Once Upon a Time


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Welcome to A World of Girls

“Once Upon a Time . . .”

Those words always let you know that a story is about to start. As you turn these pages, you’ll find amazing stories about three Brownie friends. Learning about others in faraway places and close to home, and listening to the stories and sharing your own – what a great way to learn about the wide World of Girls!

As you learn about girls all around the world, you’ll learn all about yourself, too. You’ll see just how much you can do!

You have the power to make the world better – for you and girls all around the world. That’s something of which to be proud. And, it’s a story you’ll want to share, with everyone, everywhere.

Girl Scouts have always loved stories. They like to tell stories, and they like to do things that make good stories.

Even the name “Brownies” comes from a story. Brownies were elves who did good deeds while people slept. Like fairies, they were tiny, and people usually didn’t see them.

In one famous old story, a brownie asks children to do good deeds on their own. That way people wouldn’t need the magic of brownies during the night.

The Girl Scouts made that story their own. Now Brownie Elf and Grandmother Elf encourage ordinary girls to do extraordinary things. If you haven’t already met Brownie Elf and Grandmother Elf, you’ll meet them very soon!
BUT FIRST, the First Brownie Story
Flying into Shali’s Desert Home

Brownie friends Campbell, Jamila, and Alejandra played in the sunshine in the park in their hometown of Green Falls. Jam and Ali – those were their nicknames – sang Campbell’s new jump-rope song. It went like this:

I know two elves from Scotland

who want every girl to be

just as happy, strong, and friendly

as Ali, Jam, and me.

The girls jump-roped to the song over and over. Alejandra finally stopped to catch her breath. “Campbell, it’s time for a song with your name in it,” she said.

“Didn’t you say that your name is Scottish?” Jamila asked. “What are girls like in Scotland? Do you think they sing jump rope songs?”

Campbell laughed. “Yes, my name is Scottish. But I don’t really know much about Scotland.”

“Alejandra grinned. “I know who does!” she said.

“Me, too!” said Jamila. Then they all raised their arms, jiggled their bracelets, and called out:

Poof! Their good friend, Brownie Elf, appeared. “Scotland?” she asked. “You know a lot about Scotland!”

But the girls were startled. Their friend stood in the doorway of something very strange.

“What is that ?” Campbell pointed to the big, colorful thing behind Brownie Elf. It was sleek and silvery but all puffed up. Was it a giant, silver balloon? No! It had red wheels and a purple door, and yellow skis underneath. To top it off, there was a cheery-red chimney and a big white umbrella that shaded the roof!
Twist Me and Turn Me . . .

“Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.

I looked in the water and saw ______.”
Those words with the fill-in-the-blank at the end are part of the earliest Girl Scout Brownie story – and of every Brownie story since. Brownies who are all grown up still remember those beloved lines. When you’re older, you may find yourself remembering them, too!

“Is it a giant banana split?” Alejandra giggled.

“A rocket?” asked Jamila.

Grandmother elf popped her head out the door. “It’s my bookmobile! It’s full of books. I zip all over the world in it, taking books to girls. In Scotland, I’m a librarian, you know.”

The girls ran to greet their visitors. Grandmother Elf brought out a tray with a teapot and a plate of cookies. “Care for tea and biscuits?” she asked.

Biscuits, those are cookies in Scotland!” Jamila said.

“And Scottish girls are called lasses,” Campbell said.

“Ah, you do know something about Scotland,” said Brownie Elf. “What about other countries? Would you like to meet other girls in places far, far away?”

The girls all talked at once. “Oh, yes!” “The world?” “The whole world?” “Where will we go?”

Campbell jumped up. “The library!” she yelled.

They didn’t have to go far! Grandmother Elf’s bookmobile was filled with books. Laptops and electronic reading screens were in every corner. There were comfy chairs and tables, too. The walls were hung with photos of girls from all over the world.

The Brownie friends opened one book after another. They used the computers to search for more books. Jamila found one about a faraway land called Jordan. “It has cities, deserts – and girls like us,” she said. They all leaned in to look. Then they nodded their heads. “Yes!”

Poof! The big white umbrella popped up higher and the bookmobile rose toward the clouds.
Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.

I looked in the mirror and saw . . . myself.

Suddenly, the girls felt little bulges in their jacket pockets. They reached in and pulled out small, slim notebooks. Campbell’s was red, Jamila’s was purple, Alejandra’s was yellow. “Those are your passports,” Grandma Elf said. “Fill them with everything you see and do as we travel!”

And so, their adventure had begun! The girls pressed their faces against the windows of the bookmobile. They saw blue sky above and sandy-colored hills below. Soon they spotted skyscrapers and glittering domes and spires. Trees and gardens, and buildings old and new, spread over many hills.

WORDS Worth Knowing

SPIRES are like spears. They’re towers that point up. DOMES are rounded towers on the roof of a building. They can be as round as the top of your head!

The bookmobile was hovering over the desert city of Amman, in the country of Jordan. Soon it landed in a small park next to a tall apartment building. A girl came skipping out its front door.

Brownie Elf called to her, “Hi, Shali! Peace.”

Salaam!” Shali said, which sounded like zah-LAM. “And peace be with you, too. Wow, look at this . . . whatever it is!”

Jamila smiled. “It’s a bookmobile. It’s for taking books to people who don’t live near a library. We didn’t know what it was at first, either,” she said.

After all the girls said hello, Shali told them she and her mother were going to pick figs on her cousin’s farm.

“Let us take you,” said Grandmother Elf.

In a blink, the whole group was traveling along a dusty road outside the city. Brownie Elf steered the bookmobile while Grandmother Elf showed the girls books about Jordan. One book told about Jordan’s queen, Queen Rania.

When the bookmobile stopped, Shali’s cousins greeted them. They said Marhaba, which sounds like MAR-ha-ba and means hello in Arabic.

Jamila and Alejandra walked toward a grove of fig trees with Shali’s cousins, who led two donkeys alongside them. Each donkey had empty baskets on its back. Brownie Elf drove the bookmobile behind them.

A Caring Queen

QUEEN RANIA of Jordan has her own video channel on the Internet, where she answers questions about her country. She even made a music video to inspire the world to end poverty.

Queen Rania cares about school children and works to get more computers into Jordan’s schools. She, also, cares about girls and women. She wants them to have better lives, in Jordan and all around the world.

“Reading is important,” said Grandmother Elf. “Maybe we can find some books that are just right for you. What do you like to read about?

“Plants,” said Shali. “I have lots of books at home, but most have big words and I can’t figure them out.”

“I trip up on words that aren’t even big!” Campbell said. “But Jam and Ali help me out.”

Girls teaching girls,” said Grandmother Elf. “That’s what I like to see!”

Campbell laughed. “That sounds like a jump-rope song!” she said. And then she made up one.
Girls teaching girls – that’s what I like to see.

Shali picked some figs today, tomorrow Shali reads!

“That’s great,” Shali said. “Let’s sing it to my cousins.” As everyone picked figs from the fig trees, they sang the song and put in a new girl’s name each time.

Soon their baskets were full, and Shali’s cousins tied them onto the donkeys to carry home. Shali’s mother turned to the girls. “Did you taste a fig?” she asks. “Try one.” The girls had never seen a fig before. What a sweet surprise!

When they reached her cousins’ home, Shali invited to girls to play table tennis.

“We call it ‘ping-pong,’ ” said Jamila. “Different name, same game!”

Shali showed the girls the best places to stand behind the table to hit the ball. Then, wham! Jamila served.

“Great shot, Jam!”

“Now you try it, Ali!”

Whee! The ball flew by.

“Try bouncing it, like this,” Shali said. She darted from side to side, turning her wrist left and right so the paddle smacked the ball just right.

The girls took turns playing. Soon Shali’s mother carried out a tray with sweet, chilled tea in glasses with silver handles. Mint leaves swirled inside them.

Inside the bookmobile, Shali and Campbell talked with Grandmother Elf. “More than anything, I want to be a good reader,” Shali said.

“Tea. What a nice link to people all around the world,” said Brownie Elf. She winked at Grandmother Elf.

“I wonder where else in the world people drink tea and like to read books?” Jamila asked.

Alejandra said, “I know where we can find out.”

“The bookmobile!” said Campbell.

As they rode the bookmobile back to Shali’s home in the city of Amman, Grandmother Elf and the girls looked through more books. Before long, they reached Shali’s apartment.

Shali and her mother gave each girl some figs as a gift. They said Ma’assalama, which sounded like Mah ah-sa-LAY-mah and means good-bye.

Ma’assalama,” the girls repeated.

Then poof! Off they went.

Stories on the Go

The first American bookmobile was a horse-drawn carriage. That was in 1905. Later, librarians used mules and horses to bring books into the mountains. To reach islands, they used rowboats. Buses and campers are now bookmobiles, too! In Ethiopia, donkeys carry books. In Kenya, camels do. Imagine your own fantastic bookmobile! Draw it or build it!

Girls TEACHING Girls

Jamila and Alejandra are good readers, so they teach Campbell. Shali is so good at ping-pong that she showed her special moves to the Brownie friends. List the skills you have and use to teach friends new things. Then think of what your friends teach you! Skills can be passed back and forth, just like a ping-pong ball!

Skills I Share

Skills My Friends

Share with Me

Dancing with Chosita

The bookmobile landed on soft grass. The girls jumped out and saw bananas hanging from big green leaves. Butterflies fluttered among mango trees and papaya trees. Bright birds soared overhead. On the ground, scuttling and clucking, were dozens of chickens!

Grandmother Elf and Brownie Elf had flown the bookmobile all the way to Thailand.

“Look over there!” called Alejandra.

The Brownie friends saw a girl about their age. She was busy gathering eggs. When she saw the visitors, she nearly dropped all the eggs from her basket!

“Got it!” Campbell said, catching an egg just in time. She handed it to the girl and explained, “This is a bookmobile. It takes books all around the world!”

The girl smiled and said hello. Her name was Chosita, which means “happiness.” Then she went back to gathering eggs. “I need to get these to the temple,” she said. “The eggs are used to bake cakes for ceremonies.” The girls joined in and soon all the eggs were nestled in Chosita’s basket.
WORDS Worth Knowing

CEREMONIES are ways we honor a special time, like a birth or a wedding. When you were in kindergarten, did your class have a graduation at the end of the year? That was a ceremony! What Girl Scout ceremonies do you like most?

Khobkhun! ” said Chosita. That means “thank you” in Thai and it sounds like kobe-kun. “Would you like to come with me to the temple?” she asked.

“Let’s go in the bookmobile!” Jamila said.

“Really?” Chosita asked. “I love to read, but my school doesn’t have many books. A typhoon hit and all the books got soaked!”

WORDS Worth Knowing

A TYPHOON is a huge storm with very strong winds and rain. In some parts of the world, a typhoon is called a HURRICANE.

The Brownies listened as Chosita told them about the roaring winds and flooding waters. They told her about a hurricane that hit their country. “We all pitched in to get new books to libraries and schools,” Campbell said. “I’ll bet you and other girls here in Thailand can do something like that.”

Grandmother Elf looked around the library. “And here is a whole shelf of books that may be just right for your school. They’ll give you and your classmates something to read while you gather more books.”

“Thank you!” Chosita said.

The bookmobile came to a gentle stop. The girls could see the temple at the top of a hill. People seemed to be moving across the walls!

“They look like dancers,” Jamila said. “Are they?”

As they all climbed the hill to the temple, Chosita explained,” Those are very old carvings of temple dancers.” When they reached the temple, the girls saw that, sure enough, dancers were carved into the stone walls. Some of the carvings were damaged.

“These were hurt in the typhoon,” Chosita said. “But this frieze still tells a very old story. I learned the dances for it. I’ll show you!”
WORDS Worth Knowing

A FRIEZE sounds like something cold but it’s not! It’s a decorative carving on the outside wall of a building.

Chosita raised her arms and waved them softly, moving her hands as if telling a story with her fingers. The Brownie friends followed along, moving their hands from side to side just like Chosita.

“This is fun, but it’s not easy,” Campbell said.

“I practice every day!” Chosita said.

Chosita then took the eggs to the temple and soon returned with a beautiful lantern shaped like a lotus flower. “I brought this from the temple,” she told the girls. “I wish you could stay to see our Floating Lantern Festival at the end of the rainy season.”

Just then, Grandmother Elf came with a book of photographs of the festival. The pictures showed lights on every river and stream, like fireworks on the water.

“My family makes lots of lanterns for the festival,” Chosita said. “I’d love for you to meet my family!”

A Musical Queen

QUEEN SIRIKIT and King Bhumibol have ruled Thailand for more than 50 years. Queen Sirikit likes to write songs. She also works for her country’s Red Cross, which helps people after disasters such as typhoons and tidal waves. Queen Sirikit has been a queen longer than anyone else in the world!

And so they headed to Chosita’s home in the bookmobile, past green fields of rice plants rippling in the breeze. “I work in the rice paddies with my family,” Chosita said. She sang a rice-planting song, “Rhii rhii, khoa saan,” which sounded like Ree, ree, koh-a san.

Chosita’s house was built on thick poles like stilts. Chosita left her shoes by the steps. “Please come meet my mother,” she said.

The girls, too, left their shoes by the stairs. Inside, in a big room, they saw colorful, shimmering fabrics.

“Thailand is famous for its silk,” Chosita’s mother said. She and Chosita’s grandmother had woven the silk themselves. Some of it glittered with gold threads. The family made silks for the many children and grandchildren of the queen and king of Thailand.

“How about I teach you my favorite game?” Chosita asked. “It’s called Ling Ching Lak, or Monkey Fighting for the Poles. It’s one of the oldest games in the world.”

Chosita explained the game and Campbell agreed to be the monkey. The other girls stood by one of the big trees in Chosita’s yard. Those trees were “safe.”

“Ready, set . . . go!” shouted Campbell.

When the “monkey” gave the signal, the girls took off, each trying to reach a tree before the monkey caught them. A girl with no tree became “it.”

Alejandra laughed. “Oops! Now I’m the monkey! Ready, set, go!”

“I like this game,” Jamila said. “It reminds me of our games of tag and musical chairs.”

After the girls played, they ate mango slices and sipped spiced tea under the shade of a banyan tree.

Then it was time for Chosita and her mother to join the rest of their family in the rice paddies. They gave each girl a square of silk – purple for Jamila, red for Campbell, yellow for Alejandra. The girls said thank you and Chosita and her mother waved good-bye.

“There are so many girls in the world. Who will we visit next?” Alejandra asked.

“We’ve been to warm countries so far,” Jamila said.

“How about someplace cold?” asked Grandmother Elf. “I know the perfect place to get cozy with new friends and a good story – and some nice hot tea.”

“Hooray!” shouted the girls.

And then poof! Off they went!


In Thailand, all school children wear uniforms. And each day, they place their lunches in the middle of the table and share their food.

Some girls take part in making silk, too. They feed mulberry leaves to silkworms, which look like caterpillars. When the silkworms spin their cocoons, the girls gather them and learn to turn their silk threads into yarn, and then into cloth.

Some girls in Thailand work on their family’s farm. They plant and gather rice from the fields, feed and tend animals, and collect eggs.
Favorite Girls

What are your favorite girl characters like? Are they brave? Are they strong? Are they heroines? What do they do to make the world better?

WORDS Worth Knowing

HEROINES are women or girls who act with special courage – in real life or in stories.
Story Swapping with Lakti
Name your favorite characters and what you like best about them. Then name what’s best about being you! You can add to this list for a long time.

What’s best about my favorite girl characters

What’s best about me

As the wheels came up and big, shiny yellow skis dropped down, the bookmobile glided across the ice. The girls had arrived in the Arctic region of Canada. They were bundled up in parkas, earmuffs, boots, and mittens.

Campbell looked out the window. “Look! Reindeer!”

The bookmobile stopped. A girl carrying a pail ran to greet them. “Hello, Lakti,” Grandmother Elf said. “Meet my friends, Jamila, Alejandra, and Campbell.”

The Brownie girls peeked into Lakti’s pail as she named what was inside: “Mussels, sea urchins, and two kinds of fish – arctic char and whitefish.” The girls stared into the pail, but Lakti’s eyes were on the bookmobile.

Lakti and her family and friends knew many stories. They were members of the Ungava Inuit, a group of native people from far up in eastern Canada. Ungava means “toward the open water.”

“The Inuit know so many stories, we sometimes have trouble remembering all of them,” Lakti said. “We would love to record them. Maybe we could put them in a bookmobile.”

“I have ways to help you do that,” Grandmother Elf said. “After all, hearing stories from long ago is so much fun. Those stories are your very own folktales!”

WORDS Worth Knowing

FOLKTALES are made-up stories passed on from generation to generation. Folktales are often told out loud. “Little Red Riding Hood” is a folktale.
Lakti’s great aunt was a storyteller. Every week, villagers gathered to hear her tales. The stories she told were passed down to her by older storytellers. And those older storytellers heard them from even older storytellers. Some stories were about things that happened hundreds of years ago.

“Does she tell stories about sea creatures like the ones in your bucket?” Jamila asked.

“Sometimes,” Lakti answered. “Before you meet her, do you want to see how we fish when the water in the bay is frozen?”

“Awesome!” said Alejandra.

Lakti explained that she lives on the shore of Hudson Bay, which stays frozen all winter. She led them to a spot with a hole in the ice. The hole was the size of a small plate.

The air was icy cold. The girls clapped their hands as Lakti dropped her fishing line into the hole and jiggled it to catch the attention of a fish. “You have to watch carefully, so you don’t miss when the fish bites,” she said. “My friends and I swap stories to pass the time. Do you ever do that?”

Just then, Lakti felt a tug on her fishing line. She reeled it out of the hole and dropped a wriggling fish into her bucket.

“Hooray!” the girls shouted.

“Now you try,” said Lakti.

Time flew by as the girls talked and pulled in three more fish. Before they knew it, Lakti’s bucket was full.

Paddles and Skis

The Ungava Inuit have been kayakers for hundreds of years. They love to paddle from island to island in the summer. In winter, they use skis and snowmobiles to get around.

“Now, let’s go see my great aunt,” Lakti said.

The girls took turns carrying the bucket as they hurried to Lakti’s house on the shore.

Grandmother Elf greeted them. “How about a hot drink? Some tea, perhaps? Or hot cocoa?”

Lakti smiled. “And some akutaq!”

Fluffy Berry Akutaq

Families once took akutaq with them when they traveled and hunted. Now it is eaten as a dessert, a school snack, or as a spread on crackers or bread. Families often form akutaq into fun shapes, like balls or little seals, and freeze them before eating.
Campbell repeated the word exactly as Lakti had said it. “What’s a-koo-tak ?”

“It’s our ice cream,” Lakti answered. “It’s sweet and fluffy, with berries. You’ll love it!”

Cups of hot cocoa warmed the girls’ hands. As they sipped, Lakti took out all the makings for akutaq.

Akutaq means ‘mix them together’ in our Yupik language,” she explained. “Every family has its own recipe. Ours uses boiled fish and sugar and lots of berries – blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries.”

The girls mixed everything together.

When everyone had their fill of the fluffy treat, Lakti invited them to meet her Great Aunt Mary. The girls brought Mary a bowl of akutaq. They all settled in a half-circle around her.

“Once, when I was about Lakti’s age, my great grandmother handed me a beautiful piece of green stone,” she said. “It was time for me to learn to carve.”

Mary talked about the tools and the art of carving, and how each carver sees s shape in the stone. “In our village, we can just look at a carving and tell who made it,” Lakti added. “Each artist has her own style!”

WORDS Worth Knowing

A STYLE is a special sound or look or feel. Some songs have a special sound, some clothes a special look. When people have a certain look or feel that belongs to them that’s their style!

Lakti and her great aunt showed the girls small carvings of girls, and mothers with children.

“I want to carve a baby riding in the hood of her mother’s parka,” she said. “That will take time.”

“And patience,” said Campbell, “just like fishing!”

“Or like anything else you want to do well,” said Aunt Mary, “even telling stories.”

Then Lakti remembered! “Aunt Mary, Grandmother Elf has new ways for us to keep our stories.” Great Aunt Mary smiled.

“Everything’s in the bookmobile,” Grandmother Elf said. “Let’s go!” Once in the bookmobile, Grandmother Elf pulled out a camera, a video camera, and a laptop.

”There are so many ways to tell stories,” she said. “You don’t always have to write them down. You can take photos or make sketches, or use a video camera.”

She handed Lakti some notebooks, the cameras, and the laptop. “Sometimes it’s good to have stories saved in more than one way – in a notebook, on a video, or in a computer file. Then if one gets lost or damaged, you and your friends will still have another copy of the story!”

Lakti thanked everyone. Aunt Mary gave each girl a tiny stone carving of a fish as a souvenir of their visit.

“I hope we can come back to fish again with you someday,” Alejandra said.

Latki and her great aunt smiled. “We hope so, too,” Lakti said, and she waved good-bye.

Brownie Elf turned to the girls, “Let’s get you home so you can tell stories of your adventures in this wide world of girls.”

The girls settled into the bookmobile, and poof! Before they knew it, they were back in the park in their hometown of Green Falls. They stood in the sunshine in the same clothes they had on before they left. Their parkas were gone.

Jamila picked up the jump rope they’d left behind before their adventures. “Let’s finish our jump rope song!” she said.

The girls huddled together and then started singing:

In Jordan, we met Shali – and all her cousins, too!

Her reading got much better and we saw what girls could do!

Chosita showed us Thailand. We tried a brand-new dance.

We brought new books for children so they’ll have a better chance.

We met Lakti in the Arctic. She had so many tales to share.

She will save her auntie’s stories with the tools we brought there!

“That was good,” said Jamila. “Let’s keep going.”

“You’re good storytellers!” Grandmother Elf said. “Meeting girls around the world inspired you!”

“That’s right,” Brownie Elf said. “And now, Grandmother and I must be going.”

“Just one more verse, please?” Campbell asked.

Together the girls sang a final rhyme:

Our special friends from Scotland, a world of girls they’ve shown.

Now we can make things better with great stories of our own!

They stopped jumping and turned to say thank you. Brownie Elf and her grandmother smiled. Then poof! They and the bookmobile were gone, just like that.

“I can’t wait to draw pictures that tell stories of all we did!” Alejandra said.

“Remember how Chosita danced that old story?” asked Jamila. “I’m going to dance new stories for girls everywhere!”

“I’ll build a bookmobile to hold your stories,” Campbell said.

The girls laughed. Then, their passports safe in their pockets, they headed home.

Storytelling Spots

All over the world, women gather around campfires, near water wells, on the banks of rivers, and in other special places to share stories. Where do the women in your family gather to share stories?


In Canada, many Inuit live in Nunavut, which means “Our Land.” Parts of Nunavut are close to the North Pole and as far north as humans live on planet Earth.

Niviasar ”is how you say girl in the Inuktitut language. The word sounds like ni-Vy-a-sar.

Susan Aglukark is a famous Inuit singer and songwriter. She records pop songs that tell Inuit stories.

Stories are Keepsakes,

Keepsakes Tell Stories!

Has a woman in your life ever told you a story about when she was younger? Has she given you something she cherished as a girl, like a favorite doll? Did she tell you a story about it? Draw or paste a picture of something special to you. Then share a little story about this special thing.

Alejandra, Campbell, and Jamila traveled to: ______________________________

They found these clues: _____________________________________

They decided to make these things better:________________________________________

They decided to tell their new stories by: _______________________________________

Where I would like to see the Brownie friends travel next: ___________________

Share with your friends:

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