top of page

Thumbs Up

for Bartholomew Bear

by Carol Green

More than anything Bartholomew Bear wanted to learn to read. When he arrived at Bear Creek School, the secretary shook her head. "No bears allowed. It’s the rule."

Bartholomew said, "But I know the alphabet and can even say it backwards. ZYXW…"

"Cool," said Charlie, a second grader who had come into the office.

Right behind him, Mr. Hendrix, Charlie's second-grade teacher, whistled under his breath.

Mrs. Garcia, the principal said, "I’m sorry. You just wouldn’t fit. If you squeezed into our chairs, your knees would be up to your ears."

Not at all upset, Bartholomew gave Charlie the paws-up sign and said, "I’ll be back. You can count on it."

The next day at the office steps, Bartholomew plunked down his very own bear-size chair. He thought, now I will learn to read.

The secretary peered over her spectacles. "You know the rule. No bears allowed in school."

Bartholomew put his paw over his heart. "I know the pledge to the flag. May I say it?"

The principal came out of her office. "It’s true that your chair is perfect," she said, walking around it.

Bartholomew grinned.

"But," she added, "it won’t fit under our desks. It’s way too big."

Not at all discouraged, Bartholomew turned and said to Charlie, "Give me five."

At day’s first light, Bartholomew lumbered up the school steps with his bear-size desk painted green. There he waited, sure that he would learn to read.

When the secretary arrived and unlocked the office door, she shook her head no. "You know the rule. No bears are allowed in school."

Bartholomew crossed his heart and said, "In the classroom, I promise I’ll raise my hand to speak."

Then smoothing his fur, he went on. "In the cafeteria I will not slurp my milk or burp after I eat."

Charlie, who had come into the office, choked back a laugh.

The principal broke in, "I’m sorry, it just can’t be. Don’t you see, we couldn’t possibly feed a bear. We wouldn’t have enough hot dogs or chips, let alone cookies for dessert."

Bartholomew Bear spun around, not the least bit discouraged, tipped his cap, and headed out the office door.

The next day, just before the bell rang, Bartholomew sauntered across the schoolyard and up the office steps. The secretary waited with the word no on her lips.

But Bartholomew entered sideways with his bear- size chair, his desk painted green, and a large basket. He said, "Don’t worry about me and the food in the cafeteria. I brought my own basket of fish,"

Just then a giant fish flopped out of the basket and onto the secretary’s desk. She let out a scream.

Mr. Hendrix, who had come in with Charlie said, "Terrific, we’ll have a fish fry. Charlie, come help clean the fish."

"Not me," Charlie gagged.

But Bartholomew grinned. "I don’t mind. I’ll clean the fish."

"Not so fast." The principal corrected. "The county, the state, and the federal government all say no bears allowed in school. It’s an ironclad rule."

Charlie raised his hand. "But isn’t the sidewalk public property, a place for everyone? Bartholomew can stay on the sidewalk."

The principal nodded.  "That’s a good point, Charlie. We’ll have the fish fry on the sidewalk."

The secretary’s face turned green. Fish was not her favorite meal.

News of the sidewalk fish fry spread fast. The children, neighbors, and even Police Officer Bromfield and reporters from the local TV station gathered.

Bartholomew was an excellent chef. He tipped his cap, serving each one some fish---that is---everyone but the secretary. She took out a PB and J sandwich.

Officer Bromfield put his hand on Bartholomew’s shoulder and said, "Be careful to stay on the sidewalk. I would hate to make you leave your own fish fry."

Bartholomew snapped to attention with a salute. Before he could show Officer Bromfield how well he knew the alphabet, Charlie said, "Bartholomew just has to come to school and learn to read."

"He can’t spend his days sitting alone on the sidewalk. I’m sorry." Officer Bromfield answered. "It’s not up to me, Rules are rules."

"I’ve got it," said Charlie. He headed inside for the computer. His fingers flew over the keys. He muttered, "School, school, school. Rules, rules, rules." Charlie’s fingers flew faster. Charlie shouted, "I found it!" He pressed the Print key. With page in hand, he ran to the Principal.  He pointed to Article One.

The principal gave the thumbs up sign. She said, "Tell everyone the good news."

The school bell rang out. Charlie moved closer to Bartholomew. "Under Article One, every school, if they so choose, is allowed a mascot to represent them."

"That’s you, Bartholomew," the secretary said.

The TV cameras zoomed in. The secretary peered over her spectacles. "Imagine that," she said. "a mascot is not against the rules."

"Bravo," cheered Mr. Hendrix and Officer Bromfield.

"Put her there, pal," Charlie said to Bartholomew.

Reporters called in the news on their cell phones.

Bartholomew tipped his cap. "I’d be honored to be your mascot." Then he gave the paws-up sign and said, "Tomorrow I’ll learn to read."

Copyright, 2021, Carol Green, author

Copyright, 2021, Jen Grafton, illustrator

All Rights Reserved

Posted 1/2021

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children. Her latest book for children is about welcoming a new baby, Guess Who's Coming?

Jen Grafton is a freelance illustrator, set painter, and art teacher currently working in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been painting theater sets for 20 years. Her favorite shows included Beauty and

the Beast, Willy Wonka Jr., and Narnia. She received her MFA in Children’s Book Illustration from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. She loves kid art and encourages her students to express themselves and try new techniques.

bottom of page