Bernadette and the World’s Biggest Jawbreaker
Bernadette can win the world's biggest jawbreaker, but she'll have to answer three questions, and they are HARD ONES!
The moment Bernadette saw it, she knew she had to have it. A jawbreaker the size of a soccer ball that looked just like a globe of the world. Blue oceans and rainbow countries. The kids in her 3rd grade class would flip!

“How much for that one?” she asked the candyman and pointed at it under the shiny glass countertop.

“Oh,” he said, “that one’s $150. It’s a limited edition.”

Her heart sank. She turned away to look at something cheaper, like gobstoppers.

“But,” said the man, “you could always win it.”


“By answering a question correctly,” he said as he motioned to a box on the counter-top.

On the front of the box a sign was taped which read:

World Jawbreaker Contest Instructions.
1. Pay $5
2. Draw a question from the box (candyman has the key)
3. Answer correctly and win the Jawbreaker ($150 value)

“That seems neat,” she said. “What kinds of questions?”

“Geography questions.”

“Well, I'm pretty good at geography!”

“These are hard,” said the candyman. “More than 40 people have tried and failed. That’s $200 spent already for a $150 Jawbreaker. One man spent $40 to answer eight questions, but he didn’t get close to getting any of them right.”

Bernadette’s hand was in her pocket holding the dollar bills. Five of them. She could play once, but if she lost, she’d go home empty-handed. It was the last of her birthday money.

“OK,” she said after a moments hesitation. “I’ll play.”

She pulled the bills out of her pocket and held them out.

“Great,” beamed the candyman as he reached across the counter and cheerily plucked them from her grasp.

He held out a key and motioned to the box. “Help yourself.”

She took the key and inserted it into the keyhole on the box front. She turned - click - and lifted the lid.

Inside were dozens of paper strips, folded in half.

“Go ahead,” the candyman prodded, “choose one.”

She picked one, closed the lid, locked the box and returned the key.

As she opsned and lifted the strip to read the question written there, she was surprised to find that her hands were trembling. So much so that she couldn’t hold still enough to prevent the words from looking blurry.

“Would you like me to read it for you?” asked the candyman.

“Yes, please,” she said,and handed him the strip.

He cleared this throat and in a deeper voice - like a game show host - asked the question.

“What is the capital city of the country of Uzbekistan?”

“Uzbekihuh?” Bernadette asked.


“Where’s that?”

“On plant earth,”smiled the candyman. “Sorry, no hints. That’s kind of the point.”

“I don’t know,” she said, and slumped.

“Guess,”he prodded.


“Sorry,” said the candyman as he crumpled the paper. “That’s not it.”

“What is it?” she asked. Her 5 dollars were in his other hand. She stared longingly at them. No candy. No money. No nothing.

“Go home and look it up,” he said.

She shuffled home.

“How was the candy store?” asked mom.

“Horrible,” said Bernadette, who then recounted to her mother the whole experience.

“The capital of Uzbekistan is Tashkent,” said her mom.

“How did you know that?”

“I got a college degree in history,” said her mother, “and during my studies I read all about geography and the cities and countries of the world.

“I didn’t know you studied that in college.”

“Have you looked at all my books on the shelf?”

I nodded. She had a lot of them, about places all over the world.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Mom. “I’m going to give you five books that are about geography, countries, and cities. For each one you read, I’ll give you a dollar. After five books you’ll have the money and the knowledge you’ll need to play again and win. Want to try?”


It took Bernadette 30 days to read them. She read them each day after school before dinner and at dinner Mom would quiz her about what she had read. Dad was sure proud of her, too, and that made her feel good.

Twice she stopped by the candy store, and each time, the Jawbreaker looked more and more delicious.

Finally, the day came. Her mom gave her five dollars and accompanied her to the candy store. As they approached, Bernadette felt good. She wasn’t even nervous. She just knew she’d win it.

She smiled at her mom as she opened the candy shop door. The bell above the door sounded and the candyman looked up from behind the counter and smiled.

“Now,” smiled mom,” Where this famous jawbreaker?”

“It’s right over . . . “ Bernadette’s words trailed off. Her heart sank.

The candyman frowned.

“Just this morning, a half hour ago, a woman won it,” he said. “She guessed correctly the other name of the gulf of California.”

“The Sea of Cortez,” said Mom.

“And I knew that one,” said Bernadette.

She felt a lump in her throat and tears welling up in her eyes.

“Sorry young lady,” said the candyman.

Mom put a hand on Bernadette’s shoulder.

“Honey,” she said. “Don’t give up so quickly. Sometimes there’s another way”

Mom turned to the candyman.

“This little girl worked very hard over the last month to earn enough money to come back and play again. I’ll make a deal with you. She’ll pay you her $5. And I”ll pay you another $5. She draws two questions from the box and has to answer them correctly in order to win.”

“And what would she win?” the man asked. “I can’t get any more jawbreakers, it was a limited edition. It’s not coming back.”

“Well,” said mom, “The jawbreaker was $150. So, how about a $150 shopping spree in the store?”

“Deal” said the candyman.his eyes gleamed greedily, as if he were thinking this will be the easiest $10 I ever make.

He held the box key out.

Bernadette still had tears welled up in here eyes, so she quickly wiped them with the back of her hand and took the key.

She slowly opened the box and took out two pieces of paper. She opened the first, cleared her throat and read the question. As she did, she grew excited.

“What is the name of the largest waterfall in South America?!”

She looked at her mother with a big smile.

“I read all about this one,” Bernadette said. “Its name is Iguazu, which means Big Waters. And the biggest part of the waterfall is called the ‘garganta del diablo’ which means ‘devil’s throat’!”

The candymans’ smile fell right off his face. His his eyes got big. He could hardly squeak out the words. “Y, Yes, that’s right!”

Bernadette opened the second slip and closed her eyes before reading it. She took a deep breath. As she did so, she thought back to all the afternoons she had spent reading the books. Even when they were hard to understand and even during the boring parts, she just kept reading, kept learning, and now - here she was, one question away from $150 worth of candy! Any kind she wanted!

She opened her eyes and raised the slip.

“What is the capital city of Kenya?”

“You know this one,” said Mom. “We studied it.”

She looked at her mother. She furrowed her brow. Bernadette knew they had studied. But she just couldn’t remember the name. She pictured the continent of Africa in her mind. There was Kenya, surrounded by Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. She even remembered that Lake Victoria was on it’s southwest side. Think Bernadette! she said to herself. You know this!

“Remember the memory trick I taught you?” asked Mom.


“Try it.”


Under her breath she started slowly saying the alphabet.

“A.” nothing came to mind.

“B.” still nothing.

“C.” Was it a C? Name? Calcutta? No, that was a city in India.

She went on, through D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O.

At O she stopped. Wait, I passed it. She thought. It starts with a letter I just passed.

She went back through the3 last few letters. L, M, N .. It’s N! It starts with N!

Suddenly her heart got fluttery.

“You remember it, don’t you?” beamed Mom.

Bernadette couldn’t help the huge smile that spread across her face.

“Nairobi!” she blurted. “It’s Nairobi!”

Bernadette’s mother let out a whoop, ran over, and threw her arms around her and lifted her up. “You did it! I’m so proud of you!”

They looked over at the candy man. He seemed stunned, like he was in a trance. Bernadette’s mother set her down.

“Are you alright?” she asked the candyman.

Slowly he turned and looked at them. ” Just ... a little shocked,” he said. “Never thought she’d be able to do that.

“She studied all month,” said Bernadette’s mom.

He looked at Bernadette and suddenly brightened and smiled warmly.

“Well, the whole reason I started the contest wasn’t just to make money. It was also to show people how little of geography they know and inspire them to learn it. See, I love it myself and I wrote all the questions!”

He walked around the counter and put a hand on Bernadette’s shoulder.

“Well, we better start that spree,” he said. “May I suggest we start with the Swedish Fish and
German Chocolates?”

He winked.

They all laughed.

Bernadette grabbed a basket and began to fill it.