Here is a condensed and paraphrased version of Brave Emily by Valerie Tripp. To get even more out of this story (especially the background WWII information both inside and outside the story) I suggest you read the whole book!
“Done!” cried Molly as she handed her binder to Emily. Molly had been having trouble with her multiplication problems and she had asked Emily to help her by checking them.
“Jolly good, Molly, not one mistake!”
“Yahoo!” Molly exploded, “Thanks, Emily. I never could have done it without you!”
“What’s all this noise about now?” asked Ricky as he poked into Molly’s room.
Molly thrust her paper at Ricky, “Look! It’s the nine times tables and I got all of them right!”
“It is to me. I’ve never done it before and Emily showed me how.”
Ricky shrugged, “Big deal, though your friend Emily is pretty smart for a girl.”
“My friend Emily is pretty smart for anybody,” Molly crowed back.
Ricky just shrugged and walked out.
Emily glowed. Molly had been very nice to Emily since she had arrived six days ago but she had never called her ‘friend’ until now. Emily wanted to be Molly’s friend very much.
“How did you get to be so good at numbers anyway?” Molly asked her.
Emily blushed, “Well, numbers are precise and they never lie or exaggerate. The right answer will never change. You can be sure of it.”
“You can be sure of it, but I can’t always be sure of mine. I always have to guess what 8 times 7 is. You’ve just got to think of a way I can remember it!”
“Very well,” said Emily earnestly.
The girls started to pack their homework up and get ready for bed.
“Is this your ration book? I have one too and they look alike,” Molly said as she flipped it over to see, “It must be yours, there’s a note on the back. Is it from your mom? What does it say?”
Emily had the note memorized but she read it anyway, “Emily, darling girl, be good. Be tidy. Be obedient, Be honest. And most of all, be polite and grateful. Unrationed love, Mum,” Emily swallowed hard.
“You miss your parents a lot don’t you? They must love you very much to part with you and send you here. I know if I went away, my mom would send a note just like that.”
Molly was doing a good job making Emily feel better, “I try to be all of those things for my Mum, but I also want to help out in the war and be brave. My Grandy wants me to be brave and help England even in America. I just don’t see how I’m going to do that.”
“Well,” said Molly, “I think you’re brave because you’re here, so far away from home.”
“Thank you, Molly.”
“Thank you for your math help. I know I can always count on you! Get it?”
“OH!” Emily cried, ” I just figured out how you can remember 7 times 8! The answer is 56, so if you think 56 is 7 times 8: you can count, 5,6,7,8!”
“Wow! Emily, I was just joking when I said that, but it’s so great that you figured that out! You know, I think it’s going to be great having you here.”
Emily smiled. This time she knew Molly wasn’t joking when she said that.
The next day, Emily and Molly were in the classroom with Linda and Susan just before class was going to start.
“I love your new dress, Emily,” said Linda, “and no sweater anymore, I see. You used to wear a sweater all the time. And you looked really cold. You acted sort of cold, and standoffish.”
“Not standoffish, just standbackish!” said softhearted Susan quickly.
“It just took a while for us to get used to you being English, and you to get used to us Americans, right?”
“Quite right!” said Emily.
Just then, the bell rang.
Miss Campbell stood in front of the rambunctious class, waiting for them to settle down.
When they finally settled down, she asked, “Who can tell me some of the ways that children on the home front support our soldiers fighting in the war?”
Almost every hand shot up.
“We can collect scrap metal, and paper, and rubber so that they can be used to make things the soldiers need,” said Fanny.
“We help the Red Cross pack boxes of books and warm blankets to send to the soldiers,” said Molly.
“Those are all wonderful answers,” Miss Campbell said, “now who can tell me some things that make us feel patriotic?”
“The flag!” said Molly.
“President Roosevelt on the radio,” said Linda.
Emily timidly raised her hand, “Music. Marching bands and military music always make people feel patriotic.”
Miss Campbell beamed, “Splendid! Just the answer I was looking for, and that is why our PTA here at Willow Street School has decided that every member of our class is going to be given a Flutophone.
You will learn patriotic music on it and perform later this month.”
Miss Campbell passed out the Flutophones and everyone had a great time making a cacophony of noise on it and driving Miss Campbell frizzy until the bell rang.
“Don’t forget to take your practice cards!” Miss Campbell reminded, “have your parents sign it to show how much you practiced at home.”
As they packed up their school things Molly said, “Let’s all go to my house and practice our Flutophones together!”
Emily took her practice card and music and carefully folded it into her book bag. Then she raced with the other girls to Molly’s house. They couldn’t wait to get started.
“Let’s take turns,” said Molly, “I think we’ll sound better that way. Emily, you’re our guest, why don’t you go first.”
“Oh, no, I don’t play well at all yet.”
“Are you kidding?” said Linda, “we all stink.”
Emily did not want to let Molly down so she took a deep breath and played the song while singing the tune in her head:
When she finished, Molly, Linda, and Susan stared at her in such shocked silence that Emily trembled. Then the three girls burst into applause.
“Music!” Molly said, “Here’s another thing you’re good at, Emily, just like you’re good at math.”
“And at being neat, and tidy, and proper, and ladylike. That was great, Emily.”
Emily knew she wasn’t good at music, she just happened to know the tune already, “Well, thank you, but I’m really -”
“You’re really good!” Molly interrupted.
Emily knew the real truth of her talent but she couldn’t help basking in the compliments of her friends either.
The next day at school was hard for some of the students to keep their fingers away from their Flutophones when they weren’t supposed to be playing. Miss Campbell had to take it away from Howie when they were discussing camouflage in the war. But when it finally came time for the next Flutophone lesson, Molly raised her hand with a big smile on her face.
“Miss Campbell, Emily can play ‘Hot Cross Buns’ really well. You should hear her.”
Emily shrank in her seat as everyone stared at her.
“Please stand and play for us, Emily, I’m sure we’d all love to hear you.”
Oh dear me no, thought Emily as she stood with wobbly legs to the front of the classroom.
Her playing was as wobbly as her legs but she managed to hit all the right notes. When she was done everyone clapped and Miss Campbell said, “Splendid.”
Emily didn’t feel splendid. Now the whole class thought she was good at music. What would happen when they found out she was a fake? And that was going to happen soon, because Miss Campbell handed out another piece, ‘America the Beautiful’ that Emily had never heard before and that was the piece they were going to perform.
Every day after school that week, Emily hootled and tootled on her Flutophone by herself because Linda, Susan and Molly practiced during breaks in their tap class after school. Emily tried to be conscientious but she could only stand hearing herself for 15 minutes.
“I’m sorry we’ve never gotten the chance to practice together, Emily,” Susan said to Emily the one day at school just as they were going out to recess, “we just get so much done at Miss La Vonda’s dance class. Our tap dance is so short so we have lots and lots of time to practice while we wait for the other dancers.”
“How much have you been practicing?” Emily tried to sound calm.
“Oh, hours, every day,” said Linda.
“Sure,” said Molly breezily as they waltzed outside.
Emily’s heart was pounding, Oh dear, they have been practicing for hours, and probably everyone else had too! And when Molly finds out that I’ve only practiced fifteen minutes a day, she’ll know I’m a fake. I’m terrible at the Flutophone.
She was just about to follow Molly and her friends outside when she stopped and went back to her desk. Quickly, with shaky hands, she changed all the 1s to 4s, so that it looked like she’d practiced not 15, but 45 minutes for the last 10 days.
Just as the rest of the class came in, she slid her card under her workbook.
“How come you didn’t come outside?” Molly asked.
“I, um, wanted to do some math.”
“Yikes, when you don’t even have to? You really do like numbers, don’t you?” Molly said with a grin.
Emily seemed to remember just a few days ago telling Molly that numbers never lie. And now she had made the numbers on her practice card do just that.
Emily tried not to think about it anymore but Miss Campbell started class by asking for all the Flutophone practice cards to be turned in. Miss Campbell perused through them and then turned to the board.
“Who can do this multiplication for me?” she asked, pointing to 45 x 10.
Molly’s hand went up, “Four hundred fifty!”
“My goodness, Molly. It’s clear you’ve been studying your multiplication tables.”
“Emily’s been helping me,” said Molly, beaming with pride for herself and for Emily.
“Has she?” said Miss Campbell, “We are lucky to have Emily in our class because I am proud to announce that one student in our class practiced the Flutophone more than anyone else. This student practiced forty-five minutes a day for the last ten days, or – ”
“Four hundred fifty minutes!” the class shouted.
“And that person was Emily,” Miss Campbell smiled at her.
Emily went rigid. How on earth did this happen? she wondered. Then, in a sickening flash, she understood. Linda had been kidding when she’d said they had practiced for hours and Emily hadn’t picked up on it.
Then, just when Emily thought it couldn’t get any worse, Miss Campbell said, “I have a wonderful surprise. On Saturday evening, our class is going to present a program for the rest of the school and the PTA. You will play “America the Beautiful”, and because she practiced the most, Emily will play the solo.”
Everyone clapped and cheered and stomped their feet.
With all her heart, Emily wished that she were back on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by flying torpedoes rather than getting the chance to humiliate herself by playing badly, and then everyone– the whole school and the PTA- would know she was a fake and a fraud and.. Emily swallowed hard…a liar. No one would want to be her friend.
Emily could not sleep that night. She tried not to cry but she couldn’t help it, and Molly heard her.
“What’s the matter? Are you homesick?” Molly asked.
Emily shook her head, “It’s worse than that.”
Miserably, Emily poured out her whole story.
“Whoosh,” exhaled Molly, “You changed all the 1s to 4s? That was a pretty daring thing to do.”
“Daring?” Emily repeated, “Not daring. It was desperate and stupid. I was afraid that if you found out that I wasn’t good at the Flutophone, you’d be disappointed in me, just like Grandy’s disappointed that I’m not brave and I’m not helping England. I pretended to be good at the Flutophone just like I pretended to be brave. I’ve been a fake about everything. And now I’m a liar, which is worse than a fake. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to be friends anymore.”
“Oh, Emily,” said Molly, “What you did was wrong, but friends don’t stop being friends because of that. And anyway, it’s my fault if I made it seem like I only liked you because you were good at Flutophone and math. That’s not true at all. I like you for a million reasons, but mostly I like you just because you’re you. You’re Emily. You’re my friend.”
Emily looked at Molly and almost smiled a little.
“We just need to make a plan,” said Molly.
“Well, sure! A plan for how Linda, and Susan and I can help you do your solo on Saturday.
“You’re going to help me?”
“Well sure! That’s what friends are for!”
Now Emily really did smile thought it was too dark for Molly to see.
“Molly, thank you for being my friend. I like you very much, indeed. I never pretended about that.”
Molly sat up in bed, “Emily! That’s it! I’ve thought of a way!”
“A way to what?”
“A way to help you do your solo, and a way that you can help England at the same time. But you’re going to have to be very, very brave.”
“Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
The next morning Molly filled Susan and Linda in on the plan, and Emily and Molly stayed after school to talk to Miss Campbell.
“I’m very sorry I lied about how much I practiced, Miss Campbell,” Emily said sadly, after she had told the whole story.
“Well, I’m sorry too,” said Miss Campbell, “Promise me that starting now, you’ll practice an extra thrity minutes every day for ten days so as to make the false numbers on your practice card true. Meanwhile, I can’t think of any worse punishment than having to play your Flutophone in front of a crowd without having practiced enough. But the show is tomorrow evening. The programs have already been printed. So I’m afraid you’ll have to play your solo, Emily.”
“Yes, Miss Campbell,” Emily said miserably.
“Miss Campbell, is it okay if Linda and Susan and I are right behind Emily while she plays?” Molly asked.
“You mean, give her a background so she can be camouflaged? Yes, I guess so.”
“Thanks, Miss Campbell, don’t worry, we’re going to be great!” said Molly.
They worked very hard Friday afternoon and evening, and all day Saturday, so when it came time for the show, Emily could play “America the Beautiful” without too many mistakes.
When the curtain went up, everyone played the tune together first, and then Emily stepped forward.
With the whole auditorium watching, Emily played “America the Beautiful” all by herself. But behind her, Molly, Linda, and Susan swirled and twirled using the steps they knew from their tap dancing. Then, when the song was done, Emily did the bravest thing she had ever done in her life. She held up her hands for quiet and said, “My name is Emily Bennett. I’m from England, and my parents are still there. My friends and I would like to ask all of you to help England by donating canned food to the Red Cross. The Red Cross will send the food to England. Thank you.”
Then Molly, Susan, Linda and Emily all sang,
God shed His grace on thee!
So lend a hand
And send a can
Across the shining sea.
Afterward, everyone agreed that Emily’s speech and the song about the cans was the best part of the whole show. But for Emily, the best part came after the show, when she and Molly, exhausted and exhilarated, were surrounded by people promising to bring cans to the Red Cross the very next day.
“My goodness,” Emily overheard a lady say to Molly, “the little English girl spoke right up for England, didn’t she?”
“Oh, yes,” Emily heard Molly say, “My friend Emily is very brave.”
Molly and Emily played themselves.
Miss Campbell…………………………………Isabella Carpatina
Did you know? There is a difference between a recorder and a Flutophone. The Flutophone is easier to play. It doesn’t have as many notes (it can only play in the key of C) and the mouthpiece is easier to use.