(Today I'm sharing a story I wrote for 5-year-old Caroline. By the way, thanks, Matt, for the inspiration!)
There was once an apostrophe who was confused. He knew he was important, but he wasn’t sure where to go and what to do. So he went to the question mark to ask her opinion. “Where do I belong?” he asked. Well, the apostrophe soon learned that question marks can’t answer questions - they only ask them. So he didn’t get any help there.
Next he went to see the exclamation point. But the exclamation point was just too excited to help out the apostrophe. All he did was shout, “TRY THE PERIOD!!!” So the apostrophe went to see the period, who wasn’t any help, either. Every time the apostrophe started asking his question, “Where do I belong?” he could only get out the “Where do” part before the period said, “Stop.” Oh, my, that seemed a bit rude to the apostrophe.
He tried the comma next, but the only clue the comma gave him was, “We look alike, my friend. Where do you belong? All I know is that I belong down, and you belong up.” The semicolon was too confused to help the apostrophe, because he couldn’t make up his mind if he himself was a period or a comma. But the semicolon did say cryptically, “I think your purpose is to show something belongs to someone, and I think you work a lot with the letter S.”
Frustrated by his experience, the apostrophe started wandering around. He soon came upon a sentence. Hey, it thought, that sentence looks like it could use an apostrophe! The sentence was this: A bird fell out of its nest. The apostrophe thought that, since the nest belonged to the bird, it must be right, and without even asking for permission, he just hopped right into the sentence, and landed between the T and the S. The new sentence now looked like this: A bird fell out of it’s nest. The apostrophe was so happy that he finally found a job. But the other words were upset. “You don’t belong here!” they shouted, and they pushed him right out.
Poor apostrophe picked himself up, dusted himself off, and started searching for a new sentence. It wasn’t long before he saw a good possibility. The sentence was this: The dog chewed its toy. “Oh, boy!” said the apostrophe. “Surely this sentence needs me! The toy belongs to the dog, doesn’t it?” And he plopped right down, again between the T and the S, and the new sentence was this: The dog chewed it's toy. Before he could relax, though, the other words became indignant. “You don’t belong here!” they said. Then they shoved the apostrophe out.
Soon he came across this sentence: Cats are for loving. “All right!” he exclaimed. “I can work with the letter S!” and he jumped right in, so the sentence now read like this: Cat’s are for loving. But it wasn’t long before the letters were saying, “Hey, that word is plural (more than one cat) and doesn’t need an apostrophe! You don’t belong here!” and they gave a big shove and he fell across a whole page until he landed just short of yet another sentence.
The apostrophe heard tiny voices, and when he looked up at the sentence where he had landed, all the letters were speaking at once. “Please help!” they said. “We just can’t be seen like this! It’s not right! Please, won’t you help us?” they asked. The apostrophe looked at the sentence. It looked like this: Its going to rain. The apostrophe had made enough mistakes for one day, and he didn’t want to jump in and get all comfortable if he would get kicked out. But the letters were insistent, so the apostrophe closed his eyes and jumped with all his might and landed right between the T and the S, so the sentence now read: It’s going to rain. “Yay!” cried the words. "We are happy now! You fixed everything! Now we are not ashamed to be seen!”
“But I’m not showing belonging!” he replied. “We aren’t using you for belonging,” the letters all explained. “We’re using you to make a contraction!” The apostrophe soon realized that his job was not to jump in every ITS that he saw. He should wait until he found an ITS that meant “It is,” and he could make it a contraction, which means one word made from two words. So “it is” becomes “it’s.”
The apostrophe was content, but he still wanted to show belonging. “Can’t I ever be used to show belonging, or am I just stuck in contractions?” he wondered. Then the word RAIN spoke up. “Oh, yes, little apostrophe!” she answered. “Why, look at me! I can have several jobs, too! I can be spelled RAIN or REIGN or REIN and pronounced exactly the same way!” “Hey, that’s cool!” said the apostrophe, appropriately impressed. “But what else can I do? Am I only able to make contractions?”
The word RAIN giggled. “Silly apostrophe!” she laughed. “Of course you aren’t used just for contractions! Why, look here!” And she pointed to all the wonderful belonging ways that apostrophe, with his friend letter S, could do. Caroline’s vocabulary. Charlotte’s new bed. Mommy’s books. Our family’s car. Papa’s pipe. Nana’s cookies. Grammy’s quilt. Daddy’s computer.
Finally the apostrophe realized that he could be used in so many places correctly that it didn’t matter to him that there were some words where he didn’t belong. At last he felt useful, and he lived happily ever after.
If you read a lot, you might come across the apostrophe sitting calmly in a word where he doesn’t belong. Maybe he’s just forgotten what he learned, or maybe he’s trying to trick you to see if you notice! Just tell him to move on to a word that really needs him. Then the sentences won’t be embarrassed, and the apostrophe will feel valuable for all his days.