Henri hated change. He didn't like to admit it, but change was
scary. He wanted everything to stay the same. He liked the yellow house
where he lived with his mother, father,
and older sister, Gloria.
He liked to fasten his shoes with velcro--he didn't want to learn
to tie laces.
Most kids love birthdays, but not Henri. Well, he did like
getting presents and being treated special. But he didn't like
growing older. So when he woke up on the morning of his ninth birthday, he lay in
bed with mixed feelings. "What changes are in store for me?" he
"Happy birthday, Henri," called out Gloria.
"What's so happy about a birthday?" grumbled Henri.
"Come on Henri. You're growing up. That's good!"
"Not to me. You know I hate change."
"I know Henri, but that feeling may change today because I'm
going to give you a great power for a birthday present. But you
have to agree to try it out"
"Oh, sure, like you're going to make me into a
"Fine, if you don't want the power . . ."
"Gloria! You said you would give it to me. O.K., tell me, and
I'll try it. But what is it--some kind of magic trick?
"It's like magic, but it's not a trick, Henri. The gift is the
power to make changes."
"What? Isn't that impossible?"
"No, anyone can learn it. You see, all changes are like a
tug-of-war between two opposing sides. The new side pulls against
the old side. Bit by bit the new side grows stronger until, all
at once, it wins out, and the old side disappears--like the
sunrise when night gives way to day."
"You mean like when I wake up in the morning and my sleepiness
"Yes, that's it, Henri."
"So how does knowing how things change give me a great power?"
asked a puzzled Henri.
"Making changes makes you powerful, Henri. To make changes you
have to build the new--what you want to happen--bit by bit, until,
all at once, you've done it--the new takes the place of the old.
It's like building your Lego houses, piece by piece--until
"Is making changes work or is it fun?" asked Henri.
"It's both! And you can always be proud of the changes you
"I don't know, Henri. Maybe they never had a big sister
to tell them. Now I've got to go to work. See you
tonight. Have fun making changes."
"OK, I'll give this a try," Henri said to himself. His room was
cold. But, bit by bit, Henri built up his energy to get out of
bed. "Now it is time for a change!" All at once, in a single
burst, he tossed his covers off and got up. "Hmmm, that wasn't bad
at all. Maybe making changes will make me a superhero."
Henri sat down with his mother for breakfast. "Henri, since this
is your birthday, it's time for some changes. Today you're old
enough to walk to school by yourself. And starting tomorrow, we
want you to wash the breakfast dishes before you leave for
"I was afraid of this," groaned Henri. But then he thought it
over and said with a sly look, "O.K., I'll agree if I also get a
bigger allowance. It's only fair-- more change for making
His mother smiled, and then replied, "All right, Henri, it's a
After breakfast Henri felt like a brave explorer getting
ready for an adventure as he walked out the door. When he got to
Crow Canyon Road, Henri imagined himself in the World
Street-Crossing Championship. Cars and trucks were whizzing by.
The spectators were tense, but Henri remained calm. He pressed
the pedestrian button and waited. Everyone watched, hoping. But
Henri told himself, "Bit by bit, the signal is getting ready to
change." Then, all at once, the light turned green. The traffic
stopped, and Henri crossed the busy street safely. The crowd
cheered as Henri received the gold medal. Henri wasn't surprised.
He thought, "Now I know how to make changes."
He kept walking,
thinking about his birthday, and all the changes in his life. He
remembered his mother saying, "When I was pregnant with you, you
grew inside me--bit by bit--until one day, you were born." He
remembered growing older, day by day, until one day he started
going to school.
He remembered how he learned to ride a bike--trying again and
again until, all at once, Gloria shouted, "You've got it Henri.
He walked briskly ahead, step by step, getting closer to school.
Then, before he knew it, he arrived. He wasn't surprised; now he
knew how to make changes.
The day at school seemed normal--too normal. Henri wondered if
anyone knew it was his birthday. He did feel proud as he solved
arithmetic problems, learned how to spell "Mississippi", and drew
a picture of a volcano.
His friend, Carlos, asked, "How did you learn to do all this,
Henri answered, "I just keep working, bit by bit, until I get it
But something was not right. Bit by bit, Henri's happy feeling
was fading while tick by tick the clock showed the end of the day
was approaching. Then, all at once, the bell rang, and school was
Henri thought, "I can't believe no one remembered my birthday."
There was nothing for Henri to do but go home. He felt sad and
crinkled up inside. "At least my family will celebrate my
birthday," he hoped.
But when he got home, his mom said, "Henri, tonight we have to go
over to Aunt Violeta's to watch videos of your cousin's wedding."
Henri was shocked. "How can this be happening on my birthday?" he
thought. Bit by bit Henri had been getting more and more upset.
Now, he erupted like a volcano.
"Forget it. That sounds boring. I'm staying here," he
Then he ran to his room, slamming the door.
A few minutes later, Gloria tapped on his door.
"Henri, can I talk to you?"
"O.K., Gloria, but I'm not going to Aunt Violeta's. This isn't
"Henri, trust me. I really don't think you'll be bored at Aunt
Violeta's. Remember that things can change all at once. And you
can always bring a comic book along just in case."
"Oh great," thought Henri, "now Gloria's put my mind in a
tug-of-war--should I stay, or should I go?" His mind was racing,
"There is something strange about this; my family always
celebrates my birthday. What is Gloria hinting at? Maybe I'll
find out if I go to Aunt Violeta's."
Finally Henri said, "All right, let's go." But he did grab a
comic book on his way out the door just in case.
When they arrived, Henri tried to open the front door, but it
seemed to be stuck. "Oomph, something is pushing against the
other side," Henri grunted.
But Henri knew how to make changes. He pushed harder and harder
until, all at once, the door gave way. Henri fell into the room
as the door swung open. Right then, the lights came on and a
chorus of voices shouted, "Surprise!"
Henri just about jumped out of his socks as a flashbulb popped in
his face. His friends laughed and laughed at his shocked
expression. "Boy, did we have you fooled," they gloated.
"Not at all," lied Henri. "Well, I'll admit that this is one
change that came as a tiny surprise. But you know how I like
changes." Everyone laughed, but Henri didn't mind.
They played and danced until bit by bit, they started
getting tired and hungry. Then, all at once, his dad
called out, "Come and get it!" and everyone sat down for
a feast of home-made tamales.
Then came the cake. Henri sucked in a big breath of air, then
blew. Just like that, the candle flames all went out. Everyone
clapped, and Henri said, "Thanks, but it's easy now that I know
how to make changes."
After dinner Henri especially enjoyed the piņata. It
was shaped like a crocodile. Hit by hit, the crocodile
got weaker and weaker until, with one last solid whack--
it fell apart, dumping a pile of candy on the ground for
everyone to dive for.
That night, Henri climbed into bed, thinking about the day and all
the changes he had gone through. "Tomorrow I'll have to face some
of the same challenges, and make more changes--big and small. But
I will be different. Tomorrow I'll be stronger and smarter than
ever. Bit by bit I'm learning and growing . . ."