Siili Takes a Nap

by Kathy Spears Christensen

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    In a shady Finnish backyard garden where tall evergreens surrounded an old sauna bathhouse, there lived a little family of hedgehogs. Late in the spring Mama hedgehog gave birth to quadruplets. Now it was August and her brood of lively youngsters was getting fat and prickly in preparation for the long, cold winter ahead.

    All of her little ones were obedient—all except Siili! When her other children were full and could eat no more they would curl up into cozy balls and go to sleep but not Siili. He would be poking his paw into an anthill or digging his long snout into a rotten tree stump in search of more food. Mama hedgehog would scold him back into the nest, but Siili never wanted to take a nap.

    The garden where Mama hedgehog and her youngsters lived was a small one that belonged to Mrs. Henriksson and her two children, Ulla and Pekka. Ulla and Pekka enjoyed planting the seeds, watering, weeding, and finally eating their very own vegetables. Sometimes while they were weeding or pulling up turnips, they would see a little hedgehog poke its head up and scurry across the garden. Ulla and Pekka tried to catch one but the little animals were always too quick. Even if they had caught one, however, they would not have harmed it because these spiny friends helped keep their garden free from harmful pests.

    As the autumn days grew shorter and colder, Mama hedgehog and her little family prepared for their long winter nap. They were all very busy getting fat and fixing their nest—all but Siili—for when the snowflakes fell, they would sleep for the entire winter.

    “Who wants to sleep all winter?” Siili asked in dismay. “Just think of what we’ll miss curled up in an underground hole for so long. I’d much rather turn somersaults and play all day!”

    When the cold winter came, Mama hedgehog inspected each little burrow to make sure every youngster was warm and fast asleep. When she came to Siili’s burrow her heart gave a thump. Siili was not there!

    Frantic with worry, Mama hedgehog stuck her head outside and looked all around for him. She could not see Siili hidden in the wilted strawberry patch, where he was trying to dig a playhouse in the frozen ground.

    While he worked, the snow began to fall. Siili shivered with cold. He wished he had listened to Mama and stayed in his nice warm burrow instead of trying to dig in the frozen earth. To keep warm he curled himself into a tiny ball and hid his nose down among his spines. I’ll rest for just a few minutes, he thought, and then I’ll go home. Instead, he felt so tired that soon he was fast asleep.

    “Look, Pekka,” said Ulla as she stooped and carefully picked up the prickly little creature from among the strawberry leaves. “Here’s a baby hedgehog!”

    “What’s he doing outside in the cold?” asked Pekka, as he took the little animal from Ulla and put it in his pocket. “Let’s go ask Mama what we should do with it.”

    When the children were inside the cottage, they placed Siili in a wooden box filled with old clothes. Siili sleepily snuggled up to some soft woolly underwear the children put around him while they waited for their mother to come home.

    “Mama, look at the baby hedgehog we found in the garden. He was all rolled up in the strawberry leaves,” said Pekka as he pulled his mother over to the box.

    “It was too cold outside for him. May we keep him in the house, Mama?” asked Ulla.

    “Well,” said their mother, smiling at the spiny ball, “perhaps we could keep him for awhile, but he probably has a mother and a cozy nest waiting for him in our garden. Don’t you think he would be happier with his own family?”

    Ulla and Pekka frowned and sighed. They knew their mother was right, so they wrapped Siili in the woolly underwear and placed him back outside in the strawberry patch.

    “Let’s go inside and watch from the kitchen window to see what he will do,” suggested Ulla as they left the garden.

    Pekka and Ulla stationed themselves in front of the window and looked out at the snowy garden. It wasn’t long before Ulla said, “Look! Something is moving around out there.”

    “It’s another hedgehog,” Pekka answered.

    Sure enough, Siili’s mother was searching for her son. She found him still wrapped up in the underwear and sound asleep. She nudged him awake and then the children saw them disappear. Siili’s mother knew that her drowsy baby would be eager to play again when spring came, but now they were both ready for a long, warm winter sleep.

    Illustrated by Charles Quilter