April 23, 2018

T is for Tuzi (and Motu)

        Bluebell led Kate and Sam around to the back yard, where Beechnut was sitting beside a pair of cottontail rabbits.
        The squirrel introduced the rabbits, “This is Tuzi, and this is her brother Motu.  They live under the big forsythia bushes behind the composter.”
        “Pleased to meet you,” said Sam and Kate politely in animal language, and the rabbits nodded their heads and wiggled their noses.  The children could see that these rabbits had unusual bright brown eyes, instead of the black or red eyes of most rabbits.  Then all at once, to Sam and Kate’s astonishment, one of them leaped up and turned a complete somersault in the air.  As she spun she seemed to jump right out of her soft brown fur, and suddenly there she stood, in the form of a brown-eyed girl, only about eighteen inches tall.
        The small girl draped her empty rabbit skin over her shoulders like a dress and said in a soft voice, “There.  It’ll be easier to talk this way.  Beechnut asked us if we knew anything about those chipmunks, and we wanted to tell you first of all that we would never ruin your garden like that.  We appreciate that your family never tries to trap us or poison us or throw rocks at us as some other humans do, and we make sure never to take too much of anything that you plant.”
        “Besides,” added the other rabbit, Motu, “We’re not stupid.  We wouldn’t do anything that might make your mother give up on gardening.  Then we wouldn’t get to sample any of her vegetables!” and he laughed mischievously.
        Tuzi grinned at her brother, but continued, “After Beechnut talked to us, we began watching the chipmunks more closely, and we noticed that there’s one spot where they’ve been digging like crazy, right under the back steps.  We thought you ought to have a look.”
        Motu hopped over to the back steps and gestured with a paw.  Sam and Kate leaned over and peered into the dark space under the steps.  There were clumps of dirt and rocks, and the curling stems of the groundcover creeping in from the garden bed.
        “I don’t see any hole,” said Sam.
        “That’s exactly what they want you to see,” answered Motu, “They’ve been digging it every night, and hiding it during the day.”
        “That’s one of the reasons we think they’re up to something suspicious,” explained Tuzi, “Besides, chipmunks are usually diurnal.”
        “But why would they try to dig under the house?” asked Kate.
        “And how do we know that’s even what their scheme is?” added Sam, “And anyway, what’s this hole got to do with our tomatoes?”
        Bluebell’s black eyes glittered and she declared, “What you need is a spy!  Someone who can sneak down that hole and find out where it leads, and maybe discover the chipmunk’s secret plan, too.”
        “We don’t know anyone who can sneak down a chipmunk hole!” Kate protested.
        “But we do,” replied Motu smugly, “At least, I think we do.”  He looked at his sister and said, “Don’t you think old Wogwa would help?  It would be his chance to prove what a brave adventurer he is.”
        Tuzi smiled.  “He might.  He’s always talking about the grand adventures he had in his youth.”  She turned to the children.  “We’ll send Wogwa on this mission, and we’ll report back
to you as soon as we have news.”  Then she swung her rabbitskin off her back, and held it out in front of her.  With a little skip, she jumped up and somersaulted straight into her own fur.  The rabbit turned, wiggled her long ears, winked at Sam and Kate, and then hopped after her brother into the dense bushes at the back of the yard.
        Sam looked at Kate and Kate looked at Sam.
        “Well,” said Sam, “I bet when you got up this morning you never expected to see that!”

        Tuzi and Motu from Kate and Sam and the Chipmunks of Doom, the second book in a read-aloud fantasy series for ages 4-9 and their adults (excerpt from Chapter 1: Trouble with Chipmunks).
More information here, or “Look inside” at Amazon.

[Pictures: Tuzi in rabbit form;
Tuzi in human form, illustrations by AEGN, 2009.]

A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter T.


Kristin said...

We have lots of squirrels and chipmunks in our yard. I don't have a garden because there are too many trees, which drop lots of acorn which I think are what the little rodents are after.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

When the chipmunks are after acorns, I love them - such sleek, handsome little critters - But when they go after the tomatoes, it's over!