Kia was nine and lived with her mum and dad in a very small town. Most of the houses were grey and small and had tiny gardens where not many flowers grew.
She had only been at her new school for a few days so she hadn’t made any new friends yet.
Kia loved birds. All birds. Sometimes she wished that she had been a bird instead of a little girl. An old lady lived next door and Kia was so happy to help her out by feeding her budgerigar.
The old lady had some beautiful pictures of birds on the wall. Kia loved looking at them, wondering what their lives were like, how they sang, or even if they just squawked.
One day after school she was at the old lady’s house and she couldn’t take her eyes off a picture of a bird that looked like a large parrot with bright orange feathers under its wings.
A voice said, “It’s funny you should look at that picture. That bird is called a Kea – they are from New Zealand on the other side of the world. Some people call them naughty parrots!”
“Wow, really?” said Kia, “naughty parrots sound like fun.”
She looked around but the old lady was fast asleep in her chair.
“Who said that?” whispered Kia.
“Budgies and parrots are related, you see. So, I know quite a lot about that branch of our family.”
Kia looked up and the budgie hopped up on a perch and rang its little bell and then seemed to wink at her.
“Did you just say something?” asked Kia.
“I knew that you were the right sort of girl the first time I saw you,” said the budgie.
“What do you mean?” asked Kia, “wait a minute; am I talking to a budgie? I must be dreaming.”
“You know what birds are saying and can even feel what they are thinking. Not many girls are like that,” said the budgie.
“You can talk!” said Kia.
“Well, budgies are known for it,” said the budgie.
“Yes, but, actually talking. saying proper things and not just 'who’s a pretty boy then.’”
“What am I thinking now?” said the budgie.
“That I’m just about to say sometimes I wish I was a bird and then I could just fly around in the air as free as….”
“Free as a bird?” said the budgie, “when you come back tomorrow, can you bring some….”
“Grapes?” said Kia.
“See, told you. You are a real bird girl,’ said the budgie, “and I think its time I told you about a special magic spell. Close your eyes.”
Kia closed her eyes and suddenly some magical words came into her mind. They were a mixture of singing and the most beautiful birdsong. Her face lit up with a huge smile.
“Now, close your eyes again, whisper those words and see what happens,” said the budgie.
Kia did and the next thing she knew she opened her eyes and gasped. She was fluttering gently in the air! She flew up to a mirror and saw a beautiful little yellow bird with a red beak and green wings looking back at her.
“That jungle bird is your bird shape,” said the budgie, “and when you need to, just whisper those magic words, then, to turn back to being a little girl, just whistle three times.”
Kia whistled and she was back in human shape again.
“Wow, wow, that was just amazing!” gasped Kia.
“Tomorrow please bring…”
“Grapes,” said Kia.
The budgie happily rang its little bell and Kia went off home.
The next day her class at school went to visit the local zoo. All the kids were really excited. But Kia was the most excited of all as she planned to spend as much time as possible at the birdhouse.
The group of kids went all round the zoo looking at the animals. Kia watched a polar bear splash about in its pool and suddenly a robin landed on a fence right next to her.
The robin looked at her with its bright little eyes and suddenly Kia understood what the robin was telling her. Over in the birdhouse was a new arrival that badly needed a friend.
Kia skipped over to the birdhouse and couldn’t believe her eyes. So many different kinds of birds all happily chattering away and some even imagining they were back in their homes far, far away.
Finally she came to a cage and was amazed to see a very beautiful but unhappy-looking bird that looked exactly like her jungle bird shape.
She thought quickly and whispered her magic spell. Instantly she found herself inside the cage perched right next to the jungle bird.
The jungle bird was so surprised it nearly fell backwards. Then it told her how lonely it was with no other jungle birds to talk to. The jungle bird told her all about its homeland and all the amazing trees and butterflies that lived there. Kia was entranced.
Then the zookeeper walked past and saw two jungle birds in the cage.
“There’s something funny going on here,” he thought, “where did that other one come from?”
Soon the zookeeper came back with the head bird keeper. But by then Kia was back in human form, standing outside the cage.
The bird keeper said, “Seen another jungle in the cage?”
Kia said, “No, I cannot tell a fib, I haven’t seen another jungle bird in there.”
Next thing the jungle bird started pecking hungrily at its food.
“That bird has hardly eaten anything since it came here a few days ago and we were getting worried. It seems to like you”, said the bird keeper.
“Maybe if I come back every day as a helper the poor jungle bird might cheer up and start eating properly”, said Kia.
“Don’t see why not”, said the bird keeper , “in fact that’s a very good idea!”
“See you tomorrow, then,” said Kia.
She winked at the jungle bird and the jungle bird winked right back.