Table of Contents
OTHER NOVELS BY PHYLLIS SHALANT
When Pirates Came to Brooklyn
Bartleby of the Mighty Mississippi
The Great Eye
Beware of Kissing Lizard Lips
DUTTON CHILDREN'S BOOKS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright Â© 2005 by Phyllis Shalant
Illustrations copyright Â© 2005 by Brian Floca
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in -Publication Data
Bartleby of the big bad bayou / Phyllis Shalant.
Summary: After making a dangerous voyage down the Mississippi from
New York, Bartleby, who had started life as a pet turtle, and his alligator friend
Seezer must learn to survive in their true bayou home.
eISBN : 978-1-101-15410-6
1. TurtlesâJuvenile fiction. [1. TurtlesâFiction. 2. BayousâFiction.
3. AnimalsâFiction.] I. Title.
PZ10.3.S38425Bar 2005 [Fic]âdc22 2004022232
Published in the United States by Dutton Children's Books,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014www.penguin.com/youngreaders
For Beverly, who accidentally fried our goldfish on the radiator, whose hamster escaped in our bedroom, and who once wanted an iguana
Bartleby was crawling along the bank of the wide, rolling water when something caught his eye. It was the glint of crinkly silver stuff lying on the shore. He perked up his head and listened for human voices. He felt the ground under his webs for the vibrations of human footsteps. There didn't seem to be any, so he plodded over to investigate.
Usually there was food inside a silvery wad like this. Not juicy worms or gooey slugs, but human food. A lot of it tasted sweet, which Bartleby detested. But sometimes there was lettuce.
Once Bartleby had been a pet. He'd lived in a house with three boys and a mother. Mostly, they'd fed him turtle flakes. But sometimes, for a special treat, the mother had given him lettuce. Just the thought of it made his mouth tingle happily. He crawled up to the crumpled silver and stuck his head inside.
Sure enough, it was thereâa crisp-looking leaf poking out from two pieces of the soft, bland food humans sometimes tossed to ducks. Only a few bites were missing. And on top of the lettuce were two slices of something the pinkish brown color of earthworms. It had a spicy smell that Bartleby found interesting. But first he would eat the lettuce. Snap! He clamped his jaws down on the tasty green and began to drag it to the river.
“Bartleby, are you sssunning on the bank?” a gruff voice called.
“I'm over here, Seezer! I have found something very delicious. Lettuce! And I think there is something that you would like. Come and try it!”
A blackish green alligator climbed out of the water. Part of his tail was missing. He swung his big head from side to side, scanning the shore, the brush, and the woods beyond. Cautiously, he treaded over the mud bank where Bartleby was waiting.
“Bologna!” he exclaimed, peering into the silvery bundle. “I haven't had bologna since I was a pet. My girl used to ssslip it out of her sssandwich and feed it to me when her mother wasn't looking. Bologna is beautiful ssstuff!”
“You can have it,” Bartleby said. “I'll eat the lettuce. There's more than enough.”
With a quick clap of his long jaws, Seezer swallowed both pieces of the spicy meat. “Ahhh, ssscrumptious!” He looked around the bank and toward the woods. “But where there is bologna, there are humans. We mustn't ssstay long. Besides, I believe we have finally reached our destination.”
Bartleby's mouth opened. He dropped his leaf. “The Mighty Mississippi?” His heart beat faster. “Really? How can you tell?”
“Sssee how the water has become brown and muddy? Sssoon I think we will ssspot great garfish and juicy ssswamp rabbits. Mmmm ... even better than bologna.”
Bartleby didn't want to eat rabbitsâand he hoped the great garfish didn't want to eat him. Seezer had told him that the gar was so big and fierce it ate ducks for breakfast and muskrats for dinner! Thinking of it now made Bartleby shudder in his shell. Still, he couldn't wait to get to Seezer's bayouâa cozy creek filled with fresh water from the river. Many times his friend had told him about the delightful water place he'd lived in before he'd been trapped by a pet seller.
Bartleby had been hatched in a tank. He'd never seen a bayou. But he knew it was his natural home, too, because of a show he'd seen on TV when he'd lived with the boys. It had been called
Turtles of the Mighty Mississippi,
and there'd been red-ears like himself in it. More than anything, he longed to meet those turtles.
He seized the lettuce and turned toward the powerful, churning river again. Once the pond in New York where he'd been dumped had been the biggest water place he'd ever swum in. Then he and Seezer had found a trickle of traveling water in which to begin the journey. At first, the moving water had felt so much colder, Bartleby had wanted to dig down under the mud and stay there. He'd had to get used to swimming with the quick, bouncy currentâwhich was fun until he'd crashed into a rock. But now he was a strong swimmer and a good navigator. He was sure his old friends at the pond would be proud of him.