The Jolly Reader

‘Put down that blasted book and finish yer watch!’ bellowed Captain Bluebeard at the young sailor seated in the prow of The Salty Scourge.

‘Blasted-book! Blasted-book!’ screeched the bird perched on the Captain’s shoulder. He rubbed his ear. The man who sold him this new parrot assured him it was trained. Ha!

‘Yes Captain,’ said Toby hiding the book inside his shirt. If the other pirates saw it, they would use it for toilet paper. He picked up the telescope and squinted through the lens.

Yikes! There was a small ship not too far away, gliding out of the mist.

‘Ship ahoy!,’ Toby shouted, ‘Starboard side. She’s a pretty one Captain!’

At last, thought the Captain. They had not plundered a ship in weeks and the crew were getting extremely bored. They had been fighting and throwing each other’s peg-legs overboard. Quite a number of the crew were now hopping about.

There was also the toilet paper situation.

 

As they approached the other ship, the pirates imagined what the cargo might be.

‘Gold, I hope,’ said the Captain, ‘Thar’s bills to pay.’

‘A new cutlass,’ said the second mate whose weapon was a disgrace to the pirate profession, all chipped and rusty.

‘Peg-legs,’ said one of the hopping sailors.

‘Toilet paper!’ cried someone else.

‘Toilet-paper! Toilet-paper!’ screeched the parrot.

The crew cheered while the Captain moved the parrot onto his other shoulder.

 

As The Salty Scourge drew alongside the smaller ship, Toby could see two crewmembers on deck. There was a old man seated on a barrel, with his head buried inside a small book. And a girl about his age, standing at the helm. Her hair whipped about her face in the wind, and she was scowling right at him.

Toby, the Captain, and any pirates with two legs, vaulted aboard.

The old man stood up, bowed, and said ‘Good morrow, and welcome aboard mine humble ship. I, William, selleth many and varied books on any subject thee would like. I pray what booketh art thee looking for?’

The Captain looked confused.

‘Just tell us what yer cargo be so we can plunder it!’

‘We are a bookshop, our cargo is books, which sea rats like you would have no use for,’ said the girl.

‘Sea-rats! Sea-rats!’ repeated the parrot and bit the Captain hard on the ear.

‘We use books,’ said the second mate, ‘for toilet paper!’

He laughed and drew his weapon.

‘Oh dear,’ said William. ‘Captain, thy bird is without manners, and sailor, thy cutlass is a disgrace.’

The Captain wiped the blood from his ear and the second mate nodded sadly.

‘Methinks I have something to help thee and all thy crew.’

William went below deck and came back up with an armful of books.

Care of the Cutlass.

How to Train Your Parrot.

Peg-Legs for Dummies.

‘Tryeth reading these,’ said William.

‘Thank ye for this useful bounty,’ said the Captain taking the books.

‘Would ye ‘ave any spare toilet paper too?’

The Green Eyed Doggerel: A Dastardly Tale of Magic Gone Wrong

“Doggerel (noun): verse that is badly written / comic verse in irregular time”

Thank god you’re reading this. It would definitely come out all wrong if I tried to tell you out loud.

So this is how it happened. I’d been hiding behind the A-G Junior Fiction shelf for only three seconds or less, before I realised my BIG mistake! As I crouched into ‘transformation go stance,’ intending to transform into a massive Harry Potter hardback, that would’ve been funny right, I noticed the green eyed doggerel sitting, drooling beside my right flank.

Now if you know the rules of ‘transformation go,’ you will be as horrified as I was! By taking the stance, ‘whilst flanked to the right by any living creature that engenders horror, the horrified stance taker will be irrevocably affected by said horrifying being.’ These are the rules, these were and always will be the rules and I knew them.

So what happened that could be so awful? Just listen while I tell you out loud. Prepare yourself though, it’s a disaster.

‘I should have checked before I morphed!
Now forever I’ll be dwarfed
in language less than great.
Everything I say from now, will well and truly grate.
My words will rhyme
All out of time
Because of that green doggerel.
He had big ears, a wagging tail but was a fiendish moggrel
I mean a mongrel!

My rhymes, they aren’t good
Not like a poet’s rhymes should…. be

They’re not in keeping with high literatures’ ruling.
And to make it worse,
my doggereled speech,
is accompanied by drooling!!!’

So it’s here, online and here only in the chat room, that I have to make my entire social life. Thank heavens I can write like a normal humagic and not reveal the idiocy of careless transforming with every spoken word. Before this disaster I had high hopes of gaining access to the local Selective Transformational College, but, having made such a monumental error in practical wisdom skills, I have to kiss those dreams goodbye. Luckily it’s not my only humagenic gift. My dad was a Transformational Savant but my mother was an amazing Dance Craze, Daze Maker and lucky for me I have both their gifts. Looks like in public, I’m gonna have to confine myself to bustin’ out with the funky power moves and my transformation skills will have to be my secondary gift. It’s off to the arts academy for me. I’m guessing I’d better learn universal sign language if I want to communicate with people in the same geographic location without making them feel nauseous.
I’m cursing the day I played hide and seek in that store. But if you want to hear something totally sick, you should here me swear out loud… but then again, maybe not.

My Key

I’ve been given a key.

A magical, wonderful, skeleton key.

There are treasure chests all around, and my key unlocks them all.

Sometimes smoothly, with a neat ‘click’ – and out jumps a cat in marvellous millinery, or a ravenous caterpillar.

Other times the key rotates with ponderous effort, like the mechanism is rusty. From these chests creatures emerge and form more slowly, revealing themselves in time.

With a mere turn of my key I can cure my confusion or eliminate my ennui.

The place I love best of all to take my key is here.

It is warm and there’s a hush of quiet.

The walls are lined with shelves.

The shelves are filled with chests.

The chests hold mysterious jewels awaiting discovery.

And sometimes, if I’m lucky, a treasure chest becomes mine.

I bring it home, to my room, where my own shelves are lined with chests.

I spend time with my new treasure. I delve into the contents. I discover amazing new things.

Thank you for my key.

I wonder what treasure I’ll open next.

Haunted by Words

It always started with the ringing of a bell. An ancient door creaking open on rusted hinges accompanied by a tinny peal. There was the familiar smell of bitter coffee intertwined with the scent of musty tomes that caused Chris’ mind to quiet itself in the face of a labyrinth of words. His mind was embraced by millions of voices vying for attention. Not necessarily his attention. Simply an indiscriminate desire to be heard and truly embraced by the mind of another. An opportunity for the words held captive in one brain to migrate to another.

Chris raised a heavily wrinkled finger and ran the tip along fragmented letters and words. He hooked his finger at the top of a dark spine and gently tipped the book forward into his sweaty palms. Chris flipped it over to scan the back with a sharp, practiced gaze. He opened it to the first page, caressing paper beneath his fingertips and finding more words than he knew what to do with.

He found himself at the bottom of the sea, he found himself in the middle of a desert, he found himself in churches and cathedrals and palaces constructed from syllables and paragraphs. He found himself forgetting all his aches and pains and the weakness in his knees. Perhaps he might have continued finding himself, if he hadn’t appeared.

It was a living skeleton of a boy dwarfed by an oversize blue hoodie, coalescing from dust motes. His limbs were long and gangly. Sticking out from his jumper was a bony neck supporting a mischievous, narrow face, framed with a wild tangle of jet-black hair. He possessed a pair of mad, ocean green eyes that churned and rippled, as if in the midst of a violent storm. His was a hollow, yet piercing gaze, that sent needles prickling over Chris’ skin.

The boy, Aaron, reached out a translucent hand, as if to pluck one of the volumes off the shelf. His fingernails passed straight through it. He kept reaching until he was up to his shoulder, before sighing deeply.

“Worth a shot.”

Chris wrinkled his nose.

Aaron gave him a translucent grin.

“Let’s start where we left off,” Aaron said brightly. His voice echoed eerily amongst the shelves, as it always did.

A book tumbled into his hands and fell at his feet, falling open to about halfway. There was a flicker of the title: Paradise Lost. Chris instantly recognised it as his copy. There was Chris’ bookmark, a postcard with a picture of Aaron’s bookstore. Aaron stood outside the front, as an adult, hair as messy as ever. Aaron reached out a pale hand, his fingertip passing through the image. His expression was indecipherable.

Chris placed his finger against the first line, and Aaron rested his hand beside his. Age and youth, side by side. Chris lost himself in the words beneath their fingers.

When Chris glanced up, his only companion was the empty space beside him.

Derek and Rosie

Derek is a book.

He lives on the very top shelf of a dusty bookcase, in a dusty old bookshop, just waiting for someone to pick him up, take him home and read him again and again.

Every day he watches as people come into the shop, browse the shelves, and pick other books to take home.

“Why does no-one ever pick me?” cries Derek as the shop closes for another day.
“You’re too old and dusty!” replies one book, rudely.
“You’re just a kids book about a little girl, who wants to read that?” replies another.
“And you’re on the top shelf, no-one ever looks up there” replies a third.

Derek sighs, and a single tear runs down his spine. He feels like he will just stay on his shelf forever, and no-one will ever read his story.

“I must get myself noticed” thinks Derek as he settles down for the night. Around him, the other books were sleeping, their pages rustling as they snored quietly.

The next morning the shop opens and customers start to come in. Soon, a lady walks below Derek’s shelf.
Derek rustles his pages, trying to get noticed, but he only manages to shake dust from his cover onto the lady, making her sneeze.

Not long after, a man walks below his shelf. Derek jumps up and down, trying to get noticed, and in doing so he topples over with a thud! The man looks up, but all he sees is a dusty old book that no-one wants to read. He wanders off shaking his head.
Derek picks himself up, and dusts himself off. “I’m never going to get read”, he cries.

The shop is very quiet for the rest of the day, and no-one comes near Derek’s shelf. Just before the shop is about to close, Derek hears the shop bell ring. He looks up and sees a young girl and her parents walk into the shop. The young girl wanders over towards Derek’s shelf.

“Perfect”, Derek says to himself, “she’ll definitely want to read me”.
Derek takes a deep breath and throws himself onto the floor.
Splat!

The young girl looks around to see what the noise was and sees Derek lying on the floor. She picks him up and dusts him off. “D-er-ek an-d R-o-sie” she reads slowly. “That’s my name!”

“Rosie” calls her father, “Time to go.”
Rosie runs to her daddy waving Derek in the air. “Please can we buy this book, daddy” she begs “Please, please!”

At bedtime, Rosie and her daddy read Derek for the very first time. Rosie tells Derek that he is the best story ever, and promises to read him every day for the rest of her life. She snuggles under her covers with a big smile on her face, clutching Derek tightly to her chest.

That night, Derek & Rosie both fall asleep the happiest they have ever been, already dreaming of the wonderful adventures they will have together.

A Story From Long Ago

The bell over the door let out a musical chiming, disturbing the muted stillness of the book-lined shop. The keeper glanced up from the half-turned page, waiting to gauge her customer. A peruser, happiest left alone? A muser, who needed a nudge, a well-placed recommendation? Perhaps a family with excited little readers, who required a keen eye for half-trained hands? Gillian had known all types, and was quick to interpret their preference.
The man by the door, however, had Gillian sitting up a little straighter, and anyone who knew her well would know that the small line at her brow meant that she was watching shrewdly. The man was tall, solidly built, but his demeanour was that of one who wished to go unnoticed. His eyes shifted through the store, and it seemed he quickly realised the shop was empty but for him and Gillian. He turned slightly, as if to go.
“Can I help you?” Gillian asked, her finger poised on her page, her voice closing the distance between them.
The man hesitated, his hand still on the door. “I’m looking for a book,” he said, in a voice much smaller than he was.
Gillian raised her eyebrows, but caught herself before she replied, ‘just any book?’ Instead, she asked, “What was it called?”
“I don’t remember,” he said unhelpfully. She let out a quiet sigh, but she refrained from rolling her eyes. So that was the type of customer he was. She put down her book, resigned, and her page settled back to disappear amongst the rest. “Do you remember what it was about?” she asked, beginning the familiar script.
“It was a picture book…”
“Okay. Do you remember the colour?”
“Blue, I think.”
“How old were you when you read it?”
“About three.”
She registered something in his tone, some earnest longing. Her voice softened as she continued her questions. “How long ago was that?” “Was it wider than it was tall?” “Were there many words to a page, or only a few?”
To most, he only said, “I can’t remember.”
Eventually, she held up a finger, then disappeared between book-laden shelves. The store was silent around the solitary figure of the man. Just as he grew restless, Gillian reappeared. She held forth a book. The man’s eyes grew wide, and he approached, his hand extended. He took the book as if it were made of glass. Gillian watched in silence, giving the man his moment.
“My mother…” he said thickly, “died recently. When I was a boy, we came to this shop, and she told me to choose a book. But I was,” he cleared his throat and swallowed, his voice trembling, “angry. I can’t remember why. But she forced me to choose a book. That night, she read it to me, and I hated her the whole time. When she finished… she said, ‘hate me all you want, little one. I can’t help but love you.’” He blinked rapidly, and wiped a rough hand against his cheek. He stared at the book’s cover, then looked at Gillian, whose hand rested softly against her lip. He gave a weak smile. “Thank you.”

Bunyip in the Bookshop

Just before I open the door, I smell an awful smell.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop, but I promised not to tell.

First I hear my mother say, ‘no more eggs for you!’
Then I hear my father laugh, ‘I think you need the loo?’

Every time I find a book, I touch some sticky slime.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop, his favourite books all rhyme.

First I hear my mother say, ‘what happened to that book.’
Then I hear my father shout, ‘are you feeling crook?’

At the end of story time I hear a snoring sound.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop. He’s sleeping on the ground.

First I hear my mother say, ‘Did you hear that snore?’
Then I hear my father laugh, ‘Geez that books a bore.’

Every time I try to read, I hear a crashing noise.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop. He’s playing with the toys.

First I hear my mother say, ‘What happened to that cup?’
Then I hear my father scream, ‘You’d better clean that up!’

Every time I go to leave, I tread in yucky stuff.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop, I’ve really had enough!

‘WHO MADE THIS MESS! WHAT HAPPENED HERE AND WHAT’S THAT AWEFUL SMELL!’

‘IT WAS THE BUNYIP IN THE BOOKSHOP, but I promised not to tell!’

Tim’s Bookshop

Tim was just a young boy
Of very little height
Just a few years in age and
Rather short in sight

Tim lived at home
With mum and dad
A cat named Calvin,
And a dog called Sinbad

Tim’s most favourite place
In the whole of the world
Was a little bookshop
Where the road curled

His mum would take him
Once a week
To story time
It was such a treat.

Tim would sit and listen
To each and every book
Tim loved every minute
Every page was worth a look.

There was a little table
Where he could sit
Books all around him
A chair that was just the right fit

Authors came in
To sign their name
The workers ran around gathering books
They left with just a bit of fame

Paul he is the boss man
With his glasses on his head
He runs around the store all day
Does he ever go to bed?

When people come into the shop
Paul greets them all by name
They browse around and buy his books
They always leave with more than when they came

Beth is always working hard
She greets everyone with a grin
Nothing is too much trouble
For everyone it’s a win

Mum sits in the big cosy chair
Giving her books a sneak peep
Choosing one she would like to read
Hope she doesn’t fall asleep.

The books they were Tim’s favourite
So many on the wall
He could just sit and look all day
But he can’t possibly read them all

Which one to choose, it was so difficult
There were many he would like to get to know
Dinosaurs…….Astronauts…….Pirates…….
Great covers all on show

Tim made new friends
He travelled far and wide
He always learnt new things
With every book he spied

Finally Tim has chosen his book
To the one he has bestowed this glory
Is about a caterpillar who eats too much
It will be a great bedtime story.

Wombat Books: Open for Submissions at the End of the Month

Great news everyone!

Wombat Books is opening its picture book, early reader and middle fiction submissions at the end of this month. There will only be a one week gap to submit your manuscript, so get in quick.

You will need to submit your manuscript via their submissions page between May 31 – June 7 (11.59pm AEST).

This is the only way that Wombat Books accepts submissions. They do not respond to emails.

Visit their submissions page for more information here: https://bit.ly/2WxBR65.

Emerging Writers Group “Bookshop” Competition

This Month, Paul & Beth have been so kind as to create a competition for all of the emerging writers.

The wonderful prize is a “sit-down” with a published author who writes for the same age group that you write for.

The only parameters for competition entries are as follows

  1. It must be under 500 words in length
  2. It must be set in a bookshop

Entries can be a full story, short story or excerpt and can be on any topic, or subject, it just needs to be set in a bookshop.  Entries for the competition close on 14th May 2019 and all entries will be posted to EWG Online (as I am now calling it) shortly after.

A voting form will be available online, and you will have a total of 3 points to divide between two stories.  One will receive 2 points, the other will receive 1. You may not vote for your own entry.

Please email your entries directly to Beth at staff@thechildrensbookshop.com.au with the subject line “EWG Bookshop Competition Entry”

 

Good luck and happy writing!