“And this year’s English prize for the best work goes to.....” Alice held her breath; it had to be her! Her best friend Marta whispered to her that Alice was bound to win....
“To..... Matthew Herbert!”
Alice’s heart missed a beat. It wasn’t her! Alice was the best in English in the year, everyone knew that. She always won the English prize; but she had been beaten by someone else! She wasn’t the best anymore. She gulped as she tried to take in what she had just heard.
Ever since that first time four years ago when she came top of the class in English, Alice had worked so hard to remain the best. In Footprints they had been learning about the Defining Space. Alice definitely was in her Defining Space when she did English; she felt confident in what she knew. She was confident of her answers and never asked for help from others. But then, at the start of this year a new boy had come; Matthew Herbert. Alice soon discovered Matthew was her rival when he got the highest mark ever for a story. From then on, she was determined not to be beaten again. She stopped sharing her best ideas and gave up Dance so she could read extra books.
During this time, when she visited her garden beyond the little green door, she spent less and less time planting new seeds or exploring different parts. Instead she liked to stay by the oak tree growing beside the wall. She would imagine that every book she read made her tree just that little bit taller, like she was feeding it with new knowledge all the time. She could see its branches stretching up into the sky; she was sure her tree was taller and more impressive than any tree in Matthew Herbert’s garden!
“That’s becoming a fine tree!” commented the gardener one day as she was busy admiring its size.
“Ummmh,” murmured Alice. “I call it my Defining Space Tree. I’m trying to make those branches up there grow a bit faster, so it’s taller than anyone else’s tree.”
“Well, you don’t want it to grow too fast. Its top might get too heavy, its roots may get too thin and it might topple over.”
On the day she lost the English prize to Matthew Herbert, Alice was walking home slowly through the park with Marta. As she thought about losing, it made her feel jealous and a bit anxious. Maybe others wouldn’t want to come to her garden if Matthew’s tree was taller than hers? (She had shared her garden with her friends some weeks ago).
“Do you think everyone will think Matthew’s tree is better than mine now Marta?” asked a nervous Alice.
“No, of course not! Your tree is different from his! Anyway, I like being in your garden with you because of YOU, not because of your Defining Space Tree.”
“But what if it’s not the tallest? What if someone else’s was bigger, better to climb? Would you go in their garden instead?”
Marta didn’t get a chance to answer Alice’s question; just then, they heard a terrible sound of a huge branch breaking and crashing to the ground. It came from behind the little green door. The girls rushed through to see what had happened.
Alice looked in horror. There, before her, like slain soldiers, lay the fallen branches of her beloved Oak! All that seemed to remain of her tree was its trunk, now stripped bare of branches. It was a disaster; just like losing the English prize had been a disaster. She had failed; her Defining Space Tree and, with it, her confidence in her skills had come crashing to the ground.
Just then she caught sight of the old gardener. He was coming down from a ladder leant up against the trunk holding a saw in his hand.
“I’m sorry I had to cut so many of the branches off,” he called “but they were in danger of pulling the whole tree over. That would have taken the wall down as well!”
“You mean YOU cut the branches off?” exclaimed a stunned Alice.
The kindly man explained again that the tree had grown too fast. It needed to be pruned back for its own good. What he had done hadn’t killed it; it was to make its roots grow deeper, so the tree would grow back stronger.
Alice explained about missing out on the English prize, that her tree was no longer the tallest.
“Your Defining Space Tree may no longer be the tallest; but now it has a chance of being healthiest. After all, we don’t value trees for their height but for the fruit they produce don’t we?”
The next day, at school, Alice went and found Matthew Herbert.
“Well done Matthew for winning the prize! Maybe we could work together and share our best ideas from now on?”
Mr James, her teacher smiled. Alice Acorn really was learning to stand in different Spaces!