Lucy's Small Problem
Lucy and the Small Problem
Lucy was a small child. With her large brown eyes and chestnut curls,
she looked rather doll-like. Perhaps this was why she found she was
always treated like a baby and looked upon with kindly smiles and pats
on the head, rather than being taken seriously, as eight year olds
prefer to be. Her mother would always be stopped in the supermarket as
little old ladies with pink hair exclaimed "Oh isn't she adorable" as
if she wasn't there and had presents like dolls given to her on her
birthday when really she'd have preferred a remote control car.
Lucy was not particularly mischievous. Her parents described her as a
good girl, even worse, her best friend Sadie thought she was "sweet"
and was rather protective of her in the school playground. When Lucy
fell over and grazed her knee, she found herself whisked off to the
nurse and made to miss the rest of playtime, usually when there was a
really good game going on. When the other children cut themselves, they
were given no more that a "there, there" and sent back out to play. As
a result, poor Lucy felt rather left out of a lot of things, and felt
just a bit jealous of the other children who were a little bigger and
so weren't treated any differently at all.
Lucy wanted to be just like everyone else. She didn't want to wear the
dresses that her mum made her wear when visitors came anymore, with
their pink frills and bows; she wanted to wear jeans and T shirts like
the other girls. She didn't want to be called "good" or "sweet" or any
other boring thing like that. She thought she would much prefer to be
called "cheeky" or a "little monster" like her best friend, Sadie. Lucy
wanted to join in playtime with the other children and not have special
treatment any more. Lucy wanted to have some fun. She thought long and
hard how she could make this happen.
She decided the problem was that she was just too small.
"If I was a bit bigger," thought Lucy, "maybe then I'd be treated the
same as everyone else." So Lucy set about making plans to grow faster.
She made her mum buy her a height chart which she stuck to her bedroom
wall and marked her height against it in bright red felt tip pen. She
drew up a list with all the different ways she could make herself grow
as big as her friend Sadie and the other girls in her class at school.
With Sadie's help, they made a big wall chart to record all their
ideas. The two best friends began to think long and hard about what
made things grow and decided to try them out on Lucy until one of their
plans worked. Their first idea was to stretch Lucy, like a piece of
Stretching Plan A began after school, when Sadie and Lucy had agreed
all the rules. No grown-up was to know what they were doing, as this
may spoil it; the whole growing plan was a secret just between Sadie
One evening after school Lucy went to her climbing frame in the garden
and hung upside down on it for what seemed like hours until her face
went bright red and she started to feel dizzy. "How long has it been?"
she asked Lucy.
"Not long enough by the looks of it," replied Sadie, "it doesn't look
like you've grown a bit." When Lucy's legs started to ache, she climbed
back down again and Sadie helped to measure her against her height
chart. No change.
"It was only the first time," Sadie pointed out. "Maybe a few more
evenings will do the trick!"
Several more evenings passed with Lucy suspended from the climbing
frame, her mum watching her with a puzzled expression from the kitchen
After a few days of this, Lucy was getting a bit fed up with the
climbing frame plan. Sadie agreed that they needed a new approach,
besides she was getting bored watching Lucy go a shade of beetroot in
her garden every night. The time had come for Stretching Plan B.
Lucy and Sadie went to the same dance classes as each other. They
learned ballet, tap and disco. Lucy liked disco best as she could
pretend to be her favourite popstar, but Sadie enjoyed ballet most as
you could dress in lovely ballerina outfits. They both liked the noisy
tap classes. Lucy and Sadie agreed that ballet would be the best class
to try Plan B on. Lucy would have to work especially hard at the
stretching in class. "After all," pointed out Sadie, "ballet dancers
always look tall and graceful. It must be from all that stretching"
On Saturday mornings in ballet class Lucy stretched her legs as far as
possible on the bar and reached her arms in position five as if she was
trying to reach Madame Pirout's mirrored ceiling. She pointed her toes
as best as she could and stretched her legs as far as they would go. It
was very hard work concentrating so hard on stretching.
Madame Pirout, the ballet teacher, was very impressed with all the
extra effort that Lucy was putting into her stretching exercises. "Mon
Dieu mademoiselle Lucy! You really 'ave been putting zee practice in,
Sadie thought this was hilarious - if only Madame Pirout knew why Lucy
was stretching so hard, she wouldn't be as impressed. As Sadie began to
giggle, Madame Pirout gave her a very stern look indeed. Sadie got back
to her pli?s.
It wasn't just Saturday mornings that they tried out the ballet plan.
Even at tap and disco, Lucy tried to sneak in some of the movements,
especially when doing their improvisation pieces. Mr. Harris, her disco
teacher, described her inventive dance as "interesting." Lucy wasn't
sure whether this was a compliment or not, but she was determined to
get bigger, so she carried on her ballet moves whenever she could, even
at the bus stop and supermarket, until her mum began to get fed
"Honestly Lucy," sighed her mother after Lucy had pirouetted into a
lady's trolley, "what has been getting into you lately? You're getting
Lucy thought that this was much better than being "sweet" anyway, so
she didn't mind being ticked off.
On Saturday afternoons in the park with her friends, Lucy would
arabesque her way towards the swings, before soaring into the air, with
her legs stretched as far as she could make them without falling off
the swing. Lucy felt confident it was time for her and Sadie to measure
her again. All those hours of wonderful ballet stretches must have done
In Lucy's bedroom, Sadie marked Lucy's height against her height chart.
The new felt tip mark was in exactly the same place as the old one!
This was no good at all and Lucy sat on the edge of her bed, chin in
hands, feeling thoroughly fed up with being so little. Sadie sat next
to her deep in thought, watching the trees wave back and forth in the
wind, through the bedroom window.
"I've got it Lucy!" exclaimed Sadie. "We've been going about this the
Lucy raised an eyebrow in Sadie's direction. "Do you mean all that
stretching was for no reason?"
"Well, think about it Lucy," explained Sadie, "when was the last time
you heard of something growing by stretching?"
"My mum stretched my woolly jumper in the wash."
"That's not the same as a person, silly!" laughed Sadie.
The two girls thought some more and eventually Lucy agreed that they
should try something new as the stretching plans obviously hadn't
worked. Sadie's theory was that because plants grew bigger when
watered, Lucy required a good dosing with her Dad's hose.
Dad was watering the plants at that very moment, so Sadie and Lucy got
changed into their swimsuits and ran downstairs into the garden to take
advantage of the opportunity. They ran round and round, ducking in
front of the hose until Lucy's Dad got caught up in all the fun and
started chasing the girls around the garden, spraying them with his
hose until they were soaked to the skin and laughing so hard their
sides ached. Lucy's Mum watched all this activity from the safety of
the kitchen window, venturing out with towels when the girls had
finally collapsed onto the sunloungers.
For the next few days, when Dad was watering the garden, Lucy would
enthusiastically weave in front of the hose, by now convinced that as
Dad watered the plants and they grew, then if he watered her then she
should grow too. When Dad wasn't watering the garden and it was a nice
day, she'd splash around in the paddling pool and every night she made
sure she had a bath or shower. Lucy's Mum was very pleased at how
squeaky clean Lucy was recently.
A couple of weeks later, Sadie came round to measure Lucy.
"I don't think there's any change again," said Sadie doubtfully.
Sure enough, the red felt tip had marked Lucy's height in the same
spot, maybe just a little higher if you squinted your eyes and looked
at it sideways. Lucy sighed an immense sigh. She felt sure that she'd
never grow again, she was going to be this size for ever and be called
"sweet" and have her head patted like a small dog for the rest of her
life. It was too much to bear, it really was.
To cheer themselves up, the girls sat in front of the TV to watch some
cartoons, while Lucy's mum brought out some cups of lemonade and some
biscuits for the girls to munch. They were watching Popeye and thought
it was extremely funny, watching Popeye get big and strong after eating
his cans of spinach?..now wait a minute! The two best friends looked at
each other as they both had the same idea at the same time. Spinach!
Everyone was always telling them to eat up their greens and Lucy had to
admit that she was not the world's biggest fan of greens. Sadie liked
most vegetables and she was bigger than Lucy was. It was obvious to
them both. Lucy would have to eat spinach or else she wouldn't
"I hate spinach!" Lucy wailed. "Why couldn't pickled onion crisps or
chocolate biscuits make you grow big and strong instead?" It was a
tragedy for Lucy, but in the end even she had to admit that so many
people, such as Mum, her Auntie Flo and Popeye, couldn't all be wrong.
It was with a heavy heart that Lucy trudged to her very surprised mum
to ask if they could have spinach for tea.
That night at the dinner table, Lucy tried to be enthusiastic about the
spinach at first. "It can't be as horrible as I remember," she
reasoned, "and it has been a long time since I tried it." When she took
the first mouthful of the steamed green vegetable, the bitter taste
reminded her at once of how much she disliked it. She pulled a face as
she slowly chewed the vile vegetable, trying to force it down her
throat without being sick. Lucy's Mum was very proud at this new found
interest in healthy eating.
"I've given you an extra big portion Lucy, since you seemed so keen,"
advised her mum.
Lucy groaned. It took her another hour to finish her tea and by then
she had absolutely no appetite for the Roly Poly pudding her mum had
made for dessert. Feeling sick, Lucy went straight to bed, not
forgetting to give her height chart an evil look as she walked
The next day at school, Lucy sorrowfully told Sadie the sad truth about
spinach. "I really can't go through that again," she told Sadie,
shaking her head as they sat on the steps of class 2B. "That spinach
was truly disgusting. Popeye must be mad." Sadie agreed that the whole
episode sounded revolting.
"We'll measure you tonight," Sadie planned, "and see if the spinach
worked. After all, my mum is always saying 'No pain no gain' and it
might be the same for you." Sadie was visiting Lucy's house for tea
after school. "There won't be any spinach for tea will there?" said
Sadie anxiously. She'd been put off spinach for good after Lucy's
account of the horrible dinner her mum had cooked.
Luckily Lucy's mum hadn't cooked any more spinach for tea. She had seen
the terrible funny faces Lucy had pulled when trying to eat it the
night before and had guessed that Lucy hadn't liked it after all.
Instead, Lucy's Mum cooked the girls their favourite fish fingers,
chips and beans, which Lucy enjoyed an awful lot more than steamed
After tea, the girls scrambled upstairs to play in Lucy's room. They
decided to play dress up and were pretending to be rich ladies when
Lucy thought that they might as well see if the spinach had worked.
Lucy was pretty sure it hadn't worked, after all, she didn't feel
taller, but there was no harm in having a look. She couldn't see over
the kitchen counter and her trousers still reached her ankles, so she
must be the same size. She half-heartedly stood by the height chart,
knowing that the felt tip mark would be in exactly the same spot as
Sadie told her to stop slouching and stand up straight, sounding
exactly like Miss Rigsby at school, as she marked Lucy's height on the
chart. Sadie shrieked with delight as Lucy stepped away. "Lucy, Lucy
you've grown a whole inch! Look!" Sure enough the newest, still wet,
red felt tip pen mark was a whole inch above the last one. "Spinach
really does work!" exclaimed Sadie, amazed.
"How do you know it was the spinach and not the fish fingers?"
questioned Lucy, darkly.
"It can't have been the fish fingers, silly. We've only just eaten
those. The spinach has had a whole day to work."
Lucy and Sadie whirled around in circles, happy that their plan had
worked at long last, whooping with delight until Lucy's mum came
upstairs and told them to be quiet as she couldn't hear herself
But things aren't always as they seem. For the next week, Lucy was
swaggering around the playground with the bigger girls in class, making
mud pies and grazing her knees without a care in the world. For once,
she felt as though she fitted in. Certainly, no one had patted her head
or called her sweet for a whole week. The occasional meal of spinach
must be worth it, thought Lucy. Sadie's mum was right, 'no pain no
It was a bright sunny day at the weekend when Sadie next visited Lucy.
The girls went shopping with their mums and bought lots of new clothes
for the summer. Sadie and Lucy wanted to have exactly the same summer
clothes so they'd look like sisters.
"I've grown mum," boasted Lucy, "I could get the same sizes as Sadie
Lucy's mum looked puzzled. "I don't think you have grown Lucy," said
Lucy's Mum, as she steered her towards the height chart in the
Sadie looked on in amazement as Lucy's mum pointed out her height on
the chart. "You've shrunk, Lucy!" gasped Sadie.
Once back at Lucy's house, they rushed upstairs to check if it was
Sadie marked her height with the red felt tip and sure enough Lucy had
shrunk back to her original size. Tears welled up in Lucy's big brown
eyes. "It's not fair!" she sniffed, "I just want to be a bit bigger.
How can I have shrunk?"
The girls sat and thought for a while on this strange event. Had they
been caught out in the rain? What were they doing when Lucy became
taller? They sat and thought and thought and sat and then suddenly
Sadie remembered. They had been playing at dressing up as rich ladies.
Sadie had been wearing one of Lucy's Gran's old hats with a feather in
and Lucy had been wearing?a pair of her mum's big old high heeled
shoes! No wonder she had seemed an inch taller. Lucy felt a bit silly,
but very glad that she hadn't shrunk and even gladder that it wasn't
the spinach that had made her grow.
It was time for another plan. They agreed that they should see what
else the garden could suggest for making something grow and trooped
downstairs, stopping for an orange squash, before heading out to the
garden, where Lucy and Sadie's mums and Lucy's Dad were sitting,
talking. The girls walked had in hand down the garden, towards the
always interesting area beside the garden shed. This bit of the garden
always seemed a bit darker than the rest and it was here that the
compost heap was housed and bits of brick and planks of wood seemed to
have come to rest. This was the part of the garden where the witch
always lived in their pretend games.
By the door of the garden shed were some large bags with pictures of
tomatoes on them. Lucy hadn't seen them before, so Sadie and Lucy
decided to investigate. There was some writing on the bags. Lucy
spelled the writing out, "G-R-O-B-A-G. What does that say,
"It says gro-bag," said Sadie. "I think if you put tomato seeds in it,
they grow into big tomato plants with tomatoes on."
"Wow," said Lucy, clearly impressed. "Do you think it works on people
Sadie shrugged her shoulders. "No harm in trying, is there?"
It was agreed that Lucy should have a go in a gro-bag when the parents
weren't looking. Eventually, all the parents went back inside, leaving
Lucy and Sadie alone in the garden.
"Quick, get in!" urged Sadie.
Lucy quickly stepped into the compost inside the gro-bag. "Is it
working yet?" she asked.
Sadie peered closely at Lucy to see if there were any signs of growth.
Neither of them noticed Lucy's Dad running up the garden path, with his
arms flailing around like a windmill.
"Get out of my tomato bags!" he shouted. Lucy stepped out, looking
sheepish. Her Dad saw the funny side though when he saw how guilty the
two best friends looked. Honestly, he thought to himself, what were
they up to? Those two have been getting naughtier by the day
The girls thought that they had better give up on the gro-bag idea
after that before they got into serious trouble.
What else could make Lucy grow? There wasn't much time to think about
it now, as the school was about to break up for the summer holidays and
there were important plans to be made. Sadie was going to spend the
summer at her Granny's house in Devon, so she wouldn't see Lucy for
weeks and weeks. Lucy was due to go to Spain with her family in a
week's time for a fortnight's holiday. She was very excited as it meant
that they'd be going on an aeroplane. She had never been on an
aeroplane before. Sadie and Lucy promised to send each other postcards
and hugged each other for the last time that summer, one sunny Sunday
Lucy had a brilliant time in Spain. The plane had been lots of fun,
once she'd got over the horrible ear-popping, but Spain was even
better. She splashed around on the beach and made lots of new friends
at the hotel. She laughed as she watched her dad eat squid at the
restaurant and giggled when her mum put cool sun tan lotion on her red
sunburnt nose. She was having such a great time on holiday that she had
forgotten all about being so little.
On the last week of the summer holiday, before school started again,
Sadie came back from her Granny's house. The two best friends had a lot
of news to catch up on. Lucy swapped her exciting stories of Spain with
Sadie's stories of a summer spent horseriding and feeding the ducks in
her Granny's village in the countryside. They both agreed that they'd
both had a lot of fun, but there seemed something strange since they
had last met. Neither of them could think what on earth it was.
"There's something different here," pondered Sadie as she swung back
and forth on her swing, "only I can't quite put my finger on it."
Lucy agreed. "Maybe its because we're a bit older?" she wondered aloud,
as she soared higher.
"Or maybe its because we've had our hair cut?" reflected Sadie, coming
back down to earth.
"No, I don't think it can be that?." Lucy disagreed.
They would have carried on wondering and discussing and thinking up all
sorts of possibilities if Lucy's mum hadn't called them in from the
garden for their tea.
It was spaghetti bolognese tonight. Messy and lots of fun to slurp
through the gap in one's teeth, it was one of the girl's favourite
meals. "Parmesan cheese?" Lucy offered Sadie, politely.
"Ugh! No way - it smells like my Dad's old socks!" exclaimed Sadie,
wrinkling her nose in disgust.
Lucy sighed. It was the only real difference of opinion the two girls
had about food. She went over to the cupboard to get the parmesan for
herself. As she turned around, she noticed Sadie gawping at her with
her mouth open. "What's up?" asked Lucy.
"You reached the parmesan!" Sadie cried. "You could never have done
that before the holidays!"
Lucy looked at the tub of parmesan in her hand, then looked at Sadie
and back again, before allowing a huge smile to spread across her
"You must have grown!" cried Sadie again.
After finishing their supper as quickly as they could, they zoomed up
to the height chart still on Lucy's bedroom wall. "Quick! Measure me!"
squeaked Lucy, barely containing her excitement, afraid that she might
shrink at any moment if this momentous occasion wasn't marked down
straight away in red felt tip. Sadie marked her height against the
chart. The tension was unbearable. "A whole inch and a half!" they both
whispered together, before whooping and jumping and down for joy. Their
plan had worked!
But which one??
for Emily and Stephen