
My gift, so sparkling
And pleasing to hear.
Alone or with friends
A smile it will bring,
This red music box:
It will sing! It will sing!
When Gentleman Red completed his poem, they rushed over the drawbridge and into the palace. Along the way, Bess remembered hearing somewhere that all kings were supposed to be wise. She sure hoped this one was. For how else would he be able to pick out the best color gift over the others for the Princess? Anyway, what fun this adventure was!
|A court page took the group into a large, nearly empty room with two small windows that overlooked a garden. Right in the middle, seated on his throne, was the King himself. Beside him, his Wizard huddled on a stool. Bess already knew that every king had a wizard who was good at magic and gave expert advice. With long white hair, a big bony nose, a tall coned hat and black gown, this one looked just the way wizards were supposed to look. The King, however, has something very familiar about his face. Silly as it seemed, Bess felt certain she had seen him before.|
After each bowed, the crayons were called upon for their gifts. At first, the King was quite pleased. The presents, along with the poems that were recited, were greatly admired. Yet, by the time Gentleman Red concluded everything, it was apparent that the King was at his wits' end. Each gift was so perfect in its own color that it appeared impossible to pick the best. Making matters worse, the Wizard admitted to having no expert advice to offer.
Matters of magic
Are more in my keeping.
Matters of color
Turn me to weeping.
Something had to be done! The King stepped down from his throne and started pacing to and fro. The crayons began to get nervous. So, too, did Bess. Finally, forgetting who she was speaking to, she blurted out to the King:
"This is really silly. Would you like it if I picked one color out of a rainbow and washed the rest away? Well, that just about what all this amounts to! If the Princess is to have one BEST birthday gift, why couldn't it include all the colors instead of just one?"
"But we can't change the rules now," Gentleman Red frowned.
"Do you realize how many splinters I got making that rocking horse!" Master White complained.
"Probably almost as many as I did," Mistress Blue answered, dusting her chair.
|The bickering halted when the King, pointing to Bess, gave out a hearty roar: "This girl has given me an idea!" To the crayons' surprise, he took her and the Wizard to the throne, where they began talking in excited whispers. Try as they might, the crayons could only catch jumbled phrases, the clearest of which came from the Wizard: "Not quite as easy as turning a frog into a prince, but it should be no real problem."|
Rubbing his hands with glee, the King turned to the crayons. "Master White," he began, "I thank you for your rocking horse; a splendid gift. Mistress Blue, your chair is truly wonderful. You, Bronco Yellow, have brought the light of the sun into our palace with your lasso. As for your parasol, Lady Green, it is as refreshing as a spring breeze. Lastly, Gentleman Red, your music box is both a joy to hear and a marvel to see." Hearing all these compliments, the crayons wiggled a little and cast down their eyes to hide their shyness.
"Who could have expected that excellence would create such a problem? Bess was right. To pick one instead of all would be foolish. And we can't change the rules after everyone has tried so hard. That wouldn't be fair. But there is a way we can have one and yet still have all. To do this calls for cooperation.
"One and still all?" repeated Master White. "How can we have one gift that has a rocking horse?"
"And a chair?" seconded Mistress Blue.
"And a lasso?" added Bronco Yellow.
"Let alone a parasol?" Lady Green remarked.
"Not to mention a music box!" Gentleman Red concluded.
"With your help, it can and will be done," exclaimed the King, leading them to a place near one of the windows where they were bundled into a tight circle. All the gifts were then neatly placed in the middle. The Wizard brought his stool over, stood up on it and raised his hands as if about to cast a spell.
Meanwhile, the King, with Bess at his side and a broad smile on his face, urged the crayons to clasp hands and shut their eyes. In kingly fashion, he exclaimed:
| Hear me WHITE, YELLOW, BLUE;
You too RED and GREEN. All joined together,
Let us dream! Let us dream!
What has all colors?
How could it be found?
If you wish it, it can.
It's a... MERRY-GO-ROUND!
With the last words, the Wizard snapped his wrists and a sharp boom rang out with a big puff of smoke arising from the spot where the gifts had been placed. As the smoke gradually ebbed through the window, the crayons were astounded to find that with the help of the King's words and the Wizard's magic, a beautiful merry-go-round had been created.
They rushed up to take a closer look. There was the white rocking horse next to the blue chair. The green parasol was the top of the merry-go-round, and the red music box had now become the floor. And decorating everything was the golden lasso.
Master White gulped: "My horse never looked better than he does now, going round and round next to your pretty chair, Mistress Blue."
"Thank you, Master White," she replied. "You're so kind. And you, Gentleman Red, I don't think there ever was as delightful a tune as the one we hear now."
Upon hearing this, Gentleman Red blushed, taking the rose from his lapel and presenting it to Mistress Blue.
| For a minute or so, they stood and watched the merry-go-round
turn until someone (it must have been Bronco Yellow) peeked out the window
and saw the Princess sitting under the large maple tree in the garden.
"Let's give our present to the Princess now," they agreed. Master White, Bronco Yellow and Gentleman Red picked up the merry-go-round with surprising ease, and led by the King, headed for the door.
Her heart beating fast, Bess called after the crayons: "Wait for me!" She reached the door, shouting "I want to meet the Princess... the Princess... the Princess..." The words seemed to fade away as if traveling down a long hall, only to return again.
"Princess! You're my Princess, and it's your special day. Good morning Bess and happy birthday!" She opened her eyes, not sure if it was really her dad talking or another part of the adventure. There on the floor by her bed, a lot smaller than they had been only a little while ago, lay the white, blue, yellow, green and red crayons.
"Daddy!" she beamed, putting her arms around him, "I had the greatest dream. It was about these crayons, and they came to life because there was this big contest to decide the Princess's favorite color. And do you know what? There was a King in the dream, Dad, and he looked just like you. There was even a Wizard who did magic!"
"Tell me about it," he said eagerly. "How did they decide the Princess's favorite?"
"It turned out to be something that made ALL the crayons feel the best. You'll have to hear the whole story, Dad, for it to make sense," Bess added, taking another nodding glance at the five crayons by the bed.
"But first, you have to promise that today you'll take me for a ride...on a MERRY-GO-ROUND!"
About the author/illustrator:
The multi-talented Martin Siegel is a seasoned veteran of the New York City advertising world. Choosing to share his knowledge with students of Marketing at the Community and Technology College of the University of Akron, in Ohio, Martin is now able to telecommute via the Internet, providing consulting services, ad copy and humorous graphics to his clients. You may explore Martin Siegel's home page at http://junior.apk.net/~msiegel/marty.htm, or contact him directly via e-mail at email@example.com