About a month ago my 7 year old daughter Sophie and I set off to write a book for her friend Milo for his birthday present. Sophie and Milo have been the best of friends since the day they met when they were only about 6 months old. Last year Sophie and her family moved from Brooklyn N.Y. to Northampton, Mass. We still manage see Milo about once a month, and they’re still great pals. Here’s our story.
In the final weeks before the start of the long dark winter all the young penguins in the colony must learn to swim in preparation for the following Spring, but not Milo, and his parents were starting to worry.
“Milo, tomorrow is the last day before the sun sets for Winter. If you don’t get your feathers wet you’ll never learn how to swim, and come first light next Spring the entire colony will go to sea without you,” said his father. “Please Milo, you must learn to swim like the rest of your friends,” pleaded his mother. “It’s what all penguins need to do”. Finally, Milo gave in. “I will, Mom and Dad. I will swim tomorrow,” promised Milo. “Tomorrow, I’ll swim!” He said with a confident grin.
The next morning, as usual Milo’s friends stopped by his igloo to see if he’d swim with them. But today, to everyone’s delight, he accepted and off they all went to the ocean.
Milo of course was last on line as he nervously waddled down to the shore and gazed out on the edge of the ice as his friends fearlessly dove in. Suddenly, another young penguin came sliding down the hill on his belly and knocked into Milo who lost his balance and toppled beak over flipper into the water. “Help! Help! I can’t swim!” Milo called out in a panic. “Help! Hey, wait a minute”. Thought Milo, “I can swim! This is easy”. And, as is the case
with all penguins, they can do two things really, really well: Swim and waddle, and as it turned out all Milo ever needed to do was try.
“I’m swimming, I’m swimming”! Milo called out proudly to no one in particular, but it didn’t matter, because no one could hear him. In all his excitement Milo had wandered away from his friends and he soon realized he was lost.
“I wonder where everyone can be? Oh well, they can’t be far”. Milo thought still bursting with pride as he began to explore the new underwater world all around him.
As morning turned to afternoon Milo began to worry. “There’s only a couple of hours of daylight left,” Milo thought to himself, “and I have no idea where my home is.”
Meanwhile back on the icy shores of Antarctica Milo’s parents began to worry as they looked out onto the vast ocean with no sign of their boy.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Milo to a sleepy Octopus. “Do you know how to get to the penguin colony from here?” “Hmmm, nope sorry, I can’t say I’ve ever been there.” Replied the groggy Octopus. An anxious Milo repeated the same question to every sea creature he came across. “Can’t say that I do.” Said the Orca. “I think I was there along time ago.” Said an Eel. “Or maybe I’m thinking of the
seal colony.” “I know it’s either this way, or is it that way. ” Said a Sea horse. “Or, maybe it’s that way.” He said, now pointing in a third direction. Milo just shook his head, said thank you and swam away.
Meanwhile back on shore the sun was about to set. All the young penguins had long since returned as Milo’s parents continued to stare out at the sea hoping for his return.
While in an underwater twilight, lost and far from home, Milo had just about given up hope and he began to softly cry as darkness began to settle in around him. “I’ll never get to see my home, my friends or my parents again.” said Milo sadly.
“Hey, little penguin. why so sad? Are you lost?” Said a colorful, young fish. “I am.” Said Milo. It’s my first day in the ocean and I got separated from my friends and now I’m…I’m…I’m, well…” “Lost.” said the fish finishing Milo’s sentence. “Yeah, I guess I am.” Said Milo. “And I don’t know how to get back to the penguin colony. Hey, do you know where it is?” “Penguin colony, piece of cake.” Replied the colorful fish confidently. “But, we better get going before it gets dark.”
“Wow! Thanks. My name’s Milo, what’s yours?” “I’m Sophie. Now, follow me Milo, and try to keep up,” she said with a smile, and off they went.
On their journey, Milo stuck close to Sophie. All the while the new friends talked, laughed and learned about each other. “It must be fun to be able to waddle on land and slide on your belly,” said Sophie. “It must be cool to live in the ocean with so much to see,” replied Milo. “I never dreamed it could be so beautiful”.
As they swam the underwater shadows grew longer by the minute, but just as the sun was about to set the two friends spotted the icy shore of Antarctica in the distance. But, at the same time they also spotted something else behind them. A hungry leopard seal. “Hurry, Milo!” Sophie shouted as they made a mad dash for shore as the fast moving predator closed in.
On shore Milo’s parents had just about given up all hope as they watched the final amber sun set of the season that was about to usher in six long, dark months of an Antarctic winter. All of a sudden Milo burst through the top of the water with enough speed to carry him clear over his parents heads and straight into a snow bank. In fact some penguins swear they actually saw Milo fly, if only for a moment.
Overjoyed, his parents took Milo home to celebrate, but all Milo could think of was Sophie. “I wonder if I’ll ever see her again?” he thought. “I wonder where she is right now?” Meanwhile only a short distance, but a world away Sophie was thinking the exact same thing. “I’m sure glad Milo made it home O.K., but I miss him already. I wonder if I’ll ever see him again?”
During the long, dark winter months Milo went to school, studied hard to learn the ways of adult penguins, and grew, trading in his gray feathers for a handsome black and white coat. But the whole time he could not stop thinking about his friend Sophie. For, him Spring could not come fast enough so he could set out and try to find his friend.
Finally, after six of the longest months of Milo’s young life the sun began to rise over the eastern icebergs and the penguin colony at long last began to march towards the sea, this time led by Milo. By the time the sun had cleared the horizon Milo had already entered the water.
Excited, Milo tried to retrace his and Sophie’s steps from six months ago as best he could, but the ocean was a big place and he’d only been in it once before. It wasn’t long before he was seeking help. “Excuse me .“ He said to just about every sea creature who’s attention he came across. “Have you seen a very colorful fish?’ She has an orange dot on her head and is about as long as my flipper.” He’d ask. Most of the responses went along the lines. “Colorful fish you say? Hmmm….lot’s of colorful fish down here. Long as your flipper, hmmm….orange dot? Can’t say that I have. Nope. Sorry, my young friend. I’ll ask around, but I can’t remember seeing that particular fish. It only got light out this morning ya know, besides young fella, there are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Finally after hours of searching. Exhausted, hungry, sad and about to give up, Milo sat on a rock at the bottom of the sea and sighed. “I guess I’ll never see Sophie again. I don’t know what I was thinking hoping to find one little fish in a great big ocean.” Then he thought he heard a familiar voice coming from behind him sounding just as sad. The sad voice was also saying how she’ll never see her friend again. It sounded like Sophie, but when Milo turned to look she was no longer the size of Milo’s flipper, and she was not just colorful. She was beautiful. Just like Milo, Sophie had also grown up.
“Sophie?!” Is that really you?” “Milo?! I can’t believe it! Look at you Milo in your penguin tuxedo.” Then at the exact same time they both shouted, “I can’t believe I found you!!”
The rest of the day the two friends played, laughed and talked as if a day hadn’t past since they had last been together, and when it finally came time for both of them to head home Milo said. “See ya here tomorrow Sophie, same time?” “Absolutely! “ she replied. “And the day after that.” she giggled. “And the day after that” Milo shot back.
“And the day after that” Milo replied with a grin, and then as they swam away together flipper in flipper they began to repeat together.
And the day after that
and the day after that
and the day after that
and the day after that
and the day after that……..