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John Michael Helms


and the

Bird Dog Illustrated by Gabriele Liedtke

To Daddy Jack Purcell A Real Storyteller

Š 2012 Canopy Road Horizons, LLC

“Thank You” to Consultants Erica Cooper Diane Oliver Andrea Savage Melanie Stoudenmire

As soon as Yob’s mother opened the door to the beach house, he could hear the roar of the surf. The smell in the air reminded Yob of a deep sea fishing trip he once took with his grandfather. Yob was about to take off when his mother said, “Wait just a minute, young man. You two don’t have on any sunscreen.” Yob rolled his eyes. He hated sunscreen. It was slimy, and it smelled. “Last time the two of you went without sunscreen you got blistered,” she reminded them. After a good rubdown, Yob and his younger sister shot out of the beach house like rockets. They raced with excitement down to the ocean, kicking up sand along the way.

With great excitement and joy, Yob and Lerig ran into the surf, allowing the cool waves to splash against their bodies. One wave was large enough that it hit Yob up on his chest. His eyes widened with surprise as part of the wave reached up and gently washed his face, causing him to taste the salty ocean for the first time. Seeing this, Lerig wisely turned her back to the surf for protection.

The warm wind blew through Yob’s blond hair. He leaned back on his hands to feel the bright, hot sun press against his face. He squinted his eyes open enough to catch the movement of the Laughing Gulls that danced on the shifts of the wind. The black-headed birds seemed to float in the sky with no effort at all. When they wanted to move, they flapped their white and black feathered wings a few times, banked sharply to one side, and darted to the shallow surf to retrieve a quick meal, like a small fish, or a crab. While Lerig continued to build a sandcastle nearby, Yob got an idea: “I’ll build my own bird,” he thought.

He raced back to the beach house and found the art supplies his mother kept in the closet. He took sticks, paper and tape to fashion a bird that he hoped would fly like those he had seen at the beach.

Yob could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he ran back to the beach. He was ready to launch his creation. Now he understood how the Wright brothers must have felt at Kitty Hawk. He pushed the stick and paper bird through the air hoping to set it free to soar with the other birds. However, the invisible forces of the earth pulled his paper and stick creation down time and time again. Now the gulls overhead really seemed to laugh at him as they opened their beaks and made strange noises. Dejected by his efforts, Yob pouted for a few moments and stuck his tongue out at the birds that mocked him overhead.

Then, Yob remembered the string he’d stuck in his back pocket. With imagination still working, he tied the string to the paper and stick creation and pulled it along the beach and pretended it was a dog. “Come on, boy,� he yelled as he began to run, with his dog following closely behind.

As Yob ran faster and faster, the wind created enough lift that his stick and paper dog rose above the white-capped waves and into the blue sky above. Yob looked up at the gulls and said proudly, “Hey, you birds, who’s laughing now?”

People walked by and complimented Yob on his creation. “What is it?” one woman asked curiously. “It’s a bird dog,” Yob replied with a smile. But the bird dog moved sharply from one side of the sky to the other, as if it were chasing a rabbit. Yob struggled to keep it in the air.

Lerig was sitting nearby, scooping up wet sand and letting it drip through her hands until it made stalagmite looking mounds like the ones she had seen in a cave once on a school field trip. When she saw Yob’s bird dog zigzagging across the sky, she stood up and asked, “Shouldn’t a dog have a tail?” Her mother had pulled Lerig’s golden hair back into ponytails with two red ribbons. Lerig pulled them from her hair, tied them together, and gave them to Yob.

“Gee, thanks, Sis,� he said, somewhat surprised by her generosity. Yob pulled in his creation and tied the red tail to his bird dog. Then he started running with the bird dog following close behind. Once again it lifted into the sky, higher and higher, but this time, it held steady, just like the Laughing Gulls. The red tail helped the bird dog remain calm in the swift currents of the wind.

Yob watched proudly as it flew with the ocean birds. He felt it was something of a miracle that his creation of sticks, paper, and tape had taken on a life of its own. “How do you like my bird dog?” he asked people as they walked by. “I made it myself. I think it can fly as good as they can, don’t you?” “Oh, give me a break,” Lerig would say, but Yob continued to brag to people about his bird dog. He even made up a song about his bird dog and set it to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” “Bird Dog, Bird Dog, I created you, to fly freely over the ocean blue. You can soar like all the birds can, I tell everyone I meet on the sand. Bird Dog, Bird Dog, I created you, to fly freely over the ocean blue.”

“That’s a nice song, kid,” one lady said, “but don’t let go of that string or your bird dog will come crashing down.” Yob had sort of forgotten about the string that he held in his right hand. It should have been obvious to him that it was one of the differences between his bird dog and the Laughing Gulls. None of them had strings. They were totally free. However, by now he was convinced that the bird dog really had learned to fly and the string was no longer needed.

“I know my bird dog can fly all by itself,” Yob thought. “What does that woman know?” So Yob made up his mind. “Lerig, I’m going to set my bird dog freeeee!” he said. “Watch!” He ran several steps with the bird dog and then he let go of the string!

At first, the bird dog went higher and higher and farther and farther out over the ocean. “It’s flying! It’s flying!” he yelled, as he jumped up and down with excitement. The woman who told him not to let go of the string looked back with interest. The Laughing Gulls seemed to welcome the bird dog as an honored guest, giving it a grand escort on its very first flight.

But Yob’s excitement was as short lived as a soap bubble. Far out into the ocean, the bird dog fell from the sky like a falling star. In the blink of an eye, it was gone.

When the sun rose, Yob and Lerig walked back to the beach one last time. Lerig noticed that the high tide had washed away her sandcastle. There was just a little mound of dirt where she had spent hours building her fairy tale creation. She knew it wouldn’t last, but that was okay. It was just for fun. The memories would last forever. As more Laughing Gulls flew nearby, Yob went and sat to ponder the fate of his bird dog. The morning was peaceful. The breeze was cooler. The sun wasn’t as hot. He was careful not to get wet as he sat just where the water and the dry sand met.

As he sat there thinking about the events from the day before, he noticed something a short distance ahead that looked like a small pile of debris. He stood up and walked to see what it was. He picked up his pace as he got closer. He squatted down to examine the items that had washed up on the shore. There were the remnants of his bird dog, deposited by the tide during the night. Some sadness came into his heart as he picked up the remains of the ruined bird dog. As he picked through the ruins, he looked up from his squatting position and saw one of the Laughing Gulls on the wet flat sand up ahead. It had something in its beak. As Yob stood up for a better look, he realized the gull had the string of the bird dog in its beak with a small piece of the bird dog still attached.

Then a remarkable thing happened. The gull flew away with the string in its beak. “Lerig, look! The bird took my string!� Yob exclaimed, as his sadness turned to glee. At least part of his bird dog was flying again. As the bird flew farther and farther away with his string, Yob remembered how it had felt in his hand. The tug on the line had been strong. It felt at times like he had a fish on the end of a line. It made the bird dog feel alive as it rode the shifting currents of the wind. Now he realized the lady was right. He shouldn’t have let go of the string. The tension of the string did not keep the bird dog from being free; it was what gave it the freedom to fly.

As Yob and Lerig stood there watching the gull fly away from the beach, they heard their mom calling them back to the beach house. It was time to pack up and head home. Yob wasn’t ready to leave, but he didn’t have a choice. He often wanted to make his own decisions, to do as he pleased, to be completely free, just like the Laughing Gulls. It occurred to him that he was more like the bird dog, except he was attached to his family by their guidelines and rules. “What if they let go of all of those rules? That would be great!” he thought. But then he remembered what happened to the bird dog when he let go of the string. It crashed. “Without rules, would I crash, too?” he wondered. He’d never thought about it like that.

As they walked back to the beach house, they saw two boys throwing a Frisbee. One of boys obviously forgot to use his sunscreen. He was as red as a beet. “Ouch,” thought Yob. “That’s going to hurt.” Now Yob was glad his mom put sunscreen on him before he went out. It reminded him that his parents’ rules were for his own good. When he followed them he was safer and happier. He was beginning to understand that even when they said things like “don’t” and “no,” they said them because they loved him and wanted good things for him.

It was time for Yob and Lerig to leave for home. Their trip to the beach was fun. They had played in the sunshine and the waves. Yob built his first bird dog and crashed it, too, just like the Wright brothers crashed their first winged creation. As Yob left the beach to walk into the beach house, he gave one last look at the ocean. He looked at the horizon where his bird dog had crashed. He looked back at the sky where the Laughing Gull had flown with his string. Yob was thankful for the fun he’d had, for the beauty of the beach, for time he spent with his sister, and for what he had learned from a paper and stick creation called the bird dog.

Educators’ Questions For Children 1. Did Yob like to follow his mother’s rules? What rules did she have that he didn’t like to follow? 2. What would happen if you had complete freedom without any rules or limitations? Would you soar or would you crash? 3. What did Yob eventually decide about following rules? 4. Where do imagination and creativity come from? How did Yob and Lerig use their imaginations? 5. How did the story “The Bird Dog” get its name? 6. What happened at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina? Why did Yob think about the famous event at Kitty Hawk when he was on the beach? 7. What gift did Lerig give her brother for the bird dog? 8. What advice did the woman on the beach give to Yob? Why didn’t he listen to her advice? 9. Did the string really limit the bird dog’s ability to fly? What happened when Yob let go of the string? 10. What would happen to you if there were no rules or limitations placed on your life by people who cared for you? 11. What were some of the things Yob was thankful for as he left the beach?

Religious Educators’ Questions for Children 1. Where does imagination come from? 2. At first Yob was disappointed when his creation would not fly. How did he handle his disappointment? How do you handle disappointment? 3. What is the difference between feeling good about something you have done and bragging about it? Proverbs 16:18a says, “Pride goes before destruction.” What does that mean? 4. Hebrews 11:25 says that the peasures of sin are fleeting. In other words, sometimes we enjoy doing things that are wrong, but that joy doesn’t last long. For example, when Yob let go of the string, he celebrated at first, but what happened after that? Can you think of a time you enjoyed doing something that was wrong, but later regretted it? 5. Proverbs 12:15 says that “the way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (NIV). Why do you think Yob didn’t listen to advice from adults? When should you listen to adults? What adults should you trust? 6. What gift did Lerig give Yob for the bird dog? Lerig’s gift helped the bird dog remain calm in the shifting winds. What can you do to be of help to others? Who are the helpers in your life? Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased” (NIV). 7. How is God our helper? How does God help you? The Psalmist said this about God: “Because you are my helper, I will sing for joy in the shadow of your winds. I will cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely” (Psalm 63:7-8 NIV). How does this verse remind you of Yob and his bird dog? 8. Why didn’t Yob like following rules? What did the bird dog teach Yob about staying connected to his parents’ rules? 9. Does God have rules for us to obey? Why do you think God wants us to stay within the guidelines He has set for us? 10. Do your parents have rules you don’t like? Are you sometimes tempted to break them? Why should you follow their rules even when you don’t like them or understand them? 11. What were some things Yob was thankful for as he left the beach? What are some things you are thankful for? Say a prayer of thanks and ask God to help you live wisely and make good choices so you will live a healthy and productive life.

Yob and the Bird Dog is the first in a series of books featuring siblings Yob and Lerig. These books are designed to teach children about making good choices. In Yob and the Bird Dog, Yob learns the value of trust and why it is important for children to remain connected to guidelines set by parents.

About the Author Dr. Michael Helms brings his awardwinning writing style to the world of picture books in Yob and the Bird Dog. His writing experience spans hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and on-line journals. In addition, he has authored four books for adults. Michael has won eight Amy Writing Awards from the Amy Foundation, which has one of the most competitive journalism contests in the nation. As a pastor, Michael has spent his career helping people. His love for picture books stems from his own childhood and the time he spent reading to his own two sons.

Profile for Michael Helms

Yob and the Bird Dog  

A children's book by John Michael Helms, designed to help children make good choices.

Yob and the Bird Dog  

A children's book by John Michael Helms, designed to help children make good choices.