Monday, 20 June 2016

Guest Post by M . G. Leonard - Why Beetles? (Beetle Boy)

Why Beetles? 

I spent my young life frightened of creepy-crawlies. My fear has ruined countless picnics, barbeques and showers. And then one day, after getting two degrees and feeling pretty confident in my own cleverness, I was stunned to discovered that I didn’t know what a beetle was. 

I didn’t know that beetles fly, pollinate more plants than bees, control disease, fertilize the soil and are the most essential creature to the health of our planet.

When I discovered that beetles breathe through tiny holes in their exoskeleton called spiracles, I wondered if, on a subconscious level, my fear was routed in the illusion that these creatures appear not to respire? They appear to be dead, then shock the hell out of you by moving. Your brain screams WALKING DEAD! ZOMBIE! And before there’s time to process the information you’re running away, or, if you’re feeling brave, imprisoning the poor unthreatening invertebrate in a glass whilst your heart is hammering in your chest.

I can’t overstate the impact of these revelations. How could I be an educated grown-up and not know what a beetle is? My fear of insects had prevented me from ever looking at them properly, and in turn my ignorance had fueled my fear. I wondered if I could have avoided twenty years of the screaming heebie-jeebies dance if I’d learned more about insects when I was young?

My life has been guided and informed by stories. It is a form of information sharing that has a sustained impact on me. I find it hard to retain facts on their own, but put them in a story and I’ll remember them for the rest of my life. So, I looked to see if there were any good stories about insects, which showed them in an appealing light. Actually, invertebrates get a pretty bad press in fiction and in film. Remember the creepy-crawly scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, or the flesh-eating scarabs in The Mummy? The only stories I could find that embraced mini-beasts were Charlottes Web and James and the Giant Peach. 

I wanted Beetle Boy to exist, but the only way that was going to happen was if I wrote it myself. 

We experience the pendulum swing between biophilia and biophobia acutely when we watch a David Attenborough show, but it is there in our everyday lives. I embraced it, and as I did the research for Beetle Boy, I found my fascination with the natural world grew, and my fear reduced.

My fear has now reduced to the degree that a week ago I went to The Bug Farm in Pembrokeshire and let flower beetles crawl up my arm. It was wonderful. So wonderful that I have purchased a pair of rainbow stag beetles, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of our new family pets. My boys are beside themselves with excitement. No other kids at school have pet beetles.

I won’t pretend I’m not proud of Beetle Boy. I am. This crazy adventure story about a boy and a beetle has changed my life. But I don’t feel the success of the book, which has so far been a bestseller in two countries and is being translated into twenty-seven languages, is down to any cleverness on my part. I feel like the story was waiting for me, under a rock, till I was brave enough to pick it up and confront my fear and ignorance.

‘Bug me! This is as good as it gets! This book will have you scuttling with joy! Beetlelicious, fantastic fun for everyone. I was crawling with joy from every page that I read. Gross, funny and heart warming - a flapping great read, this book has imagination with wings.’ MR RIPLEY’S ENCHANTED BOOKS for more Beetle goodness check out the authors website: 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Guest Post - Iris by HP Wood - (Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet)

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood is one of the best adult books that I've read in a very long time. I really would recommend it with my heart. If you would like to read my book review for it, then click the link Here. This guest post, by the author, is a really good insight as to how the book has evolved into the story that you will hopefully read. I hope this post inspires you to pick up a copy and give it a try. 

My book, MAGRUDER’S CURIOSITY CABINET, is set among the sideshow folk of 1900s Coney Island.  Consequently, it features many characters who were considered “oddities” at the time, but who we today would describe as “disabled.”

As someone born into a pretty typical body, I had a lot of thinking and listening and researching to do, in order to create believable characters whose lives were so different from my own.  The seed for all those characters can be traced back to someone I met more than 30 years ago.

I was just a kid—maybe 11 or 12? I’m not even sure now—and I’d gotten the opportunity to volunteer at a Special Olympics event.  (Special Olympics was founded in 1968 to provide athletic opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.)  Each volunteer was paired with an athlete, and volunteers were charged with helping the athletes make their way from event to event, assisting them in whatever way they might need, and just generally being their buddies and personal cheering section. 

I still remember the pamphlet I filled out in order to volunteer.  So many smiling, joyful faces—people cheering, sharing snacks, putting medals on each other.  And hugging.  Lots and lots of hugging.  

I was the only child of a taciturn New England family.  I was down for some serious hugging.

So when the big day arrived, it was with much eagerness—and stored-up hugs—that I greeted my athlete.  Let’s call her Iris. 

Iris was not at all what I expected.  She was older than me, for one thing, which was not important in-and-of-itself, but the thing was: Iris seemed aware that she was older, in a way that I wasn’t prepared for.  Suddenly this notion of little me as Iris’s “helper” took on a weight I didn’t expect.  I felt embarrassed of myself in a way that I couldn’t begin to understand at the time.

Iris didn’t smile.  She didn’t seem to want to be friends.  And she didn’t want a helper.  

But she had trouble sorting out which event was next.  The little map we’d been given seemed mysterious to her.  Managing her sneakers and sweatshirt and backpack plus a water bottle and that damned map seemed insurmountable.  So she did need me.  But she didn’t want me.  And she sure as hell wasn’t going to hug me.

We trudged from event to event, mostly in awkward silence.  “Do you want to do X,” I would ask.  “Should we go see about Y?”  Iris would shrug and keep walking.  

All around us: cheering, laughing, the occasional skinned knee.  And hugging. Just like the brochure promised: lots and lots of hugging.  But not for me. 

At the end, I returned Iris and her participation medals to her kind-eyed parents.  “Congrats on your medals,” I said with as much enthusiasm as I could fake, “it was great hanging out with you.” 

“Sure,” Iris said down at her sneakers.  And that was it.

For a long time, I kept this story in my mental file of “Life’s Minor Disappointments.”  But decades later, when I started working on MAGRUDER’S, the memory of Iris returned to me.  And I realized that there’s a very different moral to that story than I’d realized when I was young.

Iris didn’t step out of some brochure.  She was a kid like me. In a certain sense, yes, she was unlike me. But she was a complete individual with moods and motivations just as complex as my own.

Maybe it angered her to be led around like a puppy by someone younger than herself.  Maybe she felt—even if she couldn’t express—humiliated or even enraged by the power dynamic between us.  Maybe the whole spectacle offended her: all these neurotypical kids bused in to see how the other half lives, patting each other on the back for being such good little volunteers.  Scooping up un-earned hugs like so many participation medals.

Or maybe the problem was simpler.  Perhaps she wasn’t feeling well that day, maybe she’d argued with her mother.  Heck, what if Iris just didn’t like sports?  I never liked sports—my school’s annual “field day” events were nightmares for me.  So why did I assume Iris liked sports?  

On the other hand, maybe she had a perfectly fine time, and she just wasn’t able to communicate as much.  I believe she let me take her hand at one point. To me, a poor substitute for a hug.  But it could have been the very best she had to offer.

The point is, Iris was a subject—her own subject.   She was not my object.  It was not her job to make me feel good, or to compensate for whatever hug deficit I might have been experiencing.  

Remembering Iris was just the beginning of the work I had to do in order to write MAGRUDER’S.  But holding her in my mind, revisiting those eyes that didn’t owe me a goddamned thing, was definitely the foundation of everything that followed.

To be clear, the disabled characters in my novel aren’t angry, necessarily.  I mean, sometimes they’re angry.  Sometimes they’re happy.  Sometimes they’re scared.  Sometimes they’re in love.  Sometimes they’re a little drunk.  

Just like the rest of us.  

About H.P. Wood: Is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. Instead of making things disappear, she makes books of all shapes and sizes. She has written or edited works on an array topics, including the history of the Internet, the future of human rights, and the total awesomeness of playing with sticks. She lives in Connecticut with a charming and patient husband, a daughter from whom she steals all her best ideas, and more cats than is strictly logical. You can find her at


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Teens/Children's Book Picks Published UK - June 2016 - Post One

Jennifer Bell - The Crooked Sixpence (THE UNCOMMONERS) - Published by Corgi Childrens (2 Jun. 2016)

Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems . . . 

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Returning to Sylvie’s house, they find it has been ransacked by unknown intruders – before a mysterious feather scratches an ominous message onto the kitchen wall. A very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. Ivy and Seb make their escape – only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, where ordinary objects have amazing powers.

The forces of evil are closing in fast, and Ivy and Seb must get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late. 

Dive head first into the world of Lundinor in this magical adventure story for anyone with a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their life.

D. D. Everest (Author) James del la Rue (Illustrator) - Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse - Published by Faber & Faber (2 Jun. 2016)

Archie's cousin, Thistle, is about to start his apprenticeship at the Museum of Magical Miscellany. But when it comes to his initiation, the firemark that burns into Thistle's hand is a strange one, and Archie and Bramble are given it too. 
The Golden Circle is the mark of an ancient alchemist's club and when Archie and his cousins learn about a curse that threatens their beloved museum, they have no choice but to start their own alchemist's club, and face the darkest kind of magic.

Helen Dennis (Author) Bonnie Kate Wolf (Illustrator) - Zenith (River of Ink 2) - Published by Hodder Children's Books (2 Jun. 2016)

Jed must confront the revelation of his true identity: he is the alchemist Fulcanelli who discovered the elixir of life and used it to become young again. He must take the elixir one more time in order to live for ever. If he doesn't take it he will die. But Jed only has nine months left to take the elixir. And he has absolutely no idea how to make it. 
The challenge is clear. Jed, Kassia and co. must hunt down the secret recipe.Their quest takes them to Prague and then on to Paris - but hot on their heels are NOAH, the secret organisation that will do anything to get their hands on the secret to eternal life. 
Jed has everything to live for. But who can he trust?
The second in an action-packed series full of adventure, this book has an illustrated narrative running through it, helping readers to solve the mystery alongside the characters in the story.

Robin Jarvis - The Power of Dark (The Witching Legacy) - Published by Egmont (30 Jun. 2016) - Book Review Here - Interview Here Check them out.

An enthralling mix of magic and horror – first of a new series from fantasy legend Robin Jarvis. 
Something is brewing in the town of Whitby. To best friends Lil and Verne, it just seems like a particularly bad storm. But Cherry Cerise, the last of the Whitby witches, fears that ancient forces are at work, reviving the curse of a long lost magical artefact.
The legend goes that the Nimius was created by magician Melchior Pyke, with the assistance of a young witch known as Scaur Annie. But they were both betrayed by Pyke’s villainous manservant, Mister Dark, causing a feud that has survived even beyond death.
As Mister Dark, with his horrific winged familiar, arises to mastermind Whitby’s very own apocalypse and take the Nimius for his own evil purposes, can Lil and Verne join with Cherry to quell his plans and save their home?

Monday, 13 June 2016

Guest Post by Sofia Croft - Finding Inspiration, and Dragons, in the Lake District - Indigo's Dragon Blog Tour

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books is very proud to be starting Indigo's Dragon blog tour. Sofi will be calling at some great blogs in the next ten days, so why not check them all out. See the tour banner at the end of this post for more details. This is the first book in the series, which is soon to be published on the 23 June 2016 by Accent Press Ltd.  It is a great dragon adventure story full of mystery; a legendary trip where the main character encounters a monster or two . Check out my book review HERE to find out more. 

We also have a cracking #bookgiveaway pack to win on twitter via @Enchantedbooks. Check it out -it ends midnight on Sunday 19th June 2016. UK only. Give it a RT and mention!  

Here is the post. I hope you enjoy it.....

Finding Inspiration, and Dragons, in the Lake District by Sofi Croft

I didn’t want to be a writer. My mother is a writer and when I was young I remember her spending hours of every day in front of her typewriter lost in an imaginary world. This didn’t appeal to me at all. I was far more interested in living in the real world. I studied science and became an exploration geologist, travelling around the UK, digging big holes to look at the soil and rocks. 
Things changed when, in my thirties, I started a family and moved to the Lake District so we could live amidst the beautiful scenery. I spent a huge amount of time outdoors with my children, wandering the valleys, climbing the fells and splashing in the becks. 
I began to see dragons everywhere. They hide in caves, smoke circling from their nostrils as they sleep. They lurk in plunge pools and dart through the deep dark waters of the lakes. They sit eyeing sheep from the edge of woodland, camouflaged among rocks and mossy mounds. They balance in the tops of the tallest trees and fly through the sunsets and clear starry nights. 
My children asked about the dragons so I told them stories, and once you start telling stories it can be very difficult to stop. Ideas for stories are everywhere in the Lake District; in the landscape, the weather, the wildlife, and the local history and legends. I started carrying a notebook when we went exploring, so I could record some of the things we saw and the stories we told. Very slowly, over the first few years I lived in the Lake District, the thoughts, ideas, pictures and words in my notebooks came together to create Indigo’s Dragon.
One day I realised that, without ever really planning to, I might have written a book. I had an overwhelming urge to move it from my scribbly notebooks to the computer to see if it really was a book, so I pulled out my dilapidated laptop and spent my evenings typing it up. Dragons gathered outside my window, watching from behind the sycamore trees and circling the skies above, wondering why I was spending hours sat at the computer lost in an imaginary world like my mother. 
By the time Indigo’s Dragon was finished I had discovered that I loved writing, with all its ups and downs. I sent Indigo off to a few publishers, out of curiosity more than anything else, and set about writing another book. Six books later and my head is still full of stories I want to write, and each time I venture outside to explore the Lake District I see more dragons, and find more stories. 

Indigo’s Dragon (Indigo’s Dragon #1) by Sofi Croft is a children’s fantasy novel full of adventure, mystery, monsters and dragons.
It is published by AccentYA on 23rd June

You can find out more about Sofi and her books on her website and follow her on twitter: @croftdragon 

Dragon photography by seenicksphotography


Friday, 10 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Teens/Children's Book Picks US Published - June 2016 - Post Two

Lindsay Ribar - Rocks Fall Everyone Dies - Published by Kathy Dawson Books (June 7, 2016)
A paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family's secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.

Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he's affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he'll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they'll go to keep their secrets safe.

With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won't see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are.
Laura Marx Fitzgearld - The Gallery - Published by Dial Books (June 14, 2016)
A riveting historical art mystery for fans of Chasing Vermeer and The Westing Game, set in the Roaring Twenties!
It's 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell?

Inspired by true events described in a fascinating author’s note, The Gallery is a 1920s caper told with humor and spunk that readers today will love.

Paul Griffin - When Friendship Followed Me Home - Published by Dial Books (June 7, 2016)
A boy’s chance encounter with a scruffy dog leads to an unforgettable friendship in this deeply moving story about life, loss, and the meaning of family

Ben Coffin has never been one for making friends. As a former foster kid, he knows people can up and leave without so much as a goodbye. Ben prefers to spend his time with the characters in his favorite sci-fi books…until he rescues an abandoned mutt from the ally next-door to the Coney Island Library. 

Scruffy little Flip leads Ben to befriend a fellow book-lover named Halley—yes, like the comet—a girl unlike anyone he has ever met. Ben begins thinking of her as “Rainbow Girl” because of her crazy-colored clothes and her laugh, pure magic, the kind that makes you smile away the stormiest day.  

Rainbow Girl convinces Ben to write a novel with her.  But as their story unfolds Ben’s life begins to unravel, and Ben must discover for himself the truth about friendship and the meaning of home. 

Paul Griffin’s breathtaking middle-grade debut will warm your heart as much as it breaks it with a story about two unforgettable kids standing at the crossroads of happiness and loss.  

M . A . Larson - The Shadow Cadets of Pennyroyal Academy - Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (June 14, 2016)
Perfect for fans of The School for Good and Evil comes the eagerly anticipated follow-up to M. A. Larson's Pennyroyal Academy, hailed by the New York Times as a "breathtakingly exciting novel" with a heroine who "deserves a special place in a new pantheon of capable, feisty and, yes, admirable literary princesses."
A triumphant victory over the witches has proven that Princess Cadet Evie really does belong at Pennyroyal Academy. News of her heroism has traveled far and wide—inspiring a kingdom of grateful citizens and, when the new term starts, a wave of fresh Academy recruits.

While it’s good to be returning to the Academy as a second-class Cadet, things are not as they should be. Evie witnesses the vicious attack of an innocent woman—by a trio of princesses. Pennyroyal’s Headmistress General, Princess Beatrice, is dubious about what Evie saw—princesses are enforcers of truth and justice, not thugs. But Evie isn’t so sure. Then, amidst piles of fan mail, she finds a letter with an ominous threat. A secret society has come out of the shadows with a wicked plan, putting the Academy in peril. It’s up to Evie and her friends to unravel the devious plot and save Pennyroyal Academy.

This sequel to the beloved, critically acclaimed Pennyroyal Academy promises middle-grade readers a tale full of adventure and suspense.

New Survey Launched on Kindness Day Reveals London as the Kindest Region in Britain (Penguin Random House Children’s)

New survey launched on Kindness Day reveals London as the kindest region in Britain

 Friday, 10th June 2016: A new national survey carried out by YouGov and released today by Penguin Random House Children’s UK and The Diana Award reveals over 63% of Londoners have received a random act of kindness from a stranger over the past 12 months, making it the kindest region in Britain. London, often considered one of the loneliest places to live in the UK, came out on top of other regions in research released today to mark Kindness Day. 
The survey, which was based on a representative sample of 2,060 adults in Great Britain between the ages of 18 and 55, shows that over the last twelve months, receiving a compliment (34%), directions when lost (20%), and strangers listening to problems (16%) were the most popular types of random act of kindness received by British adults.
A 'random act of kindness' was defined as a selfless and spontaneous act which one individual performs to a stranger, with the intention to help them in any way.
Kindness Day, now in its second year, was founded by Penguin Random House Children’s in partnership with The Diana Award in 2015. A nationwide campaign, Kindness Day encourages kindness in schools and was inspired by the internationally bestselling novel WONDER by R. J. Palacio, soon to be released by Lionsgate as a major film in April 2017 starring Julia Roberts
Author R. J. Palacio commented: ‘The idea of having one day where everyone can take time to think about kindness and celebrate those who are kind is truly inspiring. Over the last few years I have been blown away by readers’ reactions to WONDER. Auggie’s story has been life-changing, not only for me but for millions of adults and children around the world who understand this really isn’t just a book about a kid with a facial anomaly: it’s a celebration of kindness.’ 
To support Kindness Day, Penguin Random House Children’s and The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Campaign launched a social media campaign kindness trail (#KindnessDay) asking users to vote for
the UK’s kindest person, school and celebrity.  The winners are today announced as: Kindest person: Jackie Costello. Jackie is 48 years old from Hanley in London. Not a day goes by when she doesn’t demonstrate kindness, whether it’s taking elderly and vulnerable people out for the day or inspiring children in schools. 
  • Kindest celebrity: Ed Sheeran. In March Ed Sheeran raised money for a number of charities near his hometown by donating his whole wardrobe, including outfits he took to the Grammy Awards, to be sold off for charity.

  • Kindest school: Waddington Redwood Primary School in Lincoln. The whole school will be celebrating Kindness Day with various activities, including giving compliments and sending kindness cards.  The school has Diana Award Anti-bullying Ambassadors and playground buddies who support students and encourage kindness all year round.
Alex Holmes, Head of the Anti-Bullying Campaign, commented‘Whether you’re in a school, a workplace or out in the street- kindness is something we are all capable of. WONDER is an inspiring book that celebrates kindness and can help us realise that we can all do something to make someone’s day. We’re delighted to be shining a light on individuals and schools with our new Kindness Day Awards.  We hope they inspire everyone to choose kindness.’
The Diana Award has trained over 18,000 young people as Anti-Bullying Ambassadors who each day promote kindness throughout their school.   Supporters of Kindness Day include James McVey from the Vamps, Kodaline, Danny O’Carroll, and Jedward.
WONDER has been published as both an adult and children’s book and has sold in 38 territories across the world. It has sold almost 5 million copies worldwide and continues to be a #1 New York Times bestseller. This week Lionsgate announced the Wonder film will be released on 7th April 2017, starring Julia Roberts and rising star Jacob Tremblay.
 Hollywood actress Julia Roberts said of the book‘I recently read WONDER, a young adult book that blew me away. I bought it for my eldest son, and ended up reading it myself. It gives you such a clear picture of people’s lives and misunderstandings… As a grown-up, I was reminded that there are ten sides to every story. But for a child, especially a boy, it’s nice to see different points of view.’

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Barry Hutchison - Beaky Malone: Worlds Greatest Liar Blog Tour 2016

Now Beaky can't tell a lie - not even a teeny-weeny one - and a truth-telling Beaky is even worse than Barry Hutchison telling fibs all day. Beaky Malone World’s Greatest Liar was released on 2nd June 2016, published by Stripes Publishing and is set to be a super funny MG read! 
So welcome Barry Hutchison to "Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books." Catch up with cheeky Beaky Malone here in chapter one. 

Chapter 1 – Meet Beaky 

Theo heaved his bag higher on his shoulder and shot me a doubting look. 
“You don’t believe me, do you?” I said. 
He shook his head. “That you’ve been asked to go on an expedition to the North Pole?” he snorted. “No, Beaky, not really.” 
I pulled a wounded face. “That hurts, Theo,” I said. “Considering you’re meant to be my best friend, that really hurts.” I took a deep breath. “But you’re right. I haven’t been asked to go on an expedition to the North Pole.” 
“Knew it,” Theo said. 
“I’ve been asked to lead the expedition.” 
“Oh, right,” Theo replied. “Well, that’s much more believable.” 
“Apology accepted,” I said, as we rounded the corner leading on to our street. Theo lived three doors down from me, and we’d walked to and from school together since Reception class. We’d been the same height when we’d started, but these days he towered above me like a beanpole. 
“I didn’t apologize!” Theo grumbled. 
“You apologized in your mind,” I said. “Trust me. 
I’m moderately psychic.” “Course you are,” 
Theo laughed. “What number am I thinking of?” 
I tapped the side of my head with a finger. “Four.” 
Theo’s eyes widened a little, then he shook his head. “Lucky guess.” 
“I knew you were going to say that,” I told him. He grinned. “You’re such a liar, Beaky.” 
“How dare you, sir!” I said, raising my fists. “Do you know what happened to the last person who called me a liar?” 
“Yeah, nothing,” Theo said. “It was me earlier this morning when you said that eating jam made dogs explode.” “It does!” I protested. 
“I read it in a book.” 
We stopped outside Theo’s house. “Anyway, what about you?” I asked. “What are you up to this weekend?” 
“Well, I can’t compete with visiting the North Pole,” Theo admitted. “So I’ll probably just play Xbox and eat crisps.” 
I nodded. “Usual, then.” 
He vaulted over his gate and into his garden. “Pretty much. Enjoy the snow, Beaky. Watch out for polar bears.” 
“Oh, I’m not doing it,” I said. “They wanted me to wear a jacket, so I said no. I never wear jackets.” 
“You’re wearing one now,” Theo pointed out. 
“This is a waterproof coat,” I said. “They’re two very different things, Theo. Everyone knows that.” 
Theo laughed. “I stand corrected. See you tomorrow, then?” 
“You provide the Xbox, I’ll bring the crisps,” I said. We did our complicated farewell handshake, which neither of us really knew how to do properly, then said our goodbyes. I grinned the rest of the way home. Xbox and crisps. This was going to be a brilliant weekend. 
Or so I thought. 
“So,” said Mum, looking round the dinner table. 
“How did everyone’s day go?” 
Mum was smiling at us far more enthusiastically than usual. That, combined with the fact she’d made us a massive fry-up – which she only did on special occasions – told me something was up. I watched her closely, trying to figure out what it might be, but Mum could be pretty cagey when she wanted to be. 
Dad smiled. “Today, I wrote a song about…” 
He did a drumroll on the table with his fingers. “Toilet paper,” he announced. He dipped a chip in his fried egg and sat back. “I know, I know, I can tell you’re very impressed, but please … no autographs.” 
“Toilet paper? I bet it stinks,” I said, grinning proudly at what was clearly an excellent joke. No one else seemed to get it, though. 
“You take that back, Dylan,” said Mum. “Your dad works very hard writing his silly little tunes to put food on this table.” 
“Silly little tunes?” said Dad, gasping and clutching at his chest. “I’ve never been so insulted!” 
Mum waved a hand dismissively. “You know what I mean.” 
Dad shrugged. “Yeah, fair enough.” 
She had a point, I suppose. Still, I wasn’t convinced Dad worked that hard. The last jingle he’d written had been for a dog-food advert, and just went “Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof,”over and over again. 
“Sorry, Dad,” I said. “I’m sure your song’s great.” Dad shook his head. “Oh, it isn’t. It’s terrible. But thanks, anyway.” 
“What about you, Jodie?” said Mum. 
All eyes went to my sister who was slowly shoving some beans around her plate with her fork. She looked up and tugged an earphone out of her ear. “What?” 
“How was your day?” said Mum. 
“All right,” she shrugged, then she put the earphone back in. 
Mum kept smiling at her, expecting more. It didn’t come. 
“OK, then!” she said, turning to me. “Dylan?” 
“I fought a swan.” 
Mum blinked. Clearly, she hadn’t been expecting that. She glanced across to Dad, who rolled his eyes in response. 
“Right, well. A productive day all round, then,” Mum said. She cleared her throat nervously, then reached over and tugged Jodie’s earphones out. 
“I got a bit of good news today,” Mum announced, smiling far too broadly for it to be natural. “Aunt Jas is coming to visit!” 
Dad gasped. 
Jodie groaned. 
I spluttered into my glass, spraying orange juice up both nostrils. It was surprisingly refreshing. 
“What?” asked Dad. “What do you mean, ‘Aunt Jas is coming to visit’?” 
Aunt Jas is my aunt. The clue’s in the name, really. She’s Mum’s sister, and a bit like Mum, only younger, darker-haired and much, much louder. The last time she’d visited had been over a year ago, and we were only now starting to recover from the ordeal. 
Aunt Jas is a little bit … full on. She speaks at 100% volume all the time, and has a way of screaming when she laughs that sounds like fingernails being dragged down a blackboard. She and Mum always manage to rub each other up the wrong way, and are 
constantly trying to outdo one another. Her last visit had ended in them having a full-scale screaming match in the cinema. In front of 200 
people. During the film. 
I doubted Mum was looking forward to the visit, 
but she was doing her best to put a brave face on it. She popped a chip in her mouth and gave a shrug as she chewed. “I mean Jas is coming. For the weekend. Her and Steve and—” 
“Not the kids,” said Dad, his eyes widening in horror. “Please, not the kids.” 
“Of course she’s bringing the kids,” Mum tutted. “What else would she do with them?” “Sell them to the zoo?” muttered Jodie. 
“That’s no way to talk about your cousins,” Mum snapped. She was getting annoyed. Any minute now she’d start tapping her foot. Any minute after that, she’d explode. The tension needed to be defused and fast. Time to deploy some Beaky charm. 
I blew the juice out of my nostrils and set my glass down on the table. “Well, I think it’ll be nice having them here.” 
Dad and Jodie stared at me in disbelief. Even Mum blinked in surprise. “You’ve told some whoppers in your time, Beaky,” said Jodie. “But that’s got to be the biggest yet.” 
“Stop calling your brother ‘Beaky’,” said Mum. 
“Everyone calls him Beaky.” 
“Well, they shouldn’t,” Mum said, leaning over and giving my hand a comforting squeeze. “It’s not his fault he’s got a massive nose.” 
“I wouldn’t say it’s massive,” I protested. Jodie nodded. “It is. It’s proper massive.” “It’s statuesque,” I said. 
“It’s elephantesque, more like.” 
I flicked my fork, firing a ketchup-coated chip in Jodie’s direction. She ducked at the last moment, and our Great Dane, Destructo, leaped up from the floor and snatched it out of the air. It was a bit like a scene from Jurassic Park, but with a dog instead of a dinosaur, and a chip instead of a screaming tourist. While Destructo isn’t quite as big as a T-rex, his appetite is pretty similar. 
“Hey!” yelled Jodie, snatching up a wobbly fistful of egg. 
Dad held his hands up for calm. “Cut it out, you two,” he cried. “Everyone just calm down. Stop throwing food. Stop going on about Beaky’s massive great nose and let’s deal with the problem at hand.” 
He waited for Jodie to put her egg back on her plate (which she did, much to Destructo’s disappointment), then took a bite of sausage. “Now,” he said, chewing thoughtfully. “When are they coming?” 
“Tonight,” said Mum. 
Now it was Dad’s turn to choke. He seemed to inhale the sausage in one sharp breath. His eyes went wide and he frantically thudded at his chest, coughing and 
spluttering in panic. 
“Stand back, I know the Heimlich manoeuvre,” I announced, leaping up from the table. I didn’t really know the Heimlich, obviously, but I’d seen someone do it on telly once and it didn’t look all that difficult. 
Wrapping my arms round him from behind, I heaved my dad to his feet. It turns out he’s heavier than he looks, though, and I immediately toppled 
backwards, pulling him down with me. We hit the ground with a thud and an oof. The sudden impact launched the lump of sausage high into the air, where it was immediately caught by a delighted Destructo, who had no trouble swallowing 
it at all. 
Jodie leaned over the table and peered down at us. “So, that was the Heimlich, was it?” 
“Advanced Heimlich,” I wheezed as Dad rolled off me. “Just something I invented.” 
“Tonight?” Dad yelped, finally finding his voice. “Why are they coming tonight?” 
“Wasps,” said Mum. 
Jodie, Dad and I all looked at one another. 
“Everyone else heard her say ‘wasps’ there, right?” I asked. 
“They’ve got awasps’ nest,” Mum explained. 
“They’re not bringing it, are they?” I asked. 
Mum tutted. “Don’t be silly, Dylan. It’s in their house. They can’t get anyone to deal with it until Monday.” 
Dad’s face went a funny shade of purple. “Monday? They’re not staying until Monday, are they?” 
“Of course not,” said Mum. Dad seemed to relax a little, but it didn’t last long. “They’re staying till Tuesday.” 
Mum smirked. “Not really. They’re going home on Sunday.” 
Dad sat down in his seat and shifted uncomfortably. He looked at the rest of his sausage, then pushed the plate away. “I suppose it might not be that bad,” he said. “It’s only a couple of days.” 
“That’s the spirit,” said Mum, but she looked just as ashen-faced as Dad did. “And who knows? It might even be fun,” she added. 
“Fun?” Dad spluttered. He forced a smile. “I mean … fun. Yeah. Fun. You might be right.” 

As it turned out, though, she wasn’t.

With thanks to Barry Hutchison. 
Beaky Malone is available to purchase here.

Artwork by Katie Abey