Libili’s Lesson, by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

(The Storyteller is an ostrich with books for wings.)

Storyteller: Libili loved birds. All she wanted to do was learn how to fly. At school, while other children were doing their spelling, Libili was staring out the window.

Teacher: Libili! How do we spell armchair!

Libili: er.. oh.. um..

Teacher: head in the clouds again Libili! That’s the third time today I’ve asked you to pay attention in class. Do we pay money to spell words children?

Children: No teacher!

Teacher: Because when we spell words what do we have to pay, children?

Children: Attention, Teacher!

Teacher: Exactly, and Libili was not paying?

Children: Attention!

Teacher: Exactly! Libili, what do you have to say?

Libili: Sorry Teacher, I was studying the sky

Because I want to learn to fly.

Teacher: Silly girl! You will never fly, you don’t have wings! Do humans have wings children?

Children: no, Teacher, we do not!

Teacher: Now, Libili, take your books and go and sit outside Principal’s office. If anybody asks what you are doing there, give this note to them.

Storyteller: Teacher wrote something on a paper, and gave it to Libili. The other children laughed. Libili felt SHAME SHAME SHAME. She walked past the other classrooms, down five stairs, down the other passage then she got to the Principal’s office. It was very quiet. She was all alone. She looked at the paper from Teacher.

Now in this school, every child had planted a tree. There were seventy-one children at the school, so seventy-one trees – A FOREST – in the schoolyard. Libili took the Teacher’s paper and started climbing a Tree. As she climbed, Tree sang a little song:

Libili, Libili wants to fly
Libili Libili, up to the sky
Try Libili, try! Try Libili try!

And Libili hid Teacher’s paper between the branches. That tickles! Giggled the Tree. The paper fell.
Libili caught the paper and put it back between the branches. The Tree giggled. The paper fell AGAIN. And Libili caught it.

Tree: Do you want me to hide Teacher’s paper Libili?

Libili: oh yes please Tree!

Tree: then you must answer my riddle.

Libili: let me try…

Tree: I am hard and brown and made from the tree
when you were a baby, I rocked you to sleep, what am I?

Libili: Grandmother!

Tree: Wrong!

The tree dropped Libili down, and she fell, bumping her head on the branches as she went. Bump, bump, bump. Then she opened the paper and read it. The word on the paper was the answer to the riddle! And Libili stopped falling instantly. She looked around – she was back in the class!

Teacher: Libili, what is the bed for a baby?

Libili: It’s a cradle, teacher!

Teacher: Amazing… very good! What was Libili paying children?

Children: Attention!

Storyteller: Then the teacher asked how do you spell cradle, Libili?

Libili: C-R-A-D-L-E!

And everybody clapped and laughed, and Teacher put a gold star on Libili’s forehead, and Libili was proud proud proud!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Langston Hughes