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Hello, my name is Ben and I hope you've had a good day today
because I have had a splendid day.
I went to a friend's birthday party
and I got a whole bag of goodies to take home with me!
I love birthday parties, do you?
Because tonight's bedtime story is about a little boy
who's invited to a birthday party.
Do you want to hear it? Good!
The story is called Alfie Gives A Hand by Shirley Hughes.
One day, Alfie came home from nursery school with a card in an envelope.
His best friend Bernard had given it to him.
"Look, it's got my name on it," said Alfie, pointing.
Mum said that it was an invitation to Bernard's birthday tea party.
"Will it be at Bernard's house?" Alfie wanted to know.
He'd never been there before.
Mum said yes, and she told him all about birthday parties
and how you had to take a present,
and about the games and how there would be nice things to eat.
Alfie was very excited about Bernard's party.
When the day came, Mum washed Alfie's face,
brushed his hair, and helped him put on
a clean T-shirt and his brand-new shorts.
"You and Annie-Rose are going to be at the party, too, aren't you?"
asked Alfie. "Oh, no," said Mum.
"I'll take you to Bernard's house and then Annie-Rose and I
"will go to the park and come back to collect you
"when it's time to go home."
"But I want you to be there," said Alfie.
Mum told him that she and Annie-Rose hadn't been invited to the party,
only Alfie, because he was Bernard's special friend.
"You don't mind me leaving you at nursery school," she said.
"You won't mind being at Bernard's house either
"as soon as you get there."
Mum had brought some crayons for Alfie to give Bernard
for his birthday present.
While she was wrapping them up, Alfie went upstairs.
He looked under his pillow and found his old bit of blanket
which he kept in bed with him at night.
He brought it downstairs and sat down to wait for Mum.
"You won't want your old blanket at the party,"
said Mum, when it was time to go.
But Alfie wouldn't leave his blanket behind.
He held it tightly with one hand
and Bernard's present with the other, all the way to Bernard's house.
When they got there, Bernard's mum opened the door.
"Hello, Alfie," she said.
"Let's go into the garden and find Bernard and the others."
Mum gave Alfie a kiss and said goodbye
and went off to the park with Annie-Rose.
"Would you like to put your blanket down here with the coats?"
asked Bernard's mum. But Alfie didn't want to put his blanket down.
He still held on to it very tightly.
Bernard was in the garden with Min and Sam and Daniel
and some other children from the nursery school.
"Happy birthday!" Alfie remembered to say, and he gave Bernard his present.
Bernard pulled off the paper.
"Crayons, how lovely!" said Bernard's mum.
"Say thank you, Bernard." "Thank you," said Bernard.
But do you know what he did then?
He threw the crayons up in the air!
They landed all over the grass.
"That was a silly thing to do," said Bernard's mum,
as she picked up the crayons and put them away.
Then Bernard's mum brought out some bubble stuff
and blew lots of bubbles into the air.
They floated all over the garden
and the children jumped about trying to pop them.
Alfie couldn't pop many bubbles
because he was holding on to his blanket, but Bernard
jumped about and pushed and popped more bubbles than anyone else.
"Don't push people, Bernard," said Bernard's mum sternly.
One huge bubble landed lightly on Min's sleeve.
It stayed there quivering and shiny.
Min smiled. She stood very still.
Then Bernard came up behind her and popped the big bubble.
Min began to cry.
Bernard's mum was cross with Bernard and told him to say he was sorry.
"Never mind, we're going to have tea now, dear," she told Min.
"Who would you like to sit next to?"
Min wanted to sit next to Alfie.
She stopped crying and pulled her chair right up close to his.
For tea, there were sandwiches and little sausages on sticks,
crisps and jellies and a big iced cake with candles
and "Happy Birthday, Bernard!" written on it.
Bernard took a huge breath and blew out all the candles at once.
Everyone clapped and sang Happy Birthday To You.
Then Bernard blew into his lemonade through his straw
and made rude, bubbling noises.
He blew into his jelly, too, until his mum took it away from him.
Alfie liked the tea,
but holding on to his blanket made eating rather difficult.
He got all mixed up with the jelly and crisps
and covered in sticky crumbs.
After tea, Bernard's mum said they were all going to play a game,
but Bernard ran off and fetched his very best present.
It was a tiger mask.
Bernard went behind the bush
and came out wearing the mask making terrible growling noises.
He went crawling round the garden sounding very fierce and frightening.
Min began to cry again.
She clung onto Alfie.
"Get up at once, Bernard!" said Bernard's mum.
"It's not that kind of game.
"Now, let's all stand in a circle, everyone, and join hands."
Bernard stopped growling but he wouldn't take off his tiger mask.
Instead, he grabbed Alfie's hand to pull him into the circle.
Bernard's mum tried to take Min's hand
and bring her into the circle, too,
but Min wouldn't hold anyone's hand but Alfie's.
She went on crying. She cried and cried.
Then Alfie made a brave decision.
He ran and put down his blanket very carefully in a safe place
underneath the table.
Now he could hold Min's hand, too, as well as Bernard's.
Min stopped crying. She wasn't frightened
of Bernard in his tiger mask now she was holding Alfie's hand.
She joined in the game
and they all danced around together singing
"Ring a ring o' roses,
"A pocket full of posies,
"We all fall down."
Afterwards, Alfie and Min joined in some more games
and ate ice cream and popcorn and bounced balloons with the others.
Alfie had such a good time that his blanket stayed under the table
until Mum and Annie-Rose came to collect him.
"What a helpful guest you've been, Alfie," said Bernard's mum,
when Alfie thanked her and said goodbye.
"Min wouldn't have enjoyed the party a bit without you.
"I do wish Bernard would learn to be helpful sometimes.
"Perhaps he will one day."
On the way home, Alfie carried his blanket in one hand
and a balloon and a packet of sweets in the other.
His blanket had got a bit messy at the party.
It had been rather in the way, too.
Next time, he thought he might leave it safely at home after all.
And that story was called Alfie Gives A Hand.
Alfie was a good friend to Min, wasn't he?
I hope you have good friend like Alfie.
Now, it's time for you to go to sleep, so night-night. Sleep tight.