The Bright Side | Ep. 220

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(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Picture a glass.

Inside the glass is water, which reaches the halfway mark.

Would you describe the glass as half-empty? Or half-full?

If we say the glass is “half-empty,” we’re thought to be more pessimistic: we focus on the negative side of things. But if we say the glass is “half-full,” we’re thought to be more optimistic: we focus on the positive.

We’re about to meet a character who’s always looking at the bright side, even when things get very dark, indeed!

Our story is called “The Bright Side.” We found versions of this tale from the Polish people of Central Europe, and the Hispanic community of the southwestern United States.

Voices in this episode include: Kevin Corbett, Anthony Palmini, Jessica Rau, Chris Tucci, Dawn Ursula, and Liana Hunt. Theater fans – and movie fans! – Liana Hunt is currently starring in the Broadway musical, “Back to the Future,” at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Sofie Kodner. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

GROWN-UPS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We invite you to share your picture on Facebook and Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRoundPodcast. To access all the coloring pages for past Circle Round episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

You can accentuate the positive and see that glass as half full, by creating your own Bright Side Glass!

  1. Find a glass or a cup.
  2. Get some pieces of paper and ask a grown-up to help you cut each page into six or eight slips.
  3. On each slip of paper, work with your grown-up to write down something positive that happened to you recently. Did you learn a new skill or try a new food? Did you finish a big project or enjoy a super-fun playdate? Maybe you did something kind for someone – or they did something kind for you!
  4. As you write down your positive experiences, read them out loud, then place them in your glass or cup.
  5. Once it’s half full, place it in a spot where you’ll always see it, as a reminder to keep looking on the bright side!

We’d love to see your Bright Side Glass! Grown-ups, please send a photo of your kiddo and their glass and email it to We may use it in a future edition of “The Lion’s Roar,” the monthly newsletters for members of the Circle Round Club!

Musical Spotlight: Accordion

Composer Eric Shimelonis playing the accordion, one of his favorite instruments! (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Composer Eric Shimelonis playing the accordion, one of his favorite instruments! (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

This week’s instrument is sometimes referred to as a “squeezebox.”


Because to make music with it, you do a whole lot of squeezing!

The accordion is a box-shaped instrument with pleated bellows in the middle. You push (or compress) and pull (or expand) the bellows while pressing buttons or keys. The reeds inside the accordion then vibrate to produce sound.

The accordion is popular in many parts of the world. In Europe, many conservatories actually have classical-accordion departments, and in the United States, the piano accordion (i.e. the particular type of accordion we used in this week’s story) is the official city instrument of San Francisco, CA!

You can hear Eric Shimelonis playing the accordion in several other Circle Round stories, including “Misery Loves Company” and “100 Rooms.”

Story Transcript:

NARRATOR: Sabrina lived with her brother Nico in a little farmhouse in the countryside. The siblings raised chickens, grew vegetables, and took care of two goats, Cypress and Juniper.

Year after year, life on Sabrina and Nico’s farm was good. The chickens thrived, the crops were hearty, the goats gave plenty of milk.

But then came the year when everything went wrong.

In the spring, a pack of hungry coyotes snuck into the hen house overnight.

SABRINA: Those wild dogs made off with all our chickens, Nico!

NICO: Well, Sabrina… on the bright side, we still have our crops!

NARRATOR: But come summer, a swarm of aphids invaded the crops.

SABRINA: Those pesky insects ate up all our corn and beans, Nico!

NICO: Well, Sabrina… on the bright side, we still have our goats!

NARRATOR: But come fall, one of the goats broke through the fence.

SABRINA: I’ve been looking for Cypress everywhere but I can’t find her, Nico!

NICO: Well, Sabrina… on the bright side, we still have Juniper!

NARRATOR: Which was true. But with no chickens, no crops, and just one goat, Nico and Sabrina were on the verge of going broke, with zero hope of paying next month’s rent – or any month after that! So one night, over a meager dinner of bread crusts and goat cheese, Nico made a decision.

NICO: Sabrina… I think we should talk to Cornelius.

SABRINA: Cornelius?!? You can’t be serious!

NARRATOR: Cornelius was the farmers’ landlord. The selfish, stingy fellow was always raising the rent, well beyond Nico and Sabrina’s humble means.

SABRINA: Nico! Even if we do go to that curmudgeonly money-grubber and explain our predicament, can we really assume he’ll take pity on us and let go of next month’s rent?

NICO: No, Sabrina! (beat) (sheepish) But we can HOPE he’ll take pity on us and let go of next month’s rent…

SABRINA: Always looking at the bright side, aren’t you? (beat) But yes. (SIGH) We can hope.

NARRATOR: So Sabrina and Nico went off to Cornelius’s house: a stately red-brick abode with a long winding driveway, a spouting fountain out front, and a spacious veranda out back. But when the farmers humbly explained their situation…


NARRATOR: …Cornelius did not ‘take pity.’

CORNELIUS: Come now, you two! Do you really think I would let you weasel out of paying next month’s rent? You are working people! You should be making your own living! Not begging for handouts.

NICO: Well… to be fair, Cornelius, we’ve been TRYING to make our own living.

SABRINA: But we’ve had such bad luck lately, from the coyotes to the aphids to the – (gets interrupted mid-sentence)

CORNELIUS: (interrupting) Enough! Spare me your sob story. (beat) But, I'll tell you what. I am, as you can see, a gentleman – a rather fine one, at that! And as a gentleman, I would like to give you a little something. To throw you a bone, you could say. (beat) Now go back home, and one of my servants will deliver it to you.

NARRATOR: Sabrina and Nico went back to their farmhouse and speculated about what gift their landlord would give them.

SABRINA: I mean, this IS Cornelius we’re talking about, so you know it won’t be anything fancy.

NICO: Maybe… but that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful! (beat) Maybe it’ll be food…? Like a loaf of bread?

SABRINA: As always, I admire your optimism, Nico. (beat) But no. Food is way too generous for Cornelius.

NICO: Okay… then how about clothing? Or blankets? Something to keep us warm through the frigid winter ahead?

SABRINA: Still too generous – and too optimistic!

NICO: Fine. So what, then? After all, Cornelius did say that he would “throw us a bone,” so that’s something!

SABRINA: Nico! He compared us to hungry dogs! That isn’t “something.” That’s downright arrogant! I mean, can you believe – (gets interrupted mid-sentence)

NARRATOR: The farmers exchanged a look, then raced to the door. When they threw it open…

NARRATOR: …a big, gift-wrapped box was sitting on the stoop.

Nico and Sabrina brought the box inside. They tore off the paper, lifted the lid, and then…


NARRATOR: …they gasped! And then


NARRATOR: …they groaned. 

Because the “bone” Cornelius threw them wasn’t bread… or blankets… or clothing. Nope! It was an actual, honest-to-goodness…


NARRATOR: That’s right. Tucked inside the box was the wishbone from a chicken, along with a handwritten note from Cornelius.

CORNELIUS: “Dear Nico and Sabrina: I said I would ‘throw you a bone’... So here’s a wishbone from last night’s dinner. Perhaps you can use it to wish for money to pay for next month’s rent! Ha! Sincerely, Your landlord, Cornelius.”

NARRATOR: Sabrina crumpled the note and threw it against the wall.

SABRINA: Ugh!!! That Cornelius is something else! (beat) I hate to say it, Nico, but there’s only one thing left to do. … I think we should sell Juniper.

NICO: Juniper? Our one and only goat? But she’s all we have left! I mean, on the bright side, if we keep Juniper we can have milk and cheese!

SABRINA: Again, I appreciate the optimism, Nico. But one goat’s worth of milk and cheese isn’t going to fill our bellies – or get us back on our feet! (beat) Look. I don’t want to say goodbye to Juniper any more than you do. But what choice do we have? (beat) I’ll take Juniper to town and sell her. I know how valuable she is, so I promise I’ll get a good price.

NARRATOR: Well… little did the farmers realize… but Juniper would prove to be more ‘valuable’ than they had ever dreamed.

In fact, in a way…? Their one goat would prove to be priceless!

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen when Sabrina takes Juniper to town?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Bright Side.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, Sabrina and her brother Nico were struggling to keep their farm going – and to pay next month’s rent. But their stingy landlord, Cornelius, refused to help. The only “bone” he “threw them” was an actual wishbone from a chicken!

Nico tried keeping his chin up and staying positive, but Sabrina was losing hope. So she headed to town to sell their one and only goat, Juniper. It was a long journey from the countryside, and on the way Sabrina was stopped by a tall, gangly man leading a fluffy white lamb.

LAMB MAN: Greetings! May I ask: where are you headed with that fine goat?

SABRINA: I’m off to town to put her up for sale. Times are hard and I don’t have much of a choice. (beat) But she’s a wonderful creature! Good-natured and friendly… and she gives such tasty milk!

LAMB MAN: Well, it just so happens I’ve been in the market for a good-natured and friendly goat. Tasty milk doesn’t hurt, either! (beat) So how about you trade her for my lamb? She’s a real sweetheart and will give you plenty of wool when winter comes! Just right for knitting cozy sweaters, scarves, and blankets!

NARRATOR: Sabrina thought about the frigid winter ahead, and how nice it would be to stay all warm and snuggly through the cold months.

SABRINA: Alright! You have yourself a deal! One goat for one lamb.

NARRATOR: As Sabrina headed back home with the lamb in tow, she smiled.

SABRINA: This lamb will make Nico so happy! We’ll be so comfy with all those woolen sweaters, scarves, and blank – (gets interrupted)

ROOSTER WOMAN: Hello there! Where are you going with that adorable lamb?

NARRATOR: Sabrina swiveled her head. Coming round the bend was a willowy woman cradling a rooster.

SABRINA: Oh, hello! I’m taking this sweet little lamb home. I just traded her for my one and only goat and can’t wait to use her wool to make fuzzy sweaters, scarves, and blankets! 

ROOSTER WOMAN: Well, it just so happens I’ve been in the market for a sweet little lamb. You’re not the only one who wants to stay warm this winter! (beat) How about you trade her for my rooster? He’s the most punctual rooster there is; wakes me with his crow every morning at the crack of dawn! And he’s one heck of a guard bird; I can’t tell you how many times he’s scared off the coyotes who’ve tried to eat up my chickens!

NARRATOR: Sabrina thought about the chickens she and Nico had lost to coyotes – and how early they’d need to wake up if they wanted to replant their crops come springtime.

SABRINA: Alright! You have yourself a deal! One lamb for one rooster.

NARRATOR: Sabrina beamed as she and the rooster continued toward home.

SABRINA: This rooster will make Nico so happy! He’ll help us wake up early, and once we have enough money to buy new chickens, he’ll frighten off the coyotes when they – (gets interrupted mid-sentence)

GOOSE MAN: Good day! Where are you off to with that handsome rooster? 

NARRATOR: Sabrina flicked her head round. Walking her way was a short, stocky man holding a plump white goose.

SABRINA: Good day! I’m taking this handsome rooster home. I just traded him for a lamb, which I got by trading a goat, and he’s an excellent guard bird – and alarm clock!

GOOSE MAN: Well, it just so happens I’ve been in the market for a rooster. I am always sleeping in and delaying my chores! (beat) How about you trade him for my goose? This fabulous fowl lays the most exquisite eggs! And you can use her feathers to make the softest pillows. Mattresses, too!

NARRATOR: Sabrina thought about how delicious fresh goose eggs would taste after living on bread crusts, and how nice it would be to sleep on a cushy pillow and bed.

SABRINA: Alright, sir! You have yourself a deal! One rooster for one goose.

NARRATOR: Sabrina grinned as she resumed her journey, goose in hand.

SABRINA: This goose will make Nico so happy! We’ll make goose-egg omelets every morning for breakfast! After we enjoy a heavenly night’s sleep on our goose-down mattresses and pill – (gets interrupted)

BONES WOMAN: (tired, hungry) Excuse me? Pardon me!

NARRATOR: Sabrina looked around. Kneeling on the grass beside the road was an old woman. Her face was as wrinkled as old parchment. Her body was as thin as a toothpick and draped in a tattered, threadbare cloak.

BONES WOMAN: I’m sorry to disturb you… but I’ve fallen on hard times and wonder if you could spare some food?

NARRATOR: Sabrina’s heart swelled with pity. This poor soul was even worse off than she and Nico were!

SABRINA: I’m afraid I don’t have any food. I don’t even have any money! But I'll tell you what.

NARRATOR: She held out her newest prize.

SABRINA: I do have this goose. And you’re more than welcome to have her. Word has it her eggs are amazing – and you can use her feathers for all sorts of things!

BONES WOMAN: What a kind offer, my dear! Up until now, I’ve been living on whatever scraps passers-by toss my way! Apple cores, carrot tops, cheese rinds… but look at this!

NARRATOR: The woman showed Sabrina a greasy handkerchief. Tucked inside was a pile of chicken bones.

BONES WOMAN: One generous soul gave me an entire roasted chicken! They were taking it home for dinner but took pity on me. Just like you are now!

SABRINA: Well, it’s only right. I recently had troubles of my own and when I reached out for help, I got anything but!

BONES WOMAN: I’m sorry to hear that. People can be so heartless. (beat) But what can I give you in return for your goose? All I have is the threadbare cloak I’m wearing, and this messy pile of chicken bones! After you’ve shown such generosity, I ought to do more than throw you a bone! Am I right…?

NARRATOR: Upon hearing these words, something in Sabrina’s mind clicked. Her thoughts suddenly flew to Cornelius.

CORNELIUS: I cannot allow you to go home empty-handed! Thus, I would like to give you a little something. To throw you a bone!!!!

NARRATOR: A grin spread across Sabrina’s face. For all at once, she had a plan for getting even with her stingy landlord.

SABRINA: (hatching a plan) You know what, ma’am? I’d be happy to give you my goose in exchange for your chicken bones.

NARRATOR: The old woman was surprised.

BONES WOMAN: You would trade your goose for these bones?!?? They’re nothing more than the cast-offs of a good meal! They’re worthless!

SABRINA: Oh, on the contrary! They may very well be priceless! (beat) Do we have a deal?

BONES WOMAN: We have a deal! (beat) Thank you!

NARRATOR: Sabrina took the handkerchief full of chicken bones and bid the woman farewell. But she didn’t go back to her and Nico’s farmhouse. Instead, she went to the stately red-brick home of Cornelius. She marched up the long winding driveway, past the spouting fountain, and knocked on the door.

CORNELIUS: Yes? (beat) (noticing who it is and not too happy about it) Oh! Sabrina. What do YOU want? Have you finally ponied up the money for next month’s rent?

SABRINA: Well… that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. You see, this morning, I went off to town to sell our goat.

CORNELIUS: So let me guess. You sold the goat and you’ve brought me the rent…?

SABRINA: No… because I traded the goose…

NARRATOR: Sabrina held up the handkerchief.


NARRATOR: Just as Sabrina expected – and hoped – Cornelius was taken aback.

CORNELIUS: You traded a goose… for chicken bones?!?? Are you out of your mind? What’s your brother’s name again? The fellow you run that pathetic little farm with?


CORNELIUS: Well, Nico is going to be furious!

SABRINA: Actually…

NARRATOR: Sabrina crossed her arms.

SABRINA: …he won’t.

CORNELIUS: Oh yes, he will!

SABRINA: (calm, matter of fact) No. He won’t.

CORNELIUS: Yes he will!

SABRINA: Do you want to bet?

CORNELIUS: Bet?!? You haven’t a penny to your name! What could you possibly bet?!?

SABRINA: I will bet you fifty years of rent. If I win, my brother and I will pay zero rent for half a century.

CORNELIUS: And if I win?

SABRINA: We’ll pay you DOUBLE rent for half a century! That’s double rent for fifty whole years!

NARRATOR: Cornelius tapped his chin. Then he fixed Sabrina with a haughty stare.

CORNELIUS: Okay, Sabrina. I accept your bet. But when you get home, and your brother gets so angry that he blows an absolute gasket, I want proof.

SABRINA: You want proof? Come to my house! Hide outside somewhere while I talk with Nico.

NARRATOR: So Sabrina and Cornelius made their way to the farmhouse. As Cornelius searched for a hiding place, Sabrina breezed through the door.

SABRINA: Nico! I’m back!

NARRATOR: At the sound of Sabrina’s voice, Nico rushed over and wrapped his sister in a hug.

NICO: Sabrina! I’m so happy to see you! What did you get in exchange for selling Juniper?

NARRATOR: Sabrina snuck a glance out the window. She spied Cornelius huddled behind a pinetree.

SABRINA: Well… I actually didn’t sell Juniper. I traded her. For a lamb.

NICO: A lamb?

NARRATOR: Nico was quiet for a moment. Then his face broke into a grin.

NICO: A lamb is great!!!! On the bright side, just think how comfy we’ll be with all those woolen sweaters, scarves, and blank – (gets interrupted)

SABRINA: (interrupting) BUUUUT… then I traded the lamb for a rooster.

NICO: A rooster?

NARRATOR: Again, Nico was quiet. Then his eyes grew bright.

NICO: A rooster is terrific!!! On the bright side, he’ll help us wake up early, and once we have enough money to buy new chickens, he’ll frighten off the coyotes when they – (gets interrupted mid-sentence)

SABRINA: (interrupting) BUUUUT… then I traded the rooster for a goose.

NICO: A goose…?

NARRATOR: Nico paused, then the corners of his mouth curled up in delight.

NICO: A goose is fantastic!!!! On the bright side, we’ll make goose-egg omelets every morning for breakfast! After we enjoy a heavenly night’s sleep on our goose-down mattresses and pill – (gets interrupted)

SABRINA: (interrupting) BUUUUT… then I traded the goose… for THESE.

NARRATOR: Sabrina held out the greasy handkerchief.

NICO: (shocked, not mad) BONES?!???

NARRATOR: Nico’s jaw fell open.

NICO: (shocked, not mad; slowly) You traded the goose… for BONES?!??

SABRINA: Yes, Nico. I met an old woman who was even worse off than we are, and needed help even more than we did! So I traded the goose, even though all she had to offer were these bones.

NARRATOR: Sabrina held her breath, waiting for what Nico would say next. And then…

NICO: Bones… are PERFECT!!! (beat) On the bright side… we can show Cornelius what it really means to throw someone a bone when they need it. Because next time we see him, we can tell him all about the old woman, and throw him ALL OF THESE!!!!

NARRATOR: Sabrina smiled and gave her brother’s hand a squeeze.

SABRINA: As always, I admire your optimism, Nico. And you might get your chance sooner than you think. Look outside!

NARRATOR: She led Nico to the window. Standing out in the yard was Cornelius. His brow was knotted in anger. His fists were clenched and his face was puckered with rage. I guess you could say he looked an awful lot like he was about to “blow an absolute gasket”!

SABRINA: (calling out the window) Well, Cornelius? What did I tell you? Nico didn’t get angry! So I have won the bet… and my brother and I don’t have to throw any money your way for fifty years!

NICO: But we’d be happy to throw you these!

NARRATOR: Nico pulled back his arm, and lobbed the chicken bones out the window. They landed at Cornelius’s feet in a heap. The landlord gasped…


NARRATOR: …then groaned…


NARRATOR: …then spun on his heel and stormed away.

CORNELIUS: (ad-lib storming-away sounds, such as) Ugh! Argh! Rrrr!

NARRATOR: Well… after that, things got much brighter for Sabrina and Nico. With no rent to pay, they were able to get back on their feet. They bought a new flock of chickens, planted a new round of crops, they even brought home two new goats.

And over in his stately red brick house with the long winding driveway, the spouting fountain out front, and the spacious veranda out back, Cornelius never bothered the farmers again.

No bones about it!

Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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