* Editor's note: A bossy badger learns that compromise and cooperation are important tools when it comes to building lasting friendships.
It was a beautiful autumn day. Fox warmed herself in the last rays of the sun. The hares scampered here and there. Wild Boar munched on acorns and chestnuts, and Deer nibbled on the last juicy grass in the glen. Only Hedgehog snuffled restlessly through the leaves.
"It will be winter soon," she said. "How do you propose we keep ourselves warm when the snow flies?"
"We could build ourselves a house," suggested Fox. "Then we could sit around the fire and play cards."
"I could curl up in a warm corner and sleep all winter," said Hedgehog. "What a wonderful idea. We should start first thing in the morning, yes indeed, we should start first thing. There's no time to lose."
The next day the animals met in the glade and cheerfully set to work.
The hares gathered stones from the field. Hedgehog helped Wild Boar to bring wood from the forest. Deer laid the stone to form a wall, and Fox mixed the concrete.
They worked hard, but they enjoyed it.
Then Badger showed up. "I see you are building a house," he said. "I can build excellent houses. May I help?"
"Yes, of course," the others replied.
The next morning when the other animals showed up at the site, Badger was already hard at work. "Don't just stand there, lazybones," he cried. "Get to work!"
So Deer and the hares ran off to find wood. But when they brought a pile to Badger, he wasn't happy: One log was too short, another too long, another too thin.
The next day was no different.
"Good morning," the animals said to Badger.
"Sleepyheads!" he snapped. "Hurry up, would you, and bring me more wood!"
The hares headed slowly into the woods.
Deer and Wild Boar built a window frame. But Badger just shook his head. "It's not square," he complained, "and it's much too big."
So the two of them took their window frame and went over to the clearing in the woods.
"Nothing is good enough for Badger," grumbled Hedgehog. "No, nothing suits him at all."
Completely discouraged, the animals sat and watched Badger building the house all by himself.
"Friends," said Fox, "soon it will snow. We should at least throw a roof over our little spot here."
All the animals looked at Fox. Now that was a good idea!
Full of enthusiasm, they set to work, laughing and singing all the while.
After a week, a small cottage stood in the little clearing. It was a bit crooked, and a few nails were bent. But that didn't bother anyone.
They sat happily around the warm fire, played cards, told stories and ate roasted chestnuts.
Badger had finished his house too. It stood right across the way from the little cottage and looked really splendid. Every beam was level, every nail straight. In the evening, Badger sat at the window, listening to the sounds of happy laughter from the other animals.
Suddenly Badger felt lonely in his beautiful house. When the first flakes of snow fell from the sky, he had an idea. Busily he began to work.
A few days later, Badger knocked on the door of the little cottage. "Dear friends," he said nervously. "I have brought you a present."
"Look at that!" cried the littlest hare.
"It's a sled," explained Badger. "And there is a seat for each of you."
"What's all the uproar?" snorted Hedgehog. "For goodness' sake, Badger did that? What a nice surprise!" She snorted again, then went back to sleep until spring.
The other animals spent the winter sledding down snowy hills by day and sitting happily together by the fire in the evenings. And Badger, who kept the sled in tip-top shape, soon abandoned his own little house and moved into the crooked little cottage with his friends.
From A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME by Anne Liersch. Illustrated by Christa Unzner. Copyright c 1999 by Nord-Sud Verlag AG, Gossau Zurich, Switzerland. All rights reserved. Used with permission of North-South Books Inc., New York.
Name all the animals that helped build the winter house in "A House is not a Home."
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