Martin and Vanessa Play a Trick: A Story About Teamwork

I occassionally write and illustrate – using that term loosely – stories for my daughters, who are 7 and 9.  This is one of them, which I am posting here because it offers a lesson about teamwork.  It’s also a reminder to any smartypants amongst us not to act like Mooka…

Vanessa is a horse and Martin is a pig but everyone calls them twins.  The reason is that they were born on the exact same day on the exact same farm and always have the same idea at the same time.

Sometimes their ideas are naughty, sometimes they are wise, and sometimes they’re just plain silly!

Once rainy day Vanessa and Martin were in the barn.  They were bored.  They’d already played a few games like Kick the Apple (which Vanessa usually won, although Martin usually could eat them faster) and now they didn’t know what to do.

Also in the barn was a young cow named Mooka.  Mooka a clever cow with lots of energy and thought she could do everything better than everyone else.

Martin and Vanessa didn’t really like her very much because she was such a know-it-all but they felt so bored they thought they’d ask her what she was up to.

‘Hi, Mooka, want to play Kick the Apple’? asked Martin.

‘No, thanks,’ answered Mooka a bit snootily.  ‘I’m so good, it wouldn’t be any fun for me.’

‘We could play Count the Slats,’ suggested Vanessa, before Martin said something rude in return.

‘I already counted the slats,’ answered Mooka primly.  ‘There are 217.’

Martin and Vanessa looked at each other and had the same idea for a prank in that moment.

‘When the rain dries up, how about racing us?’ offered Martin.

Mooka laughed scornfully.  ‘I’m young and faster than any other animal on this farm.  Why would I waste my time racing either of you?’

Vanessa was offended.  Mooka was younger than her, to be sure, but she wasn’t that old.

‘Any animal?’ she asked.

‘Any animal,’ confirmed Mooka confidently.

‘And if you lose?’

Mooka sighed, obviously bored with the conversation.  ‘I’ll clean Martin’s stall and groom Vanessa every day for a week.  But I won’t lose and you’ll have to give me all your apples for a week.’

‘Deal!’ answered Martin and Vanessa together.  ‘See you tomorrow at noon under the big tree with your opponent!’

Martin and Vanessa went off to discuss matters privately.  Although they wanted to teach Mooka a lesson, they didn’t really think they could beat her in a race.  Vanessa wasn’t very fast for a horse, being rather fat and lazy, and Mooka was very fast for a cow.  And Martin wasn’t fast at all.

‘How about one of the chickens?  Sally is pretty fast,’ suggested Martin.

‘I don’t think so,’ responded Vanessa.

‘I suppose the mice are out of the question.’

‘Definitely!’ confirmed Vanessa.  ‘They mean well but they’d just embarrass us.’

Several other animals were suggested and rejected.  Finally they decided to sleep on it and hope for an inspiration in the morning.

But no inspiration occurred.  The next morning they were no further along with a solution than before so they sadly made their way to the big tree.

‘I suppose,’ said Vanessa, ‘I could race her.’

‘Yes…’ said Martin.  He was too polite to point out how humiliating it would be if Vanessa lost.  Or that she probably would lose to Mooka.

A tiny voice interrupted them.  ‘Ahem! Ahem!’

‘Who’s there?’ asked Martin suspiciously.



‘Right here!’  Martin and Vanessa looked down and saw a tiny grasshopper waving at them.

‘It’s me, Jacob!’

‘Hi, Jacob, we’re a bit busy right now,’ began Vanessa apologetically, when Jacob interrupted.

‘I will race Mooka,’ announced Jacob importantly, ‘and I will win!’

‘A little fellow like you?’ laughed Martin.

‘I’m small but I’m fast,’ Jacob assured him.  ‘Leave it to me.’

Martin and Vanessa didn’t have a better plan so they decided to let Jacob have a chance.

Just then the animals began arriving for the race.  Mooka was last and she walked very importantly with her nose held high.

‘Who will race me?’ she called loudly.

Vanessa gestured with her nose at Jacob.

Mooka frowned.  ‘I don’t see anyone.’

‘Ahem!’ Jacob jumped up waving his feelers to get her attention.

Mooka snorted.  ‘That little grasshopper?’

Jacob puffed out his chest although no one noticed this because he was so small.

‘I am little but I will win,’ he said confidently.

Shaking her head in disbelief, Mooka strutted proudly to the starting line, where Jacob joined her.

Martin called the animals to order because he had a loud voice and was usually the spokesperson for the others.

‘On your mark, get set, go!’

Mooka dashed off with Jacob immediately falling behind.  He was a quick jumper but so small!   It didn’t seem he could keep up with a large running cow for all his confidence. 

And yet… as Mooka ran behind some bushes everyone gasped as they saw Jacob briefly appear above the same bushes in a great leap.

This happened several times – it would seem as if Jacob had fallen behind then suddenly BOING!! he would appear above the very bush where Mooka was running.

As Mooka, panting and sweating from running so hard, was about to cross the finish line BOING! Jacob jumped right in front of her and won the race.

Mooka couldn’t believe her eyes.  How had that tiny grasshopper beaten her?  While all the animals cheered excitedly at the exciting novelty of a little grasshopper winning such a big race, Mooka slipped quietly back to the barn, furious. 

‘Oh!’ She stopped and stomped her hoof as she remembered she would have to clean Martin’s stall for a whole week AND groom Vanessa.

That night Martin and Vanessa were whispering about the amazing day.

‘How did Jacob do it?’ Vanessa wondered.


‘Jacob!  You were wonderful!  Thank you so much, you really taught that stuck up cow a lesson,’ whispered Martin.

‘Holy cow!’ gushed Vanessa.  ‘How did you do it?’ asked Vanessa.

‘Well, I may be small, but I’m smart,’ boasted Jacob.  ‘My 17 cousins, 20 brothers and 13 nephews helped me win.’

‘How?’ asked Vanessa and Martin together, almost forgetting to whisper.

‘At each bush one of them was waiting and would jump up right as Mooka ran by.’

Martin and Vanessa laughed and laughed.  They realized that teamwork can make the difference between winning and losing.

And Mooka learned not to be quite so vain, although she still thought very well of herself.

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