Some names have been changed to protect the adorable.
Little Nancy stood in front of her class nervously clutching her queue-cards. Although she memorised every detail of her assignment, having the pointers to hand gave her confidence.
Mrs Crabtree nodded, ‘Go ahead Nancy,’ before standing behind and to the right of the young student while scanning the rests of the class with an eagle’s eye for mischief.
Nancy cleared her throat with a practiced cough despite not needing her throat to be cleared. When she practiced in front of the mirror at home it looked like a professional thing to do. She took a deep breath and began. ‘Steve Irwin grew up in Australia. His mam and dad had a little zoo where Steve Irwin lived. He always talked to animals, like Dr Doolittle. He said things like “Ain’t you a little beauty,” to a crocodile and, and he said things like “You’re a cute little fella, ain’t you,” to a python snake.
‘Steve Irwin talked to frogs and lizards and birds. They knew he was kind because they never ran away or bit him or anything. Because he was kind to them he always asked how they were doing. Steve Irwin talked about great swimming sharks with big teeth. He talked about the beautiful tigers. He talked to people about hippo’s sore teeth and about a wombat with a broken leg, but it was mending well. He talked to every animal in the world. That’s why Steve Irwin was the best con..versation..ist in the world.’
Nancy turned with a huge smile and looked at Mrs Crabtree expectantly.
Mrs Crabtree covered her mouth with her hand as if stifling a yawn. In truth she was concealing a smile and considering how to respond. Finally, she removed her hand and hunkered down to be at eye level with the seven-year-old.
‘Nancy, child,’ she said very softly so the other children would not hear, ‘He was a conSERvationist, it means he looked after and protected the animals.’
‘Oh,’ Nancy flushed as the realisation set in, but she quickly countered, ‘But he did talk to them a lot, didn’t he Mrs Crabtree?’
Mrs Crabtree could only smile and nod. ‘Yes, Nancy, he did.’