My Friend Kimmi Could Really Spell Things
By Stuart Baum
Illustrated by ZoŽ Baum
Readers note: This story is meant
to be read aloud to children ages 5 - 14 ... as if it really
happened to the reader.
story from my childhood. About my friend
Kimmi Hall. But before I tell you about the adventure Kimmi
and I had, I want to tell you about our school
Kimmi was the reason that our school
stopped having spelling bees. It's not that she was such a
bad or a good speller. It was because when she correctly
spelled a word, if it was an noun – an object or a thing –
that thing would magically appear nearby. And then,
about an hour later, it would magically disappear again,
returning to its original place.
It was the appearing, however, that caused all
the trouble during spelling bees.
During second grade spelling bee,
Kimmi’s first word was magnet. She got it right.
M-a-g-n-e-t. When she sat down at her seat, she smiled as
she showed me the magnet she had in her hand. I thought it
was funny that she had a magnet, the word she was asked to
Her next word was u-n-d-e-r. She got it right, but
nothing happened, since “under” is not a noun, not an
object. At the time, I had no idea, though, that anything
Her next word was ‘kite.’ As soon as she spelled k-i-t-e,
a blue kite with a long multi-colored tail flew into the
classroom from an open window. The teachers were upset by
this and thought some of the older children were playing a
Next, she was given the word ‘crab’. She spelled it
k-r-a-b. That’s not right. Crab starts with a ‘c.’ It’s
spelled c-r-a-b. Looking back, I realize it was a good thing
that she spelled “crab” wrong.
One day, a few months later, I was
watching television in my living room and, during a
commercial, I looked up to see Kimmi sitting next to me. At
first I wondered how she was able to sit down next to me
without my noticing her enter the room. Then I realized that
the television was off, that it was not the same television
as ours, and that I was somehow in her living room.
She had her math book out.
“Can you help me with my math homework?” she asked.
I was good at math and had already done my homework,
otherwise I would not have been allowed to watch TV, so I
showed her how to do the problems. After we completed the
math sheet, Kimmi turned on her television and we watched
the rest of the show. Sometime during the show I realized I
was back in my own house. I thought this was a dream and
that I must have fallen asleep for a while.
It wasn’t until Kimmi and I became good friends in third
grade that I understood her power.
During our third grade spelling bee,
three interesting things happened: a t-u-r-k-e-y appeared on
the stage; Johnny was suddenly wearing an a-p-r-o-n and the
room became very cold and misty when Kimmi correctly spelled
She was eliminated when she misspelled whale, by
forgetting the “h.” Good thing, huh?
Oh, her full name is not Kimmi Hall,
it's Kimmificent Antonia Hall. Everyone called her “Kimmi,”
but every year, at the very start of the year, when the
teachers read out our full names to the class, we all
thought she had the weirdest and maybe best name ever.
Kimmificent Antonia Hall.
There was a reason for this name, which I will explain
Kimmi was not a great speller, which we
now know is a good thing. She was also not very good at
math, since every time the teacher assigned a particularly
hard math homework, I appeared, magically, at her house to
help her. She would simply spell my name and … poof!
… I would appear in her living room or bedroom to help her
with her math homework.
I wonder if we would have been friends if I also
struggled with math.
Anyway, after a while, I got used to magically appearing
in Kimmi’s living room. Even though I was only eight years
old, I knew she had a special power. No one else seemed to
be able to spell things to make them appear. I certainly
During our fourth grade spelling bee,
one of the teachers was hit on the head with a large p-i-c-k-l-e,
pickle, which seemed to fall from the ceiling as soon as
Kimmi spelled it correctly. All the students in the class
laughed and laughed, but the teachers did not think this was
funny, especially not the teacher who got hit in the head
with the p-i-c-k-l-e.
A few minutes later, as soon as Kimmi spelled l-i-g-h-t-n-i-n-g,
lightning, correctly, we all heard a loud … crack!
… and the power in the whole school went off. Everything
went dark. That was the end of the spelling bee for that
day, and the last spelling bee that our school ever had.
Why am I telling you this about Kimmi?
Two reasons. Reason one: it’s funny. Every time I see a p-i-c-k-l-e,
I laugh out loud, remembering how the pickle fell from the
ceiling and hit our teacher on the head. Reason two: I’m
going to tell you a story about an adventure Kimmi and I had
together, and you need to know Kimmi’s magic power to make
any sense of it.
Do you understand her power? If not, I can explain it
quite quickly. When she spells something, even a person,
that thing magically appears nearby. And then it disappears
again in an hour. Understand?
Great! Here is the story.
This happened years ago, when I was
One Saturday, during lunch, I suddenly appeared outside
Kimmi’s house. My mouth was full and I was still holding my
Before I could even swallow the mouthful of soup and say
‘hi,’ she blurted out: “My uncle is missing! That’s why I
She explained that her parents were worried since they
had not heard from her mother’s younger brother, Kimmi’s
uncle, in more than a week. He was in Paris (which is the
capital of France) for a conference and had disappeared.
“Oh, no!” I said. But then I remembered how I got here,
soup spoon and all. “Why don't you just spell him
“That's what I’m going to do,” she said, “but I want you
here to help.”
“OK,” I said. “What’s his name?”
“Robert,” she replied. And then she spelled his name out
slowly and loudly: “R-O-B-E-R-T!”
No sooner had she said the “T” than a small boy in a blue
striped jacket and pants appeared.
Kimmi and I looked at each other. This was clearly not
her uncle. She said to the boy, “You’re not Robert.”
He quickly snapped back, “Yes, I am.”
“Well, you are not the right Robert,” Kimmi
This seemed to make the little boy even madder. “I am
so the right Robert and it’s my birthday today!”
“Happy Birthday,” I said since it seemed like the thing
to say to an angry small child you magically spelled away
from his birthday party.
This seemed to make him happy again, but he then asked a
very reasonable question: “Where am I and where is my party?
I was at my party and now I am not.”
Just then, fortunately, we heard a woman’s voice yell
from down the street, “Robbie! Robbie!?! Where did you go?!”
Kimmi and I walked Robbie down the street to his birthday
party, already in progress.
His mother looked relieved and then angry, chiding
Robbie, “You can’t just walk away from your party!”
I felt sorry for Robbie, so I did something I know I
shouldn't. I fibbed. “He came over to invite us to his
party, but we’re too busy. Thanks, though, Robbie,” I added.
“And Happy Birthday!”
“Yes,” said Kimmi distractedly, as she dragged me away
from the mother and the child,
We walked back to her house.
“That’s why I wanted your help,” she explained.
I felt bad about lying, or, fibbing, but we really could
not let anyone know about Kimmi’s spelling power.
“Funny,” she said. “I really thought that would work.
When I want you I simply spell your name. She
started to spell my name.
“STOP!” I yelled. “I am already here. If you
spell my name, we might get some other kid from that party,
or who knows from where!”
“We need my uncle’s full name,” Kimmi declared.
She ran into her house, leaving me on the sidewalk. I
started to follow her in the her house, but … poof!
… I was at my house. Recall that her magic spelling only
lasts for about an hour.
This time, instead of waiting for her to spell me, I
jumped on my bike and rode back to her house.
As soon I got there, Kimmi was running outside with a
piece of paper in her hand. On it was written:
Robert Steven Hall in her
Kimmi spelled it out. “R-o-b-e-r-t S-t-e-v-e-n H-a-l-l.”
Instantly a man appeared, a few feet way. He was walking
towards us, fingers typing away on his phone. He was wearing
a green plaid shirt and blue jeans and looked like any other
adult to me.
“Yay!” I said.
Kimmi said matter-of-factly, “That’s also not my uncle.”
Suddenly the man looked up from his phone and he seemed
to be very surprised. He stopped in his tracks. He looked at
the houses to the left, to the right, behind him, ahead of
him and then at us, his head jerking in all directions like
He looked back at his phone, then up at the street, and
then at us again.
He was clearly confused. “Where am I?” he asked us.
Kimmi sounded disappointed when she responded, “On Parker
More as a surprise than a question, the man replied,
Kimmi repeated in the same tone of voice, “On Parker
The man sounded even more confused, “Parker Street?
Where is Parker Street?”
Kimmi looked at me and asked, “How did that not work?”
I replied, “I guess there are lots of Robert Steven Halls
in the world.”
The man looked at us as if we were wizards, which, in a
way, we were. “How did you know my name?”
Again, I thought quickly. “Long story,” I said. “And you
will never believe it.” I pointed down the street. “If you
walk to the end of the second block and turn right, you’ll
find a small diner. Order lunch and before you are done
eating, you’ll be home again.”
“I’m sorry,” the man said, now a little annoyed. “I don’t
“There is really no good way to explain it,” I said.
I looked at Kimmi. She looked right at the man when she
said, “It's not my fault he has the exact same name as my
The man shook his head, as if we were crazy or playing
some sort of children’s game, and walked away, in the
direction I mentioned. I yelled after him, “It only lasts
about an hour and then you’ll be back where you started!”
He looked over his shoulder at us. He was still shaking
his head. My guess is that, when he returns home, he'll
think it was all a dream.
“What now?” I asked.
“We’re going to Paris,” Kimmi declared. “P-A-R-”
“WAIT!” I yelled. She looked at me, curious why I stopped
her. “We do NOT want to bring Paris here,” I said.
“Remember, that’s how your magic works. When you spell
something it appears nearby. We do not appear near it. If
you spell Paris, we’ll get the whole city right here.” I
concluded, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
She nodded. “You’re right. I’m just worried about my
uncle now and mad that there are so many Roberts in this
I came up with an idea. “If we spell something from
Paris, such as a box or a large cabinet, and then hide in
it, we will be transported to Paris when it returns after
the hour is up.”
“You think your idea will work?” she asked.
“I do,” I replied. What I did not add, though, was that I
thought it was probably a bad idea for two eleven-year old
children to go to Paris on their own. But I said nothing and
we put my plan into action.
Kimmi spelled, “b-e-d f-r-o-m P-a-r-i-s,’ since she
thought it would be more fun to ride on a bed than in a box
or a cabinet, and … poof! … a nice looking
bed appeared on the sidewalk across the street. It had a
metal canopy with scrolled metal headboard and footboard.
The bedspread was gold and there were lots of dark orange
and gold pillows on it. Hard to explain, which is why I drew
It looked so comfy that Kimmi and I immediately ran
across the street (looking both ways for cars first, of
course) and hopped right onto it.
We lay on the bed talking about what Paris might be like.
The hour passed by very quickly and then … poof!
… we were suddenly in a room that perfectly matched the bed.
Very fancy! We quickly jumped out of the bed, ran out of the
bedroom and saw that we were in a French house just as fancy
as the bed. We ran down the fancy gold painted stairs, out
the fancy gold painted doors and … into Paris!
How did we know it was Paris? Of course, we had no idea
except that’s where the bed was from, since Kimmi spelled it
that way. And it looked just like I had always imagined
Paris to look.
The small street was made from cobblestones instead of
being paved. The buildings were old and fancy and made from
stone, not wood or metal like ours. And there were black
metal chairs and tables with people sitting at them eating
lunch … right in the middle of the small street! Again,
easier to show than to tell:
But we couldn't stop to eat. We had to find Kimmi’s uncle
named Robert Steven Hall. And we had a whole hour!
Now I have to explain something and it's
pretty complicated. When Kimmi spelled things, they appeared
near Kimmi for an hour and then returned back to exactly the
same spot. When she spelled the bed, it disappeared from the
fancy golden room and then, an hour later, re-appeared in
the same exact spot. This time, though it had two children
on it. Kimmi and me.
But no one had spelled us. So we were not going
to return magically back home an hour later. We were simply
in Paris until we could find another way home.
Did I know this at the time? No. But something felt wrong
with my plan. More wrong than two young children traveling
to Paris without telling their parents? Maybe not.
Anyway… back to the story.
Once we were on a street in Paris, we
realized our plan was only half-baked. We had no idea what
to do next or how to find her uncle, a normal looking man,
in one of the world’s largest cities, especially since we
didn't speak the language.
So what would you do if you were in Paris? We did the
only thing we could think to do: We looked for the Eiffel
It was pretty easy to find. As soon as we walked down to
the end of the street, we saw the Eiffel Tower off in the
distance. It was a long way away, but we decided to walk
towards it. At the time, as many ideas do, it seemed like a
good idea. Maybe her uncle would also want to see the Eiffel
Tower and was there looking at it? What else do people do in
So we walked and we walked and we walked. And we walked
some more. As we walked, we got hungrier and hungrier. We
passed bakeries with incredible-looking pastries in the
windows and chocolate shops with even more
incredible-looking chocolates in them. This made us even
I reached into my pocket and found a ten dollar bill.
That should be enough for a couple pastries, I thought.
Kimmi had eighteen dollars in her pockets. So we had plenty
of money for snacks. But when we showed the money to the
woman behind the counter, she shook her head and said
something we didn't understand. She reached into her cash
register and pulled out a few gold coins and red- and
blue-colored bills. She smiled nicely. Then slowly, this
time in English, she explained, “We only accept Euros for
I asked, “Do any stores take American dollars?”
She shook her head, ‘no.’
I sighed since I did not think we were going to get any
pastries today, but when I looked at Kimmi, I saw she was
smiling and had a sparkle in her eyes.
We left the store and before I could ask her what she was
thinking, she spelled out two words that were painted on the
store’s window, “p-a-i-n a-u c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t” and “p-e-t-i-t
f-o-u-r.” Poof! Two small blue boxes, tied
up with ribbons, appeared at our feet. We each grabbed one
and opened them.
I looked into my box and saw a single, very small square
pink frosted cake. Since it was only one piece, instead of
the f-o-u-r four, I figured it must be the chocolate dessert
I looked into Kimmi’s box and saw she had a bread roll
with chocolate drizzle on the top.
“Doesn’t p-a-i-n spell ‘pain?’” I asked.
“P-a-i-n spells ‘bread’ in Paris,” Kimmi explained and,
to make her point, a bread as long as an umbrella and as
thin as my arm appeared right in front of us, leaning
against a tree. Fortunately it was wrapped mostly in paper,
so it did not get dirty.
“Spelling is even more complicated in France,” I said.
“How do you spell ‘cheese’ or ‘butter’ in French?” I asked.
“Or ‘jam?’” I thought any of these would go nicely with our
Kimmi shrugged. I just know that ‘bread’ is “p-a-”
“STOP!” I yelled. We did not need more bread.
We ate our desserts, each having half of each other’s,
and, since we were still very hungry, next ate the long,
Then we continued walking to the Eiffel Tower, which got
bigger and bigger as we got closer and closer. Soon we were
standing in a large crowd underneath it. There were so many
people that, even if her uncle were there, we would have to
be very, very lucky to find him.
To be honest, though, I forgot I was looking for Kimmi’s
uncle. I was in Paris at the Eiffel Tower! It was
incredible. I could stare up at the iron building for hours!
Here is a picture I drew of what it looked like
staring up from the bottom:
It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen in
all my eleven years. I looked over at Kimmi to see if she
agreed, but she was gone! Kimmi was no longer standing next
I looked around and she was nowhere to be seen. There
were so many people, and the more I looked the more I
realized I was all alone in Paris. As excited as I felt a
few seconds ago, I was that terrified!
Not only was I alone, but I was not the one with the
magic spelling power. I was alone in Paris with only ten
dollars, ten useless American dollars, and no ability to
spell my way home, find a place to sleep, or even magic up
Before I could even begin to think of a plan …
poof! …I was sitting in a metal chair at a metal
table, very like the one we saw in the street earlier, (look
at the earlier picture) sitting next to Kimmi and across
from a man with a beard and a very big smile.
“Sorry,” said the man, “I did not know Kimmi had a friend
Kimmi explained. “This is my Uncle Robert. He can
spell, too.” By the way she said the word ‘spell,’ I
knew she meant more than simply being able to say the
letters that make up words.
Her uncle, who had a very friendly deep voice, explained
more, “I heard from Rachel, Kimmi’s Mom, my older sister,
that Kimmi was looking for me and disappeared. No one had
any idea where she was, so I decided the best thing to do
was spell her to me. She told me she was at the Eiffel Tower
and had a friend. I figured you would be scared to suddenly
find yourself all alone, so Kimmi spelled your name and here
He waved his hands toward the table, where there was a
cheese plate with lots of small pieces of meat and bread.
“Eat up,” he said. “You must be hungry.”
“But,” he added, “Before you start eating, please tell me
how you got to Paris.”
We explained how we spelled the bed from Paris and rode
back on it.
Her uncle said, “That’s incroyable. Incredible!
I’ve had this same spelling power since I was a child and it
never dawned on me that I could travel by spelling things to
me then getting inside or on top of them for the return
trip. Very clever.”
Kimmi told him that it was my idea and I felt very proud.
We also explained about the wrong Roberts that Kimmi kept
spelling to her.
He said, “That’s why you, Kimmi, or more completely
Kimmificent Antonia Hall, has such an unusual name.
This way, if she ever gets lost, like what happened today, I
can be sure I would get only this Kimmi when I
spelled her name, instead of some other confused Kimmi.”
“Or someone whose birthday party it is,” added Kimmi, now
with food in her mouth. She didn't usually talk with food in
her mouth, but adventures make people hungry. Especially
adventures in Paris.
We ate our cheese, meat and bread. Then we got more
desserts. I asked for the rest of the three ‘petit
fours,’ which made her uncle laugh and say, “You are a
very, very clever child!” though I didn’t understand then
why he said that.
We waited the rest of the hour, magically re-appeared at
the Eiffel Tower (Kimmi first and then me a few moments
later) and waited for her uncle to walk there. He quickly
found us and, as I really wanted, the three of us took the
elevator all the way to the top.
It was an incredible view! As incroyable as I
had hoped. You could see all of Paris from up there!
When we got back to the bottom, Kimmi’s uncle said in a
very serious, adult-like voice, “Okay, children, your Moms
and Dads must be sufficiently worried about you now.”
It was easy
to get home. We walked a few blocks away, to a
quiet street, and then Kimmi spelled “m-y o-w-n- b-e-d” and
her bed appeared right in front of us. We sat on it and
While we were waiting, Kimmi’s uncle brought us two
glasses of the most incroyable hot chocolate I have
ever tasted. It tasted just like regular chocolate, only
liquid and warm. Before we finished the hot chocolate …
poof! … we were back in Kimmi’s bedroom.
And we still had the hot chocolate in our hands, fancy cups
and saucers and spoons and all.
And that was the end of Kimmi’s and my Paris adventure.
That was years ago. Kimmi and I grew up
and she moved to another town and, well, as people do, we
lost touch with each other. I guess she never had any more
problems with math.
But, once, not too many years ago, I noticed that my bed
had magically disappeared.
Now, beds do not magically disappear on their own, so I
knew what was about to happen. I went into the kitchen to
make two cups of hot chocolate: one for me and one for Kimmi.
And then … poof! … my bed magically
reappeared and sitting on it was a much older, but still
very mischievous, Kimmificent Antonia Hall, the girl who
could spell things. We talked and talked, mostly about our
adventure in Paris. And then she spelled her own bed and
rode that back home.
Speaking of beds, it’s time for you
to go to bed, since you never know what adventure awaits
But first, one last thing, and it's important:
When Kimmi visited the last time, she told me that she has a
child, a little boy, who can also spell things. And
by spelling things, I think you know what I mean.
So, if you are ever near a little boy who spells a word and
that thing, that object, magically appears near you, please
say hello to Kimmi’s son for me.
Oh, and even more importantly. If you and that boy decide
to go to Paris to rescue his uncle, please tell me
©2014 Stuart B Baum,
Illustrated by ZoŽ Baum