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A mouth-watering feast of stories cooked up by the highly acclaimed author, Nigel Gray, and sumptuously decorated by the celebrated artist, Cedric Baxter.

by the highly acclaimed author, Nigel Gray, and sumptuously decorated by the celebrated artist, “Everything of Nigel Gray’s I have read is Cedric Baxter. Lip-smackingly good.

humane, wise and linguistically melodic.” Kurt Vonnegut

A BAKER’S DOZEN

Thirteen stories in one book to be savoured by children from five to twelve years of age. Charming, thought-provoking and bubbling over with laughs. feast Lip-smackingly good. A mouth-watering of stories cooked up

NIGEL GRAY / CEDRIC BAX


A Baker’s Dozen comprises thirteen stories for children of all ages. Eight of the stories appear here for the first time, while five have been previously published. Exciting, inspiring, tender, loving, charming, sensitive, extraordinary, thought-provoking, heart-warming, lyrical, subtle, funny, innovative, gentle, quirky, fantastic, witty, clever, crazy, delightful, original, exuberant, impeccable… This is how reviewers and experts have described previous children’s books by Nigel Gray. Wow! And you will find all these qualities here in one rich volume. One critic wrote: Gray writes superbly. His choice of words, his ability to describe a scene or situation simply yet meaningfully and his gentle, humorous way of exploring significant themes mark him as an outstanding writer. Others said: Gray understands that children are capable of insight and compassion, even into complex issues; possibilities for follow-up in the classroom seem endless; layers of meaning can be enjoyed at each level; the whole book jumps with joy; it is full of special insights and a wicked sense of fun; he has a wonderful line in stories from the child’s viewpoint; this is a book to be treasured. They could have been describing A Baker’s Dozen. And here you have a marvellous combination of words and pictures that goes way beyond any age barriers – a harmony between writer and illustrator that will capture the imagination of young and old alike. Cedric Baxter, a one-time newspaper cartoonist and art teacher, now a highly esteemed fine artist, has made a Gold Medal leap into children’s book illustration.


NG: For Oliver, Rosie, Grandma and Bob – all together now. CB: For Akasha, my great granddaughter with the curly mouth.

First published in 2007 by Fontaine Press P.O. Box 948, Fremantle 6959 Western Australia www.fontainepress.com Text © Nigel Gray 2007 Illustrations © Cedric Baxter 2007 This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Enquiries should be made to the author. www.nigelgray-author.com The moral rights of the author and illustrator have been asserted. The National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication Gray, Nigel, 1941- . A baker’s dozen. 1st ed. For primary school aged children. ISBN 9780980362398 (pbk.). I. Baxter, Cedric. II. Title. A823.3 Printed by Advance Press Pre-press by The Big Picture Factory


CONTENTS Little Grace’s Good Idea

9

All Together Now

17

The Wicked Stepmother

25

The True Story of Noah’s Ark

33

Little Pig’s Tale

41

Doctor Frank’s Monster

47

Just an Ordinary Day

53

I’ve Got Love

63

The Feast

71

Will There Be Gold?

79

The Garden Dragon

89

Sharon and Darren

99

Private Eye of New York

111


7

Little Grace saw it on the television news.

Old Mrs Poric, who lived at the end of the street, had

been saving all year for her grandchildren’s Christmas presents. She’d saved up a hundred dollars. On Friday, she’d set out to do her Christmas shopping. Then something terrible had happened: she’d had her handbag snatched. Old Mrs Poric was crying. The television man asked her how she felt. She said she was heartbroken. 9


On Saturday morning, Little Grace had a good idea.

She set up a stall outside her house.

She took her collection of river stones and seashells.

She polished each one carefully and set it on a sheet of coloured paper so that it looked its best. She wrote out a beautiful sign in her best handwriting, with decorations around the edge. The sign said: The Mrs Porridge Apeel – only ten cents eech!

She had already sold two shells when Rashmi and

Sunita came by.

‘What are you doing?’ asked Rashmi.

Grace explained.

10


Rashmi said, ‘That’s a good idea, Little Grace. I’ll do a

stall, too.’

‘That’s stupid,’ said Sunita. ‘You’ll never make a

hundred dollars.’

That morning, Rashmi had been clearing out her room.

She set up a big stall outside her house and displayed all the toys and clothes she no longer wanted. She put a price on each item.

Bony Benjamino came by. Rashmi told Bony about

Grace’s good idea.

‘I’ll call for the others,’ he said. ‘They can all give stuff

for the stalls.’

‘Waste of time,’ said Sunita. ‘No one will have anything

to give.’

Bony went around knocking on doors.

All the kids came out to see what was going on.

Nearly everyone gave things to sell on the stalls.

‘We need more tables,’ said Delroy.

More tables appeared.

‘It’s no good having hundreds of tables if there’s no

customers,’ said Sunita. ‘You’ll never sell anything.’

‘We could move to the top of the street where there’s

lots of passers-by,’ suggested Grace.

11


‘Good thinking, Grace,’ said Delroy. So the market was

moved to a better location.

‘Roll up! Roll up!’ shouted Joe. ‘You won’t get better

bargains than this for Christmas.’

‘Remember the Christmas spirit!’ shouted Blossom.

‘Buy from us and support a good cause.’

‘Cheap at half the price!’ yelled Lucky.

‘Be quiet!’ said Rashmi.

‘Never mind the quality – feel the width!’ yelled

Lucky.

‘Shut up!’ said Delroy.

At teatime, the kids were told they had to pack up.

They put the tables away and took back the unsold items. Then they counted the money. ‘Forty-seven dollars and two cents,’ said Mai.

‘How come there’s two cents?’ asked Sunita.

‘A little boy wanted one of my ‘Star Wars’ figures,’ said

Fitzy, ‘and two cents was all he had.’

‘Forty-seven dollars is good,’ said Sam. ‘But it’s not

enough.’

‘I’ll give my pocket money,’ said Grace.

‘So will I,’ said Babs.

‘I would,’ said Lucky, ‘but they stopped it this week.’

12


‘Why?’ asked Mai.

‘Not telling,’ said Lucky.

They all gave their pocket money,

except Sunita. ‘There’s no point,’ she said.

Lucky even persuaded his parents to

give his stopped pocket money to the fund.

They

counted

the

money

again.

‘Eighty-seven dollars and three cents,’ said Mai.

‘Three cents?’ said Sunita.

‘Eighty-seven dollars is not enough,’

said Sam.

‘We could do jobs,’ said Grace.

‘Little Grace, you’re a genius,’ said

Sam.

Sunday morning they went to the

houses in their street and asked for jobs. They did weeding. They did sweeping. They cleaned downstairs windows. They took babies and dogs for walks. They washed cars. They did all sorts of jobs (though some did more jobs than others). 13


Grace and Bony even got to decorate a Christmas tree.

On Sunday afternoon they all gathered, and counted

the money again. ‘One hundred and seven dollars and one cent,’ said Mai.

‘One cent?’ said Sunita. But no one heard her. They

were cheering their heads off.

Podge had a roll of sticky tape. They stuck the coins

to that in a long row. They folded it over and over, like a concertina, and placed it on the wad of notes. Then they marched to Mrs Poric’s house. Little Grace was at the back.

Just as Delroy was about to knock on the door, Rashmi

called out, ‘Little Grace should give the money. It was her good idea.’

‘That’s right,’ said Blossom. Blossom was nearly as big

as a grown-up. No one argued with her.

So Little Grace was pushed to the front. And Delroy

reached up and knocked on the door.

‘Who’s that?’ called Mrs Poric.

‘It’s Grace,’ said Little Grace.

‘And friends,’ said Blossom.

Mrs Poric opened the door a crack and peered out.

There were fourteen kids on her front path – fifteen if you counted baby Brendan on Fitzy’s hip. 14


Mrs Poric opened the door wide. ‘What do you want?’

she said.

‘Here’s a hundred dollars,’ said Little Grace.

‘One hundred and seven dollars and one cent,’ said

Mai.

‘So you can do your Christmas shopping,’ said Little

Grace.

Mrs Poric took the money and looked at it in wonder.

Then some tears ran down her face. ‘You’re all angels sent from heaven,’ said Mrs Poric.

‘No,’ said Little Grace, ‘We’re just the kids from your

street.’

15


16


‘We haven’t got two ha’pennies to rub together,’ said Lucy’s Dad.

‘I’m at my wits’ end,’ said Lucy’s Mum. ‘What are we

going to do?’

‘It’s all right for you,’ Dad said to Charlie. Chubby

Charlie wagged his tail and rested his chin on Dad’s knee. 17


Jeremy, Lucy’s big brother, was practising juggling

with an apple, an onion and a potato.

Lucy went to the little room where the junk was kept.

She poked about in there until she found what she was looking for: Dad’s old guitar.

‘What have you got this out for?’ Dad asked.

‘So we can earn some money,’ Lucy said.

‘How can we earn money with this?’

‘We can go busking in the shopping mall,’ Lucy said.

‘There was an opera singer there last week. And a man playing bongo drums.’

18

‘I can’t do that,’ said Dad. ‘I can’t play well enough.’


‘You haven’t played for ages,’ said Mum. ‘Play for us

now – to cheer us up.’

Jeremy was juggling with a feather duster, a tin whistle

and a torch.

Dad played, Yesterday, and, Can’t Buy Me Love, and

Mum sang along in her clear sweet voice.

Jeremy went on practising his juggling with a carrot,

a soup ladle and a leek.

‘Dad, you’re brilliant on the guitar,’ Lucy said. ‘You can

do it.’ And she persuaded him to have a go.

Next day was Saturday. Lucy and her dad went to the

shopping mall. Dad played, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and, With a Little Help From My Friends. Lucy went round with the hat.

There were other people busking, too. There were fire

eaters and stilt walkers, and people who just stood as still as statues. People gathered around them like ants around a jam sandwich at a picnic. But Lucy and her dad were in a lonely corner of the mall, and nobody took any notice of them.

They stayed all day, but they only earned enough for

a cheese roll each and their bus fare home.

‘How much have you got?’ Mum asked.

‘Nothing,’ said Dad. 19


‘Well, there was a strongman,’ Lucy said, ‘who could

break bricks with his head. And a lady who rode a onewheel bicycle. We must try again next week. We must all do something. Mum, you must sing.’

‘I can’t do that,’ said Mum.

‘You can,’ Lucy said. ‘You must.’

‘I can’t do anything,’ said Jeremy, who was balancing

a broom on his nose.

‘Yes, you can. You can juggle.’

‘Oh, that,’ he said.

But what could Lucy do? She couldn’t play an

instrument, or sing, or juggle. Nor could she do magic tricks or walk on stilts. Mum and Dad and Jeremy practised all week. Lucy racked her brains.

20


On Saturday they all went to the mall. Charlie stayed

home. He looked upset. ‘We could have taken you if you were thinner,’ Mum said.

Dad played, All You Need is Love, and, Here Comes

the Sun. Mum sang beautifully – just like Joan what’sher-name. Jeremy juggled all day. When he dropped his orange and it split, a lady gave him another one out of her shopping bag.

And Lucy? In the bottom of her wardrobe she had found

the dress she’d once worn for a school dancing display. It was a bit small – but it was still pretty. And in the mall, she hopped and skipped and jumped, and danced and pranced and twirled and whirled. She pirouetted up to passers-by, and lots of them put money in her hat.

When they packed up for the day, they went to a café

for a drink, and counted their takings. ‘We’re rich,’ said Dad.

Before the shops closed, they bought Jeremy some

real juggling balls and clubs. They bought Dad some new strings for his guitar. They bought Mum some lozenges to soothe her throat. And they bought some meaty chews to take home for Charlie.

‘And what about you, little darling?’ said Dad. ‘What

can we buy for you?’ 21


‘There’s nothing I need,’ Lucy said.

‘Well, we must have a treat for you. I know. We’ll go

to a movie. What would you like to see?’

So Lucy chose a movie. And they had popcorn and ice

cream.

When they came out they were starving, so they went

to a café for a meal.

It was late when they got home. ‘How much have we

got left?’ asked Mum.

Dad turned out his pockets. ‘Erm... nothing,’ he said.

‘Don’t say we’ve spent it all!’ said Mum.

‘It’s all right for you,’ Dad said to Charlie. Charlie

22


wagged his tail and rested his chin on Dad’s knee.

‘Don’t worry, Mum,’ Lucy said. ‘We can go busking

again next week.’

And they did.

And even though he was chubby, Charlie went too,

dressed up nicely in sunglasses and a silk scarf, and wearing Mum’s old straw hat.

23


24


25


When I just lived with my dad, we had lots of fun.

We used broom handles for swords and bin lids for

shields.

We climbed onto the table and pretended it was a

boat.

We opened up the bed-settee to make a delivery

truck.

We put sofa cushions at the bottom of the stairs, and

jumped eight steps.

We turned my bedroom furniture upside down and

made a den.

Then one day my dad told me I was going to have a

new mum. I knew all about Wicked Stepmothers – I’d read about them in books.

Wicked stepmothers made you do all the housework

while they sat with their feet up, painting their nails.

When they made a chocolate cake they ate it all

themselves and never gave you a single crumb.

They never bought you any clothes, so you had to

go about in rags and walk with bare feet in the frosty winter forest collecting sticks for a fire you had to light but weren’t allowed to sit beside.

26


All you got to eat were leftovers from the servants’

meal, and you were supposed to eat them with the dog on the kitchen floor, and the dog wouldn’t let you have any.

If you sang while you were working, the wicked

stepmother would lock you in a cage hung from the kitchen ceiling and not feed you for a week.

One day, she would take you deep into the forest and

run away at nightfall and leave you there alone at the mercy of the wolves – and you had to take bread in your pocket and drop crumbs all the way and hope the birds didn’t eat them before you tried to find your way home.

27


The very next day she’d make you walk all the way

through the haunted forest till you reached the witch’s house, where the fence would be made of children’s bones. She’d push you inside and lock the door. Then you’d have to think of a way to outwit the witch and make good your escape, and run like billy-o pursued by all the wild beasts of the night – or else you’d be done for.

All too soon came the day when the wicked stepmother moved in. ‘Hello,’ she said, ‘my name’s Marge, as in bread. This here,’ she said, pointing to a wicked hound, ‘is Wild Thing.’

I knew it, I thought, she’s going to feed me to the

dog. 28


‘I call him that,’ she said, ‘because he’s a great big

softie. And this here,’ pointing to a wicked baby, ‘is the Blob. I call him that because he just sits there,’ Marge said, ‘and grins.’

‘Who’s its father?’ I asked.

‘Your dad’s going to be his father now.’

Oh, no, I thought, he can’t be a father to the Blob. He’s

my dad.

Dad and the wicked stepmother brought some things

in from the car. Any minute now she’s going to make me start tidying up, I thought, and cleaning and scrubbing and polishing. ‘I’ve brought a balloon,’ said Marge. ‘Let’s play balloon football. Me and Wild Thing against you and your dad. The Blob can be in goal.’

It was a great game. Wild Thing was the star. He scored

seven goals past the Blob – then he burst the ball.

‘Let’s see if we can get around the room without

touching the floor,’ said Marge. ‘The floor’s the sea. If you touch the floor the sharks’ll get you.’

Dad was best at that, because he had the longest legs.

Then Dad made a cup of tea while Marge emptied her

bags and boxes. ‘Hey,’ said Marge, ‘we could use these cartons for bobsleighing down the stairs.’

‘Great idea,’ said Dad. 29


We took it in turns. We sat in our carton at the top of

the stairs, pushed off, and bumped all the way down.

We all got sore bums.

Then Dad said, ‘Blimey! Look at the time! Way past

your bedtime.’

I said, ‘But we haven’t had any dinner yet.’

‘There’s a full moon,’ said Marge. ‘Let’s have a midnight

feast.’

‘Good idea,’ said Dad.

We all went out into the night and walked to the

woods. Here we go, I thought. This is it. All that fun and games was just to put me off my guard.

When we got there, we made a circle of stones on a

flat boulder, and we collected sticks and lit a fire. Then 30


we fried eggs on a shovel, and toasted muffins, and roasted chestnuts and marshmallows.

After I had stuffed myself to the brim, and felt about

as lively as the Blob, we sat by the fire and looked at the stars in the Milky Way, and sang songs, until Dad said he was tired and wanted to go home to bed.

Wild Thing ran hither and thither, Dad carried the

Blob, and Marge gave me a piggyback. I closed my eyes and rested my face in Marge’s hair, which smelt smoky from the fire. She was singing We All Live in a Yellow Submarine, quietly to herself.

Maybe having a wicked stepmother isn’t going to be

so bad after all, I thought.

And I fell asleep.

31


32


Noah and his wife were the owners of a private zoo. They had three sons, all with silly names: Shem, Ham, and Japh. The boys were all grown up now, and all married.

‘It’s going to be a wet winter,’ Noah said to his wife.

‘How do you know?’ asked Mrs Noah.

‘I can feel it in my bones.’

‘Well I hope we’re not going to be flooded out again,’

complained Mrs Noah. ‘Last year, everything in my bottom drawers went mildew.’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Noah. ‘This year I’m going to build

an ark.’

‘What’s an ark, Dad?’ asked Shem.

‘Well,’ said Noah, ‘it’s a… sort of… floating hold-all.’

‘What about the animals, Dad?’ asked Ham. 33


‘We’ll only have room for two of each sort of animal,’

said Noah. ‘So we must make sure that one’s a male and one’s a female.’

‘Why, Dad?’ asked Japh.

‘Well, because… so that… oh, never mind,’ said Noah.

34


So they set to work to build an ark with lots of double

cabins of different sizes. Elephants, for example, needed larger cabins than budgerigars; snakes needed longer cabins than snails; and kangaroos needed higher ceilings than crocodiles (otherwise the roos would get headaches


– from too much bouncing on the bed and banging their heads on the ceiling).

When the ark was finally all ship-shape, they had

to load it up with plenty of food for all the animals, human and non-human – because it wouldn’t do if the passengers got hungry and began eating each other! The women made hay while the sun shone, Shem upset the applecart, Ham got in a stew, and Japh got told off for not using his loaf.

Then came the day when they had to get the animals

on board, which was easier said than done – especially as Mrs Noah wanted them all to go to the toilet first.

Trying to get the mare to move was like flogging a

dead horse; the monkeys got up to all sorts of monkey tricks; the geese kept swanning around; someone put the cat among the pigeons; and no one could find the ostriches because they’d buried their heads in the sand.

To make matters worse, the elephants forgot to pack

their trunks, one of the cows kicked the bucket, both camels got the hump, and the squirrels couldn’t find their nuts.

Then there was trouble with the orang utan. ‘He won’t

go on board unless the bears go in front,’ Shem told his dad. 36

‘Why not?’ asked Noah.


‘I don’t know,’ said Shem. ‘Maybe he doesn’t want to

walk up the gangplank with a bear behind.’

Finally, they were all on board: the human beings, the

beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and everything that crept and crawled upon the earth.

‘Do we have to take them?’ complained Mrs Japh.

‘Crawlies give me the creeps!’

Mrs Noah peered out of the porthole. The weather

was wonderful. There was not a cloud to be seen. ‘So much for your bones!’ she said to her husband. The sun shone for a week!

Then one day it began to rain. It rained cats and dogs.

‘As if we haven’t got enough of them already!’ said Mrs Ham.

37


It rained and rained and rained, and wouldn’t stop. It

came down in bucketfuls. Ham got hit on the head with a bucket and grew a lump like an ostrich egg.

‘It’s raining, it’s pouring,’ chanted Shem and Japh,

‘The old man is snoring.’

‘It’s not me,’ protested Noah. ‘It’s that chimpanzee.’

‘It looks as though we’re in for a wet weekend,’ said

Mrs Noah. ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get the washing dry.’

And it rained for forty days and forty nights. The clouds

were so black, every day was like night; and the wind howled like a banshee. The little ark was blown hither and thither by the wind, and buffeted this way and that by the waves, and most of the people and beasts were as sick as a dog, and the dog was as sick as a parrot. And the whole world became one great ocean, and everybody who wasn’t in Noah’s ark was drowned. And Mrs Noah wrung her hands and said, ‘Whatever will become of us – even the drawers on my bottom are going mildew.’

And then one day, the rain stopped. The sun came out.

The floods receded. The earth steamed. Noah opened a porthole and let the dove go out for a sticky-beak. And after a while she came back with a twig of rather soggy olive leaves. And Noah rejoiced. 38


Japh was puzzled. ‘What’s so special about soggy olive

leaves?’ he asked.

‘Well, dear,’ said Mrs Noah, ‘it means… you see… oh,

never mind.’

And by a most extraordinary coincidence, when the

waters went down, Noah’s ark settled right back in the very same spot from which it had started. 39


After the mopping up operation, Noah’s family unloaded

all the animals and birds and creepy-crawly things, and got them all back into their cages in the zoo.

When all was ready, Mrs Noah took her place by the

cash till at the entrance, and Noah put up the ‘OPEN’ sign.

Then Ham said, ‘Dad, if everyone drowned in the

flood, who’s going to come to the zoo?’

‘I never thought of that,’ said Noah. ‘We’re ruined!’

So, Noah gathered his sons and daughters-in-law

around him. ‘There’s nothing else for it,’ he said. ‘You must all go forth, and be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.’

‘How do we do that, Dad?’ asked Japh.

‘Well,’ said Noah, ‘you… what I mean is… oh, never

mind!’

40


On Monday, Little Pig’s dad told him, ‘Next Sunday, it’s your mum’s birthday.’

‘Will she have a party?’ asked Little Pig.

‘No, I don’t think she’ll have a party,’ said Dad.

‘Will she have a cake with lots of candles?’

‘No, I don’t think she’d want a cake with lots of

candles.’

‘Will we sing Happy Birthday to You?’

‘Yes. We must sing Happy Birthday to You.’

‘And will we give her presents?’

‘Of course,’ said Dad. ‘I’ll give her a present, and you

should give her a present, too.’ 41


‘What will I give her?’ asked Little Pig.

‘I don’t know,’ said Dad. ‘You’ll have to think of

something.’ On Tuesday, Little Pig tried to think of something exciting. Perhaps his mum would like an aeroplane so she could fly high, high above the town… or a rocket so she could explore the moon… or a spaceship so she could venture into outer space?

But Little Pig knew he couldn’t really give her a

spaceship, or a rocket, or even an aeroplane. For one thing, their garage was too small: she’d have nowhere to keep it. He’d have to think of something else. On Wednesday, Little Pig thought of flowers and fruit. He’d give his mum an orchard – an orchard with pears and plums, apples and apricots, with daffodils and crocuses growing in the lush grass under the trees. He knew she’d like that because she was always weeding her window box, and growing plants in pots from apple pips and cherry stones.

Little Pig went to see Mr Green, the gardener.

‘I’m sure your mum would love an orchard,’ said Mr

Green, ‘but your back yard is too small, and trees take 42


years to grow. It was a good idea, Little Pig, but I’m afraid you’ll have to think of something else.’ On Thursday, Little Pig knew what he had to do. He raided his piggy bank and took his pennies to the shop.

He would buy his mum a silk gown, and a warm coat,

and shiny shoes, and furry gloves, and glittering jewels for her to wear around her neck.

But the shopkeeper counted Little Pig’s pennies and

said, ‘I’m sorry, Little Pig, but you don’t have enough money for any of those things.’

‘Not even for the gloves?’ asked Little Pig.

‘Not even for one glove,’ said the shopkeeper. 43


On Friday, Little Pig felt sad. In two days it would be his mum’s birthday and he had nothing to give her. What was he to do?

He asked his dad.

‘Why don’t you make her something?’ suggested

Dad.

So Little Pig set to work.

He’d make her a useful box for keeping things in. He

fetched the tools, and found some old pieces of wood in the shed. The wood splintered. The box broke.

He’d make her a beautiful necklace of beads. He got

the beads from the odds and ends drawer, and threaded the beads on cotton. The cotton snapped and the beads spilled all over the floor.

He’d do a painting in rainbow colours. He got out

the paints and found a large sheet of white paper. But he knocked over the pot of black paint and spoiled his painting with an ugly blot.

He’d bake some cakes. He mixed up flour and milk

and eggs and sultanas and dates, and greased the baking tray with margarine. But the cakes burnt and came out of the oven as hard as stones.

44


On Saturday, Little Pig was in despair. He thought and thought until his brain hurt.

And then…

…he had a brainwave!

He gathered together the things he would need: a

piece of paper, a pen and a red ribbon. On Sunday, it was Little Pig’s mum’s birthday. After breakfast, Little Pig and Dad sang Happy Birthday to You. Then Dad gave Mum a present… and while no one was looking, Little Pig slipped away.

Mum unwrapped her present. It was a watch.

‘That’s because I want you to have a good time,’ Dad

said. And Mum gave Dad a kiss.

Then, on the table, Mum found a note. It said:

45


Mum went up to the bedroom.

There was certainly something in the bed.

She pulled back the covers and there was…

…Little Pig, with a red ribbon tied around him in a

bow.

‘Happy Birthday, Mum,’ said Little Pig.

‘Oh, Little Pig,’ said Mum, ‘this is the best present

you could possibly have given me. There’s nothing in the world I’d rather have.’

Little Pig beamed from ear to ear.

And Mum hugged Little Pig tight, and gave him a big

sloppy kiss.

46


Doctor Frankenstein didn’t have any children. He wanted a son he could call Frank Junior.

He tried to make one.

But he made a mistake.

He made a monster. 47


When it came to life, the little monster said, ‘I want to

go out to play.’

‘I’m sorry, Frank Junior,’ said the doctor, ‘but you’re

not allowed out.’

So young Frank tied up the doctor, and stuffed him

into the rubbish bin.

Then he went out to play.

Darren Smart was playing in his garden. His mum was doing the weeding.

Frank looked over the hedge. ‘Hello,’ he said to Darren.

‘Can I play?’

Darren screamed and ran to his mum. ‘Look at that

ugly monster!’ he yelled.

Darren’s mum threw clods of earth at Frank. ‘Get back

where you came from!’ she shouted. ‘How dare you!’

‘She’s nuts,’ thought Frank, and bolted.

Frank saw a bus waiting at the bus stop. He decided to go for a ride.

Frank got on the bus.

All the passengers rushed to get off.

So did the driver.

The bus didn’t go anywhere.

So, after a while, Frank got off, too.

4 8


Carol Singer was playing in the park. Her mum sat on a bench reading a book.

‘Hello,’ Frank said to Carol. ‘Can I play?’

Carol screamed and ran to her mum. ‘Look at that

ugly monster!’ she yelled.

Mrs Singer called the police.

Two police officers came.

Frank tied the police officers in knots, and threw them

into the pond.

49


Frank saw a snack bar filled with people.

A sign said: GET YOUR MONSTER BURGERS HERE.

So Frank went in.

All the people sitting at the tables ran out.

And so did the people serving at the counter.

And so did the chef.

Then Frank thought that perhaps the sign didn’t mean

burgers for monsters. Perhaps it meant burgers made of monsters.

So Frank ran out, too.

Wayne Sleek was playing by the river. Wayne’s mum lay on the grass, sleeping in the sun.

‘Hello,’ Frank said to Wayne. ‘Can I play?’

Wayne screamed and woke his mum. ‘Look at that

ugly monster!’ he yelled.

Wayne’s mum called the police.

But the police were tied up.

The police chief called the army.

Soldiers came in a tank.

Frank swam across the river, and ran for his life.

The tank sank.

Frank got away.

50


Frank saw a sign outside a store. MONSTER SALE, it read.

Frank didn’t want to be sold.

He saw a sign outside a newsagent’s shop. MONSTER

SHAKE-UP, it said. Frank didn’t want to be shaken up.

Frank took off.

Cherry Stone was sitting on the kerb. Her mum had gone to the club.

‘Hello,’ Frank said to Cherry. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Nothing,’ said Cherry. ‘No one will play with me.’

‘I’ll play with you,’ said Frank.

‘All right,’ said Cherry.

51


‘What will we play?’ asked Frank.

‘We’ll play families,’ said Cherry. ‘I’ll be the mum. You

can be the baby.’

‘I’d like that,’ said Frank. ‘I never was a baby.’

Cherry wrapped the baby in its shawl.

She gave the baby its bottle.

She sang the baby a lullaby.

And she rocked the baby to sleep.

‘You’re not a very pretty baby,’ said Cherry. ‘But you’re

pretty nice.’

‘I think you’re pretty nice, too,’ said Frank.

And they played all day.

52


Robin’s dad had given him a new ball. Robin kicked the ball in front of him all the way to school.

At lunchtime, Robin and his friends played soccer.

Robin scored three goals: one in the other team’s goal, and two in his own!

After lunch, Robin’s class had Chemistry with Miss

Smart (otherwise known as Smarty-pants). They were doing an experiment with Very Dangerous Substances. They mixed them together, and heated them over a Bunsen burner. They had to be careful that the mixture didn’t get too hot.

53


Robin’s friend, Godfrey, was doing tricks with matches

at the back of the lab. When he saw Smarty-pants coming he quickly stuffed the matches into his pocket.

Later, Robin noticed smoke coming from Godfrey’s

shorts. He thought his friend was on fire. ‘Fire! Fire!’ he shouted. Specs Spooner, who was near the door, smashed the glass of the fire alarm case and pressed the fire alarm.

54


In panic, students and staff from throughout the school

ran out into the playground. Fire Drill teachers ushered them away from the buildings. Just as well: the Bunsen burners had been left burning. The Very Dangerous Substances had become too hot. The school blew up! All the kids cheered.

There being no school to go to, they were sent home.

Robin dribbled his ball in front of him as he went.

The wall beneath Peg’s sweet shop window was the

goal. Peg’s dog, Meg, was the goalkeeper. (The goalkeeper was sleeping in the sun.) It was the last minute of the match. Robin (playing in the World Cup Final against Brazil), had to score to save the game. He shot. It was a sizzler.

Oops! Too high! Over the bar! Crash! Right through

the sweet shop window! Broken glass showered over Meg, tinkling like frozen rain.

Meg woke with a start and took off around the corner

like an express train.

Lucifer, the old moth-eaten tomcat, was sitting on the

kerb, minding his own business, washing carefully behind his tail, one leg erect like a radio mast. Lucifer saw Meg coming towards him a like a big bad wolf that hadn’t had a meal for a month. 55


Lucifer ran for his life. He raced across the road. He

didn’t even wait to see if there was a zebra crossing. (Very few zebras crossed the road outside Peg’s shop as a matter of fact.)

Miss Smart, the Chemistry teacher, was on her way to

the market on her bicycle to buy a new cane.

Lucifer crossed her path. Now, everyone knows that

a black cat crossing your path means bad luck. Lucifer certainly brought old Smarty-pants bad luck.

Miss Smart applied her brakes rather too smartly,

went over her handlebars like an Olympic diver, and did a belly flop on the road.

56


Dr Doolittle, in his new car, was on an emergency

call. (Mrs Bumbleton had mended her toilet seat with superglue, and Mr Bumbleton had sat on it. Now there was a long queue of little Bumbletons outside the toilet.)

Dr Doolittle missed Miss Smart by swerving across

the street. Coming the other way was a convoy of trucks carrying Signor Spaghetti’s Splendiferous Circus.

Dr Doolittle’s new car crashed into the old trailer that

transported the cage of Caesar, the man-eating lion.

The cage door burst open. Ceasar, being particularly

partial to Christians, espied a passing vicar, the Reverend Sermon, and gave chase. The vicar turned on his heel and ran into the Town Hall.

It was the day of the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. Inside

the Town Hall the important personages of the town were tucking in. Even though most of them had left their greens, they were helping themselves to seconds of pudding when in ran the vicar, his dog collar all askew.

Without so much as a by-your-leave, the Reverend

Sermon jumped like a mountain goat onto the table, and with one foot in the jelly and the other in the custard, took a flying leap for the chandelier.

Ignoring the swinging vicar (who was swinging back

and forth like the clapper in one of his own church bells), and seeing the entrance of the lion, the diners hastily dispersed, leaving their meal unfinished. 57


In no time at all the Town Hall was empty of all but

the vicar (– who was still hanging around).

The diners poured from the various exits like the

Charge of the Light Brigade, with Caesar hard on the heels of the hindmost.

58


They ran for their lives down

the Main Street towards the bridge that crossed the river and led to the Market Square.

59


The town’s rowing eight was at this moment practising

on the river. A good number of the important personages, having decided that the boat offered a good means of escape, leapt into it from the bridge.

The boat, the rowing eight, and these important

personages, all sank, with a lot of froth and bubbles. And all they had to say for themselves was: ‘Blub, blub, blub, blub – blub, blub, gurgle!’

The rest of the diners ran pell-mell into the market

place. Shoppers and stallholders alike, seeing the human avalanche descending upon them, with Caesar bringing up the rear, abandoned their bags and produce and joined the flight leaving behind calamity and chaos.

As the human tide flowed across the busy road, cars and

vans, trucks and buses bashed into each other with much crunching and scrunching, and smashing and crashing.

One hundred and twenty-three vehicles were involved

in the worst pile-up in the history of the town. Travellers were drowning in rivers of oil, lakes of wine and seas of cement, or were buried under piles of pasta, mountains of mutton and heaps of hay.

The crowd made for the open country, and Caesar

licked his lips and pursued the fattest and most important personage of all – the Lord Mayor. One behind the other, they ran off into the sunset. 60


Robin walked sadly home to where his mother was waiting for him with a spoonful of cod liver oil and a plate of rock cakes hard enough to break the teeth of a tiger.

‘Hello, dear,’ she said. ‘You’re home early.’

‘Hello, Mum,’ said Robin.

‘Did anything interesting happen today, dear?’ asked

Mum.

‘No, Mum,’ replied Robin. ‘It was just an ordinary day.

Except...’

‘Except what, dear?’

‘Except...

…I lost my ball.’

61


62


Butch was a big bad monkey. He liked jungle-juice. When he drank too much jungle-juice, he liked to pick fights. 63


Win or lose, he came home mean. He’d shout at Matty,

‘Get me a coconut, quick!’ and he’d give her a clout.

Matty would shout at little Tom-tom. ‘Out of my way!

You’re always under my feet!’ And Matty would give Tomtom a clout.

One night, when Butch came home mean, Matty was

at the end of her creeper.

‘Get me a coconut, quick!’ said Butch.

‘Get your own coconut!’ said Matty.

Butch gave her a clout.

‘I’m out of here,’ said Matty.

Butch gave her another clout. ‘Well, take the nipper,’

he shouted.

‘I don’t want him,’ said Matty. ‘You can have him.’

‘I don’t want him,’ said Butch. ‘If he comes near me,

I’ll give him a clout.’

Later that night, Matty went back home to Butch. But

Tom-tom had had enough clouts to last a lifetime. While they were asleep, Tom-tom took off.

Tom-tom went to see Monty and Sylv. ‘Sorry, darl,’

said Sylv. ‘We’ve got too many young ‘uns already.’

‘Besides,’ said Monty, ‘that Butch is big and bad. I

don’t mess with him.’

64


Tom-tom went to see Bill and Babycakes. ‘No way

Tom-tom,’ said Bill. ‘I keep my nose clean. That Butch is bad with a capital B.’

‘And if we wanted a kid to spoil our fun,’ said Babycakes,

‘we’d have one of our own.’

Tom-tom went to see Charlie and Slim. ‘Bad bananas,

buddy,’ said Charlie. ‘We like to party. This is no place for a little fella like you.’

‘And besides,’ said Slim, ‘we don’t want that Butch

coming after us. He’s a wild thing.’

Tom-tom went to see Larry and Glad. ‘You can stay

with us, Tom-tom,’ said Larry. ‘We’ll look after you.’

‘You’ll be one of the family,’ said Glad, ‘– a big brother

to our Bubs.’ Let me tell you something. There was nothing special about Larry and Glad. They weren’t handsome. They weren’t rich. But they’d found an old bike. It had a basket on the front for Bubs. No one else in the jungle had a bike. That bike was their pride and joy.

Time went by.

Was Tom-tom happy?

Hey – was the monsoon wet? 65


Did Tom-tom have fun?

Hey – did the jungle steam under the tropical sun?

Did Tom-tom ever get a clout?

Hey – does a coconut fall upward into the clouds?

Sometimes Tom-tom didn’t come when he was

called.

Sometimes Tom-tom wouldn’t eat up all his grubs.

Sometimes Tom-tom was as cheeky as a wagonload

of schoolboys.

66


He got a few lectures, all right.

But he never got a clout. Not once.

One night, when big bad Butch had been into the junglejuice, he picked a fight with Muscles the baboon. Butch got poked in the eye with a sharp stick.

Blind in one eye, Butch went roaring home. ‘Get me

a coconut, quick!’ he roared at Matty. And he gave her a clout.

But Matty had been at the jungle-juice, too. She’d

drunk so much she fell out of her tree. She broke an arm and a leg.

Butch and Matty needed someone to look after them.

They went to the monkey-puzzle tree where Larry and Glad lived, and called up to Tom-tom. ‘Come on home, Tom-tom,’ said Butch, ‘or I’ll give you a clout.’

‘This is my home,’ said Tom-tom. ‘This is my family.’

‘Do as Butch tells you,’ said Matty, ‘or I’ll give you a

clout, too.’

‘No,’ said Tom-tom. ‘I’m staying here.’

‘Send him down, Larry,’ said Butch. ‘Or else!’

‘He can go or stay,’ said Larry. ‘The choice is his.’

‘You’d better send him down, Larry,’ said Butch.

‘I’m staying here,’ said Tom-tom. 67


‘Come down and fight me, Larry,’ said Butch.

‘No,’ said Larry. ‘I’m no good at fighting.’

‘What – are you scared of a monkey with one eye?’

sneered Butch.

‘Yes,’ said Larry. ‘I’m scared.’

‘Right,’ said Butch. ‘Watch this!’

Butch began to smash the bike that was Larry and

Glad’s pride and joy. Matty joined in as best she could.

68


They took it apart, and twisted it up, and chucked it into the deep pond where the poisonous water snakes lurked.

‘Now you’ve got nothing,’ said Butch.

‘I’ve got something,’ said Larry.

‘What have you got?’ sneered Butch.

‘I’ve got love,’ said Larry.

‘I’ve got love,’ said Glad.

‘I’ve got love,’ said Bubs.

‘And I’ve got love,’ said Tom-tom.

Suddenly Matty let out a sob. Butch gave her a clout.

And they limped off down their lonely jungle track.

‘That’s sad,’ said Larry.

‘Very sad,’ said Glad.

‘Sad,’ said Tom-tom. ‘When I grow up, Larry, I don’t

want to be like Butch. I want to be like you.’

‘And when I grow up, Tom-tom,’ said Bubs, ‘I want to

be like you.’

69


70


Florence had her own room. It was a large room that had its own heating and cooling system, its own bathroom, and a lovely view. She had stacks of clothes, and jewellery, and toys, and dolls, and electronic gadgetry – all new and all top of the range. She had her own phone and her own television and her own computer. She had everything she could have wished for. 71


One night, as she slept in her comfortable bed in her

luxurious room, she had a remarkable dream.

In the dream, she was invited to a feast. She entered

a huge dining hall. It seemed to be in an ancient castle.

72


A long table was piled with fruits and vegetables and pastries of every sort. It was the longest table Florence had ever seen. The guests sat on either side. But the extraordinary thing was that none of the other guests was a human being. There was a lion, a tiger, a giraffe, a wolf, an orang-utan, a chimpanzee, a kangaroo, a possum, an anteater, a bush baby, a badger, a bear, a panda, a monkey, an eagle, a zebra, and many more.

The guests were waiting for Florence to sit down so

that they could begin to eat. Every chair was taken – except one. Florence had to walk half way down the hall before she came to it. She had no sooner sat down at the table than she heard a voice say, ‘We thank our Mother Earth for the good things she has provided.’

‘Amen,’ said the guests in a ragged chorus, and they

began to pass the dishes around and to help themselves. The guests all looked happy and in good health with the exception of a daggy polar bear who was sitting beside Florence.

Florence ate and ate to her heart’s content. And all

the guests ate eagerly, enjoying the feast.

Except for the polar bear. Florence noticed how moth-

eaten and scrawny he looked. ‘Why aren’t you eating?’ Florence asked the polar bear. 73


‘I eat only fish,’ said the bear. ‘But no fish could be

found. There are so few fish left in the sea.’ And Florence’s heart felt tight with pity for the bear.

An eagle sat on Florence’s left. ‘Come,’ said the eagle

to Florence when she sat back in her chair. ‘Now that you have eaten to your heart’s content, come and fly.’

‘Fly? I can’t fly,’ said Florence.

‘You can,’ said the eagle. ‘Trust me.’

The eagle hopped across the hall and up a spiral stone

staircase. Florence followed. At the top they came out on a high battlement, and the eagle invited Florence to stand on the battlement wall. ‘Go on,’ urged the eagle. ‘Fly. Everything will be all right.’

And Florence flew. She flew over the city. Down below

were the little houses, like dolls’ houses, and the cars and trucks, like toy cars and trucks, and the people going about their busy lives, like play people. 74


75


She flew into a spiral of warm air and up and up

she went into the blue sky, as free as a bird, and she swooped back down to where the eagle waited for her on the battlement wall.

‘Flying is wonderful,’ said Florence. ‘Thank you so

much. But please, won’t you come and fly with me.’

‘I can’t,’ said the eagle. ‘My wings have been broken.’

Florence’s heart went tight with pity for the eagle.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she said.

‘But you go on,’ said the eagle. ‘You may fly again.’

But Florence had no heart for flying any more.

Florence went back down the spiral stairs. At the

bottom she found the zebra waiting for her.

‘Do you want to run?’ the zebra asked. ‘Do you want

to run like the wind?’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Florence. ‘That sounds exciting.’ She

followed the zebra outside.

‘Go on,’ said the zebra. ‘Run.’

And Florence ran. She ran like the wind through the

streets of the city. And she must have been invisible, because no one saw her, or paid her any heed. She ran, and ran, and never tired, and her heart was nearly full.

She ran back to the castle courtyard where the zebra

waited. ‘That was wonderful,’ said Florence, ‘except, 76


running alone is not so much fun as running together. Will you run with me?’

‘I can’t,’ said the zebra. ‘My legs are hobbled.’

And Florence saw that there were iron fetters on each

of the zebra’s legs, and chains that linked them. And her heart went tight with pity for the zebra, and she had no heart for running any more.

77


Florence went back to the feast where the animals

waited for her. But before she sat down, she saw that the fruits and vegetables were rotten, the pastries mouldy or stale, and no one ate. And she noticed that the animals that had been so healthy and sleek, were mangy and thin, and that there was no brightness in their eyes. ‘The feast is over,’ said the orang-utan, sadly. And Florence’s heart filled with tears.

And Florence woke up to find herself back in her room,

where she had everything a girl could possibly want.

78


The man was sailing towards a group of three islands. The islands were uninhabited by humans. They were known as the Three Sisters: The Big Sister, the Little Sister and the Lonely Sister. 79


The man was looking for gold. He wanted to get rich.

The sky was blue. The islands were green. The sea

was blue-green. The sand on the beaches glistened like gold.

The man landed on the largest of the islands, the Big

Sister. It was like the Garden of Eden. There was a wealth of trees and plants, a riot of flowers, an abundance of fruit. There were sparkling springs, and streams of fresh water. There was a profusion of insects: red and yellow butterflies; blue-green dragonflies; noisy grasshoppers. Monkeys chased one another through the high branches of trees. The forest was alive with birds whose plumage was all the colours of the rainbow. Lizards sunned themselves

80


on stones. Snakes slid through the undergrowth. He glimpsed deer, goats, rabbits. The island was overflowing with life.

The man set up camp. He ate early, and lay down to

sleep as soon as the sun had set.

He was up at first light. He searched the island for

signs of gold. He drilled into rock. He sifted sand from the beds of streams. He left no stone unturned.

He worked for three days from sunrise to sunset. He

found not a glint of gold, not even a hint.

During his fourth night on the island, he lay awake

for hours until he finally fell into a deep sleep of disappointment.

In the morning, he slept late. When he awoke he felt

drained of energy. But his desire to find gold drove him on. He filled water containers, picked fruit, packed up his camp, and set sail for the second island, the Little Sister.

Once ashore, still under his

personal cloud despite the bright sunshine of the day, he did no more than find a good spot and set up camp. He ate a solitary meal with only his loneliness and discontent for company.


That night, he couldn’t sleep. He could hear the waves

on the shore, he could hear his own heart thumping, but nothing more. Why was it so quiet? He wondered.

He was glad when it was morning. He had a strong

feeling of wanting to get away from this island – but even more, he wanted to get rich. He wanted to find gold.

He ate a bitter breakfast, and began his exploration.

Then it struck him. The silence! There was no sound because there were no insects, no birds, no monkeys in the trees, no animal life at all.

But... there were animal tracks! He found a bees’ nest,

but no bees. He found birds’ eggs, but no birds.

And he noticed something strange: all the fresh animal

tracks led toward the centre of the island like the spokes of a wheel leading to the hub.

82


He followed the tracks, and came to a flat clearing

where the grass was burnt black. The burned patch was perfectly round. It was the size of a large fairground carrousel.

The man was afraid. He was afraid of the silence. He

was afraid of the circle of burnt grass. He was afraid of the unknown.

He ran back to his camp. Normally he packed very

neatly. This time he pulled down his tent and chucked it in an untidy heap into the bottom of the boat. He threw in his equipment and dragged his boat into the water. He

83


clambered on board, hauled up the sails, and sailed out onto the blue-green swell.

But once he was clear of the island, his fear grew less.

He felt foolish. He was grateful that there was no one to witness his panic. But, rather than go back, he set sail for the third island, the Lonely Sister.

He was reluctant to land straight away. He sailed all

around the island staying close to the shore. He saw animals moving through the bush, and birds and insects on the wing.

Finally he felt brave enough to land. He entered a

beautiful horseshoe bay. He hauled his boat up the beach and secured it.

84


Still feeling a little nervous, but not knowing why, he

began to explore. He had to go some distance before he found a good place to camp.

He carried his tent and equipment to the site and set

up. He made a meal, and then, as soon as the sun had set, lay down and slept the sleep of the exhausted.

He woke refreshed. He felt his energy returning. He

wanted to be rich. He wanted to find gold. He set to work with a will.

He spent the day panning for gold in the island’s

only stream. He had no luck. Tired and disappointed, he bathed in the warm, refreshing ocean.

Dusk began to fall as he ate his evening meal. While

he was eating, he began to hear something strange, a low noise difficult to describe – it was a humming sound. It was soft, soothing, pleasing, but not like any sound he had heard before.

Looking around, he saw a light, a blue, peaceful,

restful light, in the sky overhead. It hovered above the centre of the island, and then descended, slowly.

The man could see nothing but a blue glow in the air

above the trees. And a strange thing happened: he felt himself drawn towards the light, as if the blue light was a magnet and he had a heart of iron. 85


He fought against it. He left everything and tried to

run to the beach, but it was as if strong hands held him. Each step was a struggle, but he forced his way back towards the sea.

Then he saw an amazing sight. Animals came loping

past him, animals that were usually shy of humans: deer, goats, mice; and the air was filled with insects and birds. And monkeys swung from tree to tree. And they were all heading for the centre of the island.

At last, the stream of creatures ended. A lone rabbit

passed by. A lame fawn, limping. A single dragonfly.

The man felt strange: at peace, enchanted. There was

sweet music, but he didn’t hear it – he sensed it. And the music said: Come with us. Greed is destroying your planet. The Earth will soon be a wasteland. Come with us. We will take you to our home. We will make you safe. Come with us.

But the man said, Will there be gold?

And the music replied, There will be no gold.

So the man turned his back on the light. He forced his

boat into the waves, and fell onto the deck.

He lay, exhausted, and looked back towards the

island. The music ceased. The hum increased. The blue light shimmered and rose above the trees. 86


Then the hum faded to silence. The light grew smaller,

and smaller, until at last it became one of the stars in the night sky.

He was left alone: a little man, bobbing like a cork on

a vast ocean. And he looked up at the stars, and cried for what might have been.

87


88


Once upon a time there was a king called Frederick, who was bossy and bad-tempered. He had only one child – a daughter whose name was Lily. She was bossy and bad-tempered too. But she was very beautiful. 89


Many young noblemen wanted to marry Princess Lily,

because when old King Fred died, Lily’s husband would be the new king. But Lily didn’t want to get married. When old King Fred died, Lily wanted to be in charge – all by herself. 90


Luckily for Lily, King Frederick thought that no one

was good enough for his daughter. He decreed that Lily could only marry the man who could prove that he was the bravest in the land.

91


Well, some of the young noblemen were brave in one

way, and some were brave in another, but how could any one of them prove that he was the bravest of all?

One day when the king was out riding, he passed by

the beautiful garden where the Garden Dragon lived. The dragon waved to the king and called him over. But King Fred was too stuck up to go to speak to the dragon himself.

‘Find out what that bloated reptile requires!’ he yelled to

the colonel of the guard.

‘Go and see what that overgrown lizard wants!’ bellowed

the colonel to the captain.

‘See what that puffed-up flea-bag’s on about!’ bawled

the captain to the sergeant.

The dragon, who didn’t like all this bawling and yelling

because it spoiled the tranquillity of his garden, whispered his message to the sergeant. The sergeant whispered to the captain. The captain whispered to the colonel. The colonel whispered to the king.

Immediately the king whipped his horse and galloped

home in a furious temper. He summoned all the citizens to a meeting in the Town Square.

‘Good citizens,’ he cried, ‘I have some very bad news.

Today I saw the Garden Dragon, and this is what he said: Send up your best man for me to fight, or I will take your lovely daughter Lily!’ 92


The crowd fell silent. Then a young nobleman cried

out, ‘To prove that I’m the bravest in the land, I’ll fight the dragon!’ Everybody cheered – except the princess, who looked as though she’d lost a guinea and found a groat.

Early next morning, the young nobleman put on his

best suit of armour, and saddled his best horse, and took his best lance, and his best sword and set off for the dragon’s garden. The king’s orchestra played a cheerful tune, the king’s trumpeters played a razzmatazz fanfare, and all the citizens shouted, ‘Death to the dragon!’

They waited all day for the young nobleman to return,

but the sun went down, and still he hadn’t come back. 93


And as the moon rose, his horse came trotting home alone. The king’s orchestra played a funeral march. The king’s trumpeters played a mournful dirge. But the princess smiled a little smile.

The townspeople stood silently in the square. Then

up spoke a second young nobleman. ‘To prove I’m the bravest in the land,’ he cried, ‘I’ll fight the dragon!’ The people cheered, but the princess looked as miserable as a wet weekend.

Early next morning, the young nobleman put on his

best suit of armour, and saddled his best horse, and took his best lance, and his best sword and set off for the dragon’s garden. The king’s orchestra played a cheerful tune, the king’s trumpeters played a razzmatazz fanfare, and all the citizens shouted, ‘Death to the dragon!’


They waited all day for the young nobleman to return,

but the sun went down, and still he hadn’t come back. And as the moon rose, his horse came trotting home alone. The king’s orchestra played a lament for the dead. The king’s trumpeters played a miserable dirge. But the princess smirked.

The

townspeople

were

afraid.

The

king

was

dismayed.

‘Is there nobody here brave enough to save our

princess by killing this beastly dragon?’ cried the king.

But the noblemen shuffled their feet and looked at the

ground. Then up spoke a young bloke dressed in rags. ‘My name is Sam,’ he said. ‘I’m only a poor woodcutter, but I see no reason to be afraid of the Garden Dragon. I’ll go.’

Early next morning the citizens gathered in the square.

The king didn’t come out onto his balcony. He stayed in bed. But the princess could be seen stomping up and down in the palace courtyard. The king’s orchestra didn’t appear. Neither did the king’s trumpeters. But some of the village lads formed a band and played a jig or two.

Sam didn’t have any armour. He didn’t have a horse.

He didn’t have a lance. He didn’t have a sword. But, with his old woodcutter’s axe in his belt, he set off for the dragon’s garden. 95


When Sam came to the gate he called out, ‘Hello,

there! Anyone at home?’ And after a moment or two the dragon appeared.

‘Oh, no!’ the dragon said. ‘Not another one!’

‘I just came up to see if we could sort out this princess

problem,’ said Sam.

‘What princess problem?’ asked the dragon.

‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘according to the king, you said:

Send up your best man for me to fight, or I will take your lovely daughter, Lily.’

‘Oh, no I didn’t,’ said the dragon. ‘What I said was:

Come up if you can while it’s still light, and see on the lake my lovely water lily. That King Fred is a silly old fossil. I wondered why he went off in a huff, and then first one young man, and then another, came rushing up here like a wild thing. I locked them in the aviary.’ 96


‘So you don’t want the princess after all?’ said Sam.

‘Certainly not!’ said the Garden Dragon.

So the dragon freed his prisoners, and the three young

men walked back to the town, where Sam explained the mistake. Then the citizens demanded that the king allow Sam to marry his daughter.

The king looked as if he was about to have all his

teeth pulled out with a pair of rusty pliers, and the princess looked as though she’d sat in a fresh cowpat far from home. But Sam just smiled, and said, ‘No thanks. I only came to town to sell some firewood to pay for my wedding. I’ve already got a sweetheart of my own.’

So, to avoid a riot by the citizens, the king bought

Sam’s firewood for a fair price, and Sam went home and married his bride.

It was a simple wedding, but the flowers were beautiful.

They all came from the Dragon’s garden.

All their friends and relations attended, and the Garden

Dragon was their special guest. After the fun and games, the dragon had to hurry home to water his garden. ‘I must fly,’ he said.

‘Really?’ said Sam. ‘I’ve never seen a dragon fly.’

And what happened to the lovely Lily?

Well, she decided to do a course in martial arts. ‘Then

if there’s any trouble in the future,’ she said, ‘I’ll fight my own battles.’ 97


98

And that’s how Princess Lily became...


I’ve got a boyfriend.

His name is Darren.

Sharon and Darren. We make a poem.

Darren’s going to buy me a crunchy bar. He said to

wait outside the shop on the corner at half past three. It’s 3.31.

Darren hasn’t come.

Perhaps he doesn’t like me any more!

It’s 3.32.

He’s

always

talking

to

that

Tracy-Marie.

She’s not a nice girl.

She picks her nose when no

one’s looking – and flicks it. It’s 3.33.

Perhaps he’s been run over.


Perhaps a huge road roller was coming down the

street, and now poor Darren’s as flat as a pancake that looks like it’s all covered in strawberry jam. It’s 3.34.

Perhaps, just as he was about to come out of the

house, he needed to go to the toilet.

And perhaps he slipped in.

And got stuck.

And had to go to the hospital with the toilet seat stuck

on his bum.

100


It’s 3.35.

Perhaps he was walking along, thinking about me,

thinking about us being a poem: Sharon and Darren, not looking where he was going, and he fell down a great big hole in the road, and got washed through a slimy sewer, and an alligator was lying in wait in all that mucky water, and with one mighty SNAP of its great jaws, it crunched poor Darren in two, swallowed the bits – and spat out Darren’s teeth, and toe nails, and his zips. It’s 3.36.

Perhaps Darren broke a cup when he had a drink, and

tried to mend it with superglue.

And his hand got stuck to the cup.

And the cup got stuck to the table.

And when he tried to wipe the glue off, he got some

glue on his other hand.

And his nose started itching.

And he scratched it.

And his other hand got stuck to his nose.

And he dropped some glue on the floor, and one foot

got stuck to the carpet, and the dog came along to sniff Darren’s smelly feet, and he tried to push the dog away – and his other foot got stuck to the dog. 101


And now he’s waiting for the fire brigade to come and

rescue him. It’s 3.37.

Perhaps he came home from school, and thought the

goldfishes looked cold, and poured boiling water into the fishbowl to warm them up – and killed them all!

And his mother might have been angry with him for

being such a twit, and made him de-flea the dog, and wash the budgie’s hair, and clean the inside of the toilet bowls with his bare hands.

102


It’s 3.38.

Perhaps a tiger escaped from a circus and chased

him.

And he ran away, and hid in a rubbish bin.

And the bin men came along and tipped him into the

back of their truck.

And he got scrunched up in all the rotten smelly

garbage, and tipped out onto the town rubbish tip.

103


It’s 3.39.

Perhaps he got caught by that old witch who lives at

number twenty-three.

Perhaps she hooked her walking stick in the back of

his trousers as he walked past her house on his way to meet me.

And she put a spell on him, and turned him into a toad

– and gave him to the cat to play with!

104


It’s 3.40.

Perhaps he was trying to cross the road, and some

demonstrators were coming. And he got caught up, and carried along against his will. And when the demonstrators were chased by the police, he got bashed on the head and bundled into a police van, and carted off to prison, and locked in an overcrowded cell with four fierce villains – and only three beds! 105


It’s 3.41.

Perhaps he was on his way to meet me, and a flying

saucer landed in the road, and some weird luminous creatures got out and kidnapped him and carried him off to their planet in space, and they’re going to keep him in a zoo, and all the funny space monsters will pay their pocket money to come to look at him – and laugh.

106


It’s 3.42.

Perhaps he was late, and so he took a short cut across

the graveyard. And there were some vampires playing chasey around the graves, and they were getting thirsty. And they took turns drinking Darren’s blood. And now he’s all white, and drained, and weak, and can’t stand up. It’s 3.43.

Perhaps he got lost.

And ended up at the airport by mistake.

And some hijackers came along, and took poor

Darren hostage, and stole an aeroplane. And after they’d taken off, a hand grenade rolled under his seat, and he wondered what the pin was for…

…and pulled it out.

And it blew a great big hole in the floor, and he fell

through – and now he might be stranded on a lonely mountainside, hanging upside down by his ankles in a tree. It’s 3.44.

Perhaps when he was hurrying along, with his heart

pounding in his chest with the anticipation of seeing me, 107


there was an earthquake, and the ground opened up beneath his feet, and he fell into the crevice, like the filling in a sandwich, and the earth closed up again and made him as flat as a piece of greasy beef in a hamburger – and all his insides squirted out of the top of his head like a rainbow-coloured fountain.

And it will be on the front page of the newspaper.

And there’ll be a photo of me – because I’m his

girlfriend, and our names rhyme. It’s 3.45.

Oh, I’m going home!

‘Oh, hello Darren. I’ve been waiting for you!’

‘Hello, Sharon. I’ve been waiting for you, too. I didn’t

see you there, Sharon.’

‘Where’s my crunchy bar, then?’

‘I thought you hadn’t come… So I ate it.

He ate my crunchy bar! ‘Do you still want to be my girlfriend, Sharon?’

‘No, I do not!’

108


I wouldn’t want to be his girlfriend – that Darren. He does naughty things in class when teacher isn’t looking. I’m going to call for Michael Breen.

He might buy me a crunchy bar.

Michael Breen and Sharon Green – we make a poem!

109


110


Christmas Eve. The phone woke me. It was Big Tom!

He said, ‘Someone stole one of my trucks! It was full

of cat food.’

‘Why don’t you call the cops?’ I said.

‘I want the cops kept out of this,’ he said. ‘So find

it! Fast! If you do, you’ll be rich. If you don’t, you’ll be dead!’

I’m Shamus O’Reilly, Private Eye of New York. Big Tom

had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. 111


I got up. Washed behind my ears. Had a breakfast of kippers and milk. The headline in the morning paper said: BIGGEST BANK ROBBERY IN THE HISTORY OF NEW YORK THIEVES STEAL A FORTUNE IN GOLD BULLION

‘That’s one crime,’ I said, ‘I’m not going to get mixed

up in.’

I made a phone call. Took a subway downtown. Met

Big-Ears Baloney beneath Times Square. Big-Ears was my squeal.

‘What do you know about a truckload of disappearing

cat food?’ I asked him.

‘Marmalade Macaroni slugged the driver,’ he said.

Macaroni was a cat burglar. I found him in a spaghetti house in Little Italy.

‘What does a truckload of cat food mean to you?’ I

asked him.

‘Nothing,’ he said.

I didn’t pussyfoot around. I tipped his plate of pasta

over his head. Before he could wipe the tomato sauce out of his eye, I tied him to his chair with spaghetti.

‘Okay, okay, I’ll talk,’ he said. ‘I owed a favour to

112


Scarface Charlie. I hit the driver – Scarface took the truck.’ Scarface was Siamese. I tracked him down to Chinatown. He was with a pretty little Burmese. Her name was Pussy Willow. ‘Where did you take the truck, Scarface?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know nothing about no truck,’ he said.

‘I don’t want to play cat and mouse,’ I said. ‘Don’t

cataract the fool with me!’

Pussy Willow catcalled, ‘Look out!’

But it was too late. It felt like someone hit me on the

head with an express train.

113


Next thing I knew, Pussy Willow was bathing my face. ‘Wake up,’ she said. ‘They’ve locked us in!’

‘There’s no one I’d rather be locked in with,’ I said.

‘You don’t understand,’ she said. ‘They’ve set the

building on fire!’

I broke down the door with one kick. Flames were

licking up the stairs. The smoke was worse than San Francisco smog. Pussy Willow fainted. I threw her over my shoulder. I turned around and picked her up off the floor. I tried again, and threw her onto my shoulder. I ran up to the roof.

We were ninety-nine storeys above the street. The

fire escape had collapsed. This was a catastrophe. There was only one chance – I had to try to jump across to the next building.

I just made it.

I laid Pussy Willow on the roof.

‘I feel like something the cat brought in,’ she said.

‘Why did Scarface Charlie lock you in?’ I asked.

‘We’d had a catfight,’ she said. ‘He thought I was two-

timing him. But I wasn’t. I just didn’t like him any more.’

I asked her where Scarface hung out. She told me. I

gave her my card. ‘If you ever want a favour,’ I said, ‘call this number.’ 114


I took a cab uptown. I went to a classy little joint on the West Side, just off Broadway. Scarface Charlie was there with his boys. ‘How did you get here?’ he said.

‘In a cab,’ I said. ‘Don’t forget, Scarface, a cat has

nine lives. Now spill the beans.’

‘Beans?’ he said. ‘But I’m eating fried mice!’

I snatched a maple-syrup waffle from a waitress. I

held it over Scarface Charlie’s head. (Scarface was very particular about his suits.) ‘Where did you take that truck?’ I said.

‘Don’t drop the waffle, Shamus,’ Scarface pleaded. ‘I

took it to Clem-the-Claws.’ Then he added, ‘He’s sitting right over there.’

I looked around. Scarface was on his feet. He knocked

the waffle out of my hands. He gave me a karate chop to

115


the neck. I gave him a pork chop over the head. His boys joined the fray. Tables turned over. It became a free-forall. Screams, hot potatoes and custard pies filled the air. I crawled out under the tables and left those cats to it. Clem-the-Claws was a black cat who lived in the Bronx. I ran him to earth in a sleazy bar. He was drinking gin and cat-a-tonic, and looking worried. ‘What’s your poison, Shamus?’ he asked.

‘Milk. On the rocks,’ I said. ‘Why did you take the

truck?’

‘Use your eyes,’ he said.

I looked out the grimy window. Half the buildings in

the street were burnt-out or derelict. Kids were playing in the refuse piled along the sidewalk.

‘They never had a chance,’ Clem said. ‘I’m fed up with

playing the gangster Clem-the-Claws. Just for once I thought I’d play Santa Claws. I was going to give these kids free food tomorrow, on Christmas Day.’

I looked out the window again. I watched the kids in

their thin clothes playing in the cold street. ‘I’ve got to tell Big Tom where his truck is,’ I told Clem, ‘so you’d better dish the fish out, fast!’

116


‘I can’t,’ Clem said. ‘There’s no food in the truck. It’s

full of gold bullion. This thing’s too big for me, Shamus. What shall I do?’

We went to the truck. It was the one I was looking for.

It belonged to Big Tom. It said CAT FOOD on the side. It was so full of gold bullion it was bursting at the seams. I pulled the newspaper out of my pocket and showed it to Clem. BIGGEST BANK ROBBERY IN THE HISTORY OF NEW YORK THIEVES STEAL A FORTUNE IN GOLD BULLION

‘Keep this under your hat,’ I said.

‘Okay, Shamus,’ Clem said. He took the newspaper

and folded it and put it under his hat.

117


I

hired

a

Catillac

Coup-de-ville.

Drove

out

to

Westchester.

Big Tom lived in a big house. It was surrounded by

a high cat-a-wall. It had cat-a-pillars either side of the door. There were these Persian cats on guard outside.

‘I’m Shamus O’Reilly, Private Eye of New York,’ I

said.

‘Go in,’ one said. ‘The boss is expecting you.’

Big Tom was a cool cat. (He had an ice pack on his

head.) He came straight to the point. ‘Don’t tell me no cat-a-lies,’ he said, ‘’cos I’m a real heavy cat when I’ve eaten too much. Let’s have it on the line.’ 118


‘I found your truck. It’s on West 117th Street. Where’s

my greenbacks?’

‘No dough for you, Shamus,’ he said. ‘I’m gonna pay

you with a new pair of concrete boots and a Christmas swim in the Hudson River. Dead cats don’t talk. And you know too much.’

‘I know your truck is full of stolen gold bullion,’ I said.

‘But I also know something that you don’t. Clem-theClaws is outside with the cops. This is the end of the road for you, Big Tom.’

Big Tom ran towards the window. I made a football

tackle and brought him down. He whipped out a .45. ‘This is curtains for you, Shamus,’ he said.

That gave me an idea. I yanked the curtains. The

curtains fell on Big Tom.

By the time Clem came in with the cops, I’d got

another job nicely wrapped up. The bank paid Clem a reward. So he played Santa Claws after all.

I went home. Threw a cat-a-log on the fire. Lay down

for a catnap. I’d had a busy day.

119


The phone woke me. It was Pussy Willow.

‘I want to give you a Christmas present,’ she said.

‘Come on over.’

Pussy Willow had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

120


121


Nigel was born in a shed on a farm in Ireland. He was taken to England during the Second World War. His beautiful wife, Yasmin, comes from Sudan in Africa. She’s very sensible, and doesn’t think his jokes are funny. Nigel began writing when he was 30 years old. He has written 69 books. 52 of them are for children. Sadly, he’s no good at dancing or singing or drawing – but he’s good at mucking about and having fun. He came to Western Australia on a jumbo (unfortunately just an aeroplane – not an elephant). None of his children lives at home any more. So Nigel talks to his dog, Chica, who agrees with whatever he says.


Cedric was born near a golden pagoda in Burma during an earthquake. He walked all the way to India during the Second World War, and went to school there. His lovely wife, Pat, was born in Burma, too. They met years later in Australia, and have lived happily ever after. His cartoons and drawings and paintings are far too numerous to count, but this is his first book for children. He won’t dance if he can help it, but he likes to sing, and he has done a fair bit of mucking about and having fun. All his kids are grown up and have left home, and his dear little dog recently died, so he talks to Chica, Nigel’s dog, when she comes to visit.


Some of Nigel Gray’s other picture books to look out for:

A BALLOON FOR GRANDAD illustrated by Jane Ray A COUNTRY FAR AWAY illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier A WALK WITH GRANNY illustrated by Jason Walker AND KANGAROO PLAYED HIS DIDGERIDOO illustrated by Glen Singleton ANNA’S GHOST illustrated by Craig Smith COME ON EVERYBODY, TIME TO PLAY! illustrated by Bob Graham DANIEL THE DREAMER illustrated by Allan Langoulant DELIGHTFUL DELILAH illustrated by Anna Pignatoro DON’T BE AFRAID illustrated by Simon Scales EARLY BIRD illustrated by Elise Hurst FLY illustrated by Craig Smith HOW MANY GREEN ICE CREAMS? illustrated by Peter Dickson I’LL TAKE YOU TO MRS COLE illustrated by Michael Foreman IT’LL ALL COME OUT IN THE WASH illustrated by Ed Frascino JAKE AND THE MERMAID illustrated by Peter Dickson JUST THE RIGHT STRIPES illustrated by Debbie Brown KEEP ON CHOMPING! illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier LITTLE BEAR’S GRANDAD illustrated by Vanessa Cabban MY DOG, MY CAT, MY MUM AND ME illustrated by Bob Graham OLIVER TWIST FINDS A HOME illustrated by Andrew McLean PIGS CAN’T FLY illustrated by Carme Sole Vendrell PIP AND THE CONVICT illustrated by Andrew McLean ROBIN HOOD’S NEW CLOTHES illustrated by Cedric Baxter


RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME illustrated by Greg Rogers SUN, SEA, CRAB AND ME illustrated by Margaret Wilson THE BEST PET? illustrated by Shane Nagle THE DOG SHOW illustrated by Margaret Wilson THE FLOOD illustrated by Elise Hurst THE FROG PRINCE illustrated by Allan Langoulant THE GROCER’S DAUGHTER illustrated by David Mackintosh THE ONE AND ONLY ROBIN HOOD illustrated by Helen Craig THE ROBOT’S PET illustrated by Shane McG

From Robin Hood’s New Clothes illustrated by Cedric Baxter


A mouth-watering feast of stories cooked up by the highly acclaimed author, Nigel Gray, and sumptuously decorated by the celebrated artist, Cedric Baxter.

by the highly acclaimed author, Nigel Gray, and sumptuously decorated by the celebrated artist, “Everything of Nigel Gray’s I have read is Cedric Baxter. Lip-smackingly good.

humane, wise and linguistically melodic.” Kurt Vonnegut

A BAKER’S DOZEN

Thirteen stories in one book to be savoured by children from five to twelve years of age. Charming, thought-provoking and bubbling over with laughs. feast Lip-smackingly good. A mouth-watering of stories cooked up

NIGEL GRAY / CEDRIC BAX

A Baker's Dozen by Nigel Gray  

A mouth-watering feast of stories cooked up by the highly acclaimed author, Nigel Gray, and sumptuously decorated by the celebrated artist,...