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Title Page

1: A Marvellous Surprise

2: Roll with It

3: The End of the Line

4: To Market, to Market

5: Ducking and Diving

6: Juice Boost

7: Good Taste in Music

8: Finders Keepers

9: Layer upon Layer

10: Breaking News

11: A Man with a Plan

12: Risky Business

13: Ride or Sigh

14: This Little Light of Mine

15: Hitching a Ride

16: Mrs Hoots’ Haberdashery

17: Another Place and Time

18: One for Sorrow

19: Lady-Bird, Lady-Bird

20: Twists and Turns

21: Hole in the Wall

22: Black Forest

23: The Deep

24: Hexagon Hall

25: The Other Side of Fear

26: Electric Heart

27: Walking on Egg Cells

28: Quite a Tumble

29: Goodbye

30: Hanging in the Balance

About the Publisher


1A Marvellous Surprise

Have you ever woken up one morning and felt like everything has changed overnight? That’s because it has. Cecilia Hudson-Gray woke up on the morning of her twelfth birthday to the gurgling sound of the radiators coming on. It was a frosty March morning and the windows wept with condensation as the heating kicked in to settle the cold. Cecilia looked out of her window and was met by two black eyes and a sharp black beak; she inhaled a large sniff and pulled her quilt around her tightly. One for sorrow she thought, remembering the first line of an old nursery rhyme. She watched the brave bird poking about on the window ledge, parading jauntily along like it was performing a circus act. As the magpie dipped forwards preparing for flight, Cecilia’s brain also swooped into action as it occurred to her that there might be presents waiting downstairs! She leapt out of bed, her quilt flying out behind her like a cape, and thudded through the house like a rumble of thunder, followed by her sister, Hester, who must’ve heard Storm Cecilia passing.

“Happy Birthday,” chimed her parents as Cecilia wedged herself in at the breakfast table.

“Thanks, guys!” she replied, pulling the sleeves of her pyjama top over her hands like mittens, shielding them from the chill of the morning and the heat of the hot cup of sweet tea in front of her. She picked it up and blew on it gently, tufts of steam rising off the surface.

“You’ll stretch your sleeves and ruin your PJs doing that, you know,” her dad warned, planting an apparently unwanted kiss on her mess of hair. Cecilia responded by brushing away the invisible imprint of the kiss as her sister entered the room.

Hester sidled up to Cecilia and whispered in her ear, “Nappy turd-day!” and sat down, smiling smugly.

Cecilia put down her cup and began a mocking slow-clap. “Very funny. How long did it take you to come up with that one… Fester?”

Hester refused a dignified response and stuck her finger in her nose, then reached out to wipe the fruits of her labour on Cecilia’s arm.

“Daaaaad!” Cecilia wailed like a baby.

“Stop it, you two. Hester, it’s not fair if you don’t have enough to go round!” their dad, Lyle, joked then returned to making pancakes.

Meanwhile, the girls’ mum—Alice—squirrelled away at the crossword, nibbling the end of her pencil. “Drat!” she exclaimed. “I’ve made a mistake!”

“You are a mistake,” taunted Cecilia.

“Err, no! That’s not a nice thing to say, missy. It might be your birthday but that’s no way to talk to ya’ mum.”

Her dad came rushing at her, brandishing a greasy spoon. He held it up to Cecilia’s chin, grinning from ear to ear.

“What have you done with my daughter?” he said playfully. “And when are you planning on bringing her back?”

“Never!” Cecilia hissed dramatically, squeezing her eyes into a villainous glare.

“Why, why, WHY!” Lyle broke down into a mock lamentation, dramatically falling to his knees and reaching his arms towards the sky, spoon falling to the floor, butter dripping everywhere.

“You’re such a doofus, Dad,” Cecilia chuckled through another sip of sweet tea.

“You’re cleaning that up, by the way, Lyle,” said Alice without looking up from her crossword.

“No, I’m not,” said Lyle. “Tatty to the rescue!” Tatty was their cat and he hopped onto the floor quick as a flash at the mention of his name. Lyle retrieved the spoon and flung it into the sink, while Tatty licked the greasy patch of kitchen floor. Lyle flipped the last pancake and plonked it onto a pile he had already made.

“All right, all right, grub’s up! Dig in, you scallies,” said Lyle as he put the pile of steaming hot pancakes in the centre of the table. “Eat ’til your eyes are bulging out of your head! We’ve got a long day.”

Ten minutes later, Cecilia was picking at the remains on her plate, breakfast now resting happily in her stomach, when she was distracted by Hester climbing up on her chair. Hester cleared her throat and wiped her sticky hands on her pyjamas and through a mouth smudged with raspberry jam was about to speak when Cecilia interrupted her.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

Hester, even at the tender age of eight, fancied herself as a bit of a scholar and found any occasion when people were gathered together as a chance to recite a poem or a speech she had “prepared earlier”. She was going to write the speeches for a politician when she grew up. Hester unfolded a small piece of paper and began orating.

“We are gathered here today…”

“You pinched that, that’s not your writing,” heckled Cecilia.

Hester continued undeterred, “…to celebrate the birth and life of my dear sister, Cecilia Hudson-Gray, and I would like to personally mark the occasion with a gift and this wonderful speech I have written. Thank you.” She sat back down. There was a light scattering of applause.

“That was a lovely gesture, Hester,” said their mum, patting her on the back.

“So, Cecilia, do you think you deserve a present?” said Hester. Her eyes were bright and excited. “I hope you like it. If you don’t, it won’t go to waste—I can always keep it for myself.”

She disappeared from the room for a moment and came back holding a crumpled brown paper bag that had been very badly taped

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