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After receiving rejections for this story, originally titled "Mike the Monkey Learns Some Manners," I went back and did some radical self-editing and tweaking. I'm still unsure about the proper age group and format (picture book vs non picture book). Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Mike the Monkey
Deep in the jungle was a kingdom ruled by Larry the Lion. Larry was a wise king. His subjects followed the Golden Rule by treating others as they would want to be treated. As the animals were nice and kind to each other, everyone could live in peace and happiness.
But one animal bothered all the others. No, it wasn’t Carl the crocodile’s powerful jaws. It wasn’t Perry the python, although he was slick and fast. One animal was meaner than everybody. Mike the monkey was rude and crude. He didn’t care about the Golden Rule.
One day Mike was swinging through trees by the river. Something smelled so good, his mouth started watering. A huge bunch of bananas was hanging from a tree leaning over the water. Mike was a monkey and monkeys love bananas.
Sophie the stork, who was fishing nearby, saw him stare at the huge bunch.
“Mike, be careful. There are piranhas in the river. They would love to eat a little monkey like you!”
“Oh yeah? You can’t tell me what to do! You’re just an old stork! Why should I listen to you? I’m the best at climbing and swinging in trees. I’m getting those bananas no matter what!”
Up the tree he went. Sophie shook her head.
“See, I told you I was the best climber! These bananas are mine!”
He proudly grabbed the whole bunch. He was about to shout for victory when something bit his tail, CHOMP!
“Ow!” yelled Mike.
Something bit him again, CHOMP! His tail looked like dinner to the hungry fish below. Soon several piranhas were biting his tail, CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP! Mike rushed down the tree, still holding the bananas. He hopped on a vine and swung through the trees deep into the jungle until he disappeared.
Charlotte the Chimpanzee was busy picking red berries. She looked up to see Mike in a tree high above her.
“Mike, I’m so glad you’re here. What nice looking bananas you have there. Could you watch Baby Tabitha while I work? She is quite a handful and I must finish picking berries for supper. I’ll share them with you.”
Mike grinned a sneaky grin.
“Sure, I’ll help. Thanks!”
Quickly he swung down to the ground, grabbed the basket of berries and jumped back into the tree. He swung through the trees deep into the jungle until he disappeared.
Charlotte shouted, “Mike, you come back here! Give me my berries! Now what will I do? I don’t have any food to bring home.”
She started crying.
“Boo hoo hoo. What can I do? Boo hoo hoo.”
But Mike thought, “Now I have bananas and berries. What a lucky day!”
Laughing, he swung through the trees until he couldn’t hear Charlotte crying anymore.
Soon the little monkey was tired and panting from his heavy load. It was time to take a break. Evan the elephant came walking down below. He spotted Mike resting on a shady tree branch high above him.
“Hey Mike, you look tired. Need a lift? Those bananas and berries sure look great! I’ve been working all morning and really hungry. If you share, I’ll gladly let you hop on my back and take you wherever you want.”
He’s just being nice to get my stuff, thought Mike. I’ll show him!
“You can’t have my berries and bananas! They’re mine! Get your own!”
Mike bit Evan on his trunk. CHOMP! He hopped on a tree vine and swung through the trees deep into the jungle until he disappeared.
Evan screamed, “OWWWWW! My trunk! My strong trunk!”
Evan looked, but Mike was nowhere to be found.
Later the royal court held quite a ruckus. Charlotte the chimpanzee and Evan the elephant complained to King Larry about this mischievous little monkey. Charlotte told how after working so hard to pick all those berries, Mike swiped the whole basket. Evan told how Mike bit his trunk after he offered a ride. Finally, Pepper the parrot spoke.
“Your majesty, Squawk! I am afraid this is true. Squawk! I followed Mike by flying high above him. I saw these things with my own eyes. Mike doesn’t have any manners and disobeys the Golden Rule, which brings peace to your kingdom.”
King Larry stroked his mane as he thought and thought and thought some more.
“This is a grave matter indeed. A monkey without manners is quite dangerous. Bring him to me.”
Leo the Leopard and Charlie the Cheetah silently nodded and left.
Soon the monkey appeared before the great and powerful king. Suddenly, Mike didn’t feel bossy and mean anymore. In fact, he felt his knees and tail shaking.
King Larry’s voice boomed at the shaking little monkey.
“Mike the monkey. These say you stole Charlotte’s berries and bit Evan’s trunk. Is this true?”
“Y-yes, your Majesty,” Mike stammered. “But I was only having fun!”
Three angry faces looked at him. Mike thought about all the trouble he caused.
“I- I am sorry, your Majesty.”
“That’s not enough, Mike. You must learn a lesson. You are hereby given thirty days of training in manners fitting for a monkey. Sophie will be in charge. She and Pepper will report back to me. If you don’t change, you will be banished to the mountain far away from our kingdom.”
Mike imagined being alone on the cold and scary mountain. How could he live there?
“I will change. You’ll see,” said Mike. “I’ll learn this manners stuff in no time.”
“The Golden Rule needs to be in your heart, not just your head,” said the wise king. “We shall see if you prove yourself worthy to live in this kingdom.”
At the river, Sophie taught Mike to gather and share food so he wouldn’t have to steal. He helped Evan with his chores while his trunk healed.
Mike learned helping others was more fun than stealing, which was very tiring. Soon he obeyed the Golden Rule because he liked to be nice and helpful. He had fun with his new friends and vowed never to steal or be mean ever again.
Sophie and Pepper were happy to report how Mike changed from a rude, mean monkey into one of the kindest, hard working animals in Larry’s kingdom.
This pleased the king. When thirty days had passed, Mike was back in King Larry’s court.
“I hereby declare that Mike the monkey is no longer mean and rude, but a loyal follower of the Golden Rule. Mike, you will not be banished to the mountain, but will live out your days here as a joyful member of my kingdom.”
The animals celebrated with a grand party. Once again, the jungle kingdom was a peaceful, happy place and stayed that way for years to come.
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