Children's Books & YA Authors

  • 2501
Info
Group Name:
Children's Books & YA Authors
Category:

A group to connect YA and children's book authors. 

Stephen Gold and Anne Dimeur, check out this children's poetry contest!

https://www.thecaterpillarmagazine.com


Hi, is anyone on here interested in buddying up to motivate and help break free from procrastination?  I’m a YA writer, thriller/suspense and would like to find someone I can chat with on a regular basis to set and review targets to help me get back on track with my writing.  I’ve been homeschooling my son since the start of lockdown one, which has pretty much killed my creativity and the ability to communicate effectively with anyone over the age of six 😵


Happy new Year all. As part of my writing commitments this year, I have decided to do some critiquing work for my fellow townhousers. I'm going to do one review of up to 3,000 words per month on request. This month's slot has already been taken, but if you would like me to look through something next month, please let me know. 

Please do note that my critique is direct though I will always give you a positive or suggested alternative where possible. PM me or comment if you're interested.

Hello

I’m a new member of the group. I’ve written a children’s fantasy adventure in verse of a little under 3000 words. If anyone would care to offer feedback, all comment would be very gratefully received.


                  Wild Flight

A Fascinating Fable of Friendship, Fearlessness and...Fur

                        1

A little girl lay snug in bed.

‘It’s time to sleep’, her mother said. 

But Selma Rose (for it was she), 

Thought, ‘Sorry, I do not agree’.


Why can’t I choose to stay awake? 

I’m almost five, for goodness sake! 

The stars are out, the moon is bright, 

I’m going to stay up all night!’


Mum gave her cheek a gentle kiss,

And cooed, ‘Now, close your eyes, like this, 

Sweet dreams are what the nights are for’.

With that, she tiptoed out the door.


Isn’t it a peaceful feeling,

Watching shadows on the ceiling, 

When there’s no-one else around, 

To make or hear the slightest sound?


Selma’s eyes began to close.

She fell into a gentle doze,

And had there been two minutes more, 

I’m sure we would have heard her snore.


But all at once those eyes grew wide! 

She whipped her head from side to side. 

Was that a ghost she’d just heard speak? 

She forced herself to take a peek.


It whispered softly, ‘Shhh, look here, 

Our Selma’s woken up, I fear.

I hope she doesn’t make a fuss,

The moment she discovers us’.


Poor Selma, she completely froze,

And went quite stiff from head to toes. 

For who had crept into her room?

Was she about to meet her doom?


‘Who’s there?’ she cried. ‘Come out! Come out!’ 

The voice replied, ‘No need to shout,

Or feel the teensiest alarm.

We do not wish you any harm’.


‘I only have your word that’s so! 

You could be trolls for all I know, 

Who gobble little girls for tea.

I hope that you will not eat me!’


‘There’s no-one here inclined to feel,

That you would make a meal deal.

We’re all your friends, please don’t take fright. 

Here, let me just turn on the light’.


And suddenly, from deepest gloom, 

A brilliant light engulfed the room. 

She saw a face, and what is more, 

There wasn’t only one, but four.


Rabbit, Squirrel, Badger, Fox.

Selma’s eyes came out on stalks!

Her hair stood up. Her knees went weak.

And then the Fox began to speak....


                         2


‘I’m sure, my dear, you will recall, 

That usually, we’re on your wall. 

But when your busy day is done, 

It’s time for us to have our fun.


And what we really love to do

(I hope we can confide in you),

Is seek adventures strange and wild, 

Where it’s not safe to take a child.


Tonight, we fly to Serengeti, 

Where it’s hot and very sweaty. 

Lions prowl, and leopards too. 

It’s far too dangerous for you’.


‘But Foxy, I am super brave,

Not shaken by the closest shave. 

Please let me come with you tonight, 

I promise you I’ll be all right.


London’s lovely, I agree,

But there is so much more to see. 

Perhaps I’ll meet the Lion King.

Oh yes, there’s one more little thing.


‘My brother’s name is Ezra Sam. 

He is as sweet as strawberry jam, 

And it would just be great if you, 

Took not just me, but Ezzy too’.


The animals exchanged a look.

‘This really isn’t by the book’,

Said Badger, with a worried frown, 

‘You might get sick, or hurt, or drown.


If you’re inside a tiger’s tum,

Try telling that to Dad and Mum.

It’s fine for folks like us to roam,

But you, my sweet, must stay at home.’


‘Oh, honestly! You’re such a wuss!’ 

Cried Selma, ‘What a sourpuss!

I promise you we’ll both take care. 

Don’t leave us here. It’s just not fair!’


With furrowed brows, the furry four, 

Went out the room to talk some more.

But when at last they came back in, 

The Rabbit couldn’t hide her grin.


‘Well, Selma, I’ve some news for you. 

At first we were against it, true,

But taking one thing with another, 

You can come with little brother’.


Mrs Rabbit, thank you so!

I simply cannot wait to go.

I’m so excited by this chance,

I think I’m going to wet my pants!’


The Badger coughed. ‘Oh do take care, 

I can’t abide damp underwear.

But time is racing on ahead,

So quick, get Ezra out of bed’.


Selma flew across the floor,

And zoomed into the room next door. 

‘Wake up, wake up, you sleepy sod! 

It’s no time for the Land of Nod!


You won’t believe me, but tonight, 

We’re going on a crazy flight

To Africa. I swear it’s true!

I bet you’ll never guess with who’.


Ezra blinked and rubbed his eyes. 

You can imagine his surprise,

As Selma forced him to awaken. 

What a turn events had taken.


‘Not another of your dramas!

Can’t you see I’m in pyjamas?

Leave me here in peace to dream. 

Sometimes you make me want to scream!’


‘Oh, stop your moaning, Ezzy boy! 

You grumpy little boys annoy’. 

She took him firmly by the hand, 

And marched him off to meet her band.


‘Folks, this is my brother Ez,

The coolest dude, my Daddy says’. 

The boy stood speechless by her side, 

His mouth and eyes both open wide.


Pleased to meet you, Master E’,

Said Rabbit, ‘Kindly follow me. 

The time has come for us to go, 

Now, here is all you need to know.


Tonight, we’re off to foreign lands. 

Please make a circle, all join hands. 

And hush, my friends, attend with care, 

As I recite this ancient prayer.


All present did as they were told. 

(Thought Selma, ‘Badger’s hand’s so cold!) 

The Rabbit raised her arms up high,

And fixed her gaze upon the sky.


‘Lord of the Forest, hear our call.

As we beseech you, fly us all,

Through endless time and deepest space, 

To Africa’s most scary place’.

                       3                         

There came a sudden whooshing sound, 

As Selma’s room spun round and round. 

Her curly head was spinning too.

‘Oh Ez!’ she cried, ‘What shall we do?’


‘Your yelping isn’t helping, Sis!

It’s you who got us into this!

Just shut your eyes, and hold on tight. 

With any luck, we’ll be all right’.


It was as if a giant’s hand,

Had grabbed that gallant little band,

And hurtled them across the sky,

‘Yikes!’ Selma screamed, ‘We’re going to die!’


For all went black. They flew quite blind, 

The Fox called out, ‘I think you’ll find, 

That though you’re feeling petrified, 

Your fear will very soon subside’.


And do you know, the Fox was right, 

For in an instant, all was light. 

Below them lay the vast terrain,

Of Serengeti’s mighty plain.


They landed with a hefty thud, 

Unfortunately, in the mud. 

‘Urrgghh!’ groaned Ezra, ‘This is yuk! 

Just wait till Mum sees all this muck!’


Said Fox, ‘It’s time you knew our goal. 

Not far from here’s a waterhole.

A savage creature stalks this place, 

And few have ever seen its face.


To whom, you ask, do I refer?

Well, I shall tell you, Ma’am and Sir. 

We’re on a quest to find tonight,

A tiger of the purest white.


White tigers, they are fierce and proud. 

To just say, ‘Hi!’ is not allowed.

So hark, while I explain to you,

Exactly what we’re going to do.


Around this waterhole are trees. 

We’ll hide ourselves up one of these, 

And so you’ll have a splendid view, 

I’ve glasses here for each of you.


A spyglass hung around each neck,

Our heroes started on their trek. 

But constantly they looked around, 

Alert to every sight and sound.


At last, the waterhole they spied,

A blue oasis, deep and wide,

And all around it trees were spread, 

Exactly as the Fox had said.


Said Squirrel, ‘Trees are my domain. 

It’s time for me to use my brain.

I’ll run ahead, to be our guide,

And find us all a place to hide’.


He soon come back. ‘Quick! Come with me! 

Just look at this tremendous tree.

Its twisted branches, thick and green.

Will guarantee we won’t be seen.


Now up you go, and do not stop, 

Until you’ve reached the very top’. 

They swiftly did as they were bid. 

And soon were all completely hid.

                            4

‘We must stay still’, the Badger muttered, 

And ne’er a truer word was uttered,

For here, impatience is a crime.

White tigers come in their own time.


Below them, beasts of every size,     

Confronted their astonished eyes. 

More animals than you can think,

Assembled there to bathe and drink.


Lions stalked the wildebeest, 

Preparing for a bloody feast, 

While vultures circled overhead, 

Intent on dining on the dead.


The prairie dogs kept watch and howled,

While monkeys shrieked and leopards growled. 

Beneath the waters, cruel and vile,

Lurked the deadly crocodile.


A resting rhino sniffed and snored. 

The elephants looked slightly bored, 

As they stood drinking in a line,

But of white tigers, not a sign.


‘Selma,’ Ezra whispered low, 

‘How long is it before we go? 

I’m sorry to report my bum

Has just gone absolutely numb’.


But heading home was not a choice,

For suddenly, they heard a voice,

‘Hey you up there, what are you doing?’ 

And knew that there was trouble brewing.


Through the foliage, they peeked.

“Oh help! He’s found us!” Selma squeaked. 

For smiling up at them beneath,

Were two black eyes and razor teeth.


                      5

The dreadful creature down below, 

Had fur as white as driven snow.

It scratched the trunk with giant claws, 

And drool came dripping from its jaws.


‘A juicy boy and girl to eat,

Now that is what I call a treat!

And when with both of them I’m done, 

I’ll eat the rest of you for fun’.


Things could not have looked more black. 

To end up as a tiger’s snack,

Was only his idea of fun,

And now there was no time to run.


The Squirrel, looking very ill, 

Wailed, ‘How I wish I’d made a will! 

Who’s going to care for all my nuts,

When I’m inside this tiger’s guts?’


‘Selma’, Ezra said, ‘Have you,

The slightest clue what we should do? 

There’s not a hope of getting free, 

While we’re stuck up this blooming tree.


‘What we must do, Ez’, Selma said,

Is get inside this tiger’s head.

If we can show him kids are kind,

With luck, he might just change his mind’.

But Ezra warned, ‘Don’t go alone. 

He’ll eat you if you’re on your own. 

Let’s both of us climb down halfway, 

And out of reach, we’ll have our say’.


‘OK’, said Selma.‘Follow me’.

And slowly, they slid down the tree.

The tiger watched with bated breath.

He licked his lips and planned their death.


‘Hey Mr Tiger, How d‘you do.

We’d like to have a word with you. 

It seems there’s been a big mistake, 

So can’t we talk, for heaven’s sake?’


The tiger sneered, ‘Well, that’s so true. 

A big mistake’s been made by you.

You should have stayed at home in bed. 

Instead you’re going to end up dead’.


‘Now that’s the kind of talk I hate’,

Said Ez. ‘Can’t we negotiate?’

There must be something we can do,

To make you change your point of view’.


The tiger snarled, ‘Your situation,

Is not one for negotiation.

Don’t think to run, you won’t get far.

There’s no escape! It’s time to ....Aaarrrhhh!!’


                              6


He screamed in the most awful pain.

Then screamed some more, and screamed again. 

A vicious trap, with jagged jaws,

Had snapped around his two front paws.


‘Quick!’ Cried Ezra. ‘This is it!

Let’s round up all the rest, and split!’ 

But Selma frowned, and shook her head. 

‘We can’t just leave him here’, she said.


‘If we don’t help him, you and I,

We both know that he’s going to die,

And though he’s caused us so much strife, 

We really have to save his life’.


‘But will he leave us be?’ said Ez.

‘Let’s ask, and find out what he says’.

They climbed down from their perch on high, 

And looked the tiger in the eye.


‘Mr Tiger, don’t you feel,

The time has come to make a deal?

If you will let us fly away,

We’ll spring this trap. So, what d’you say?’


The tiger roared, ‘YES! Have no fear. 

If you can get me out of here,

Then you’ll be absolutely free,

On that, you have my guarantee’.


The trap lay glinting in the night.

They heaved on it with all their might, 

Then pushed and pulled from side to side, 

Till suddenly, it opened wide.


From the trap the tiger leapt.

Would his promises be kept?

Rabbit, Squirrel, Badger, Fox,

Watched on from up above, like hawks.


He licked each bleeding, aching limb.

The children backed away from him,

In fear that he’d forget his vow.

Oh how they longed for home, right now.


At last, the beast looked up and spoke. 

‘I used to hate you human folk,

For meeting you, as like as not,

Would end up in me getting shot.


But thanks to you, I’m still alive, 

And from now on, I swear I’ll strive, 

Until the day I meet my end,

To be your true and faithful friend’.


I hope that you’ll come back to visit. 

That’s not too much to wish for, is it? 

But now, I think,’ the tiger said,

‘It’s time to get you back to bed’.


                        7

Teeth a-chatter, up their tree,

The fearful friends all strained to see, 

Exactly what had just occurred,

Too terrified to breathe a word.


Selma cried, ‘Ahoy you four!

No need to be scared any more. 

This tiger’s rather sweet, you know, 

So come on down and say Hello’.


The branches shook, as one and all, 

Descended, trying not to fall.

But when, together, they’d assembled, 

Despite what Selma said, they trembled.


‘Dear friends, fear not, I won’t attack’, 

The tiger said. ‘Climb on my back. 

White tigers have a special power.

I’ll have you home within the hour’.


They saw his promise would be kept, 

So up on to his back they leapt.

The Squirrel gave a nervous cough, 

And prayed that he would not fall off.

‘Now hold on tight!’ the tiger roared, 

As up into the night they soared.

The Serengeti, huge and hot, 

Became, in no time, just a dot.


They flew at twice the speed of light, 

Each hanging on with all their might, 

As zooming through the inky sky, 

They watched the stars go flashing by.


At last, they started gently down,

And through the clouds, old London town, 

Lay still and silent in the dawn.

The hours of night had almost gone.


Down below, lay Shaftesbury Road.

Its lamplight (and their faces) glowed,

As tears of joy poured down their cheeks. 

It felt like they’d been gone for weeks.


‘Friends’, came Foxy’s cheerful call, ‘

‘We’ll soon be back on Selma’s wall, 

And they’ll be snuggled up in bed’. 

‘Sounds good to me, Ez’, Selma said.


The tiger stopped and turned around. 

‘You’ll soon be back on solid ground.

I hope that we will meet again, 

Although we can’t say where or when.


But now, there’s one thing left to do.

I’m going to cast a spell on you,

And if you’ll put your faith in me,

You’ll soon be back where you should be.


By lion’s claw and eagle’s wing!

By serpent’s tooth and hornet’s sting! 

Let you who have traversed the earth, 

Return now to your place of birth!’


They felt a soft and gentle hand.

It scooped them up like grains of sand, 

And sent them tumbling through the deep, 

Where waited home and heavenly sleep....


                        Epilogue


Through shaded windows, morning crept, 

As safe and warm, two children slept. 

Mum peeked in, and called to Dad, 

‘They’ve slept all night! ‘I’m so, so glad!’


On Selma’s wall, four furry folk,

Moved not a hair, and no-one spoke 

(Although, if you look hard, I think,

From time to time, you’ll spot them wink).


This stirring story goes to show,

What every girl and boy should know, 

That in our lives, what really counts, 

Are grit and grace in large amounts.

The kids don’t see the tiger much, 

But still, they try to keep in touch. 

They know his life is really hard, 

And every birthday send a card.


‘We hope you have a lovely day.

Good luck go with you all the way. 

Keep safe and well, dear friend’, it says. 

‘Much love from Selma and from Ez’.


                       THE END

.....................................................................


Hello from Texas! I am on the hunt for an illustrator to my children's book. I am not in a place to pay hundreds per page but I would love to collaborate with an up and coming artist looking for a project to build their portfolio. My book is about the length of a Dr. Seuss book and reads much like it as well. If you know anyone that would be interested in illustrating a children's book let me know!

After my last post "A beta read please" I went off and curled up into a ball in the corner. And then, with some guidance, made some revisions to Nosedive No More. I was wondering if anyone would be interested in a second round.

Hi Alison,

Thanks for posting this. It certainly seems to have the makings of a very good story so I’d be interested to see how you get along with it. 

It might be worthwhile paying attention to several things. Firstly the tenses are still inconsistent which is quite jarring to a reader. Next, you quite often add extra words which add distance between the story and the reader, slowing the story down, for example. My nostrils filled with a piney scent from the forest yonder. Why not just The scent of pine wafted… Or My gaze returned to the night sky; why not just I gazed at…? (We already know it’s night) Or Puckles that’s what it said. Why not just Puckles it said?

May also be worthwhile simplifying things thus not huge luminescence suspended in the endless inky gloom but the moon hung in the night sky. Also maybe think of avoiding words which give it an old-fashioned feel, such as yonder, unless that’s your deliberate intent.

Also you are head hopping, for example when Jack gazed knowingly at me we seem to be understanding what Jack is thinking. Happens a few times.

it’s also quite important that children are left to work a few things out and not have every detail pointed out to them so for example when you said that she looked at the manuscript you added My eyes scanned, taking in every detail. Which is unnecessary as we already know she’s looking at it. Might be better to use a more powerful verb if you wanted to emphasise the point like examined it or inspected it. Likewise could you remove the sentence I raised my eyebrows before. ‘What you looking at, Jack?’ I moved in closer to take a look. Even remove 'in', just use closer and remove 'take a'. I think it’s important to make the document as tight as possible, losing literally every word you can to make it feel much pacier. Also avoid close repetitions like ‘look’: ‘What you looking at, Jack?’ I moved in closer to take a look. 

 Might be easier to show you my thoughts than waffle on:

His head bobbed up and down, as his one beady eye scanned its contents. I raised my eyebrows. ‘What you looking at, Jack?’ I moved in closer to take a look. Puckles that’s what it said. Underneath was a sketch of a small, round hairy man with a face like a rat and ears like a bat. My eyes scanned, taking in every detail.

 Tightens to:


His head bobbed up and down, as his one beady eye scanned its contents. 

‘What‘s up, Jack?’ I moved closer to look. Puckles it said. Underneath was a sketch of a small, hairy man with a rat-like face and bat’s ears.


 It’s probably also worthwhile losing the details about Priss. Do we really need to know this information here? She doesn’t feature for the rest of the piece so by the time we do get to meet her we’ve probably forgotten all that’s been said, so it’s probably better to lose it. If we do need to know something about her character so early on, it could maybe be done with a couple of swift brushstrokes giving us a sketch rather than an oil painting; short-skirted, blog addict might tell us as much.

It’s nice to have pretty prose and expand ideas but as that age group has such a short attention span, I think that as a writer we have to pander to that.

Hope that’s helpful

Good luck with the story.

Alison.

It's weird. I've read somewhere that changing the font before editing tricks the brain, and you spot errors you've missed before. It's true just reading my extract below I've spotted something else. :)


Hi guys, please can you give me feed back on the following. Some of you may have seen this extract before. I'm hoping its improved. Its upper middle grade (age 9-12) fantasy




Hello, I'm new here.  I mainly write adult fiction but I've got a few children's nonsence poems I wrote years ago and thought I might put them here just to see what other people's reactions are.  I haven't got time right now but will try as soon as I can.  See you then.

Sorry to bombard you but you made a rod for your own backs by being so helpful with my last efforts. This is my first proper attempt at editing and I want to know if I'm heading in the right direction before I go too much further. It's a smidgen over 3000 words, don't feel obliged to read it all. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Chapter one: Mrs Macaroon

Mrs Macaroon’s guest house was a tall, thin building with stone steps down to the basement and up to the front door. Inside was a long steep wooden staircase leading up to the bedrooms. Dad muttered something about the only things steeper than the stairs being the prices but I reckon nothing in the world was steeper except maybe Mount Everest. I didn’t count them all but I reckon there were a googol. It was a last minute decision to come to Bodbury-on-Sea and the only vacant room was in Mrs Macaroon’s guest house. 

“Not cheap,” Dad had said as he looked at the brochure, “but it is a ‘beautiful period building with a sea view’, let’s book it.” 

So here we were lugging our cases up the googol stairs to our room on the third floor.  

Mrs Macaroon looked as unlike a macaroon as it was possible to look. She was tall and thin and pointy and grey. Not just grey haired, but grey. Her leathery skin looked grey, her hair was grey, her eyes were grey, her teeth were grey and her flannel dress was grey. 

She didn’t smile as Dad introduced himself. 

“You’re late. You’ve missed dinner. Third floor, room thirty nine. Sign here.” She thrust a form under his nose and Dad signed it and took the key. 

“Thank you,” he ventured. “What time is breakfast please?” 

“Eight o’clock sharp,” she replied and disappeared down the hall. 

She made me feel really nervous. 

“I guess she’s had a long day,” said Mum hopefully. We lugged our cases up the stairs. We went past several bedrooms but all the doors were shut and there was the definite sound of silence from behind them. 

“I guess everyone’s gone out for dinner,” said Dad. Either that or they were hiding from Mrs Macaroon. 

“We should do the same,” said Mum, “and then get these guys to bed.” 

“These guys” were me and my sister Polly. She’s seven. I’m Jake and I’m nine. That’s why I had to carry a big bag up all those stairs while she only had to carry a string bag with a couple of beach towels in it. 

We finally got to the top and Dad unlocked the door. Polly and I dropped our bags and ran to the tiny window. 

“I can’t see the sea,” I moaned. “You said it had a sea view.” 

“That’s what the brochure said,” replied Dad defensively. He came over and tried to peer through the window over our heads but it wasn’t really big enough so we had to move out of his way. I looked around our room. That didn’t take long. There was a double bed with its head against the right hand wall. There was just room to squeeze between its foot and the bunk beds which were along the left hand wall. In the far wall was the tiny window with a small chest of drawers under it. Next to the bunk beds was a door which didn’t close properly. This led to the ‘en-suite bathroom’ with a toilet, a tiny sink and a shower. If you sat on the toilet your knees were under the sink and if you had long legs like Dad your feet were in the shower tray.  

“At least there’s some loo roll,” said Mum, ever practical. 

We left our bags and let ourselves out, down all those stairs again. 

“This’ll get us fit,” said Dad, attempting to sound cheerful. 

As we left I had an uncomfortable feeling in my tummy. I looked around and saw Mrs Macaroon watching us from the doorway. It was getting a bit breezy by this time but the sky was still bright and the seafront looked pretty with its row of coloured beach huts. I tried to put my nervousness out of my mind. 

 “It must be cool to have one of those,” said Polly pointing at the beach huts. 

We found a café and sat in the window eating fish and chips. I had two sachets of ketchup and Polly said I was greedy. 

“That is the most beautiful sunset,” Mum announced, ignoring our bickering. “I think we’re going to like it here.” 

We all agreed it seemed a nice place. Polly and me were looking forward to the beach and ice creams. Our holiday had begun. At bedtime we clambered into bed, me on the top bunk of course. I had to lie very still because every time I moved it creaked and Polly moaned at me. 

“Come on kids,” said Dad, “don’t bicker. Settle down to sleep. We’re on holiday.”  

Next morning I woke up to the sound of running water. I thought Dad was in the shower but then realised he was looking out of the window. Mum was rummaging through their suitcase. It must be Polly then. Just then Polly sat up and bumped her head on my bed.  

“Ouch!” she exclaimed loudly. 

“Oh, you’re awake then,” said Dad. 

“Hard not to be with noisy Jake in the shower,” Polly retorted. I dangled my head over the side of the bed and made her jump. 

“I’m up here actually.” 

“Well who’s in our shower then?” she asked indignantly. 

“Nobody,” said Mum. “It’s the room next door. It’s just the walls are a bit thin.” 

“A bit?” Polly exclaimed. 

“Yes,” said Mum so keep your voice down.” 

We decided to give the shower a miss because the water was cold. Dad ran it for ages but it didn’t get any warmer. We went downstairs looking forward to our full English, it was one of those holiday treats. At home we just had a bowl of Cheerios.  

A young couple came in just after us with a baby and strapped him in a highchair at a table in the corner. They sat down and smiled across at us. Polly waved at the baby and he grinned back.  

Mrs Macaroon appeared at that moment. 

“I said eight o’clock sharp,” she fumed. “I have things to do.” 

“So sorry,” said Dad, looking at his watch. It was one minute past eight. “Could we have the full English please? Tea for my wife and I and orange juice for these two.”  Mrs Macaroon didn’t respond to this but just stalked over to the other couple. 

“Morning,” said the man cheerily. “One scrambled eggs on toast please, one bacon and mushroom bap and a porridge for the little man. One tea, one coffee and could we possibly have some hot water for warming his milk please?” 

Again Mrs Macaroon didn’t answer but turned on her heel and disappeared back into the kitchen. 

“She’s full of the joys of spring,” said the man. His wife shushed him and looked nervously at the kitchen.  

“Yes,” said Dad, “we’d better set our alarm a minute earlier tomorrow.” 

“Could have been down ten minutes sooner,” said the man, “but I was hoping the water would warm up.” 

“We had that problem,” said Dad. “Did you sleep well?” 

“Not really,” the woman whispered. “The bed was really hard.” 

“Ours was lumpy,” said Mum, “and the pillows were flat as pancakes. Hardly slept a wink.” 

“Ours was creaky,” said Polly, “and Jake wriggle bum wouldn’t lie still!” I threw a rolled up napkin at her. 

The woman gave a little cough and rolled her eyes. Everyone went quiet as we realised Mrs Macaroon was in the room.  

She plonked a tray on our table without a word, then went out and fetched another for the couple with the baby. We all looked at each other uncomfortably. 

“Tuck in then,” said Mum, forcing a smile. The orange juice was watered down. The eggs were solid and rubbery. The bacon was slimy with grease. The sausages were more like charcoal sticks and the toast was either black and charred or white and soggy. It was all cold. I tried putting lots of ketchup and brown sauce on but I couldn’t disguise the fact that this was the most disgusting full English I had ever tasted. 

At the other table the couple were looking sadly at their plates. The baby cried when the first spoon of grey lumpy goo was offered. His mother tried to tempt him with the yellow lumpy goo that was on her toast. He pushed it away and cried again.  

“Come on,” said the father, “we’ve got some rusks upstairs.” The family departed, leaving their food untouched. 

We headed back to our room feeling a bit deflated. As Dad opened the door Mum shrieked. We followed her gaze and saw a little mouse jump off the bed and run under the chest of drawers. 

“That is it!” Mum exclaimed. “We’re leaving!” 

“It was only a mouse,” said Dad, trying to calm her down.  

“It was not only a mouse,” said Mum. “It was a mouse after a horrid breakfast, after a cold wash, after a sleepless night in a lumpy bed!” She was in one of her stressed out moods! 

“OK, OK,” said Dad. “It’s just that everywhere else was booked up.” 

“Well, now we know why this place wasn’t,” said Mum. We all agreed it was rubbish here. So we packed our bags to leave. Polly whispered to me that it was probably a guest Mrs Macaroon didn’t like and had turned into a mouse. We had both decided that she was a witch. “Shh,” said Mum, looking around her anxiously, “Stop being silly.” 

Dad rang the bell nervously. We waited for what seemed like ages, then he rang it again. Mrs Macaroon appeared immediately. 

“Don’t be so impatient,” she snapped. 

“Sorry,” muttered Dad, looking at his feet. “We’d erm, like to check out please.” 

“You’re booked in until Saturday,” Mrs Macaroon barked. 

“Yes I know, I’m sorry but, erm, something came up.” 

“I’ll have to charge you a supplement,” she said. “I can’t let that room to anyone else this week now.” 

“Oh, of course,” said Dad. 

“So that comes to one hundred and forty pounds and fifty seven pence,” said Mrs Macaroon. 

“What?” exclaimed Dad. “We’ve only been here one night! Sixty pounds a night the brochure said.” 

“There’s the early cancellation charge,” said Mrs Macaroon indignantly. “There’s the towel hire, you used FOUR towels!” She said this as if it were a serious crime. 

“But surely use of towels is included,” said Dad. 

“They don’t launder themselves,” the old lady huffed. “Then there’s the excess paper use.” 

“Now I really have no idea what you are talking about,” said Dad. 

“You used FOURTEEN sheets of toilet paper,” said Mrs Macaroon with that same indignation. “And of course breakfast.” 

“Breakfast is definitely included in the sixty pounds,” Dad said confidently. “It’s very clear in your brochure. ‘Bed and breakfast’ it says.” 

“It doesn’t say you can have ketchup AND brown sauce,” said Mrs Macaroon, and she pointed a bony finger at me accusingly. I shuddered and took a small step backwards. I wondered whether she was going to turn me into a mouse right there. 

“This is ridiculous,” said Mum, exasperated. “We found a mouse in our room. We could have you closed down.” 

“You are a LIAR!” shrieked Mrs Macaroon. “You are trying to get out of paying your bill. I should call the police!” 

Dad didn’t like it when people caused a scene so he put his hand on Mum’s arm. 

“It’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pay it. Then we can go.” He took out his cheque book. 

“Cash,” said Mrs Macaroon. 

“Sorry?” said Dad. 

“Cash only. Didn’t you read the small print?” 

“Clearly not,” said Dad. “Is there a cash point near here?” 

“Leave your bags until you’ve paid,” said the old woman. “I’m not having you do a runner.” 

Dad sighed and we went out to find the cash point. 

“Better get back quick,” he said, “or she’ll be charging us interest.” 

“Or turning us into mice,” said Polly rolling her eyes. 

“What a dragon!” said Mum. 

“No, she’s a witch,” corrected Polly. 

Eventually we had paid Mrs Macaroon and loaded our bags into the car. 

“May as well spend the rest of the day here,” said Dad. “It’s a shame but we’ll have to head home this evening kids. Sorry but there’s nowhere else to stay.” We were all upset.  

“There must be somewhere,” Polly said. “Let’s look. I want to stay here and go on the beach and play in a beach hut.” 

Again I had the strange feeling that Mrs Macaroon was watching me. I looked up and I’m sure I saw the net curtains twitch.  

“Let’s just get away from this place,” I said shivering slightly although it was warm. As we drove away I still felt as if I was being watched. I had a feeling this was not the last we would see of Mrs Macaroon. 


Chapter Two: Old Man  

We parked at the end of the seafront and set off towards the beach. Polly was swinging the string bag, I was in charge of buckets and spades and Mum carried the “sensible bag” with handwipes and cream for stings and all the other stuff Mums carry “just in case”. 

The sun was out and we soon cheered up and decided to enjoy our day out at the seaside. It did feel like we were on holiday. It was just a shame that it was only going to last for one day. When we reached the ramp that went down to the sand Polly yelled that kind of overexcited yodel that little kids do. She launched herself full tilt towards the beach, string bag swinging wildly beside her. 

“Polly!” shouted Mum and Dad together. “Steady on!” 

Polly looked back over her shoulder but didn’t stop running. She careered straight into the legs of a little old man coming the other way and the two of them ended up in a heap in the sand. 

“Sorry,” muttered Polly. She knew she was in BIG trouble.  

“I’m so sorry,” gasped Mum, helping the man to his feet. “She can get a bit boisterous when she’s excited. Are you alright? Goodness me, I am sorry.” She was flustered and embarrassed and fussing around the old man trying to brush sand off him. It was probably more annoying than being knocked over. 

The man put his hand up to stop her burbling. 

“My dear lady,” he said, “nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing a child enthusiastic for the joys of Bodbury-on-Sea.” He winked at Polly. “First day of your holiday eh? I can always tell.” He looked back at Mum who smiled uncomfortably. “It’s like when you first let a puppy off the leash.” 

“First and last day,” I muttered. 

“Ah, of course,” said the old man. “That’s why your parents are so on edge. Reels you in doesn’t she with such a friendly, happy name. Mrs Macaroon.” 

“How do you know we’ve been there?” I asked in amazement. 

“All over your face boy. Written in capital letters! You didn’t get a wink of sleep did you?” 

“And breakfast was horrid and a mouse was on Mum’s bed and now we have to go home and that lady’s all grey!” blurted Polly. 

Mum and Dad pulled faces at her trying to make her be quiet but she went on. 

“And there were HUNDREDS of stairs and she counted our toilet paper!” 

“Anyway darling,” Mum interrupted, “we must let this gentleman be on his way.” She turned to the old man. “I really am sorry,” and back to Polly, “say sorry Polly.” 

“Sorry,” Polly said to her feet. 

“I know, I know, a terrible start,” the old man said, “but you’ll love the rest of your holiday.” 

“This IS the rest of our holiday,” I said. “We’re going home tonight, there’s nowhere to stay.” 

“Nonsense!” said the old man. “You’re here for a week. You’re staying in my beach hut.” 

“Yay!” Polly said, jumping up and down. 

“Well, that’s very kind..” Dad was hesitant. 

“It’s OK,” said the old man. “It’s free. Bit old and tired but you’ll love it!” He suddenly turned and disappeared into the crowd on the promenade. I tried to see where he went so we could follow him to his beach hut but he was gone. It was like magic. 

“What a funny man,” I said. 

“Can we Mum? Can we?” Polly was still jumping up and down. 

“Can we what?” said Mum. 

“Stay in his beach hut!” 

“Don’t be silly.” 

“Oh! But why not?” 

“They’re just like sheds you use for your stuff in the day,” I told her. “You can’t stay in them. Anyway, we don’t know which one is his.” 

Polly’s bottom lip came out but I rescued the situation. 

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s build the world’s biggest sandcastle.” We settled on the beach and Mum smothered us in suncream. We started digging and piling up sand. The row of beach huts along the front looked bright and jolly in the sun. They were all painted different colours, reds and blues and yellows. One was green with big purple flowers all over it. One was rainbow striped like a deckchair, each plank of wood a different shade. Some were very fresh and shiny, some a little more tired and faded. One, at the end, was drab and grey. Its shutters hung at an awkward angle at its windows. Its roof was green with algae. 

“Hey look,” I said, pointing at it, “do you think that’s where we’re staying?” I grinned. “Better than Mrs Macaroon’s.”  

“I want it to be the rainbow one,” said Polly. 

“Sweetheart,” Mum said, “we are not staying in a beach hut.” Polly’s bottom lip started to come out again. 

“Guess what?” said Dad, “It’s ice cream time!” 

“Yes!” I punched the air. 

“It’s half eleven in the morning,” said Mum. 

“Yes,” replied Dad, “and we’re on holiday.” 

We had big soft ice creams and Mum and Dad let us have a flake in it. We explored the seafront and played in the amusements. At lunch time we found a little café which did an all day breakfast and Dad said it was only fair to make up for the morning’s disaster. It was really yummy.  

We went back to the beach in the afternoon and continued on our castle. After a bit more work it was magnificent. We had built a huge pile of sand and arranged towers around it and on the top. We were half way through digging a big deep moat around it when Polly suddenly stopped. 

“I saw him!” she shouted. “Look!” She was pointing towards the old faded beach hut. 

“There’s nobody there,” I said.  

“I saw him, I saw him!” she insisted. “The old man! He waved at me from the window.” 

“Of course he did,” I said sarcastically. We went back to our digging in silence. Suddenly the edge of the moat gave way. Polly disappeared head first into the sand. She shrieked and I laughed out loud as I saw her little feet waving around in the air. Mum lifted her out. Dad and me exchanged glances, I hid behind Dad. We were waiting for her to be cross that we had laughed. To our surprise Polly was grinning triumphantly. She lifted her hand in the air and did a little dance of joy. 

“Look!” she cried. “I found buried treasure!” In her hand she held a small old fashioned looking key. “It could be for a treasure chest,” she exclaimed. 

“Maybe,” I said. Then I looked up at the sky. “Just our luck, our one day of holiday and it’s going to rain.” It had gone a bit darker and a cool breeze had started. Clouds were gathering. “Great!” I said. 

“Never mind,” said Mum. “We’ll find somewhere to shelter. It’ll soon blow over.” She was gathering the towels and buckets up and glancing at the sky as she did it. “Come on kids,” she said. “Let’s go.” 

As the first big drops started to fall we reached the promenade. 

“Polly!” shouted Mum suddenly. “What are you doing?” 

“It fits!” Polly shouted. She was doing her victory dance again. “It really fits!” 

“Polly!” said Dad. “You are unbelievable!” Polly was at the door of the old drab beach hut. Her treasure key was in the keyhole and her other hand was on the door handle. “I told you I saw him,” she said. 

“Well it’s a bit scruffy,” I said, “but it will be dry.” At that moment the heavens opened properly. It was as if someone had turned a hose on us. 

“I guess we won’t be doing any harm,” said Dad. We all looked hopefully at Mum. We all expected her to say no. She glanced up at the sky. 

“Go on then,” she said. “Let’s get out of this rain.” 

Polly pushed the door open and we all surged in blinking as our eyes adjusted to the dark. We stopped, mouths open in amazement. I looked at the others to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was clear from their faces that they were seeing what I was seeing. 


I wonder if some of you lovely folks would cast an eye over my 2nd chapter. This is a lower middle grade book for about age 7-8. 12 chapters, approx 22000 words total in my initial draft. At the end of chapter 1 the family are dejected that they have nowhere to stay for their holiday (having checked out of the ghastly guest house they were in) and are going to have to go home at the end of the first day...

The Magic Beach Hut


Chapter Two: Old Man  

We parked at the end of the seafront and set off a little dejectedly towards the beach. Polly was swinging the string bag, I was in charge of buckets and spades, Dad had a football and Mum carried the “sensible bag” with handwipes and plasters and suncream and cream for stings. 

The sun was out and we soon cheered up and decided to enjoy our day out at the seaside. We strolled past palm trees, sandwich boards advertising talent shows and little kiosks selling trinkets or fishing nets or tickets for boat trips. It did feel like we were on holiday. It was just a shame that it was only going to last for one day. When we reached the ramp that went down to the sand Polly yelled that kind of overexcited yodel that little kids do. She launched herself full tilt towards the beach, string bag swinging wildly beside her. 


“Polly!” shouted Mum and Dad together. “Steady on!” 


Polly looked back over her shoulder but didn’t stop running. She careered straight into the legs of a little old man coming the other way and the two of them ended up in a heap in the sand. 


“Sorry,” muttered Polly. She knew she was in big trouble.  


“I’m so sorry,” gasped Mum, helping the man to his feet. “She can get a bit boisterous when she’s excited. Are you alright? Goodness me, I am sorry.” She was flustered and embarrassed and fussing around the old man trying to brush sand off him. It was probably more annoying than being knocked over. 


The man put his hand up to stop her burbling. 


“My dear lady,” he said, “nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing a child enthusiastic for the joys of Bodbury-on-Sea.” He winked at Polly. “First day of your holiday eh? I can always tell.” He looked back at Mum who smiled uncomfortably. “It’s like when you first let a puppy off the leash.” 


“First and last day,” I muttered. 


“Ah, of course,” said the old man. “That’s why your parents are so on edge.” He looked at Dad. “Reels you in doesn’t she with such a friendly, happy name. Mrs Macaroon.” 


“How do you know we’ve been there?” asked Dad in amazement. 


“All over your face man. Written in capital letters! You didn’t get a wink of sleep did you?” 


“And breakfast was horrid and a mouse was on Mum’s bed and now we have to go home and that lady’s all grey!” blurted Polly. 


Mum and Dad pulled faces at her intended to signal to her to be quiet but she went on. 


“And there were HUNDREDS of stairs and she counted our toilet paper!” 


“Anyway darling,” Mum interrupted, “we must let this gentleman be on his way.” She turned to the old man. “I really am sorry,” and back to Polly, “say sorry Polly.” 


“Sorry,” Polly said to her feet. 


“I know, I know, a terrible start,” the old man said, “but you’ll love the rest of your holiday.” 


“This IS the rest of our holiday,” I said. “We’re going home tonight, there’s nowhere to stay.” 


“Nonsense!” said the old man. “You’re here for a week. You’re staying in my beach hut.” 


“Yay!” Polly said, jumping up and down.” 


“Well, that’s very kind..” Dad was hesitant. 


“It’s OK,” said the old man. “It’s free. You’ll love it!” He suddenly turned and disappeared into the crowd on the promenade. I tried to see where he went so we could follow him to his beach hut but he was gone. It was like magic. 


“What a funny man,” said Mum. 


“Can we Mum? Can we?” Polly was still jumping up and down. 


“Can we what?” 


“Stay in his beach hut!” 


“Don’t be silly.” 


“Oh! But why not?” 


“They’re just like sheds you use for your stuff in the day. You can’t stay in them. Anyway, we don’t know which one is his.” 


Polly’s bottom lip came out. Dad rescued the situation. 


“Come on,” he said. “Let’s build the world’s biggest sandcastle.” We settled on the beach and Mum smothered us in suncream. We started digging and piling up sand. The row of beach huts along the front looked bright and jolly in the sun. They were all painted different colours, reds and blues and yellows. One was green with big purple flowers all over it. One was rainbow striped like a deckchair, each plank of wood a different shade. Some were very fresh and shiny, some a little more tired and faded. One, at the end, was drab and grey. Its shutters hung at an awkward angle at its windows. Its roof was green with algae. 


“Hey look,” I said, pointing at it, “do you think that’s where we’re staying?” Dad grinned. 


“Better than Mrs Macaroon’s,” he said. 


“I want it to be the rainbow one,” said Polly. 


“Sweetheart,” Mum said, “we are not staying in a beach hut.” Polly’s bottom lip started to come out again. 


“Guess what?” said Dad, “It’s ice cream time!” 


“Yes!” I punched the air. 


“It’s half eleven in the morning,” said Mum. 


“Yes,” replied Dad, “and we’re on holiday.” 


Mum gave in and she took Dad’s hand as we walked up to the kiosk. We had big soft ice creams and Mum and Dad let us have a flake in it. We explored the seafront. We played in the penny slot machines and found a place where we could race remote control cars. I chose a blue one and Polly chose a pink one. There were six cars and I came third and Polly came fifth in our race. At lunch time we found a little café which did an all day breakfast and Dad said it was only fair to make up for the morning’s disaster. It was yummy.  


We went back to the beach in the afternoon and continued on our castle. After a bit more work it was magnificent. We had built a huge pile of sand and arranged towers around it and on the top. We were half way through digging a big deep moat around it when Polly suddenly stopped. 


“I saw him!” she shouted. “Look!” She was pointing towards the old faded beach hut. 


“There’s nobody there,” I said.  


“I saw him, I saw him!” she insisted. “The old man!” 


“Of course you did,” I said sarcastically. We went back to our digging in silence. Suddenly the edge of the moat gave way. Polly disappeared head first into the sand. She shrieked and I laughed as I saw her little feet waving around in the air. Mum lifted her out. Dad and me exchanged glances. We were waiting for her to be cross that we had laughed. To our surprise Polly was grinning triumphantly. She lifted her hand in the air. 


“Look!” she cried. “I found buried treasure!” In her hand she held a small old fashioned looking key. “It could be for a treasure chest,” she exclaimed. 


“Maybe,” said Dad. Then he looked up at the sky. “Just our luck,” he said. “Our one day of holiday and it’s going to rain.” It had gone a bit darker and a cool breeze had started. Clouds were gathering. “Great!” said Dad. 


“Well never mind,” said Mum. “We’ll find somewhere to shelter. It’ll soon blow over.” She was gathering the towels and buckets up and glancing at the sky as she did it. “Come on kids,” she said. “Let’s go.” 


As the first big drops started to fall we reached the promenade. 


“Polly!” shouted Mum suddenly. “What are you doing?” 


“It fits!” Polly shouted. She was jubilant. “It really fits!” 


“Polly!” said Dad. “You are unbelievable!” Polly was at the door of the old drab beach hut. Her treasure key was in the keyhole and her other hand was on the door handle. 


“Well it’s a bit scruffy,” said Polly, “but it will be dry.” At that moment the heavens opened properly. It was as if someone had turned a hose on us. 


“I guess we won’t be doing any harm,” said Dad. We all looked hopefully at Mum. We all expected her to say no. She glanced up at the sky. 


“Go on then,” she said. “Lets get out of this rain.” 


Polly pushed the door open and we all surged in blinking as our eyes adjusted to the dark. We stopped, mouths open in amazement. I looked at the others to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was clear from their faces that they were seeing what I was seeing.