Claire and the Talent Show

By Paula DePaolo

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    Claire was a sad hippopotamus, for today was the day of the jungle talent show. All of Claire’s jungle friends were going to be in it—but not Claire.

    Claire had no special talent. She didn’t dance. She didn’t sing. She didn’t juggle fruits, do somersaults, or play the drums. And she didn’t know any funny stories to tell. She was just a plain, ordinary hippopotamus.

    “Oh, coconuts,” Claire sighed. “There must be something I can do.”

    Then Claire had an idea. She went to visit Madame Gazelle’s Dancing School. “Will you teach me to dance?” Claire asked.

    “I’ll try,” replied Madame Gazelle.

    Claire put on a pair of pink dancing shoes. She learned to turn and curtsey. She leaped gracefully into the air. But when Claire landed, the jungle shook. Monkeys and bananas rained from the trees, mice bounced high into the sky, and everyone complained about the shaking jungle.

    Claire did not want to make her friends angry, so she gave up dancing. She went to see Hester Elephant, who was famous for her singing. “Can you teach me to sing?” Claire asked.

    “Of course I can,” Hester answered. “Listen.” She raised her trunk and sang “Mary had a little elephant. …” She had a lovely voice. “Now it’s your turn,” said Hester.

    Claire roared, “Mary had a little hippopotamus …” as loud as she could. Her jungle friends had to cover their ears. She scared Lonnie Python right out of his tree house.

    “This will never do!” Hester cried.

    So Claire went to see the Great Chimpanzees. They had the best trapeze act in the jungle. “Please teach me to swing from tree to tree,” begged Claire.

    “Sure,” agreed Bimbo Chimpanzee. “But first you must climb a tree like this.” He scurried to the top of a tall tree and waved to Claire. Claire struggled up the tree after Bimbo. The tree began to bend.

    “TIMBER!” shouted the Great Chimpanzees who were on the ground. The tree and Claire and Bimbo fell with a crash. The Great Chimpanzees were happy that Claire did not fall on them. But Claire was not happy at all.

    “I’ll never be a part of the show,” she cried.

    “I’ll teach you to catch rings on your nose,” offered Walter Rhinoceros.

    “But I don’t have a horn like you do,” Claire protested.

    “Oh,” said Walter, “I forgot.”

    “I’ll teach you to juggle rocks,” suggested Randy Baboon.

    “Wonderful!” said Claire. She tossed two rocks into the air.

    “Ouch!” They hit Randy on top of his head. He went home to have it mended.

    “I know a funny joke,” laughed Smiley Hyena, “but I need it for the show. I wish I had another one for you, Claire.”

    Tara Tiger tried to teach Claire to play a harmonica. But Claire swallowed it by mistake.

    “Who needs a talent show anyway?” she huffed. “I’m going swimming.” All afternoon Claire swam around the lake. When she was tired, she took a long, long nap in the water. Voices woke her up.

    “Claire! Claire!” the voices called.

    Claire opened her eyes. Her jungle friends stood on the shore. They were wearing their talent show costumes. “Claire!” called Madame Gazelle. “We need you.”

    “Me?” said Claire. She swam to shore.

    “We have a terrible problem,” said Hester. “You are the only one who can help.”

    “What can I do?” sighed Claire.

    “Because we’re all in the show,” Bimbo explained, “there’s no one to watch us. So we have no judge to choose the winner.”

    “Oh, I can do that!” cried Claire. So Claire sat in the very first row. She clapped as loud as she could. She cheered. She whistled and stamped her feet. “Hooray! Bravo! Encore!” she shouted. “More! More! More!”

    When the show was over, Claire clapped so long that everyone took ten bows. “You were all so good,” said Claire, “I can’t decide who the winner is—”

    “The winner,” announced Tara Tiger, “is Claire Hippopotamus.”

    “Me!” exclaimed Claire. “I wasn’t part of the show.”

    “Yes, you were,” said Lonnie Python. “You were the best audience a talent show ever had.”

    Everyone clapped for Claire. She made a curtsey. Then she took her basket-of-fruit prize and went home—a happy hippopotamus.

    Illustrated by Shauna Mooney