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The Green Ribbon

October 13, 2014

Last year, I taught 7th graders who were, to use the popular euphemism, “reluctant readers.”  I found myself scrounging around for things that they would read with very little success.  Finally, I decided to write them stories and essays myself.  The following was probably the most popular one that I wrote for them.  I took the plot line of Alvin Schwartz’s The Green Ribbon and expanded it into a longer story geared towards older kids.

If you read The Green Ribbon as a child, you will most certainly remember it.  If not, please see the blog post below, where the blog writer kindly posted what is most likely the creepiest children’s story ever written.

http://okayquitmadstop.blogspot.com/2010/09/alvin-schwartz-green-ribbon.html

When you’re finished reading that, read my version of the story written for older kids.  Feel free to take it, change it around, and use it in your classroom.  It’s high interest for middle school students and perhaps for other ages as well.  The Word document below has embedded questions that I put in there to slow my kids down and check for their understanding.

The Green Ribbon

A little girl named Jenny started Kindergarten on a fall day as warm as bath water. Like the other children in her class, she entered the building with a plastic lunch box and a bucket for pencils and crayons. She had long hair that fell like a dark waterfall to her elbows and light brown skin. At first glance, she looked like many of the other little girls in their first day of school frilly dresses.

As the year went on, Jenny became widely liked by both her teacher and her classmates. She played dress up with the other girls and sometimes liked to sit in the corner and look at the picture books. Whenever the children played tag or wanted her to join them on the swings, she politely shook her head and watched them instead.

All of the children liked her, but there was certainly something a bit funny about Jenny. She wore pretty dresses and always brushed her hair, but there was still a strange issue with her wardrobe which was hard to ignore. No matter what the weather was, regardless of the rain, the snow, the intense late spring heat, she always wore a large green ribbon tied in an elaborate bow around her neck. It almost looked like a thick bow used to tie up a large Christmas present, except that it encircled her neck. The other children often asked her about it, but she would only smile and change the subject. It was always there, tied around her neck, but they never knew why.

As Jenny grew older, she remained at the same school with all of her friends. When she entered the fourth grade, a young boy named Alfred brought Jenny a card as large as a table for Valentine’s Day. When she opened it, it said, “Jenny, will you be mine?”

Jenny had always admired Alfred. He was kind and funny, and he could run faster than almost anyone else at the school. She immediately sent him a reply on a piece of red construction paper which said, “Alfred, I’m yours!”
From that day forward, Jenny and Alfred became the best of friends. The played together at recess, they shared their secrets with each other, and Jenny cheered for Alfred as he raced the other kids across the soccer field at lunch time. She herself would never run, but she cheered louder than anyone.
One day, after Alfred had run yet another race and the two of them were walking together toward the water fountain, he asked her, “Jenny, I’ve always wondered. Why do you wear that green ribbon around your neck?”

Alfred was hoping that their friendship would be enough for Jenny to open up to him. But, true to form, Jenny just smiled and asked him about what he had thought of last night’s math homework. Then, she added, almost as if it were an afterthought, “I’ll tell you when the time is right.”

By high school, they had become boyfriend and girlfriend. They told each other everything. They spoke on the phone to each other every night before falling asleep. They were deeply in love.
Alfred knew Jenny so well, and it frustrated him that she would not be honest with him about the green ribbon. On prom night, he picked her up from her house, and she wore a long, green gown which matched the green ribbon around her neck. She looked graceful as a willow tree. Alfred decided that this would be the night he would ask her again about the green ribbon. This would also be the night that she would tell him. Maybe prom night was what she had meant when she had said so many years ago that the time had to be right.
Dancing with her to the last song, he looked deeply into her eyes and said, “Jenny, I have to know. Why do you wear that green ribbon around your neck?”
She looked at him with sad eyes and shook her head. “It’s not time, Alfred. I can’t tell you yet.”
Years later, Jenny and Alfred, still in love, got married in front of all of their family and friends. Jenny’s green ribbon stood out against her white lace gown. After the wedding, impatient as ever, Alfred once again clasped Jenny’s hand and asked about the ribbon. Jenny placed her finger to his lips. “You will know, my love. When the time is right.”

Jenny and Alfred grew old together, and one day, Jenny got sick. She could barely lift her head off of the bed, and the doctor was called in. The doctor confirmed that she had a rare illness and would die, almost immediately, he warned. He gave her until the following morning. “Say your goodbyes now, my dear,” he said solemnly. “This is your last chance.”
Tears racing from her eyes, Jenny called Alfred to her side. Alfred’s face looked gray with grief. They held each other and cried for many moments. Finally, Jenny wiped the tears from her face and from Alfred’s and looked him directly in the eye.
“It’s time, Alfred,” she said, her voice quiet and calm. “It’s time for you to take off the green ribbon.”

His hands trembling, Alfred reached forward to her neck and carefully tugged at the loose ends of the ribbon. When the ribbon slid off of her neck, Jenny’s head fell off.

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