Creature discomforts

Prof. Mel Rosenberg, of Tel Aviv University's human microbiology and immunology department, simply loves writing children's books.

Bentzi the Porcupine 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Bentzi the Porcupine 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
There are few things that Prof. Mel Rosenberg of Tel Aviv University’s human microbiology and immunology department enjoys more than studying bad breath (halitosis), smelly socks and underarm odor; none of them put him off.
One of the other things he enjoys is writing children’s books.
After publishing two English-language softcovers in 2009 on the need to brush one’s teeth (the heroine was a witch named Wizelda who had a bad case of cavities) and to replace one’s brush every few months, he has written a new hardcover book with no connection at all to decay or odor.
This one – nicely illustrated by Rotem Omri with figures that look three-dimensional – is written in rhymed Hebrew and stars a hedgehog named Bentzi. One day, Bentzi wakes up and is shocked to see his image in the mirror: All the wild-pink spines covering his body are facing forward instead of backward. No mere technicality, this means that anyone who comes near gets pricked – and one certainly can’t cuddle or hug such a creature without suffering the consequences.
Bentzi is so miserable that he tries every possible cure for the misbehaving spines – shampoo, juice and even special hedgehog conditioner – but nothing works.
So he goes to his animal health fund clinic, where Dr. Cluck is receiving patients. Finally his turn comes, by which time the feathery physician is standing on his head. After looking at Bentzi, Dr. Cluck concludes: “You went to bed on your right side and got up on your left.”
His hinted solution: “Look at yourself nicely and you’ll be able to turn your spines back. Shake yourself up, jump to the sky and then you’ll be able to hug again.”
The poor curly hedgehog hadn’t a clue. “Shake myself up? Give a flying start? And then I’ll be able to hug?” At night, Bentzi has a dream that he is walking by the riverside, when he sees his image in the water. Without thinking twice, he jumps up, shakes himself and changes his hairstyle. But when he awakens, he finds his spines are the same as before.
Though disappointed, he goes to the river and tries the same trick in earnest. At first, nothing happens, but in a few minutes, the spines begin to turn back in place. Overjoyed, he returns home and sends a letter to Dr. Cluck, thanking him for his cure.
Rosenberg’s Dr. Cluck series will next feature books on Ayelet the Kangaroo and Tzika the Hyena.