Ladybug celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this month. For twenty-five years, the magazine has tried to reflect the world of young children—and make it a little broader—through stories, poetry, art, and activities. Each issue encourages kids to take a closer look at the people and places around them. Ladybug invites children to bring their whole selves—their acute ear for language and keen eye for illustration, as well as that unmatchable sense of play and imagination—when they sit down to read.
The significance of Ladybug’s long history is clearest to me as the editor when I talk to parents of grown children. They often respond with surprise: “Ladybug? With the poems, and the stories, and the crafts to cut out? We used to read that when the kids were little.” And then there is a moment of quiet, as if the father is searching for a particular poem, or the mother is remembering the feel of a restless child’s head when it finally settled against her shoulder. It is a great pleasure to contribute to a magazine that families remember with affection.
Some anniversaries are formal, but at Ladybug, we approached the September issue as if it were a birthday party. It’s full of lively company, jokes, and music, with stories and poems that celebrate special days and growing up. In this spirit, we offer one of our favorite birthday stories, “Big Bear and Skinny Rabbit,” from an issue that came out a few years ago. It is part of a series about two friends who couldn’t be more different in temperament, yet more perfect for one another. (If you like this story, you can find another Skinny Rabbit and Big Bear tale in next month’s issue so be sure to subscribe to Ladybug!)
Big Bear and Skinny Rabbit
By Kathleen Stevens
Art by Terri Murphy
Big Bear tucked the last bit of blueberry pie into his mouth. “That was a delicious birthday lunch, Skinny Rabbit,” he said with a satisfied sigh. “You must have spent the whole morning cooking.”
“Only the best for my good friend and neighbor,” said Skinny Rabbit. “Now it’s present time.”
“A present—for me?” asked Big Bear.
“It’s your birthday, isn’t it?” Skinny Rabbit replied. Big Bear pulled the ribbon off the box and lifted the lid. “A hammock! I have always wanted a hammock. A hammock is the perfect place for a lazy nap.”
“Come outside and we’ll hang it up,” said Skinny Rabbit.
Two trees grew in the space between the friends’ houses. Skinny Rabbit and Big Bear tied the hammock between them. “Try it out,” suggested Skinny Rabbit.
Big Bear settled into the hammock and folded his paws across his belly. “How does it feel?”
“Just wonderful! Except—” Big Bear lifted his head. “A pillow would be nice.”
“Of course,” said Skinny Rabbit. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Skinny Rabbit hurried into his house for a pillow. He slid it under Big Bear’s head. “Better?”
“Much better. Except—do you see how the sun shines through the branches, Skinny Rabbit?”
“I do. It shines straight onto the hammock.” Skinny Rabbit tugged his whiskers thoughtfully. “I have an idea.”
He hopped to the garden shed and dragged out his striped beach umbrella. Skinny Rabbit opened the umbrella. “How’s that?” he asked.
“What a clever rabbit you are!” said Big Bear. “Why, it’s almost perfect.”
Skinny Rabbit’s ears drooped. “Almost?”
“This hammock needs a friend to share it. Will you join me for a nap, Skinny Rabbit?” ask Big Bear.
Skinny Rabbit’s ears turned pink with pleasure. “What a fine idea, Big Bear.” He squeezed into the hammock beside Big Bear.
“Comfortable?” asked Big Bear.
“Perfect,” said Skinny Rabbit. “Absolutely perfect.” And the two friends took a lazy nap together.