Written by Dan Elliott

Illustrated by Joe Mathieu

One day Ernie and Bert were taking a walk. They walked by Mr. Hooper's Store. Ernie stopped. "Look at that!" he said. Ernie pressed his nose to the store window. Inside was a beautiful box of paints. It had lots of colors. It even had gold and silver. "Gee", said Ernie. "I wish I had that box of paints." "Maybe you can have it", said Bert. "Mr. Hooper is having a contest. The painter of the best picture wins the paints." Ernie started to run home. "Wow!" he said. "I am going to paint a picture right now!" Ernie got out of his paint box. Then he got some paper. He was ready to start painting. The doorbell rang. "I have a letter for you, Ernie", said the mailman. "Thanks", said Ernie. He said good-bye to the mailman. He opened the letter. The letter was from his cousin. It said: "Dear Ernie, I painted a picture for you. I hope you like it! Love, Cousin Fred." It was a great picture of a tiger. "Wow!" said Ernie. "It is so much better than any of my pictures." And then Ernie got an idea. "I could tell Mr. Hooper that I painted the tiger. Then I would be sure to win", said Ernie. Ernie's heart beat faster. He looked at the painting again. "No, I cannot lie", he said. Ernie hung the tiger painting on the wall. "Now I will paint my own picture", he said. He painted a picture of Rubber Duckie. It was a good painting. As soon as Bert came home, he saw the tiger painting. "What a great painting!" he said. "You will win the contest for sure, old buddy!" Bert took the painting off the wall. "I'll take it to Mr. Hooper for you." "Wait, Bert", said Ernie. "There is something I got to tell you." "Tell me later", Bert said. Slam went the door. Ernie looked sadly at his painting of Rubber Duckie. He rolled it up and put it in his pocket. He put on his sneakers and went outside. "I must tell Mr. Hooper the truth", he said. Ernie started to walk to Mr. Hooper's Store. Big Bird saw him before he got there. "Ernie!" Big Bird shouted. "Your tiger painting is great! I bet it will win the contest." "Do you really think so?" asked Ernie. "Yes, I do", Big Bird said. "And so does everyone else. Don't be late for the contest", Big Bird said. Then Big Bird ran off. But Ernie just sat on the curb. "I want that paint box", he said softly. "But I don't want to lie. How did I get into this mess?" At last Ernie went to Hooper's Store. Everyone was already there. Everyone had a painting. Bert's was a broom. Oscar's was a trash can. Big Bird's was a big sunflower. But the best painting of all was the tiger. "All of these are good", said Mr. Hooper. "But only one person can win. First prize goes to.... Ernie!" Mr. Hooper gave Ernie the box of paints. We all clapped. "Thank you", Ernie said sadly. Then Big Bird said, "Ernie, may I have your painting? I will hang it by my nest." Ernie looked at him and burst into tears. "I did not paint that tiger!" he cried. "My cousin painted it." He took out his picture of Rubber Duckie. "This is my painting!" "So that's what you wanted to tell me!" said Bert. "Yes!" cried Ernie. Bert put his arm around Ernie. "It is not always easy to tell the truth. But you did it!" said Bert. "I'm proud of you, old buddy." "I will mail the paint box for my cousin", Ernie said. "Because he really won it." Everyone cheered. "You didn't win the contest", said Bert. "But you painted the best picture of Rubber Duckie. And that is no lie!"

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