"The Teddy Bear Test" (Catherine Lee )
"There," Bernie said.
She had finished converting an old pair of favorite jeans into a hand-made teddy bear, which she placed on her bed. During the summer in this new neighborhood, Bernie only had to look at the bear to be reminded of happier times. The day before school, Bernie sewed a key ring to the back of the bear, and attached it to her backpack.
While walking down the hall to her first class, a girl pointed to her backpack and asked, "What's that?"
"Just something I made." Bernie responded.
"Looks like it." The girl said and walked away laughing.
Bernie didn't bother to respond. Last year's fifth-grade experience had taught her to ignore mean girls.
At lunch, Bernie found a quiet spot in the corner of the cafeteria. As the lunch tables filled up, Bernie noticed two girls looking around for a place to sit. She gestured to them in invitation.
"Hi, I'm Amanda. This is Maddy. I think we're all in Mrs. Feltzner's class."
"I'm Bernie. Have you been going to this school a while? I'm new."
Laughter erupted from one of the tables. The three of them looked up to see that the mean girl was pointing at them; she and her friends laughing.
"Yeah. I've been going to this school since kindergarten." Amanda gestured in the direction of the laughter, "I see that you've met Courtney and her tribe."
"Jeez. What could you have possibly done to attract their attention so soon?" Maddy asked.
"C'mon," Amanda said. "It can't have been that bad? What happened?"
From her backpack, Bernie unclipped the teddy bear she'd made and showed it to them.
"He's so cute and soft." Maddy exclaimed.
"Where'd you get him?" Amanda asked.
Bernie blushed again and admitted, "I made him."
"Really? How'd you get jeans to be so soft?" Maddy asked.
Bernie told Amanda and Maddy the story about her old jeans and a couple of the fun times they reminded her of from her old school. "I guess Courtney thinks sixth-graders should have outgrown teddy bears. When I told her I'd made this one, she said, 'looks like it', and got a good laugh."
"Who cares what Courtney thinks!" Amanda said.
"I want one of these for me." Maddy exclaimed.
"You don't have to say that to make me feel better." Bernie said.
"I'm totally serious."
Amanda added, "I have a couple of old pairs of jeans at home that I was going to cut into shorts. Will you show us how to make them into teddy bears?"
"Really?" Bernie was suspicious.
Maddy and Amanda looked at each other, then back at Bernie and said, "Yes!"
"But, I don't know anything about sewing," Maddy whispered.
Excited about making new friends so soon, Bernie responded, "I can show you. Why not come over this weekend. Bring your old jeans. I have everything else we need."
On Monday, Bernie, Katie and Maddy all had teddy bears hooked onto their backpacks — and they've been friends ever since.
Special thanks to Catherine Lee for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit catleepictureseeds.com.
For more Kids' Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids.