Short Tales 2
Short Tales 2
Copyright remains with the individual authors
Published by Storm Cloud Publishing (2016)
ISBN: 978-1-925285-15-4 Shakespir Edition
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Junior Fiction: A collection of short stories from writers all around the world.
Fun and adventure, Animals, Fantasy and fantastical creatures, Realism and drama, Courage, Family relationships, Friendships, Alphabet and word use, Conflict and resolution
Ages 8 – 12 years
Amelia Lockhart knew that her parents had been gobbled up by an ill-tempered dragon living in the woods behind her house. But no one in the whole wide world believed her. Teachers at her school said the dragon was simply a figment of her imagination since Amelia was very clever at inventing stories. The sympathetic police officer stopped writing in his notepad when she mentioned the word dragon. Her archery instructor said Amelia often pretended to hunt dragons and her story could well be made up. Neighbours believed Amelia’s parents had disappeared on purpose because she was a feisty, unruly tomboy.
After the funeral, Aunt Izzy drove up the gravel driveway towing her purple caravan and parked it and her truck beside the house. She had come at last to look after Amelia in her parents’ rambling old house.
“Sorry, Amelia dear, for not being able to get to the funeral,” she said, peering over the top of her tortoise-shell glasses. “I was… too far away when I heard the terrible news. But I’m here now.”
Amelia didn’t know Aunt Izzy very well, but decided early on that she was a bit loopy, probably because she had lived alone with her pet goanna, Charlie, for many years. But Aunt Izzy was the only person who truly believed that her parents had been eaten by the dragon. Maybe she believed Amelia because she loved large lizards. And well, dragons were a particularly large variety of lizard!
“Tell me again, dear, what you think happened to your dear Mumma and Pappa,” she asked Amelia next morning.
Dressed in her floral pyjamas, she sat sipping tea from Amelia’s mother’s favourite teacup while swinging her crossed leg back and forth under the table.
Amelia’s butter knife paused in the air as she looked across the table at her aunt. How many times did she want to hear how they disappeared? She had already recounted the unfortunate events twice already.
Amelia took a deep breath and placed the knife beside her toast.
“A week after we moved here, Mum was cleaning the attic when she found some old papers stuffed in the wall.”
“In the wall, you say?” Aunt Izzy’s enormous green eyes were popping with excitement. “How fascinating! Go on, dear.”
Aunt Izzy took another sip of her tea, her eyes never leaving her niece’s. One of her hands rested on Charlie’s head. The goanna, draped across her lap like a beaded blanket, was also watching Amelia. It was strange how reptilian her aunt’s eyes seemed in the dim morning light that streamed in the kitchen window.
Amelia stared at the nearby woods, aware that her aunt was waiting for her to continue. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat.
“The papers looked very old. One of them said there was a dragon living in the woods and whoever lived in this house had to be careful.”
“Simply thrilling! And you showed these papers to the police, didn’t you?” Aunt Izzy asked, peering over the top of her glasses.
Amelia nodded, a little annoyed at her aunt for being so jovial. “But they just thought it was some kind of prank.”
“You believed the papers though, didn’t you, dear?”
“Yes.” Suddenly Amelia found herself reliving the painful events of that fateful morning. “Mum and Dad went for a stroll before breakfast, which is what they always did back in the city. They wanted to explore the woods. Mum said it looked mysterious and beautiful. They left me asleep in bed, except I wasn’t asleep. I looked out the window and saw them going into the woods. They were holding hands.”
Her cheeks heated. She didn’t mean to share that.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she went on. “When they hadn’t returned by lunch time, I realised something was wrong. I didn’t know what to do.”
“You poor thing,” Aunt Izzy crooned, her hand wrapped around the teacup. “Whatever could someone as young as you do in such a terrible situation?”
Amelia didn’t need to be reminded how young she was. Although she was turning twelve next month, the authorities said she was far too young to live on her own. If it hadn’t been for Aunt Izzy coming to look after her, Amelia knew she would have been placed in an orphanage. That would have rubbed salt on her already wounded heart.
She had a lot to thank her aunt for, although living with Charlie was a little awkward and unsettling. For one thing, Amelia had to watch where she placed her feet when she walked about the house, or else she’d trip over the lazy reptile.
The goanna was long, much longer than a cat or a dog and its wrinkly skin looked loose, as if it was much too big for its body. It had bands of yellow running across its neck down to the tip of its powerful, snake-like tail. Every few seconds, a pale, forked tongue would shoot out of its alligator-shaped mouth, which Amelia found disgusting.
“I called our neighbour, Mrs Warren,” she said, “who came over with her husband. We waited till dinner time but still Mum and Dad didn’t come back. So Mrs Warren called the police. They came and searched the woods but found no trace of them. They brought in sniffer dogs but, for some reason, they wouldn’t go in among the trees, so they took them away. The search went on through the night, but…”
Amelia choked back tears. Images of an enraged dragon devouring her parents still made her weep into her pillow late at night. Having to retell it was all too much.
“That’s enough, dear,” her aunt said softly and patted her arm. “No need to say any more. I know what happened.”
Her aunt poured another cup of tea from the teapot. Staring at the trees outside, Amelia struggled with her emotions. Then something wet and fleshy touched Amelia’s bare arm. Startled, she turned to look at the goanna as it flicked its forked tongue towards her again.
Ughh! She slid her chair away, out of its reach.
“What’ll we do, Aunt Izzy?” she asked.
“We plod on dear, as if Frank and Doris were still alive.”
“What about the dragon? It’s still there in the woods.”
“Ah, yes, the dragon,” Aunt Izzy’s eyes gleamed. “I’m going to tell you something now that will sound outrageous, even unbelievable. But I need you to focus, Amelia, on what I’m telling you.”
Charlie winked at her. Amelia was beginning to feel uneasy. She didn’t want to hear anything strange. Groaning inwardly, she gave her aunt a nod.
“It’s very important that we Lockharts stick together. After all, there are no more of us anywhere… in this universe.”
“What do you mean in this universe?” Amelia asked, cringing.
“Before you were born, your parents and I came from somewhere very far away to settle here. And I’m not talking about an overseas country either! I’m talking about somewhere… further than that!”
As her aunt talked, Amelia decided that she wasn’t loopy at all; she was a dangerous psychopath!
Underneath the table, Amelia gripped the tablecloth in tight fists. What was she going to do? Her parents were dead and her aunt was a lunatic! Was an orphanage such a bad place after all?
Her aunt went on. “In fact, the three of us time travelled from our home planet Tangowene, to Earth.”
Amelia gasped. This was worse than she imagined! Now they were aliens!
Oblivious to her niece’s reaction, her aunt continued. “We were forced to leave our dear planet because of an alien invasion by the Nagas, a particularly nasty, reptilian species wanting to breed in our lovely, pink oceans. We Tangowenes had to…”
Amelia squirmed in her chair as her aunt’s voice droned on. Finally, she raised her hand when she could take no more.
Her aunt stopped and blinked at Amelia. Charlie’s forked tongue shot out in rapid succession.
“None of that is true, is it?” Amelia snapped. “You just made it up because they said I made up the dragon.”
Hot tears pricked at the back of her eyes and she was shaking as hot rage overcame her. How could she be so stupid, thinking that her aunt – or in fact anyone – would believe her? It would be better off living in an orphanage where she wouldn’t have to tell anyone how her parents had died. The terrible secret would remain hers forever and she would never share it with another human being again.
“I knew you wouldn’t understand or believe me,” her aunt said, “so I brought along our bodyguard. Meet Charlie, the Nagas hunter. Beware, he’s not what he seems.”
Amelia was about to storm off in outrage when Charlie slipped off Aunt Izzy’s lap and began to squirm on the kitchen floor. Its body flipped back and forth and its legs flailed about wildly as if it was in terrible pain.
Confused, Amelia stared at the reptile, thinking it was probably ill. She soon realised that it was, in fact, changing shape.
“Don’t be alarmed, dear!” her aunt called as Amelia stumbled back in alarm and collided with the sideboard.
Larger and larger Charlie grew, until its enormous head nudged the ceiling of the kitchen, whereupon it stopped growing. Its monstrous body wrapped against the four walls of the kitchen. It hid Aunt Izzy from Amelia’s sight as she stood frozen, not daring to move in case the monster swallowed her whole.
Just then, her aunt’s head popped out from behind one of the reptile’s huge hind legs. She grinned and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
“Well, dear,” she said in a breathless voice. “Now do you believe me?”
All Amelia could do was nod her head in stunned silence.
Her aunt patted Charlie. “That’s enough now.”
At the sound of her voice, the reptile began to shrink again until it was once more the size of a goanna.
Amelia didn’t move a muscle, although her legs wobbled underneath her like a bowl of jelly. She reached for her chair and slid down onto it, staring wide eyed at Charlie and her aunt.
For the next three hours, Amelia asked many questions about Tangowene and the Nagas. She listened in awe as her aunt described their beautiful home planet far away with its warm, pink seas and fragrant, blue toollaberry trees. Then Aunt Izzy sighed as she admitted having placed the old papers inside the attic to warn Amelia’s mother and father that one of the Nagas was in the woods hunting them.
“You put the papers there?” Amelia stared open mouthed at her aunt. “But how? They were ancient.”
“Remember I said we time travelled? Well, that’s what I did. Almost a hundred years ago, I came here and placed them in the attic for your mother to find. And now that you do believe me,” her aunt winked at her, “perhaps we should work together on a plan to rid the Nagas from the woods before it gobbles us up too. After all, you come from a class of fine warriors on Tangowene who hunted Nagas regularly.”
Amelia was surprised how thrilling that suddenly sounded to her. It explained why everyone thought she was so feisty and unmanageable. It was why she loved adventure and horse riding and archery so much. They were all part of the nature of a warrior.
She sat forward in her chair and stroked Charlie’s head as she listened to her aunt. The creature’s forked tongue flicked out and Amelia thought she saw a smile on its broad mouth. It didn’t seem so disgusting any more. Nor was her aunt loopy or a dangerous psychopath. She had to admit that life with her aunt would prove challenging but exhilarating at the same time.
Amelia was surprised how much she was looking forward to going dragon hunting with Aunt Izzy and Charlie, the Nagas hunter.
“After all, my dear,” her aunt said, “hunting Nagas was what you were born to do.”
Way off the beaten track, out near the back of beyond, somewhere between Bandywallop and Bullamakanka, lived a big, boisterous, blue dog, by the name of Bruno Bright. Bruno’s best buddy was Bob, a big-hearted, barefoot, bushie.
It was true that Bruno was big. He was broader than a boar’s backside and beefier than a Brahman bull. Bruno liked to eat anything, anywhere, anytime. He would bolt down bread and butter, bog into braised bacon, browse on brisket bits and then belch from his bloated belly. Once Bob went fishing for bass in the billabong and Bruno ate the bait from Bob’s bucket!
It was true that Bruno was boisterous. He was bursting with beans and full of bravado, so it was always bedlam at the barrack. Bruno could balance bones on his back, bounce a basketball and bark along with Bob’s banjo, all at the same time. And when the big boomers bounded by the barbwire barrier at the back, Bruno would burst out of the barrack and burn through the bulldust behind them. Even the burrs and bindies didn’t bother Bruno.
It was true that Bruno was a blue dog. His parents were bright eyed blueys who could bail up bad tempered bullocks at breakneck speed, but the only things Bruno bailed up were Bob’s breeding bantams, and some bombardier beetles. As Bruno’s body grew, Bob was a bit bamboozled by his breeding. Bruno’s bouncy behind, bandy legs, bulging belly and back-end-of-a-buzzard face belonged to a bitser, not a well bred blue.
It was true that Bruno was from the bush. He lived with Bob in a broken down barrack beneath the branches of a beautiful baobab tree. The barrack was full of buzzing blowflies (especially when the Barcoo busters blew) bumps and bulges, and a bandy bandy lived beneath the bare boards. Bob and Bruno didn’t own a bucket or a broom and it was only when the bed bugs got bothersome, that they would boil up some bore water and bathe their bodies.
Bruno and Bob were the best of buddies and they weren’t bothered by the bare bank balance. They worked together in the bush; breaking in brumbies, bundling brushwood, branding bullocks or burning back the Bimble box.
On spring mornings, when the bees buzzed busily between the Banksia blossoms, Bruno and Bob would share baked beans and barley water by the billabong.
“Blimey, this is bonzer. A bloke would have to be batty, to leave all this,” Bob would bellow.
On summer nights, when the stars blinked brilliantly in the boundless sky, Bruno and Bob would share burnt bangers and beer by the barbecue.
“Blimey, this is bonzer. A bloke would have to be barmy to leave all this,” Bob would bellow.
On autumn days, when the bushes turned to burnished browns, Bruno and Bob would share bushman’s bread and billy tea by the backyard.
“Blimey, this is bonzer. A bloke would have to be bananas, to leave all this’” Bob would bellow.
And on winter afternoons, when the blustery breezes blew and buffeted the Brigalow, Bruno and Bob would share bully beef and Bonox by the bonfire.
“Blimey, this is bonzer. A bloke would have to be bonkers, to leave all this,” Bob would bellow.
By and by, Bob liked to bet a few bucks by backing a bookie or blowing a bit on bingo. Then one day, Bob hit the bonanza! He was no longer bankrupt, but bowled over by the bags of bottomless brass.
“That’s beaut, Bruno! No more buckling our belts or balancing the budget. Let’s go and take a bo peep at this big, broad land beyond the bush,” Bob said.
Bruno and Bob bought a bright blue bus and bade bye bye to the barrack. They body boarded at Bondi, boogied in Burrumbuttock, binged on blueberries in Burnie and, at Buckleboo, they tried a Barmaid’s Blush. Bob thought the bush ballads at Batchelor were beaut but the Barker’s Creek bed and breakfast was Bruno’s best. Finally, with burnt backs and bruised behinds, Bruno and Bob returned to their broken down barrack.
But life in the bush, way off the beaten track, out near the back of beyond, somewhere between Bandywallop and Bullamakanka, had changed for Bob. Beguiled by beautiful brochures, the bush was no longer bonzer but barren and boring.
“Blimey, Bruno, we’re nothing but a couple of bushwhackers from the back blocks,” bellyached Bob. “With all the booty in the bank, we can buy a better life.”
Without a backward glance, Bob and Bruno moved to the big smoke and bought a big, brick building with a bay view. Bob’s battered bomb became a BMW. Bruno’s bed was no longer a beer box, but a brocade basket bedecked with beads. (Oh, how Bruno blushed!)
Instead of barbecued bangers in the backyard, they had broccoli bisque in the ballroom. Bob banned Bruno from balancing bones and bouncing basketballs and they played boules instead. ‘Bog in, Bruno’ became ‘Bon appetite, Bruno’. There was even a bidet in the bathroom and a bossy butler named Brandon!
Because Bruno was a big, boisterous, blue dog from the bush, he was like a bull in a bottle bazaar in Bob’s new abode. He buried Bob’s bamboo bonsai, broke the balustrades beside the bookcase and bit the buttons off Bob’s best Bombay bloomers. But when Bruno burst into Bob’s bedroom and bashed through the bay window, Bob blew his block. Bruno was in the bad books.
“Behave, Bruno,” berated Bob at a bewildered Bruno. “You’re nothing but a brainless boofhead.”
When Bob went to watch ballet and visit bistros, Bruno was banished to the back balcony, no longer Bob’s best buddy, but the bane of his life.
One day, bored and broken-hearted, Bruno made a beeline for Bob. He bounded onto the balcony rail, balanced brilliantly, and with a bloodcurdling bark, belly busted to the bitumen below. Nothing on Bruno was broken, but he was bruised and battered. Bob bent down on his backside and gave Bruno a big bear hug.
“I’ll be blowed, Bruno. What a bonehead I’ve been. I might have lots more booty, but I nearly lost my best buddy. Let’s go back to the bush where we belong.”
Big, boisterous Bruno Bright the blue dog and his best buddy, big-hearted, barefoot, bushie Bob, returned to the broken down barrack in the bush, way off the beaten track, out near the back of beyond, somewhere between Bandywallop and Bullamakanka.
“Blimey, this is bonzer. A bloke would have to have bats in his belfry, to leave all this, wouldn’t he Bruno? ” Bob bellowed.
Bruno barked and barked.
(Bruno kept his brocade basket, but don’t tell!)
Two shiny, black shoes stepped out of the car on to the gravel. Alicia, in her best Sunday clothes, crunched up the drive to her grandparents’ house. Her feet left tracks as she approached the elderly couple smiling from the doorway. After a quick hug, a peck on the cheek, she ran into the house. Her parents, fussing over baby Oliver, took much longer to make their entrance.
Alicia knew everything about this house. She’d been visiting it for eight years and, apart from the rooms that were out of bounds, she could conjure up its smells, colours and shapes even when she wasn’t there, just by closing her eyes.
Lunch was always very formal. Cutlery that she never used anywhere else (at home or in cafés and restaurants) appeared on the table. It was always shiny and Alicia sometimes helped her Grandma to make it that way. Such old fashioned rituals intrigued her, made her visits special. But, now that she had a baby brother, she despaired of ever again sharing those magical moments with her grandmother.
Even when he grew up, she couldn’t imagine Oliver wanting to help in the kitchen. She knew what boys were like. At her school, they enjoyed rough games and often spoiled the girls’ play by running too fast, shouting too loud. Right now, though, Oliver just gooed and gurgled, and every sound drew “Oohs” and “Aahs” from the grownups.
After lunch, Alicia was left to her own devices. Mum and Grandma went off to a bedroom with baby Oliver; Dad and Grandpa settled themselves in front of the cricket on television. They trusted her to amuse herself.
She picked up puzzles and books from her special corner, the one her grandparents made for her years ago, the one she always hid in when the adult conversation became too dull. But today, even her special corner was boring.
She knew all the books by heart. She could practically do the puzzles with her eyes shut; she’d done them so many times. Listlessly, she wandered out on to the balcony to look at the garden below.
Grandpa grew vegetables and Grandma tended the flowerbeds. Everything in their garden was impeccable.
It was a hot, summer day and Alicia’s clothes clung to her. She’d chosen the dress herself because it was so pretty. Right now, she wished she was wearing shorts and t-shirt. The black, patent leather shoes weren’t allowed in the garden so she was housebound.
Or was she?
Looking back to see if anyone was keeping an eye on her and realising that everyone was preoccupied, she kicked off the shoes and pulled the dress over her head. She placed them carefully under a chair, where they were not very well hidden but at least out of sight if anyone bothered to look out there, and ran down the stairs into the garden wearing just her underpants.
“Mmm, I love the smells of the herbs and roses. I know I shouldn’t but I always want to pick their petals,” she said to herself.
Alicia pricked her finger as she furtively stole a petal and glanced back at the house to see if anyone was watching. The tomatoes were ripening before her eyes and the strawberries were nearly ready to pick, peeking out beneath their cooling leaves. Alicia was in heaven.
“I think I might be a gardener when I grow up,” she said out loud. It would be so satisfying to dig her fingers and toes into the soil as she was doing now.
At the bottom of the garden stood the sweet corn, rows and rows of it, thick and bushy with the cobs becoming heavy. Every summer, she pretended it was a jungle and she was a hunter. Creeping through them now, she found herself at the creek that ran along the end of the property. It looked so cool and although Alicia wasn’t allowed to leave her grandparents’ garden, sloshing along in the water, she accidentally went past their boundary line.
Next door, the garden was quite different. There was no order, no rows of vegetables. It was almost as though she’d wandered into the Australian bush. From somewhere, she heard strains of music and, like the Pied Piper, it lured her in its direction.
There was an old shed behind a clump of banksia bushes and the music was coming from there. Tiptoeing in the door, she saw a woman sitting on a stool, stooping over something and singing along to the music.
“Never talk to strangers, Alicia,” she heard her mother’s voice in her head.
She obeyed the voice and didn’t talk. Instead, she sidled around the edge of the shed to get a better look at this stranger.
What she was leaning over turned out to be a potter’s wheel. The woman’s hands gently smoothed the wet clay as it grew and billowed under them, gradually taking the shape of a vessel.
Alicia remained unseen as the potter concentrated on her work and hummed over the noise of the turning wheel. Then, suddenly, satisfied with her bowl, she stopped, sat back and wiped her forehead with a cloth. White clay smudges made her look a little like a snowman and Alicia laughed out loud.
“Hello there,” said the woman. “Who are you?”
“I’m Alicia from next door,” she replied shyly, then more boldly, “What are you doing?”
“My name is Tamara and I’m a potter. I make things with clay. Come and look.”
Time stood still as she showed her young guest how a bowl could be fashioned from a lump of clay and where it would be fired in a huge kiln hiding in the corner of the shed.
“Pottery lasts forever you know,” explained Tamara. “People dig it up all over the world and it tells stories about how we used to live centuries ago.”
Alicia was intrigued. Who were these lucky people?
“I love playing at being a detective,” she told the lady.
“They’re called archaeologists,” Tamara explained. “Lots of the pots they find are broken now and they have to piece them together.”
“Like doing a jigsaw?” asked Alicia.
“Yes, that’s right. Let me show you how I make my plain white bowls look wonderfully exotic,” Tamara said, and showed Alicia an array of coloured bottles.
“I’ve been experimenting with design on my bowls, trying to make them look like ancient Egyptian ones. Come and see what I mean.”
Tamara took Alicia’s hand and led her out of the shed into the bright sunshine to show her the experiments she’d been working on. Pots were drying on makeshift shelves. While Alicia studied the figures on the bowls, Tamara explained how the Egyptian craftspeople used to make them so many years ago.
Alicia sat on the ground to listen and, when she looked up, Tamara had vanished. Instead, a tall woman with bronze skin and jet black hair stood before her. They were surprised to see each other. Alicia thought she must be dreaming when the woman spoke. Her voice was deep and musical, but she used a different language and Alicia couldn’t understand.
Bending down, the woman took the child’s hand and pulled her to standing. The potter’s shed was dark behind them and the music had changed. She didn’t recognise the instruments or the tunes.
Alicia’s eyes adjusted to the dark as she followed the woman inside. It had become incredibly hot, even in her underclothes. People were singing and there were lots of women working on pots. Nobody used the potter’s wheel; instead their long brown fingers were smoothing the wet clay into jugs, plates and bowls.
A little girl, about Alicia’s age, ran up to look closely into her face. Laughing, the child pointed at Alicia’s pale skin and said, “White.”
At least, Alicia was sure she said “white” even though she didn’t understand their language.
More children appeared, all wearing very little clothing and lots of jewellery. Alicia noticed owls, ravens and other strange shapes hanging from their necks. Before long, she was following them down to the creek to collect mud in leather buckets, which they carried back to the shed to give to the women.
“Can I help?” she asked one of them.
A big toothy smile seemed to say “Yes”, and clay was placed in her hands.
‘Mmm, I love the feel of this,’ she thought as she pushed and pulled, squished and squirmed, making unusual shapes with the clay.
Peals of laughter behind her made Alicia blush. Not for long.
A group of men arrived carrying baskets of fish, which they started to cook on a fire in the middle of the shed. The strong smell made Alicia feel rather sick. She ran outside for air and found Tamara fussing over her drying pots. She was talking to herself too.
“The Egyptians believed in gods and goddesses,” she was saying. “Some were half-animal, half-human. Their kings were called Pharaohs and when they died they were wrapped up and called mummies.”
Alicia realised that Tamara was talking to her, telling her about the Egyptians. How could she explain that she had just visited them herself?
The voice in Alicia’s head told her that she should really be getting back; someone might be worrying about her.
Tamara wouldn’t let her go without a souvenir, any bowl that she would like to choose and take home. Alicia picked a small dish with the image of an owl painted onto its surface.
“Thank you so much for a great afternoon,” she said and then ran back to the creek clutching her gift. There was no sign of Egyptian life here now as she rushed towards her grandparents’ garden.
As she emerged from the sweet corn jungle, she saw her mother leaning over the balcony of the house. Alicia thought she might be in trouble so she waved excitedly and called out that there were corns almost ready to be picked. Hopefully, Mum would think she’d been playing hunter in there for a long time. Perhaps, though, she would have to confess to disobeying the rules and wandering too far. But she wouldn’t be able to explain how she knew about the Egyptians.
Her father came out too and she realised that both her parents looked a little anxious. Perhaps she’d been away for many hours. Perhaps they were cross that she was wearing hardly any clothes. Perhaps she would be in trouble for all sorts of things.
They gave her a big hug when she clambered up to them and showed them her Egyptian bowl. She told them that she’d found it in the soil at the bottom of her grandparents’ garden. How else could she explain everything that had happened?
She wasn’t too sure if they believed her. Anyway, they didn’t shout or yell; they just suggested that she take a shower before afternoon tea.
On the way home, Alicia studied the mud under her fingernails, smiling to herself because it hadn’t come out in the shower. She announced to her parents, “When I grow up I want to be an archaeologist and travel the world.”
“Mmm,” came from both parents in the front of the car.
Baby Oliver gurgled; he obviously didn’t understand that big word.
Alicia kicked off her shoes. The dirt was under her toenails too. She leaned back, closed her eyes and the hum of the engine sent her to sleep, dreaming of Egypt.
Inside a soft, warm pouch, nuzzled a baby wombat, round and small. His name was Tonka. Tonka slept peacefully, tucked away safely inside.
As Tonka’s mum was foraging for grass, headlights pierced the starry night. A loud screech filled the air followed by a deadly silence.
Tonka’s world was shattered.
Warm hands pulled Tonka out of the pouch and into the dusky, nightglow. They gently placed him into a warm woollen beanie.
But where was his mum?
Shocked and stressed, Tonka was taken to the Townsville Billabong Sanctuary and given peace and quiet in a warm box.
‘If only Tonka had something to comfort him,’ thought his handlers.
He was given lots of human cuddles, but to give comfort when he was alone, a cuddly, snugly wombat teddy arrived.
The wombat teddy filled his heart with comfort. Everywhere that Tonka went, his wombat teddy went too. His strong teeth kept a tight grip.
The stocky, little wombat now felt safe and loved at the park.
Every morning, the keepers gave soothing scratches and wombat cuddles to Tonka. The little wombat learnt to walk in a harness around the park. Tonka starred in the wombat shows. He was filled with bravo and confidence.
Then one day, the air felt dangerous. The weather had changed into a nasty monster. The roaring, lashing, gnawing wind grew stronger and stronger, louder and louder.
Tonka bunkered down in his enclosure as the rain pelted. Crashing and roaring was everywhere; the wind was like the sting of a million bees. Tonka was trapped. His heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird’s wings.
Tonka was found badly shaken with his wombat teddy. He needed much more than his teddy. Tonka needed human cuddles, but everyone was too busy rebuilding and fixing the park. There was no time for wombat cuddles, wombat walks or wombat shows!
Tonka was fed and watered but he felt all broken inside.
Withdrawn and unable to eat, Tonka hid. Not even a juicy carrot could tempt him.
Slowly, the park came back to life. Once again, Tonka went on wombat walks as the sunlight danced and played with the shadows along the path. Loud applause rippled through the air at the wombat shows. His wombat teddy was never far away.
Every morning Tonka has comforting wombat scratches and cuddles. Then Tonka and his wombat teddy curl together in the soft grass for a dreamy sleep.
The Dumpster Ghost
My Uncle Lenny is big, hairy and scary. He owns a posh restaurant not far from where we live. The last time I was there, Uncle Lenny expected me to eat a massive bowlful of garlic mussels. Too chewy! I kept spitting them into my serviette when nobody was looking.
When Frank the waiter took my plate away, I tried to grab my serviette – too late. Frank had already picked it up and given it a hard flick. Greyish-black, half-chewed, slimy mussels flew through the air.
Uncle Lenny glared at me and said I was a wowser.
Dad elbowed me. “Max, you’re going to ruin my plan.”
Plan, what plan? I hoped it had nothing to do with eating more mussels.
As we were leaving, Dad asked Uncle Lenny if I could work at the restaurant to earn some money in the school holidays.
When did I agree to that?
Uncle Lenny looked at me, then said, “Why not.”
I fumed all the way home. Did Dad bother to ask me first? No! My holidays were ruined.
I stared out the car window. Maybe I might get sick or break my leg or something.
We drove past the bike shop on the way home and there it was – the bike of my dreams. I sat up and watched it disappear as we turned the corner.
I wanted that bike more than anything. I’d never had a new bike. Maybe working for Uncle Lenny wouldn’t be that bad after all.
The following week, I turned up at the restaurant. It was really busy. Uncle Lenny said to report to Frank, the head waiter.
I decided that Frank looked a bit shifty.
“How are ya, kid?” he said.
“Hope you’re not scared of ghosts?” he said with a silly grin.
I shrugged. “Why would I be?”
“Strange things happen here,” he said. “But first of all, wash these.”
I stared at twenty lettuces.
I threw them into the enormous sink and swished them around in some water. “Finished.”
“No, no!” yelled, Frank. “You have to separate them and wash every leaf.”
I ended up washing hundreds of lettuce leaves. Wash, splat! Wash, splat!
Frank pointed to a pile of salad bowls. “Rip the leaves into these.”
They were really getting their money’s worth out of me. As soon as I finished, Frank called me over.
“Max, I need you to set some extra tables. Just copy the ones already set.”
I picked up the cutlery. Fork on this side, knife and spoon on that side. But where does the soup spoon go?
My uncle hurried past. “Max, do you know what you’re doing?” he grumbled.
My hands felt sweaty and I dropped a spoon. “Er, yes, Uncle Lenny.”
At the same moment, an old lady waddled past. She stood on the spoon, skidded and grabbed hold of the nearest person. Next thing I knew, she was at the desk yelling at Uncle Lenny.
Uncle Lenny waved me over. “Mrs Krank is very upset.”
I began to say what a nice boy I was when my mouth stopped working. I saw a big cloud of mist coming from the kitchen.
I pointed. “A g..g..g..ghost!”
Mrs Krank looked scared and screamed right in Uncle Lenny’s ear.
“What in the blazes is going on!” yelled Uncle Lenny.
He ran into the kitchen then came straight out.
“It’s all right, everyone. One of the dishwashers has broken down and is letting off a bit of steam. But I have an even better dishwasher. Come in here, Max.”
Everyone thought that was funny – except me.
At ten o’clock that night, I was still scrubbing pots. The chefs had gone home and Frank was setting tables.
I looked around.
I stopped scrubbing. “What do you want?”
The voice came from the pantry. The door was open a little and the light was on.
I pushed the door open further. Suddenly, I felt a cold, eerie breeze on my face.
I ran out of the kitchen, smack bang into Uncle Lenny.
“There’s a ghost in the pantry!” I said.
He frowned. “Ghosts? You think this place is haunted?”
“I heard it. Something called me from in there.”
“That pantry is a cold room – a big fridge. Now, pick up these empty cartons and take them out the back.”
“Okay, Uncle Lenny.”
I noticed Frank smirking. I picked up an armful of cartons and took them out the back door.
It sure was dark out there. The dumpster reeked and the hot night made it worse. I jumped on the cartons to flatten them. Stomp! Stomp!
I heard someone or something grunting. It came from the dumpster.
“Frank, is that you?”
I threw the flattened boxes in the dumpster. A shadowy figure stood up.
“Help!” I ran back inside. I was puffing.
I was glad when Dad turned up to take me home.
I turned up early for my second night’s work. Maybe I’d get extra money if I worked harder. I grabbed some cutlery and set a table. Then I went into the kitchen to wash lettuce.
Frank was there.
“You’re back.” he said, grinning. “Chef’s got a job for you.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Prawns,” said the chef. He handed me some gloves and a box filled with prawns. “Ever shelled prawns before?”
“No,” I said, grimacing. I saw hundreds of tiny black eyes, long whiskers and pointy legs.
He showed me how to shell a prawn. Yuck!
I shelled about ten prawns. There had to be an easier way.
I grabbed a meat mallet and gave a prawn an almighty whack. Everything came off and I took out the squashed prawn meat and put it on the platter. I took another prawn – whack! And another – whack!
“What are you doing?” yelled the chef. “You can’t do that!”
“What’s going on?” said Uncle Lenny.
The chef picked up a flat prawn with two fingers. “This is what’s going on,” he said.
I ended up shelling hundreds of prawns. I hate prawns!
Later that night, Frank got ready to leave.
“Don’t forget to take these boxes out to the dumpster,” he said with a wink.
Sure, I thought. He’ll play another trick like last night.
I grabbed the bag of prawn shells and went out the back. I heard scratching sounds inside the dumpster.
“Now it’s your turn, Frank!” I reached up and emptied the prawn stuff into the dumpster.
A dirty looking figure covered in smelly prawn shells stood up. It wasn’t Frank – it was a horrible thing and it was looking right at me!
I ran back inside to tell Uncle Lenny. “There’s a ghost in the dumpster!”
Uncle Lenny laughed. His big belly wobbled until I thought it would knock me over.
“You have a wild imagination. First the cool room and now the dumpster. What next?”
I started to wonder if I really had seen anything. Maybe I was overtired. Maybe I had imagined everything. If I worked really hard, I wouldn’t have time to worry about ghosts.
The next night, I ripped into lettuces like you wouldn’t believe. I shelled those prawns like lightning. Uncle Lenny was so pleased with my amazing work that he took some boxes out the back instead of asking me to do it.
It was a super busy Saturday night. Frank was too busy waiting on tables to bother me.
Next, I became a sugar duster. The chef let me sift icing sugar all over trays filled with shortbreads. A promotion – surely they wouldn’t ask me to take rubbish out the back now.
Uncle Lenny gave me another important job – a great job. I had to look after the front desk and watch the telephone for half an hour while he went out. Me! Answering the phone – this was fun.
I thought I’d better practice.
“Good evening. Welcome to Lenny’s Tavern.”
“No mucking around with the phone. Wait until it rings before you pick it up, okay,” said Uncle Lenny. “I’ll be back soon.”
After ten minutes, not one call. Another ten minutes passed and still nothing.
When Uncle Lenny came back, he looked angry. He stomped over to the desk.
“What have you done to the phone? I’ve tried to ring here for the last twenty minutes.” He looked at the phone. “It’s off the hook!”
Uncle Lenny suddenly looked bigger and uglier than ever. “There’s probably a huge pile of plates that need scraping. Maybe you could do that.”
“Sure,” I said, and hurried to the kitchen.
“Max. Take this bag of rubbish out the back right away,” said the chef.
I was too scared to say no. I’d rather face the dumpster ghost than Uncle Lenny.
I pushed open the heavy door and tiptoed over to the dumpster. I threw the bag in then ran back to the door. It was shut!
I banged on the door but nobody came. I walked down the alley. I heard a shuffling sound following me. A shuffling ghost couldn’t be all that bad. I could outrun it.
Step, step, I went.
Shuffle, shuffle, it went.
Step, step, step.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
I turned to face the creature. “Aaggghhh!” I screamed.
I’d scared the shuffler to death! It fell backwards onto a pile of newspapers.
I leaned over the fallen creature. It was a poor old street man. He was filthy and hairy.
“Are you all right?” I said.
He opened one eye. “So, you’re just a kid. Were you stealing my scraps?”
“No, of course not. Are you the one I’ve seen in the dumpster?”
“Yeah, I’m Arthur. I live around the corner and I’ve claimed that dumpster as me own. Some good scraps go in there, ’cept the other night I got clobbered with prawn shells.”
“Sorry about that,” I said. “Are you hungry?”
“Wait here,” I said.
“Sure. I’ve cancelled me appointment with the Queen, so I’m free.”
I raced inside the restaurant.
“Well, where have you been?” said Uncle Lenny.
“I got locked outside. Then I met this poor, old street guy. Can I give him some food?”
“Just get back to work,” said Uncle Lenny.
“I quit. I’d like my pay please.”
“You quit! Hah! No pay for you.”
“Okay, but I’m taking this.” I grabbed a plate of food from Frank’s tray and ran outside.
Uncle Lenny took off after me.
Uncle Lenny found me out the back with Arthur.
“You gave up your pay for this guy?” said Uncle Lenny.
Arthur looked up from his plate and patted my shoulder. “Much obliged, young fella. Wish I could pay you back.”
“You can’t stay out here, Max. Come inside. I’m calling your father.”
“But what about Arthur?”
“Don’t worry, young fella,” said Arthur. “Now you know where I live, you can drop by anytime.”
“I know what happened. Uncle Lenny is coming to the house to see you tomorrow. You can explain your behaviour then.”
The next day, Uncle Lenny arrived in his big black van. I went outside.
“So, what have you got to say for yourself?” said Uncle Lenny.
“I just wanted to help that poor, old bloke.”
“I’ve got something that I want you to take care of.”
Could it be a box of prawns that needed shelling? Or maybe it was a crate of lettuces to wash.
I looked inside his van and there was the coolest bike I’d ever seen. “Wow! You mean that’s for me.”
“You might need a bit more practice to work in my restaurant but you’re a good kid. And we’re going to look after Arthur too. So, see you tonight?” said Uncle Lenny.
I was disappointed. “More work?”
Uncle Lenny laughed. “You and your family are our guests for dinner. It’s seafood night.”
“Thanks, but if it’s okay, we’ll come tomorrow night instead.”
The Acacia Park Girls’ Treehouse Club
They never found out who built the wooden platform in a big gum tree in the bush, but Abbey and Lara played on it nearly every day. Their Dad carried over a ladder from their house across the road. He climbed up and checked it out. He stomped on the platform and tried to rock from side to side.
“Safe as houses,” he announced.
A year later, the platform had morphed into a treehouse.
Madeline was given a rope ladder for Christmas, Beck’s dad, with the help of Katelyn’s mum, had built the walls and Taylor’s Uncle Tim come up with some tin for the roof. So many people had given them old furniture, they couldn’t fit it all in and had to give some back.
The girls were sprawled in the dappled shade of the treehouse, one day, listening to the chatter of rainbow lorikeets, the squawk of white cockatoos and wind chimes playing music in the sea breeze, when Madeline said, “This is perfect for a girls’ clubhouse.”
The others looked up.
“Yeah,” they said at once, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Why didn’t we think of it before?” said Taylor.
That’s how the “Acacia Park Girls’ Treehouse Club” came to be.
The boys were outraged.
“You can’t own a treehouse,” said Taylor’s brother, Kyle.
“Yeah,” said his friend Jacob. “This is public bushland and that tree belongs to everybody.”
“What gives you the right to say the treehouse is just for girls?” Kyle demanded.
“I’m glad you asked,” said Lara.
“My dad built it,” said Beck.
“And my mum helped him,” said Katelyn.
“The rope ladder belongs to me,” said Madeline.
“And my Uncle Tim put the roof up,” said Taylor.
“And did I mention the ladder is mine?” said Madeline.
“Now, if there are no more questions, we have a club meeting to attend,” said Lara, linking arms with her friends and flouncing off.
The boys didn’t give up that easily.
Sometimes they tiptoed through the bush, dashing from tree to tree, or going into commando crouch behind bushes, peeping around, looking for a signal from Kyle. When they were close enough, Kyle gave the signal and they appeared out of their hiding places and snuck towards the treehouse.
But the girls were always on the alert and, when they heard the crunch of dry leaves, they pulled the ladder up.
The boys didn’t know that Katelyn was a keen bird watcher and she wore her dad’s binoculars around her neck all the time. She wore them to see birds flitting between distant leaves, but she could see boys flitting between distant tree trunks just as well.
The boys changed tactics, sometimes.
Instead of creeping up, they’d do a crazy-brave charge through the bush, roaring and yelling like Viking warriors, hoping to take the girls by surprise. If the ladder was pulled up, some of them tried to climb the tree, but the girls always had a stash of water balloons ready. Boys heads were easy targets. The girls never missed.
The first thing on the girls’ agenda was to make up the club rules. It was Taylor’s job to write the rules on a chart, because she had the neatest printing. She brought the chart along to show the other girls and to stick it up with blu-tack.
“Listen up,” said Taylor, unrolling the chart. She waited a minute for a couple of kookaburras to stop cackling.
“ACACIA PARK GIRLS’ TREEHOUSE CLUB RULES,” she said, pointing with a ruler. “NO BOYS.”
“Well obviously,” Beck said. “Like, you can’t have boys in a club called a ‘Girls’ Treehouse Club’.”
“NO LITTLE KIDS,” said Taylor.
They’d decided this after Madeline’s little sister, Joanna, had followed Madeline up the rope ladder. It wouldn’t have happened if she’d kept looking up, but as soon as she looked down to put her chubby little foot on the third rung, she got scared. She raised her head and howled.
Madeline tried to help, but she had to climb over Joanna to get to her. Katelyn was coming along behind. She grabbed Joanna and tried to carry her down. But Joanna’s fingers were gripping the rope so tightly, Katelyn had to hold her with one hand and uncoil her fingers, one at a time, with the other.
It took ages.
“NO ANIMALS,” said Taylor.
Lara had decided, one day, to show the treehouse to her cat, Minx. The girls should have realised there’d be a problem when Minx put his paws on the windowsill to look at the birds. It wasn’t really a window, it was just a square hole cut into the wall. It didn’t have any glass.
The cat was mesmerized. His head moved up and down, from side to side with every move the birds made. When any bird came close, he tried to bat it with his paw. When it was time to go home, Lara called him and he appeared with a rainbow lorikeet in his mouth.
Katelyn screamed. “Oh My God!”
Lara shook her finger. “You bad cat!”
“Der, Lara,” said Taylor. “Didn’t anyone tell you cats eat birds?”
“And a treehouse is, like, cat foodie heaven,” said Beck.
Abbey bent down and eyeballed Minx. “You’re cruel!” she said.
“It’s not his fault,” said Lara.
“No, it’s your fault for bringing him up here,” said Madeline.
The cat dropped the dead bird at Lara’s feet.
“A present for you,” said Beck.
That was too much for Lara. Her bottom lip quivered when she picked up Minx, and disappeared down the ladder.
“I suppose we should give it a burial, or something,” Beck said, frowning at the dead bird.
“NO ADULTS,” said Taylor.
They decided on this rule because of Madeline’s Auntie Jenny. She and Uncle Brad visited one day and Madeline told them about the treehouse. Auntie Jenny wanted to look at it and Madeline went with her.
“It’s gorgeous,” Auntie Jenny said when she saw the treehouse and she started to climb the ladder. She was halfway up when the ladder broke.
She landed on her fat bottom in a wattle bush and her face came to rest in a bed of white everlastings. Madeline knew she wasn’t hurt, because she lay in the bush laughing. When Madeline helped her up, she brushed herself down with the back of her hand, and wandered around picking fluffy, red gum blossoms.
“Gorgeous,” she said.
Taylor wanted to write NO FAT AUNTIES in the club rules, but Abbey told her that Auntie Jenny was Madeline’s favourite Auntie, so Taylor had to write NO ADULTS instead.
“NO MOBILE PHONES,” said Taylor.
The girls decided to ban mobile phones after many meetings and a few arguments.
“What if there was some emergency and your family wanted to get in touch with you,” said Katelyn.
“I don’t want to be mean,” said Beck, “but why would anyone call a twelve year old kid if they had an emergency? Superman, yes. Or Batman, maybe.”
“Or the police,” said Taylor.
“Or the fire brigade,” said Abbey.
“Well obviously,” said Beck, “if there was, like, a fire or something.”
They stopped arguing when they heard the tinkling tune of ‘Greensleeves’. It wasn’t Mr Whippy. It was Lara’s phone.
Lara snatched up the mobile in her lap. “Oh, sweet!” she said holding up the phone showing everyone a photo of her mum with their new puppy.
Madeline banged the gavel in the table. “Abbey! Did you just send that photo to Lara?”
“Yes,” said Abbey. “Mum just sent it to me.”
“We’re at a meeting!” said Beck. “I don’t want to be mean, but we’ve all seen Tippy heaps of times.”
“Yesssss!” hissed Taylor, punching the air.
They looked at her.
“I just vaporised the Warrior Queen,” she said.
“Are you playing a game, Taylor?” Madeline asked.
“Yeah, you should try it. It’s unreal.”
Madeline banged the gavel again. “The meeting’s closed!”
“I didn’t mean an emergency,” said Katelyn. “I meant, what if your family had to go somewhere while you were at a meeting and when you got home there was no one there and you got worried – that’s all.”
“They could leave a note,” said Beck as she pushed past her and climbed down the ladder.
The members of the ACACIA PARK GIRLS’ TREEHOUSE CLUB decided to have a Christmas party. It would take place at 12 noon on the Saturday before Christmas. Each girl wrote her name on the grey, scratched blackboard in the corner and, next to her name, what she’d bring to the party. They’d written chocolate crackles, chips, pizza, fairy cakes, brownies, sausage rolls and a big bottle of Fanta.
“Mum will go ballistic if we don’t have healthy food,” said Katelyn.
Madeline changed the ‘Fanta’ to ‘Orange Juice’. “Anything else?”
“And Mum said we shouldn’t use non disposable styrofoam cups.”
“Do you want to bring the glasses and take them home and wash them, Katelyn?”
“Too easy,” said Madeline.
Abbey got up early on the day of the party. She measured out the cocoa, the rice bubbles and the icing sugar and put them into a bowl. She was reaching into the fridge for the copha when her mother came into the kitchen and asked what time basketball was starting.
Abbey had forgotten all about basketball. “But the chocolate crackles!” she said.
“I’ll make the chocolate crackles and bring them over,” said her mother.
Taylor was the only girl in the club who didn’t play basketball. The previous Saturday was meant to be the last game of the year, but the game ended in a draw, so they had to play it again.
They asked, or begged, members of their families to make the food they’d promised to bring to the party. Beck had to promise her brother, Simon, she’d be his servant for a day if he went to the shop and bought the pizzas.
Taylor made the fairy cakes, then took them to the treehouse early.
When she got there, Abbey’s dad was fixing the ladder and her mother was inside putting chocolate crackles and chips on the table and hanging Christmas decorations.
Taylor crossed out “NO ADULTS” just in time.
Katelyn’s mother wasn’t far behind them.
Simon and his friend, Charlie, were next, picking their way carefully, carrying the pizzas.
Taylor crossed out “NO BOYS” just in time.
Kyle and Jacob came hurtling through the bush each carrying a big bottle of orange juice.
When the girls finished their basketball game and climbed the ladder, there wasn’t much standing room left. There was enough for one little girl, which was just as well, because Joanna screamed so loudly about being left behind, that Madeline had to bring her too.
Taylor crossed out “NO LITTLE KIDS” just as they arrived.
It was so noisy, that everyone had to “Shush” when Abbey’s dad answered his mobile phone. “Bring him over here!” he said.
Taylor crossed out “NO MOBILE PHONES”.
When Abbey’s Auntie Jenny came up the ladder carrying a puppy, Taylor crossed out “NO ANIMALS”.
Auntie Jenny was looking after Tippy and couldn’t find the dog food. There was no room on the treehouse floor for a puppy, so his soft, wriggly little body was passed around and everyone got to hold him. He wolfed down half the sausage rolls, although he wasn’t too keen on the ones with tomato sauce on them. Abbey thought he would wag his tail off.
Auntie Jenny was the last adult to leave.
“Gorgeous party. Such a friendly little club,” she said to Kyle.
“Yeah, they’re real friendly girls. Not the sort who’d throw water bombs at a person who was just walking through the bush minding his own business,” he said, looking straight at Madeline.
“Heavens, no,” Auntie Jenny said, as she swung her bottom around and backed carefully down the ladder.
Bongo and Me
“Quick,” I yell to Bongo, “to the cyclotron. The world as we know it is in danger. I have just received an urgent message from Headquarters.”
I rush over to the exercise bike and start the super turbo, jet override thrusters. Bongo is already hanging off the handlebars, waiting for me. He is surprisingly fast for a giant spider. Ever since I accidently lasered him with my zippy zapper, his molecules have stretched, making him bigger and faster than any other spider in history. If he grows any more, it will be me hanging off the handlebars with Bongo doing the peddling.
Hey, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.
I check to make sure he has his seat belt on. We tend to have issues over this because Bongo gets confused over which arm (or leg) it has to go over. But now is not the time to lecture Bongo. As long as his seat belt is over something, I know he will be safe.
Time is of the essence, we must away.
I go through the take-off checklist.
Number 1: seat belts secure – check.
Number 2: hand brake off – check.
Number 3: water bottles full – check.
I go through the familiar list.
Number 56: change of underpants – check.
Number 57: umbrella – check, and finally, number 58: don’t lose the checklist – check.
Everything is check. We’re good to go.
Just then, Bongo mumbles something. It must be important because Bongo rarely mumbles, he usually hisses.
“What’s that, Bongo?” I ask.
“Helmets,” he repeats. “Don’t forget our helmets.”
Well, by jingo, he’s right. We aren’t wearing our helmets.
Carefully I get my pen out, which is number 27 on the list, and some paper, number 33, and update my checklist. Number 59: helmets.
“Great, Bongo, thanks for that. If we have an accident, we don’t want to be hurt. Not when we are on a mission to save the world as we know it.”
Bingo hisses at me, “If we don’t hurry, the world as we know it will become the world as we don’t know it, and we will have failed in our mission.”
I take his point. Maybe the checklist is a tad long, but safety first, I always say.
I grab the helmets and now it’s a “Roger” for lift off. I signal to Roger that we are ready. Roger lumbers over and lifts us off the exercise bike stand and put us on the runway.
Roger is another creature that I accidently lasered with my zippy zapper. Most people find the sight of a large, lumbering cockroach unappealing but I think Roger has a certain amount of charm.
Anyway, I have now thrown the zippy zapper away. Responsibly, I might add, in the recycling bin. It was more trouble than it was worth.
Now we are away.
Peddling fast, I build up speed. The turbo thrusters start to whine as we reach optimum velocity. Up the garden path, round the lamp post three times (in a clockwise direction), past the statue covered in pigeon poo and behind the giant waterfall at the swim park to “Saving the World as We Know it Headquarters”.
Bongo is a bit late putting the umbrella up as we go behind the giant waterfall and we arrive at the secret door soaking wet.
When we arrive, I spit onto the secret scanner by the fake rock. The scanner scans and a door behind the waterfall slides open. Most secret agencies have fingerprints or eye scanners but our agency is so secret we spit.
Once inside, I’m whisked away to the top floor, to the most secretest room of all. Here, we have to shout to be heard above all the water crashing down from the waterfall. It’s right above us. The ceiling leaks a bit, but luckily Bongo has remembered to bring the umbrella with him.
He doesn’t want to share it though so I am forced to grab an umbrella from a visitors umbrella stand. It’s rather a nice blue and white striped one; I wonder if they would miss it?
“What’s up,” I yell to my boss. “Why did you summon us and what’s the danger?”
My boss, simply called Big B, yells back, “It’s Spiral, the giant noodle. He’s hold up in a takeaway noodle shop across town and he’s rallying all the noodles of the world together. He’s planning something diabolical. We need you and Bongo to capture him before he gets into any hot water. You know what it might mean if he does. It could be the end of the world as we know it.”
I gulp. This is bad.
Spiral has always been a slippery character but, if he manages to get into any hot water, he will go all bendy and he could then slither his way down a drain and disappear completely. We must capture him quickly.
Big B was right when he said it could be the end of the world as we know it because no one knows what the world would be like if it was run by a giant noodle.
“Come on Bongo,” I yell, “to the cyclotron. We must find Spiral before it’s too late.”
I quickly go through the checklist while trying to smuggle the blue and white striped umbrella into the basket of the cyclotron. (I really do like it.)
Then the super turbo, jet override thrusters kick in and we are away again. As we peddle to the other side of town, it is easy to spot Spiral.
He is hiding out at “Lumpy’s Noodle Bar” and, by the looks of it, he hasn’t wasted any time. He’s got saucepans of hot water starting to boil and he’s sending out steam messages. Litres of water are bubbling away as he sends out his steam messages urging noodles everywhere to join.
We can see oodles of noodles answering his call. Long rivers of noodles are making their way to the takeaway shop. Flat noodles, rice noodles, noodles of every shape and size are marching down the streets.
The situation is code red. I must get inside the noodle bar to find out what is going on. I have to think fast. I know, I’ll use one of my many famous disguises.
Instantly, I disguise myself as a two minute noodle. Bongo doesn’t need a disguise. As a giant spider, he can go anywhere he wants.
We manage to creep inside the noodle shop undetected.
As we make our way past the saucepans full of boiling water, I spy Spiral. I am filled with dread as I see he has been joined in his plotting and scheming by Willy the Wok and Egg E Noodle, two of the toughest noodles in the business.
As I creep closer, I can hear Spiral bragging as he outlines his dastardly plan. He is telling Willy the Wok and Egg E Noodle that as soon as the water in the saucepans reaches boiling point, he will give the signal and all the noodles will jump into the water. As soon as they are “al dente,” they will then slither down every drain, sewer, and plug hole in the world. When they cool, they will form a soggy congealed mass of gelatinous slime, blocking up every hole. No one will be able to wash or shower. People will start to stink and will rush out to buy pegs for their noses. Eventually, there would be a worldwide peg shortage and by then, the stink would be so bad everyone would be forced to smell it. Nothing would be clean and everyone would die from stink disease.
Pretty clever, actually.
(And not washing does have some appeal but not enough to stink to death.)
But I have a plan.
I tell Bongo. He hisses his approval and hisses that as plans go he thinks it’s quite good.
I’m pleased he likes the plan because it’s actually the only one I’ve got.
We swing into action.
I make my way down to where Spiral and his head noodles are standing, talking their evil talks, and Bongo hides behind the saucepans.
I go as close as I dare and then, throwing off my disguise, I confront Spiral.
“The game is up,” I shout. “Your noodle is cooked.”
Now, I have to add here that Spiral is a strange looking noodle, almost certainly one of a kind. He has five bulging multi coloured eyes.
As I shout out to him to stop, he slowly turns and looks at me. Now this can be very confusing because when he looks in your direction, steeling you with his steely gazes, you never actually know where he’s looking.
I start to feel dizzy, but Spiral is counting on this. He’s hoping that I will fall over from all the dizziness and then he can capture me.
But I am ready for him.
As Spiral fixes me with his steely gazes, he doesn’t know that I have underneath my disguise… another disguise and this one has seven eyes. I can out-eye him.
Spiral is confused. My seven eyes dance round Spiral’s five eyes and he now he starts to get dizzy and he’s the one who falls over. He lands on Willy the Wok and Egg E Noodle. Quickly, I run over and tie them up in noodle knots.
But just before Spiral collapses, he manages to give the launch signal. The water has reached boiling point and all the noodles start jumping into the saucepans.
“You will not stop my plan for world domination,” yells Spiral. “It will be the end of the world as you know it. It cannot be stopped now. Noodle Power will win.”
“Not if I have anything to do with it,” hisses Bongo. And, using his eight legs, he quickly puts the lids on all the saucepans.
Now all the noodles are trapped. Escape is impossible.
I go over to high five Bongo, or should I say high five, high five, high five, high five, high five, high five, high five, high five. I never can work out which of his arms or legs to high five so we usually end up doing them all.
“By jingo, our plan worked,” I say. “Now we won’t all die from stink disease. In fact, we will all have a good feast of noodles.”
As I report back to Big B, Bongo is already getting out the soy sauce.
The takeaway owner has returned and is really pleased. Business is brisk and he’s taking lots of orders.
Spiral is led away in disgrace. He’ll be an old and crunchy noodle before he is ever released from prison.
“I will get even,” he threatens. “Even if it means joining forces with my cousins.”
His cousins, the Pasta Family, are notorious. There are so many of them. They can disguise themselves in all sorts of shapes; round, long, fat and flat, as butterflies or shells. Some are thick, some are thin and all are quick. An attack by the fasta pastas would mean the end of the world as we know it.
But, thankfully, we have captured Spiral in time.
Bongo and I jump on the cyclotron and prepare to peddle back to “Saving the World as We Know it Headquarters”. We have our takeaway noodles and we are happy, but we must remain alert and vigilant. We must be ready to swing into action at a moment’s notice, keep any eye out for any unusual pasta movement just in case. Otherwise, it could be the end of the world as we know it.
But first, I must go through my checklist.
Lame Duck Protest
The duckling hides in the bulrushes on the edge of the lake. His head droops and his eyes are closed.
“Zoe,” I say. “That duck’s asleep.”
“No, Hannah. He’s sick.” She reaches in and picks him up.
My heart gives an angry thump. Zoe’s always getting me in trouble. I yell, “We’re not supposed to touch wild birds.”
Zoe holds the duckling closer. Fat tears trickle down her cheek. My little sister’s a cry baby.
I look more carefully. One of the duckling’s legs sticks out the wrong way. “Let’s take him home and ask Mum,” I say.
We’re nearly out of the reserve when old Mr Collins ZOOMS past. His chair does a wheelie and stops right in front.
“Hi, Hannah. Hi, Zoe.” His shiny head bends over the duckling. “You’re not supposed to touch wild birds.”
“We know,” says Zoe.
“But we think something’s wrong with his leg,” I say.
“Hmmmm,” says Mr Collins. “Best take him to the Vet.”
On the other side of the gates, we meet Miss Browne and Mrs Hobson. Miss Browne is tall and thin. Mrs Hobson is short and round. If you scrunch up your eyes, they look like a 10.
Mrs Hobson is pushing her walking frame. She sniffs like an insect’s gone up her nose. “Hi, Zoe,” she says. “What have you got there?”
Zoe shows her.
Mrs Hobson says sternly, “Children are not allowed to touch wild birds.”
“We know,” Zoe says. “But he’s got a sick leg.”
Miss Browne leans on her walking sticks and says, “Poor little thing. Best take him to the Vet.”
At home, Mum is cooking tea. She says crossly, “You’re not allowed to touch wild birds.”
“We know,” says Zoe. “But…”
“We think he’s got a sick leg,” I say. “Maybe it’s broken.”
Mum sighs and turns off the stove. She drives us to the Vet’s. We have to wait a long time before we go into her office.
“I’m Kate,” she says. “Please put the duckling on the table.”
The duckling does a greenie-brown poop.
Kate peers at us over her specs. “You’re not supposed to handle wild birds.”
“We know,” I say. “But we think he’s broken his leg.”
Kate stops looking stern. “What’s his name?”
Zoe nibbles her thumb and looks at me.
“Anton,” I decide. Anton is in my class. He’s my best friend.
Kate turns Anton over. She shakes her head. “Anton is really Antonia. You’re right. She’s got a broken leg. Leave her with me. You can pick her up on Friday. Okay?”
“Okay,” we chorus.
All week Zoe worries about Antonia.
“She’ll be fine,” I say. “Kate will fix her leg.”
But Zoe goes on nibbling her thumb.
Friday, Mum drives us to Kate’s surgery.
All the way there, Zoe keeps nibbling her thumb.
Antonia is pleased to see us. When Zoe picks her up, she pecks at her hand. “She’s hungry,” Zoe cries.
Kate says, “Antonia might always walk with a limp. When she’s really strong, you must return her to the Reserve. Meanwhile,” she hands me a bag, “feed her on Duck Pellets and any leftover vegetables.”
At home, we line a carton with newspaper and put Antonia inside. She hunkers down and closes her eyes.
“Antonia’s tired,” says Zoe. She tiptoes away.
Sometimes my little sister surprises me.
Soon, Antonia loses her baby down. She grows speckled brown feathers edged with green. She looks like any wild duck. Except for her waddle.
“More like a waddle-limp,” says Mum.
Antonia follows Zoe everywhere. Even into the lavatory.
I say, “That duck thinks you’re her mum.”
Zoe just giggles.
At night, Antonia sleeps in her special box next to Zoe’s bed. When Zoe and I are in school, she waddle-limps around our back yard looking for snails.
Sometimes when Mum is late home from work, I babysit Zoe and we walk to the Reserve. I hold Zoe’s hand all the way there.
Antonia waddle-limps behind us.
Sometimes we meet Mr Collins. He does a wheelie and asks, “How’s your lame duck?”
“Her name’s Antonia,” says Zoe. “She’s fine.”
Mr Collins grins and his teeth slide up and down. “Reckon that duck thinks you’re her mum.”
“Reckon she does,” says Zoe and giggles.
Sometimes we meet Mrs Hobson pushing her frame. She’ll say “You’re not supposed to tame wild ducks.”
“But Antonia hurt her leg,” Zoe answers politely. “So we have to look after her.”
Sometimes we meet Miss Browne. She leans on her walking stick and asks, “How’s Antonia?”
“She’s fine,” Zoe answers. “She thinks I’m her mum.”
Miss Browne smiles. “That’s because she trusts you.”
One day, Mum says, “Time to return Antonia back to the Reserve. Wild birds need to be free.”
Zoe opens her mouth. Nothing comes out. Fat tears roll down her cheeks.
Told you she’s a cry baby.
That afternoon, we carry Antonia to the Reserve and place her in the lake.
“Antonia, you have to stay here,” I say sternly.
Zoe’s cheeks are wet. I pretend not to see.
Antonia says, “Quack, quack.” She dips her bill into the water.
“Come on,” I take Zoe’s hand and lead her to edge of the Reserve.
Just in front of the gates, we stop short. A notice says:
I read it right through. Then I read it again.
“They’re building a shopping centre in the Reserve,” I tell Zoe.
“They can’t,” she says. “What will happen to the birds?”
I look at my feet.
We set off for home. When we get to our gate, something makes me look around. Antonia is waddle-limping behind us.
“Go back, Antonia,” I yell.
She ignores me.
I say, “Zoe, tell her to go back.”
“Go back, Antonia,” Zoe whispers.
“You have to yell,” I say.
Too late. Zoe runs all the way home. And Antonia waddle-limps after her.
Mum is really cross. But it isn’t our fault Antonia followed us home is it?
Next day after school, we take Antonia back to the park.
“Antonia, you have to stay here,” I say sternly.
Zoe doesn’t say anything.
We’re halfway home when something makes me look around. Antonia is waddle-limping behind us.
This time, Mum lets her stay. Everyone is too worried about the Reserve to get cross with Antonia. No one in our street wants a new shopping centre. No one in our street wants to lose our Reserve.
Two days later, Mr Collins calls a meeting.
Everyone comes. They turn up on foot, by bike and in wheelchairs. They come using walking frames, leaning on walking sticks and pushing prams.
Mr Collins ZOOMS onto the highest hill.
He says, “This is a wildlife sanctuary. We can’t let anything happen to it. Black swans, ducks and herons nest here every spring…”
“What about the children?” someone calls.
Mr Collins nods. “Children come here to play.”
“What about us seniors?” someone else yells.
Mr Collins’ teeth slide in and out. “Us too. This is where…”
“we play chess,” someone reminds him.
“… and draughts.”
“… and bowls.”
“This is where we ride our bikes, scooters and rollerblades,” says Taylor who lives next door.
“And where we bring our babies and toddlers,” says Mrs Smith.
“And catch up on old times,” says Miss Browne. But I don’t think anyone hears.
Mrs Hobson sniffs and says, “Can’t do anything to stop progress.”
Tears well up in Zoe’s eyes.
Someone calls, “Let’s hold a Protest.”
“Good idea,” says Mr Collins. “But a Protest has to have a name.”
“How about “Don’t Touch our Reserve”?” someone calls.
Mr Collins shakes his head. “We need something catchier than that.”
Lots of people have ideas:
“No shopping centre here.”
“Rescue our Reserve.”
“Reserve our Reserve.”
No one can agree. Mrs Hobson disagrees the most.
Just then, Antonia waddle-limps towards Zoe. “Quack, quack.”
Zoe yells, “How about “Lame Duck”?”
“Splendid,” says Mr Collins. He looks at the wheelchairs, walking frames, sticks, pushers and prams. “We’ll call it the LAME DUCK PROTEST. Antonia will be our mascot.”
“Quack, quack,” says Antonia.
That’s how our LAME DUCK PROTEST begins.
The next few weeks are very busy. Mr Collin holds three more meetings in the Reserve. Everyone comes. Even Mrs Hobson. She still looks like there’s a beetle up her nose.
Mr Collins says, “We need lots of posters and banners.”
“And a BIG photo of our mascot,” says Mrs Hobson.
To everyone’s surprise, she pulls the latest digital camera out of her bag and takes photos of…
She asks Zoe to choose the best.
Zoe giggles. “Easy,” she says. “Antonia waddle-limping.”
Mrs Hobson looks pleased. “That fits our LAME DUCK PROTEST march best.”
Next week, the local newspaper prints Antonia’s photo. Zoe takes the newspaper to school.
“Tell us what this is all about,” says Ms Pappas.
Zoe says, “They want to put a shopping centre in our Reserve.”
“They can’t do that,” everyone says. “We go there to play.”
Our entire school agrees to be part of this protest. Just about everyone in our suburb joins the LAME DUCK PROTEST.
Mr Collins writes a letter on our behalf.
We take turns signing it.
I write: Hannah Molly McGovern
Zoe’s name came out as: Z O E O L I V I A
But it isn’t until two days later that I have my best idea. I tell Zoe. Only I make her promise to keep it a secret.
Next day after school, we go to the Reserve. We find Mr Collins in his wheelchair watching two black swans dip their bills in the water.
“Hi there, girls,” he says. But he forgets to grin. And his teeth don’t wobble.
So we tell him my idea.
Mr Collins calls another meeting. He says, “Because we want lots more folk to join our Protest, we’ve decided to hold a march.”
We post flyers everywhere. Those flyers say:
SAVE OUR RESERVE
Come as your favourite native animal
LAME DUCK PROTEST MARCH
Everyone turns up.
Mr Collins wears a kookaburra mask and brown cardboard wings. Miss Browne comes as a koala in a fur coat and funny nose. Mrs Hobson comes as a wombat.
I go as a kangaroo, wearing Mum’s old coat, a plastic tail and cardboard ears.
Zoe is a wild duck. Mum and Dad make her a feather coat and a cardboard beak. I lend her my swimming flippers.
Everyone carries balloons and banners saying “LAME DUCK PROTEST MARCH.” We march past the Supermarket and the garage, and along Station Street. No one wants to lose our Reserve.
Soon, so many people have joined our LAME DUCK PROTEST march, Channel 5 turns up.
Sally Watson, the reporter, holds up a microphone and says, “Ted Collins, why is your march called LAME DUCK PROTEST.”
He says, “No one wants another shopping centre. We want our Reserve to stay the same.” He points to Antonia. “We call this march LAME DUCK PROTEST because of our mascot.”
“Oh,” says Sally. “A tame wild duck mascot.” She tells the cameraman to make sure he gets some great shots of Antonia waddle-limping.
Our duck is on Channel 5 news that night. So is Mr Ted Collins. So are Zoe and me.
When the march is over, us Protesters hold a barbecue in the Reserve. We have hot dogs and hamburgers. For Antonia, Mum has lettuce leaves and carrot peelings. We finish up with a chocolate cake with LAME DUCK PROTEST written across it in white icing. We all have a slice. Mr Collins has the biggest.
After, there are races for the kids.
Zoe comes fourth in the egg and spoon. My team comes third in the relay. We have a great time.
A week later, Mr Collins calls another very special LAME DUCK PROTEST meeting.
He waves a letter at us. “This letter says that the Reserve will remain unchanged.”
Everyone cheers. Our LAME DUCK PROTEST has worked. Our reserve will stay a Reserve.
But something happens the very next day.
We’re in the Reserve when Antonia meets some other wild ducks. This time, she flies off with them.
‘Oh, oh!’ I think.
But Zoe says, “Wild ducks have to stay wild.”
So the next time we’re in the Reserve, I give her an extra long push on the swing for not being a cry baby.
Frankie’s Indoor Adventure
All night long, heavy rain falls. No stars sparkle in the darkness. Not even one dares peep from behind the wet, cold clouds. Out in the dark, the waves crash and break their way on to the beach.
Across the dunes, everyone lies tucked up in bed, cosy and warm in their wood and stone houses.
Raindrops drip down the drains – DRIP DRIP DROP.
And they tap on the tiles – TAP TAP TIPPY TIPPY TAP.
As the sun tries its very best to push the clouds away, Frankie can see through the rain-streaked windows that his plans for a Saturday morning beach treasure hunt are doomed.
There will be no treasure hunting today.
No treasure hunting, no searching for pirate caves behind the rock pools, no scouting for sea dragons and giant eels in the shallows, no building sandcastles, or helping his friend Juniper find special shells for the mermaids.
Today, it’s too wet and too cold. Today, he will have to find indoor things to do.
As the sky lightens from black to grey, big drops of rain continue to fall and the sea looks like a crumpled rumpled bed.
His dad tells Frankie to put on his warm woolly jumper. Frankie does not like this woolly jumper. It’s green and itchy.
“But it is warm,” his father says.
“Yes,” Frankie says. “It is, but it is also itchy – and it is green.”
Usually, Frankie likes to wear t-shirts and shorts and no shoes. Usually… but there would be no t-shirts today.
Usually, if Frankie stands inside the front window of his blue-roofed house and up on his tippy toes, he can see across the dunes to the top of the red roof of Juniper’s house. But not today. Today, the rain is falling in such heavy sheets, he can barely see his front gate, or the winding path that leads right down to the sand.
As the wind whistles around the house, it rattles the red window shutters.
Frankie is very pleased the house is nestled safely into the sandhills. He is pleased that his little blue-roofed house is being protected from the storm by the dunes. Otherwise, it might be lifted off the ground and swept out to sea, and his house has no sails.
So, this is what he has to look forward to today? Being stuck inside.
Being stuck inside makes Frankie feel gloomy.
It is Saturday and, apart from sleeping in and helping his parents in the garden, there is nothing more Frankie enjoys than running through the sandhills and playing on the sand.
He finds Mum in the kitchen, wiping the baby Sabine’s mouth. Sabine is cute, but annoying too because she takes up so much of Mum and Dad’s time these days. They are always making a fuss over her and doing this and that for her.
“Ah, Francois!” Mum says. “Bonne cherie, du martin.”
She gives Frankie a big kiss. A big kiss in the middle of his forehead.
“In English, Mum – remember,” Frankie says.
“Ah, yes – good morning, my darling,” Mum says. “How was your sleep?”
“Not so good,” Frankie says. “The rain fell all night, the wind blew all night and all night I thought the house would lift off the ground.”
“Really? I slept like a baby,” Mum says.
Frankie can’t believe that she did not hear the storm.
“Your English is very good,” Mum says. “Your friend Juniper is being a good help.”
This made Frankie think of something.
“Can I go over to Juniper’s today?” Frankie asks.
“Oh no, not today, Frankie,” Mum says. “It’s too stormy and it’s going to start raining again. You can’t walk over the sandhills on a day like this. You’ll get blown away.”
“We could go in the car,” Frankie says.
“Not today, Frankie,” Mum says. “Not now. I have to get Sabine dressed and then I have some baking to do. Maybe you can help me.”
Frankie’s parents make wonderful buttery pastries for the local bakery and cafes. All his friends say he is lucky because he gets to help out and to eat the leftovers. But Frankie gets tired of mixing and kneading and helping clean up.
“Do I have to?” Frankie says.
“You don’t have to,” Dad says. “No, not at all. Not today.”
“Well can I go to Juniper’s then?” Frankie asks.
“No, I’m sorry, not today,” Dad says. “You cannot go by yourself and Mum and I have to bake. You can play with Sabine for a while.”
“What!” Frankie says. “She can’t even talk and all she does is cry and dribble and babble.”
“Frankie – stop,” Mum says.
Frankie stomps out of the kitchen.
STOMP STOMP STOMP.
“Frankie!” Dad says. “Enough of the stomping and clomping.”
“All right,” Frankie says. “I’m sorry.”
“Maybe the sun will come out later, who knows,” Dad says.
Frankie looks outside again. It certainly does not look like the sun will ever come out again – at least not today.
The sky is still dark and heavy and wet.
The beach is still deserted, apart from a few grumbling gulls and a pile of seaweed.
And Frankie still cannot see across the dunes. There may be a slippery, scaled sea dragon lurking amongst the sea grasses. Or a great, big treasure chest, but he would not be able to see it. He could not see anything past the heavy sheets of rain.
“All right then,” Frankie says to Sabine. “There will be no treasure hunt today. Today, I will set out on a new adventure. And you can come with me.”
Sabine gurgled and giggled.
Today, Frankie was going on a quest. A quest in search for the legendary Land of the Golden Sands.
Frankie writes a list. It’s a long list with all the things they will need on their quest.
Map, rope, blanket, canoe, snow jacket, tent, food, binoculars, hats, mosquito net, waterproof nappy and sunhat for Sabine.
He tells Mum and Dad they are off on their quest and not to worry, he will look after Sabine.
Mum kisses them both and puts some fruit and a muesli bar in his backpack.
“Good luck! I’m sure you will make it,” Mum says. She disappears into the kitchen, leaving Frankie and Sabine in the living room.
Frankie pulls the cushions off the lounge and on to the floor. This is their raft.
He plonks Sabine down in front, so that he can steer from behind.
“The rain beats down, filling the rivers, and strong winds sweep across the valley,” Frankie says. “The brave young explorer and his assistant set out on their new adventure. Are you ready, Sabine?”
She gurgles and they set off down the river as a loud rumble of thunder crashes overhead. Immediately, they face danger with tigers, crocodiles and bears watching them from the river bank.
“Don’t worry, Sabine,” Frankie says. “They can’t get us here and at least they don’t look too hungry.”
Before long, the river becomes rough and the raft is being tossed around like a cork on the waves.
“Hold on, Sabine,” Frankie says. “If we come off now, we’re done for. There are terrible slimy, yellow eels at the bottom of the river just waiting to gobble us up. We have to make it through to reach the Land of the Golden Sands.”
Luckily, they do not fall in. But, just as Frankie thinks they are out of danger, he sees a waterfall up ahead. It is the tallest he has ever seen in all his years exploring. It is the tallest and makes a fearful roaring sound as the water plunges and gurgles.
“Wait there, Sabine,” he says.
Frankie takes his rope, ties it to one end of the raft and jumps into the river. He swims to shore and ties it to a tree, just as Sabine and the raft are about to tumble over the side.
“That was close!” he says dragging the raft to the river bank. “It’s time to make our blanket cave – it looks like it might snow.”
They settle down inside, just as another rumble of thunder crackles overhead.
“Don’t worry, Sabine,” Frankie says and munches on a muesli bar. “We are safe in here and soon we will reach the Land of the Golden Sands.”
After a short rest, Frankie plops Sabine’s sunhat on her head and they are ready to set off again.
Frankie takes his binoculars and peers out through the thick forest.
There seem to be no creatures lurking behind the trees and, what’s more, the rain now has stopped and sky seems to be clearing.
“Not far now,” he says. “We will have to cross the hills from here and, if we can get past the Cave Trolls, we’ll have made it.”
He tiptoes over the hills, carrying Sabine so she doesn’t wake the trolls. By the time they reach the bottom of the valley, instead of thunder, Frankie can hear the gulls squealing and squawking overhead.
The storm is over and the sun is pushing the clouds away. There is a thin rainbow over the sea.
They have reached the Land of the Golden Sands at last!
Frankie looks out and can see Juniper running along the path towards his house.
“Aha, Frankie!” Dad says. “Look you made it. You found the Land of the Golden Sands.”
Wilma had recently moved from the west to the north of the city with her mother. For as long as she could remember, she had wanted to be a witch, and she practised all the time.
“Pffft,” she said to a gumnut she found in her shoe. “You are a magic stone. I will carry you everywhere.”
So she did.
“Pffft,” she said to her broccoli at dinner. “You are greens from my witch’s garden, and you are delicious.”
So she ate the broccoli.
“Pffft,” she said to her pet rabbit, Rabberta. “You are my magic steed and you will fly through the air.”
But Rabberta made a fuss when Wilma tried to put a saddle on her back. She was a rather small rabbit and the saddle was really a cushion. Wilma’s mother had no broom, only a vacuum cleaner, and she didn’t want Wilma to ride on it.
As she felt a witch should be able to fly, Wilma decided to find something else to use for her magic.
One morning, Wilma was up earlier than usual to look for magic toadstool rings. She went out into the garden in the calm, early morning light. There were no toadstools, so she sat down under her favourite gumtree and looked up through the branches. High above, she saw something drift very slowly overhead like a great, striped cloud.
“What could that be?” she wondered aloud. “It looks like a magic cloud. I’d like to fly in that.”
A head popped over the fence.
“You’re weird, Wilma!” said Jack, who lived next door. “It’s a hot air balloon, of course!”
“I’ve never seen one from underneath so close before,” said Wilma. “So how could I know?”
“Look – two more!” said Jack, pointing.
A bright yellow balloon and a red one passed over a little further away.
“Just like in the Wizard of Oz! I would REALLY like to fly in one of those,” said Wilma, putting on her determined face.
“Wave your magic wand, then!” chuckled Jack, disappearing back into his own garden.
“Witches don’t have magic wands. That’s fairies,” replied Wilma, wrinkling her nose. She wasn’t fond of fairies with their pastel frocks and pale hair and names like Daisy and Fern.
‘Witches are far more interesting,’ she thought.
Wilma loved stories containing witches. She was fond of black and purple, and food that her new schoolmates thought was disgusting.
“Errghh,” they said as she opened her lunchbox. “Purple cabbage rolls with licorice all-sorts. You’re weird, Wilma.”
They even thought her name was weird. She was named after a relation who lived about a hundred years before.
‘I’ll bet she was a witch,’ thought Wilma.
Wilma did a lot of thinking, and not so much talking. When she did talk, it was mostly about being a witch, and her mother mostly said, “That’s nice, dear,” in an absent-minded kind of way. This time, however, her mother was taking notice.
“You want to go up in a hot air balloon?” she said, dismayed. “It’s expensive, dear. I don’t think we can afford it.”
“Can I do it for my birthday? As a special treat?” Wilma was turning eight in a few months time.
“Not even then, I’m afraid. Money is really tight at the moment.”
Wilma imagined a giant twenty dollar note wrapped around her mother, squeezing her like toothpaste in a tube.
“What if I helped – with the money, I mean?”
“You’re a bit young to go out to work, Wilma.” Her mother laughed, and turned away.
But Wilma had had an idea. Her new school was having a fete. She would organize a stall – a special stall, with everything witchy she could find to sell. She would ask Jack to help. That way, he would find out the difference between witches and fairies.
But Jack wasn’t very helpful.
“I’m going to be a skeleton in the Haunted House,” he said. “Anyway – you can’t keep the money. It goes to the school.”
Wilma thought that wasn’t fair. So she decided to set up a stall on the footpath outside her house instead.
One Saturday morning, she took out a chair and a table and laid out all the witchy things she had collected – some oddly-shaped shells and stones, dried up fungus and twigs with strange bulges, a cast-off snakeskin she had found in the country and a spider in a web she had made from black wool. At the last minute, she added some green slime that used to be a vegetable, from the back of the fridge.
She wore her black, pointed hat and witch’s cloak and had Rabberta in her cage beside her.
But nobody seemed very interested, except Jack, who came to point and laugh but didn’t buy anything.
Her mother came out and said, “You’ll come in if it rains, dear, won’t you?”
As the sky was cloudless and it hadn’t rained for weeks, Wilma thought this was not very likely.
Wilma sighed. She was just about to pack up when she saw Lydia parading down the street in her pink princess dress and tiara.
She had a wand with sparkles in it, which she pointed at the gardens as she passed. Lydia lived in the next street and was in Wilma’s year at school. When she saw Wilma, she pointed the wand at her. Wilma put her hands in the air and wriggled her fingers. Lydia ran back down the street and around the corner, nearly tripping over her pink hem.
Someone laughed nearby. Wilma turned and saw the old woman who lived in the house with the overgrown garden at the end of the street.
“She seems to be scared of you,” she said to Wilma.
“Magic wands,” said Wilma scornfully. “You don’t need a wand to do magic.”
“Indeed you don’t,” said the woman.
She came closer, and Wilma could see the crinkles around her eyes.
“The green slime is a nice touch,” said the woman.
“I think it used to be silverbeet, but we forgot to eat it,” replied Wilma.
“I have some silverbeet growing in my garden,” said the woman. “By the way, my name is Ms Chalmer.”
“I’m Wilma,” said Wilma, expecting the woman to say “That’s weird”.
“A good name for a witch,” said Ms Chalmer.
“Are you a witch?” asked Wilma.
“Some people might say so,” laughed Ms Chalmer, “but I’m actually a writer.”
Wilma’s mother came out at that moment, and Wilma introduced her to Ms Chalmer.
“I live down on the corner,” said Ms Chalmer. “I have a pond full of frogs, if you want to come and see them.”
Wilma gasped with excitement.
“Thank you. We haven’t met many people yet,” said Wilma’s mother. “We’ve just moved over from the west.”
“Come and visit. I have some purple cordial.”
Wilma looked up hopefully at her mother, who was smiling.
“I’d rather a cup of tea,” said Wilma’s mother.
So Wilma packed up her table and carried everything back inside, including Rabberta.
“I don’t think she would get on with my cats,” said Ms Chalmer.
Ms Chalmer’s garden was full of weeds and vines, with spider webs strung between them. There was a pond with waterlilies. Her house overflowed with books, and she had three cats that walked along the top of bookcases and went to sleep on piles of papers. A computer stood on a desk, and paintings hung on the walls.
Wilma felt it would be easy to be a witch in a house like that one.
“Wilma wants to go up in a hot air balloon,” said her mother, over a cup of tea.
“Oh, yes – I see them sailing overhead in the mornings. It’s just the right weather at the moment.”
‘Is there a right weather for balloons?’ thought Wilma. Surely only a witch would know that.
“Are you sure you’re not a witch?” she asked Ms Chalmer. “Can you fly?”
“Well – I can – in a kind of way,” answered the old woman. “Because when you’re writing, or reading, you are taken to other places. All sorts of amazing places. You can go anywhere in the world, or other worlds – worlds you make up yourself. It’s the best kind of flying, much better than aeroplanes. And writing is a kind of witchcraft.”
Wilma sipped her purple cordial and thought about this. She was still thinking when she went to bed that night, and when her mother came to tuck her in, Wilma came to a decision.
“I think I might be a writer – as well as a witch, of course!” she said. “I’ll start tomorrow.”
“That’s nice, dear,” said her mother, kissing her goodnight. And she smiled.
The short story of Lord Percy Most Excellent III
My dear chaps,
My story is one of considerable, plucky courage and I’m delighted that I live to tell it! It was during the wintery evening of last spring that I left on my quest to find the near extinct – rarest of flowers – the Chocolate Cosmos Orchid.
Unfortunately, on this great feat, my silly feet took me in the wrong direction and I found myself in the depths of the Amazonian jungle with only a map, compass and expired slice of chocolate cake.
Yet I was not deterred. By deducing the follies of the jungle, and calculating exactly where the sun set and the moss grew, I headed in a due east, south-westerly direction. I trekked on, relying on my wits and extraordinary high IQ.
After many gallant seconds of bravery, I checked my watch for the precise time, when I noticed a tiny black speck on my arm.
“I hope you don’t mind the intrusion. I noticed you have a rather juicy, hairy, plump wrist. May I nibble it?”
Heavens to Betsy. A tiny flea was speaking to me.
“You most certainly cannot!” was my reply.
Well, the only way to flee a flea, is to flee. So I swatted my arm and ran away.
Phew! A close shave indeed.
I scaled the trunk of the whop-whop tree and swung from limb to limb, crushing each branch in my fist.
At the edge of the raging river, I managed my time efficiently and landed at the precise moment, with deadly accuracy, on top of a passing whale. And boy did it wail!
“I’m not a buoy! You brute creation, you beastly man, get off my back!” wailed the whale.
With a stiff upper lip, I dove with the grace of a dove into the raging torrent and started to swim. But a waterfowl with a foul temper and foul mouth accosted me.
So I scorned, “Your cheep is cheap, foul, fowl.”
Then, using only the shoelace on my left boot, my supreme operatic voice and my pinkie finger, I managed to fight off the nasty bird.
And I didn’t even perspire.
My endeavours were not over.
Before I was out of the woods – so to speak – I stumbled over a wild boar.
Now, the trick to ridding yourself of a boar, is to bore it. So I recounted the time I trod water in the Atlantic Ocean for one hundred and seventy eight hours, and this bored the boar to death.
Ready for anything, I proceeded. Then happened to bump into a bear.
When one is in danger, one does not always address themselves in full title, ‘Lord Most Excellent the Third’. Nope, a simple Percy will suffice.
I thought, ‘Percy, should you grin and bear the bear?’
Instead, I waxed it with my own ear wax.
A bear cannot bear to be bare, so it hid in its cave. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than a grisly grizzly.
And so here I am, alive and able to tell my tale. If I were a dog, I’d be wagging my tail about my unbelievable – but true – tale.
Oh, pardon me. I’m sure you’re wondering, what happened to the Chocolate Cosmos Orchid?
Oh, unfortunately I got my chocolate flour confused with my chocolate flower – and I ate it!
Yours most truly,
Lord Percy the Most Excellent III
“Can I go out now, Mum?” pleaded Kat.
Mrs Cooper gave her daughter a tired smile. “Okay, love, but I’ll need you back here by ten o’clock. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Kat was outside and sprinting away before the back door had even slammed shut behind her.
When she was quite a way from the house, Kat slowed to a walk and breathed in the cool morning air. She enjoyed the chill of the morning. The recent bushfire had been anything but chill.
Luckily, the fire had missed their farm, but it had come so close that their furniture, curtains and all Kat’s stuff now had a strong, smoky smell. Three whole days of cleaning since the fire had been three days too many for Kat!
Still, it could have been worse. Much worse. Kat reminded herself to be thankful for their narrow escape.
Kat wandered aimlessly through the neighbouring fields, free at last, until she found herself at the edge of the scrubby forest. Its blackened trunks were a fearsome reminder of the danger they had so narrowly avoided.
Kat shivered, and was about to head back home when a faint rustling sound caught her attention. There, at the foot of a bush, two small, dark eyes were peeping out.
It isn’t easy creeping up on a wild animal, but Kat was experienced and somehow managed it.
The eyes belonged to the tiniest kangaroo that Kat had ever seen. Its arms looked like sticks, and its fur was so short it was only fuzz.
Where was the mother?
Kat took off her jumper, trying hard to move slowly and silently. But the little joey still jumped with fright. It tried to dash away. Instead, it wobbled and crashed into a gum tree.
Kat was there in a flash, throwing her jumper over the tiny animal and scooping the woolly bundle into her arms. The bundle squirmed against her chest, but Kat held it firmly, and she soon felt the joey settle.
Smiling with satisfaction, she carefully headed home.
Kat’s mum was working in the kitchen when Kat returned home.
“Mum! Look what I’ve found. I reckon she lost her mum in the fire.”
Mrs Cooper peeped into the bundle and frowned. “Poor tyke. It’s too young for us to look after, I’m afraid. This one is going to need around the clock care.”
Kat felt her heart skip a beat.
“I can do it,” she pleaded. “I’m sure I can. She needs our help.”
Kat’s mum collapsed into a chair. Elbows resting on the dining table, hands cupping her chin, she sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but this one is more than we can handle. Especially now, when we still have so much cleaning up to do after the fire.”
Kat felt her eyes prickle with tears.
“We don’t even know what to do. This joey really needs to go to a shelter.”
One quick phone call and it was all arranged. Glenda, who ran a wildlife shelter in the town, would take the joey.
Kat sat in silence, watching her tears drop one by one onto the freshly scrubbed lino floor.
“I’m sorry, Katherine,” Mrs Cooper said. “You’d hate to do something wrong and accidentally hurt the little tyke, wouldn’t you? Glenda knows what to do. She’s a wildlife carer. She has to be the one to look after it.”
Kat knew that when her mum called her “Katherine” there was no point arguing. But that didn’t mean she had to like it.
Next morning, Kat and her mum drove to Glenda’s house. Kat had the joey cradled on her lap, still in its snugly jumper wrapping.
Glenda rushed out to the gate to meet them.
“You wouldn’t believe how many animals have come in here after the fire,” she said. She gently took the bundle from Kat’s arms, and said, “It’s never boring running a wildlife shelter, but right now it’s an absolute madhouse. I haven’t even had time for a shower!”
Kat could well believe it. Glenda’s hair looked like a bird had made a home in it, and her faded, flannelette shirt and tracksuit pants looked well past their use-by date.
Kat giggled. Even her mum smiled – maybe they were on the same wavelength. Kat hadn’t seen her mum smile in ages, so she decided to make the most of it.
“Maybe I could help you, Glenda. Just show me what to do. It’s the school holidays, and you could certainly do with the help…”
“I’m sorry, but you’re needed at home,” said Kat’s mum before Glenda could get a word in.
Mrs Cooper saw her daughter’s face fall, and looked around. There were so many animals, needing so much help! Straw beds needed changing; the floor could do with a good sweep; used milk bottles were waiting to be washed up.
Mrs Cooper looked at her daughter again and said with a smile, “But I suppose Glenda may need you even more.”
Kat’s eyes opened wide. Could she have heard right?
Her mum continued, “I suppose it could be good for you to see what raising an orphan joey is really like. It’s not all cuddles and kisses, you know. You will find that it’s very hard work.”
Kat didn’t feel daunted at all. She grinned, and gave her mum a huge hug.
The next day, just after the birds had finished singing their first songs, Kat was knocking at Glenda’s front door.
Glenda was already up and at it, and had a list of chores prepared for Kat. Kat felt ready for anything, which was just as well.
First, she mashed a heap of gum leaves for a baby koala’s “milk shake”. Next, she cleaned the cage of a turtle with a cracked shell. The box was so stinky that Kat tried stuffing plugs of tissue up her nose. It didn’t help much. Then she scrubbed a parrot aviary while its occupants used her for target practice!
It was hard work, but she didn’t mind a bit. It was worth it, because she also got to feed her little kangaroo joey.
Glenda said it was a boy, and Kat named him Jake.
“Oh no, don’t give him a name,” warned Glenda. “We don’t want to jinx him.”
Sadly, not all the animals that wound up at the shelter survived. Keeping them nameless somehow seemed to help Glenda cope if an animal died.
But Kat couldn’t help herself. Jake it was!
Kat worked at the shelter every day during the holidays. Even when school went back, she still helped out for an hour or two on the way home. Jake grew faster than the ignored weeds in Glenda’s garden!
After a few months, Jake was moved from his inside pen to a larger, outdoor, grassy enclosure with two other joeys. Glenda said the “three amigos” would be good company for each other. They had to get used to living in a group. Soon they would have to return to the bush, where they would hopefully join up with a mob of wild roos.
Once he had grown tall enough to be level with Kat’s shoulder, Jake started to get cheeky and play rough. He liked to grab her from behind in a big hug (which she thought was quite nice). Then he’d push her with his back legs while balancing on his tail (which wasn’t so nice).
At first, she thought it was funny, but then changed her mind as Jake grew bigger and stronger.
“Jake’s growing up,” said Glenda. “Boy roos in the wild are like that too.”
That made Kat happier, although it also made her a little sad because it reminded her that he would very soon be returning to the wild.
When the day at last came for Jake’s release, Kat and Glenda set off early in the morning in Glenda’s battered, old ute. Kat sat with Glenda in the front, leaving three large, hessian sacks squirming in the back.
The car soon left the small town and headed along a dirt road. Soon they left that too, and started bumping their way through a field before eventually stopping at the edge of a large patch of scrubby bushland.
Kat’s gumboots squelched on the wet grass. Her breath left little clouds in the chill air.
“Hopefully the wild roos will take on these misfits,” Glenda said as she heaved one of the sacks off the back of the ute and gently placed it on the ground.
Kat suddenly felt very strongly that she didn’t want to let Jake go. She turned to Glenda, about to ask if she could take him home instead. However, Glenda seemed to know what Kat was about to say. Her face clearly said Jake is a wild animal; he belongs in the wild.
With a heavy heart, Kat untied the red rope of her sack – the one that contained Jake – and stood back.
He struggled out, and initially seemed a bit dazed from the trip; looking around for a moment. Then, in a flash, he was gone.
Kat watched him bound away without looking back even once.
Kat felt like her heart was breaking. But as she heard the thump, thump, thump of Jake bounding through the bush, she was surprised to find that she was also smiling.
About the authors
As a little girl, my mind teemed with imagination. I could sit in class and daydream so well I could drown out all other voices. Alien adventures spilled out of my pen and into my books with a flood of enthusiasm. A great passion for stories swept over me and my love of writing began.
My name is Lizbeth Klein and I carry my house with me wherever I go, like a snail. Yep, you guessed it; I live in a caravan.
I’ve travelled this thirsty, windswept country of Australia and seen some amazing wildlife, from huge mobs of hundreds of kangaroos to a feisty family of kookaburras that came and sang for their breakfast and played with pine cones. So much inspiration everywhere!
With a love for fantasy adventure, I have published two young adult novels titled Firelight of Heaven and Greenheart of the Forest. Both have won the Literary Classics Seal of Approval. They are a mystifying, sinister glimpse into a world overtaken by magic. Two brothers are forced to make a perilous journey over a forbidden mountain. They soon discover that things are eerily different on the other side. It is a gripping story of loss, elusive destinies and painful discoveries.
I have also created learning resources for two learning centres, published stories in reading kits in primary schools, published articles online and in magazines, stories in anthologies and poetry.
If you enjoy Dragon Tale, you’d like my quirky plays about rude pirates, silly fairy tales and wacky playground adventures. At present, I’m focussing on a young adult book called The Gryphon Key, as well as some middle grade books and picture books.
So there’s a lot going on in this caravan. You’ve probably seen my light on from where you live.
Would you like to visit my website for more of my writing? bethloria.com.au
I am an Australian author and teacher, with a passion for all things that are furry, four legged and bark. When I’m not at work, I spend my days writing stories, gazing at the ocean and patting my rescue dog, Jack.
Before we adopted Jack, we had two other rescue dogs; Snowy and Sox. I know everyone thinks THEIR pets are the smartest, but these two really were very clever canines as they were both published authors. Sox was first with Dog Logic, a dog training book, (but from a pooch’s perspective), which was published in 2010. Not to be outdone, Snowy put paw to paper (or is that claw to computer?) and wrote her memoir; Midget Bones’ Diary (2014).
My very first published book, D.O.G. was about a boy who desperately wanted a dog and my Short Tales story, ‘Bruno Bright, The Big Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush’ was inspired by my father’s canine companion. See, I told you I was dog obsessed!
Snowy also features in my two picture books; Going Camping and Going Fishing that were published in 2014 by Big Sky Publishing (Sydney). These fun picture books are about the ups and downs of family life, the great outdoors and making the most out of every situation. I wrote them for little people, but readers of all ages enjoy the humour in the books.
For more information on my books (and photos of my darling dogs), go to my website:
Carole used to be a drama teacher. She was also a curriculum writer and school examiner in Victoria. In 2012, Carole graduated from RMIT University with a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. Now she works freelance, editing educational books. This lifelong passion for education motivated her to write stories for young readers. Several of them have been published (by Storm Cloud Publishing; Ziptales UK & Australia; Creative Kids Tales).
Carole has published three books through Checkword Publications: Little people Big Lives (profiles of, and information about, people who live with dwarism); In My World which has two short novels for children: Basketball Tree/Wheels of Fire.
These fictions address a significant gap in Kidlit because their heroes/heroines live with disability. Full details of Carole’s writing can be found at:
I am Karen and there is nothing more that I would like to do than to write for kids. Life is full of smiles and fun things to do. So, if I dare, why not share happiness in stories for kids. But I am a little bit of a scaredy cat too.
I love sharing my stories with kids, but sometimes I get nervous reading them. Sometimes the children draw or paint the characters for me and share their writing with me. That makes me really happy.
Near the beach is the place for me, swimming in the ocean pool and walking Elmo our moodle around our village. A moodle is a cross between a Maltese terrier and a toy poodle.
When Elmo puts his big dog pants on, I have to pull him into line or he will get us into trouble. He likes to take on big dogs. This is a bad idea – a very bad idea.
There is so much that is wonderful about being an Australian. Open and warm, we seek to know others and understand and embrace life. Stories are my way of creating magic about life.
I love animals so lots of my stories have animals in them. Kids are really clever and my stories show just how clever they really, really are.
The very first story I wrote called Wombat Cuddles is about a real wombat named Tonka. A car killed Tonka’s mother and he was taken to the Billabong Sanctuary in Townsville. He was traumatised a second time when Cyclone Yasi struck the sanctuary. The orphaned wombat is now 7 years old. He still lives at the Billabong Sanctuary and still sleeps with his look-alike teddy.
You can Google Tonka to see some pictures and find out more about him.
Visit me on Facebook and check out all my fab holiday pics and the superstar Elmo of course:
Words are a powerful tool in the right hands and can weave magic.
When Kaye Baillie was young, she loved to create books at the kitchen table, often in the long hot summer holidays on the orchard where she grew up in Victoria. Some of her stories were a bit gruesome, like the one she called, The Headless Horseman. This could have been due to the unpleasantness she felt when picking her hundredth case of apricots or grading one more bin of furry peaches. Ick! She still likes scary stories though.
When she got older, she decided to start writing stories again. She had two levelled readers published which are still in print, and then decided that she loved writing picture books and early readers.
She has two books due for publication in 2017. One is a picture book called Message in a Sock set in World War 1 with Midnight Sun Publishing, and an early reader called Archie’s Terrible Case of the Creeps with Wombat Books. (This one has an element of scary although there was no fruit picking involved.)
She is currently working on several picture book biographies. One is set in America and the other two are firmly set in Australia. Each story focuses on strong female characters who do amazing things when they’re told they can’t, like climbing a twenty foot ladder to take the best photo or going up in a hot air balloon, flying aircraft from a Cherokee to a Boeing 737 or racing around Australia’s early roads in a muddy dusty car rally.
To see more about Kaye you can visit her website: kayebaillie.weebly.com.
I’m a teacher and a teacher librarian and reading books to children has always been my favourite thing to do. Now I love writing books for them. I’ve written picture books, short stories, poems, chapter books for young children and a book for teens. At the moment, I’m writing about a pig who wants to ride his skateboard to school because he thinks it’s “cool”, but his parents say he’s not old enough.
I live in Perth in Western Australia, opposite the bush. I love walking in the bush – especially in spring. I love the shy Spider Orchids and I know all their hiding places.
I’m also writing reviews of children’s books for the magazine ‘‘Buzzwords’’. For someone who loves children’s books, it’s an interesting thing to do. You can find mine and others’ reviews on the “Buzzwords” website.
Last year, I was happy to learn that my story, “It’s an Illusion”, was selected for Short Tales and I’m happy again because I’ve just found out that my story, “The Acacia Park Girls’ Treehouse Club” has been accepted for the 2016 edition.
To find out more about me, you can visit my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Joanne-Pummer-688553097956084
Janet would like to tell you that she lives in a windmill, on her own private island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with her two dogs, Bob and George. But she can’t, because she doesn’t. Instead Janet lives in a two storey house in an outer suburb of Melbourne, Australia.
(She does have the occasional kangaroo visiting in her back garden though, and the bit about Bob and George – that part was true.)
Janet loves writing all sorts of stories for children, from picture books to young adults, and is always thinking up new ways for Bongo and his trusty sidekick, to Save the World as We Know it!
Janet hoped you enjoyed her story and that it made you laugh.
Goldie’s 85 books and many prize winning short stories appear in both Australia and internationally. Her ability to bring both the past and other worlds to light, touches hearts.
She is best known for My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove.
Her books for middle grade readers include:
The Youngest Cameleer
The A-ZPI Mystery series – an Australian take on the Famous Five
And three collections of short stories:
Killer Virus, My Horrible Cousins, and Space Footy.
Her latest novels include:
eSide: A journey into Cyberspace
My Holocause Story: Hanna
and Cybertricks which is just out.
She also writes books for adults and young adults.
When she’s not writing, she listens to conversations on trams and buses, reads lots of books and watches many films.
She loves to hear from all readers, but in particular from children.
Goldie’s website is:
I’m Catherine and while I’m not the 8, 10 – hey, or even that 12 year old girl, who used to play Spy Girls with her best friend, pretended she was camping out at the North Pole during a blizzard, wrote news stories for her own newspaper, or who knew that if she sat still for long enough in a garden at sunset she’d glimpse a fairy, that girl’s still in control of plenty of my ideas.
Lots of years have passed since I was 10. I grew up and became a journalist and had not one but three sons – that’s a lot of footy boots, dirt, noise and fun! We live in a house surrounded by gum trees, with four cats, two birds, two fish and a koala in our front garden. I still dream about camping out in the North Pole, can’t walk through a garden without looking for fairies and search for mermaids in rock pools whenever I visit the beach.
I write all the time – I can’t help it. I’ve been writing for fun since I was quite small and have been lucky enough to have had a career as a journalist and media adviser. Now I’m really excited because, later this year, I’ve got a picture book coming out with Australia’s Wombat Books and I’ve written three plays for primary school children, also out later this year.
Not so long ago, I finished a middle grade chapter book and now I’m writing an historical fiction aimed at young to adult readers – so keep your fingers crossed for me that a publisher will love those stories and you can read them somewhere soon.
I started writing this story, Frankie’s Indoor Adventure, last winter sitting by my fireplace one evening as the rain hammered down and the wind swooshed around in the treetops. My youngest boy was saying how bored he was and had nothing to do, so I helped him make a blanket cave. We piled it up with cushions and he ended up putting his sleeping bag in there and spending the night.
That’s when Frankie walked into my imagination and I began to write about his adventures on a stormy day when he was stuck inside with ‘nothing to do’.
I should have a website up and running soon, so if you like, just Google me and you’ll find me.
Happy reading and always stay as wonderful as you are!
I was like Weird Wilma when I was young, then I grew up into Ms Chalmer. I like cats and frogs, licorice allsorts, and green slime with garlic. Last Halloween, I wore a pointed hat with cobwebs and spiders on it.
I write a lot. And read a lot. I also sing with jazz bands.
I write short stories and longer stories, both fiction and fantasy, and poems and songs. (Songs to Grow With, Bushfire Press; My Dog Rupert, “Sing”, ABC books.)
Most of my previous books were published for primary educational publishers under pen names. The last series was for Clean Slate Press in New Zealand, Signatures Sets 1 & 2, as Jaz Ghent. In the first series, there is a grandmother who is part dragon and a boy who can talk to birds. In the second, a circus tent that can move in time and place.
(But not into Space…)
At the moment, I am writing two fantasy novels for the 8-12 age group; one set in Scotland and one in Melbourne. The Scottish one is based on one of my ancestors from the 16th century. The other one has two unusual cats in it.
I hope to finish both books before the end of this year.
When Darcy-Lee Tindale is not dreaming of trekking across the Amazon or Congo jungles, she teaches drama at a private girl’s school in NSW, Australia. Her love for drama and adventure led to not only teaching, but performing. She has appeared in television commercials, film and on stage.
When not acting or teaching drama, she directs plays for theatre companies including the Newtown Theatre, St Martin’s Theatre, Parramatta Riverside Theatre, Belvoir Theatre and the Seymour Centre in Sydney, Australia. Her favourite plays that she has directed include Hairspray, Annie, Roald Dahl’s The Twits and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Her love for writing started with writing comedy for radio, stage, media personalities, comedians and theatre restaurants. She then went on to writing short plays, short stories and long poems for the School Magazine, Celapene Press, Tincture, ZineWest, Black and Blue Publications, Penguin Books, Brumples Magazine, Newcastle Anthology, Stringybark Publications, Storm Cloud Publishing, and children’s books published with McGraw Hill Education.
Darcy was super excited to recently have her middle grade reader novel aimed at age 8-12 year olds published. Thumb Pickles and Other Cautionary Preserves is a creepy novel about a small town that loses their thumbs to a thumb thief.
When not writing, Darcy loves to kayak, walk her dog, hang out with her teenage son, listen to music and read. When not teaching during the day, she is up late studying. (See! Homework never ends!) Darcy is currently in her final year of studying a BA in Creative Writing at Griffith University.
Julie Murphy writes fiction and non fiction for children. She trained as a zoologist and zookeeper, and loves being near animals and nature. Her favourite place is the beach. Any beach. But forests and deserts are pretty nice too. So are mountains.
She lives in Melbourne, which has very few of these things (although she does work part time at an urban farm).
Julie’s books are mostly non fiction picture books about animals and the environment, for readers ranging from 4 to 14. Two are in award winning series.
Her first fiction picture book, GILLY’S TREASURES, was released in 2016. She also writes stories and poems for various children’s collections.
Julie is happiest when writing playful picture books that have fun with words.
Julie’s web site:
Storm Cloud ebooks
Four young readers
Under the Bridge – for readers 8 years upwards
Girls Can’t Play – for readers 8 years upwards
Slimming Down Santa – for readers 8 years upwards
The Great Tadpole Hunt – for readers 6 years upwards
Scully the Cat – a rhyming book for readers 6 years upwards
Who’s Scared of the Dark? – a picture book for 18 months upwards
Grandpa’s Hat – a picture book for non or beginning readers, or foreign language readers
Short Tales – a short story collection for readers 8-12 years
Short Tales 2 – a short story collection for readers 8-12 years
The Virtues of Drac (complete edition)
Into the Land of Clubs (The Virtues of Drac: Book One)
Through the Land of Diamonds (The Virtues of Drac: Book Two)
Fallen Virtues (The Virtues of Drac: Book Three)
For readers 15 years to adult
By Any Other Name
Shoulder of the Giant
For information and updates on Storm Cloud books, writers and illustrators, visit the Storm Cloud Publishing page on Facebook: