Children's Stories


Los Angeles Times - Pen Pals (A five-part series)


Pen Pals - Part 1
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Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Patricia Rust
Date: Aug 11, 2003
Start Page: E.18
Section: Calendar; Part E; Calendar Desk
Text Word Count: 377
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KAREN could hardly wait to see Max. His family was vacationing in Los Angeles, and he was going to spend a few days with her. The flight was just about to arrive. Karen was finally going to meet her pen pal. Max was coming all the way from Zurich, Switzerland.

How she had loved clicking on his e-mails! They told of delicious chocolate that she could almost taste and majestic mountains that thrust through the clouds. She hoped to go to Switzerland someday. But first, she was going to take him to Venice Beach, her favorite beach in Los Angeles.

Max was everything Karen thought he would be as he disembarked with a big smile on his pleasant face. Her mom drove them straight to the beach for their picnic. Max could not believe his eyes as the waves crashed in front of him. "I've never seen anything like this! Wow! The waves really pound down hard -- I had no idea you could hear them!"

"You've never heard a wave crash?"

"Or seen one. Not with all our lakes and rivers. They are usually still and surrounded by the snowy mountains. We can only swim in them in the summer."

"Because they are so cold?"

"Yes, but they are beautiful. That's why people say Switzerland is pretty as a postcard. And so is this ... but look, your waters are action packed!" In the distance, they could see boats sailing and surfers catching waves. The friends smiled at their discoveries. Then, it was time to eat. Max tasted his hamburger and said, "It's delicious! My parents always make soy burgers."

"The sand makes it crunchy!" teased Karen.

"In our country, we melt cheese in a big pot and dip bread into it. We call it fondue," explained Max.

"Yum!" sighed Karen as she straightened their beach towels and stretched. "Let's hit the water!"

"Try not to hurt it," said Max, not exactly understanding Karen's slang. Karen laughed as she pulled Max up to his feet, and they ran into the water.

Tuesday: Max and Karen compare cities.

This story will be on The Times' Web site at www.latimes.com/ kids.

Credit: Special to The Times




Pen Pals - Part 2
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Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Patricia Rust
Date: Aug 12, 2003
Start Page: E.16
Section: Calendar; Part E; Calendar Desk
Text Word Count: 309
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AFTER their swim, Karen and Max walked along the beach. The sun was about to set and the sky glowed orange. Karen pointed out the Santa Monica Mountains. Max laughed. "You call those mountains? Our Alps make them look like speed bumps!"

Karen laughed and told Max a joke, and then he told one back. Karen remembered a poem and Max remembered one too, though he had to translate it from German, one of the three major languages in Switzerland.

"I think it's so cool that you speak so many languages!" said Karen as they walked to the car.

"Well," said Max, "Switzerland is in the middle of many countries. Italy, France, Germany and Austria all border us, so we use their languages and traditions as well as our own. We study the French and Italian languages too."

"Say something in Italian," begged Karen.

"OK. How about 'ciao'? It's like hello, goodbye and have a nice day all in one word!"

"Chow sounds like food to me," laughed Karen. "The world is so interesting!"

Back at Karen's house, they hunched over a globe of the world.

"Our city is so small that you could fit seven Zurichs into Los Angeles," Max said. "I brought you photos of the castles and old churches that you don't have here."

"Wow!" said Karen, flipping through his album. "Your city is so old it makes ours seem brand-new."

Karen wanted Max to have something that represented her city. There were a lot of seashells around the house. Karen gave one to Max as a souvenir of his very special trip to Los Angeles. He smiled in thanks.

Wednesday: Max and Karen visit Olvera Street.

This story will be on The Times' Web site at www.latimes.com/ kids.

Credit: Special to The Times




Pen Pals - Part 3
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Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Patricia Rust
Date: Aug 13, 2003
Start Page: E.16
Section: Calendar; Part E; Calendar Desk
Text Word Count: 306
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KAREN'S mom took them to downtown Los Angeles to see some of its old buildings. They ended up at Olvera Street, where the cobblestone streets were peppered with candle shops, leather goods stands and a lot of food vendors. "This is supposed to be a 'taste' of Mexico," said Karen as they ate tacos. "We have people from all over the world here. It's one of the things that makes Los Angeles so interesting!"

"We do too," said Max.

"Let's get a pinata for you to take home!" shouted Karen as she ran to show him the faces of animals and other colorful shapes. "You're supposed to fill it with candy, then try to break it open -- blindfolded!"

"That looks like great fun. I especially like the idea of candy inside! Let's get this one," said Max, pointing to a donkey-shaped pinata that was bigger than a suitcase.

"You could ride that home!" laughed Karen.

They looked at a statue of a small angel. Karen explained that Los Angeles was Spanish for "the angels" and that it was often called the City of Angels. "A lot of our words and customs come from Mexico," she added, "and a lot of other places too. Chinatown and Little Tokyo aren't very far from here."

"We have different cultures in Zurich too. Each offers something special," said Max as he chomped on some cactus candy.

"Well, at some schools in Los Angeles I've heard there are over 30 languages spoken," Karen said.

Max frowned. It seemed as though they were in a competition as to which friend had the best city.

Thursday: Max and Karen visit the Getty Museum.

This story will be on The Times' Web site at www.latimes.com/ kids.

Credit: Special to The Times




Pen Pals - Part 4
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Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Patricia Rust
Date: Aug 14, 2003
Start Page: H.3
Section: Comics; Part H; Calendar Desk
Text Word Count: 360
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KAREN could hardly wait to show Max the Getty Museum overlooking the California coastline and much of Los Angeles. "The museum took nine years to build," she told Max as they rode the tram to the top and walked toward the balcony to see the view.

"Zurich has old and new buildings, but nothing like this," Max said as he took in the majesty of the museum. "It must be as big as Texas!"

"Hey! This is Los Angeles, remember?" As they walked to the unique fountain for a closer look, Karen continued, "But our city is still a really big one!"

"Zurich has many small museums. One has tiny porcelain dolls all made by hand hundreds of years ago. They are as delicate as lace."

As they went inside, Karen showed Max the way. "Here at the Getty they have huge figures carved out of marble. The sculptures are very old. Michelangelo, the artist, said he was letting the art out when he carved a block of marble."

Max was mesmerized. He didn't mean to, but he reached to touch a statue of a giant Greek god. The security guards rushed toward him. "Stop!" A buzzer buzzed. A light flashed. There was a scurry of feet toward Max, who froze, just like the statue!

Max turned bright red. "I'm so sorry. The marble was so beautiful that I just wanted to touch it."

Karen added, "I'll bet you did. But if you had, they just might have sent you back to Switzerland."

"I understand," said Max. "When you come to Zurich, I'll show you our coffee museum. You can pick coffee beans right off the floor! You can touch all you like!"

"Coffee beans aren't the same as Greek statues," laughed Karen.

Max and Karen posed like some of the statues and couldn't help but crack up. "There is so much more to see and do!" said Karen, eager for their next adventure together.

Friday: Max and Karen go to Universal Studios.

This story will be on The Times' Web site at www.latimes.com/ kids.

Credit: Special to The Times




Pen Pals - Part 5
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Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Patricia Rust
Date: Aug 15, 2003
Start Page: E.38
Section: Calendar; Part E; Calendar Desk
Text Word Count: 345
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THE next day, Max and Karen headed outside into the bright sunlight. "Lights, camera, action!" Karen teased. "It's time for our studio tour."

Max loved the movie posters with cowboy western stars like John Wayne. He pretended to be one when he said, "Hey, partner, this town ain't big enough for the two of us!"

"Come on," Karen said, grabbing her movie-star friend to feed him a bite of an American hot dog.

"We have sausages!" Max said.

"It's not the same," Karen said as she wiped the mustard off of her friend's left cheek before they continued their tour.

They got on a cool shuttle bus that took them past a haunted house, a flood that looked real, and the jaws of a great white shark that looked alive and scared them both!

After the shuttle tour, they went on a "Back to the Future" ride that made them feel as though they were flying.

"We call ourselves the entertainment capital of the world," Karen explained.

"I never would have known that," joked Max. He and Karen liked to joke and had become great friends.

Max looked around the movie set and said, "Maybe I could become a movie star!"

That night at dinner, Karen's parents asked Max what he thought of their city. "I wish the whole world would be the same city! It would make life so much simpler to understand."

Karen's mother dished out more mashed potatoes to Max and said, "You would still need to study history and geography to understand it all."

"Being kids means we have to study, doesn't it?" Karen asked.

"Being people means we have to study -- for a lifetime ... but it's so worth it! Think about all the things you've learned as pen pals," Karen's mother said.

"But there's always more," Karen said. "I can't wait to visit Zurich."

This story will be on The Times' Web site at www.latimes.com/ kids. A new, five-part story begins Monday.

Credit: Special to The Times




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