Squeaker glanced at the Lincoln Log building perched neatly on Nightstand Island just past Pillow Hill. A thin length of ribbon scotch-taped above the door said in sharp block-lettering, “Eddie’s Bed Elementary School.” Squeaker tried to wrinkle his velvet nose.
“Dad, are you sure I have to go to school?”
Mr. Bear, a rather large, plush animal with a tweed jacket and wire-rimmed glasses stitched to his face, looked down. “It won’t be so bad. You’ll see.”
“What if the other toys make fun of me? What if they don’t like me?”
“What’s not to like?” Mr. Bear answered. “You’re a handsomely-stuffed bear, Squeaker. They’ll love you.” And Mr. Bear gently lifted him over the crack that separated Nightstand Island from Eddie’s Bed and nudged him toward the school. “I’ll be here at the end of the day, and you can tell me all about it.”
Squeaker walked inside and sat down on one of the cardboard chairs near the back. He recognized a couple of his new classmates—either from Eddie’s bed, Toy Chest Cavern, or Bookshelf Ridge—but he’d never actually spoken to any before.
“Take your seats, class.”
Near the front, a beautiful china doll gently tapped her knuckles on a matchbox desk and called the room to order. Toys of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of wear-and-tear scrambled onto chairs, while Miss Clear took attendance. Squeaker heard many names: Steinbech the Nutcracker; a little rubber duck named Donald; Lassie, a stuffed Collie; Tonka the Truck; a blue troll named Quigly; three stuffed bears of varying colors, the names of which Squeaker had already lost; and several others.
The day went quickly. Squeaker learned how to write his name and sing a lovely song about the alphabet, and before he knew it, Miss Clear was ringing a little bell and declaring it recess, which Squeaker soon discovered was a fancy word for playtime. Anxious toys stampeded out the door. Squeaker followed.
Outside, Tonka and a shiny, red racecar were zipping around the schoolyard, Steinbech was throwing a bouncy ball while Lassie fetched, and Quigly the troll was making loud noises and chasing two tiny figurines to-and-fro. After looking around, Squeaker decided to join the three stuffed bears.
“Hello,” Squeaker said shyly. “I’m Squeaker.”
The three bears turned and stared before the straggly white one announced, “You’re dinky.”
Squeaker looked down. “Well, yes, I suppose I am rather small….”
“What’d you say your name was?”
“Squeaker?” The chubby brown bear snorted. “What kind of name is Squeaker?”
“Don’t you get it?” the white one mocked. “He doesn’t growl! He squeaks!” Then he reached out and poked Squeaker in the stomach.
"Squeak! Squeak!” went Squeaker.
The bears laughed.
“He can’t even growl!” they hooted and hollered. “He squeaks!”
Squeaker ducked his head and walked away.
One afternoon, while Squeaker was sitting inside to avoid the jeers, he heard a commotion outside, and after investigating, found all the toys huddled near the edge of Nightstand Island.
“Teddy—” Lassie said—for Teddy was the name of the nasty white bear—“has fallen over the edge! And they’ve called Slinky to lower himself down and fetch him, but I don’t think they’ll make it up in time! Look!”
Squeaker saw Barkley, Eddie’s massive golden puppy, peeking around the bedroom door.
“Woof!” With an excited yelp, Barkley scampered toward Teddy, who, terrified, scurried beneath Nightstand Island, just out of the dog’s reach. Above, plastic firemen yanked Slinky back to safety.
Squeaker turned to see his father growling from the opposite end of Eddie’s Bed, trying to get Barkley’s attention. The other toys caught on, and suddenly, they were all making a great deal of commotion, trying to distract the puppy, but it was no use. Barkley kept pawing at the straggly white bear.
Squeaker, wanting to help, too, let out a quick “Squeak!”
Suddenly, Barkley’s nose lifted. The toys stopped shouting.
“Do it again, Squeaker,” Lassie whispered. “I think he heard you.”
“Squeak!” went Squeaker.
“Woof!” cried Barkley.
“Quick!” said Slinky. “Lower me down!”
Then, while Squeaker squeaked at Barkley and Barkley barked at Squeaker, Slinky and the firemen rescued Teddy.
Moral: God made you unique whether you grrrrrowl or you squeak!
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