Something I found to remind you how reading even in these strange times, can take us all to the most wonderful of places – and we don’t have to move a muscle; well maybe just for snacks! Happy Reading Bells Farm from Mrs Calbreath ?
Spike didn’t answer. In fact, he didn’t even try to look as if he was thinking of an answer. Instead, he sauntered down the corridor as if he was going on his daily walk, and left Frankie and her furrowed brow behind. “Spike! SPIKE! Where are you going? You can’t just take off like that – someone might see you!”
Spike stopped and slowly turned his head back to face Frankie’s exasperated look. “Who, Frankie? Who exactly do you think is here?”
“Well, the teachers of course! And the boys…unless…unless…” Around a million thoughts crossed her mind as Frankie struggled to process the madness of her world. “Unless they’ve all gone home. Unless it’s been weeks and Mr Evans has been decorating.”
“And laying a new carpet? And if he had, do you really think he’d pick this one?” Frankie looked down and immediately saw what Spike meant. The carpet was a gaudy swirl of browns and mustard yellows – like something she had seen in her Great Nan’s house – certainly not the calm ocean blue of the corridor she was used to. No, this was definitely not ordered by Mrs Butterworth – she might be old but she hadn’t lost all sense of style. Somehow, the mystery of the changed décor of the school was a far greater puzzle than the picnicking tigers and egg-carrying rabbits she had seen only a short while ago. This was real, but somehow unreal. Frankie didn’t like it one bit.
Spike walked back to her side with an expression as sympathetic as he could manage, despite the limitations of his painted face and googly eyes. “Frankie, there’s no one here. Well, no one you know anyway. Come on – I’ll prove it.”
“Spike, you’re scaring me” came Frankie’s timid voice – its tiny volume surprising them both. She coughed to clear her throat and compose her thoughts, and began again. “I don’t get what you mean. If Miss Williams and Miss Coghlan aren’t here, then who is? Can you see something that I can’t?”
“Not yet. Not here, but in the classrooms. Can’t you hear the noise?”
Frankie listened. When she really, really strained her ears she could most certainly pick up sounds, but would never have described it as noise. Noise was getting changed at the swimming baths, or queuing for seconds in the dining hall, or the first dry play after a rainstorm, or… “Frankie! Can you hear it yet?”
“I think I hear a man’s voice,” came Frankie’s reply. “Yes…yes I do! Talking to someone – a child? No, that’s another grown-up – a woman. I don’t recognise either of them though.”
The voices were coming from the top of the corridor, and as the friends tip-toed closer, the conversation was narrowed down to the year five classroom. Spike curled his head around the corner and then, just as slowly, withdrew it. “Yes,” he confirmed, “two people, having a chat and a bit of a laugh. I’m sure I know them, but they’ve got their backs to me. Let’s go and take a closer look.”
He began to move towards the doorway, but his adventurous spirit was interrupted by a hand grabbing at the fur on his back, lifting him off the ground. His legs continued to move comically in a cartoon motion, protesting at Frankie’s action. “What’s the matter now Frankie? Don’t you trust me?” Frankie gently put Spike down, but her hand remained steady on his back, its message unmistakable. Spike read her loud and clear. “It’s okay, it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere without you. But Frankie, it’s fine – really. No one’s going to see us – we can go anywhere we like!”
“Oh right, that’ll be the cloak of invisibility that I’d forgotten all about, Spike. Fine, I’ll just put it on. Can you help me tie it at the top?”
“Very funny, Frankie. But you’re kind of right. No ties needed though. Believe me – they won’t be able to see us.”
Frankie had long run out of looks of amazement and had to settle for one of complete and utter disbelief. “What are you talking about, you daft dog? Of course they’ll see us. If we can see them, they can see us!” Though slightly hurt at Frankie’s words, and, as he was to share with her later, rather annoyed at being lifted up in such an undignified manner, Spike was determined to enter the classroom, and his next defiant actions spoke louder than Frankie’s arguments. Once again, he tried to nudge the door open with his nose, and when this failed, began to jump up towards the handle. “Well? Are you going to help me or not Frankie? You know you’re better at this than me, and you’ll soon see I’m right!”
Frankie sighed. “It’s a pull, not a push,” she whispered, and very slowly opened the door.
If Frankie had been visiting the school for the very first time, and if she didn’t really know what a classroom should look like in the 21st century, the room would not have seemed too remarkable. But Frankie walked through this room every day. This was not year five any more. This was not like a single classroom in the entire school. This was a living, working museum.
Sitting on a wooden desk was a woman, her hair tightly scraped back into a thick greying bun, and her feet clad in bright red shoes, their clunky heels resting on a small chair. A tall man stood in front of her, dressed in a shirt with a thickly knotted tie, its stripes broad and dazzlingly bright. They were still talking, and yet the volume hadn’t increased despite Frankie and Spike’s closeness to the strangers – not one notch. Frankie could make out a few words here and there…. “opening doors….hard to know…some kind of celebration…books not arrived yet…” but trying to make sense of it was like listening to an old radio being tuned and having no idea what the changing programmes were about.
Frankie looked around the classroom, trying to locate familiar spots to get a proper sense of where she was. The library corner was usually to be found at the back of the room, with its brightly patterned bean bags and revolving stands of new and well-thumbed, much loved books. Now all she could see was a continuous row of desks, a poster instructing children to drink milk, a map of the world nailed firmly to the wall, just above a complete set of times tables. “Well, some things don’t change then,” she thought with some unexpected relief, not being a fan of learning things off by heart. She turned her head back to Spike to share her observation, but he was no longer at her side. Frankie heard him before she saw him. The little dog was singing. Loudly…. and tunelessly.
“Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, here we go round the …”
“SPIKE! Get down from there and stop the noise!” She looked on in despair as she took in the sight of a small, painted, talking and now singing dog, jumping around in circles from desk to desk, at one point even leaping across the strange woman’s lap and over the strange man’s feet. “For goodness’ sake! They’re going to go mad”
“I told you! They can’t see us! We can do anything we want! Here, play ‘head the ball’ with me!” he squealed in delight, as he spotted a box of assorted footballs in a net, hanging from a large hook on the wall.
“What do you mean?” she whispered, needlessly now that Spike had long since broken the calm with his antics. “They must be able to hear you at least – especially with that awful singing!”
But despite every atom of her body and thought in her mind telling her that there was no way that she and Spike were in some kind of bubble which made them silent and invisible, the evidence was clear. The strangers carried on talking, and at one point, even seemed to look directly at Spike, but their lack of reaction proved that he must be right. Again. Just as she was about to ask him for some explanation, (which would have been a useless request, as by now he was tearing at the net, determined to release a large red ball), she noticed that the man was starting to write on the board.
It was jet black, like a huge computer screen, but Frankie couldn’t see how or where it was plugged in. Then, as she watched the man carefully scribing in perfect joined up handwriting, she realised he was using chalk, and remembered using a play board like that when she was in reception class. Frankie couldn’t help admiring the satisfying loops and perfect ascenders and descenders that were being recorded in front of her. The man himself seemed most pleased with himself as he stood back to check the straightness of the line. For the first time, Frankie could just about make out an entire sentence of dialogue, as the woman commented: “Well, may as well be prepared.” Then, as the man moved away and replaced the chalk in a small tray, Frankie could see the writing in its entirety. Although she was still some distance away, and not accustomed to reading white on black, she found that if she narrowed her eyes slightly, she could read the information perfectly well. So she did.
It was at that moment that Frankie’s shock made the walls of the room seem to rapidly and insistently come in towards her. The words were simple, and if she had read them in a book, would not have blinked an eye before turning the page. But this wasn’t a book, and what surrounded her was the reality of the world she found herself in, whether she liked it or not. She heard her voice faltering as she read aloud:
“Wednesday 1st September, 1976.”
The Girl of Ink and Stars
The girl of ink and stars was a great but it was a bit scary. 10/10 I would give it 5 stars.
This book was a great adventure full of courage bravery and sacrifice.
Isabella -The main character paired with Lupe (her best friend) is the child of the Cartographer and they lived on an Island. When their friend goes missing the Island plunges into chaos and causes the two friends to argue. To prove that their family did not cause their friend to go missing, Lupe goes on a daring adventure. But will she ever see her friend again or will Isabella save them both from grave danger.
I really like this book it may be sad or scary, but it is a thrilling, exhilarating and an amazing book. I like it because a myth is coming to life and only one thing will save them.
It wasn’t a gradual change of darkness into light. It was sudden, shocking, and even in this upside down world that the friends found themselves inhabiting, it was quite unbelievable. All the vivid colours of the rainbow were represented, but instead of arching across the sky, they were shooting this way and that, from ceiling to floor and from wall to wall. Occasionally, the beams grew weary of their dramatic motion and began to rotate – at first quickly, then lazily, changing direction as if trying to escape the threat of returning darkness.
It was the intensity of the colours which would stay in Frankie’s memory forever – she felt as if they were standing in a kaleidoscope, waiting to be twisted in and out of visibility. But whatever mixture of feelings she had about the strangeness of it all, Spike clearly displayed only one – pure joy. “That’s more like it! That’s definitely closer to what I was expecting. Isn’t it marvellous Frankie?”
Frankie, not for the first time, struggled to take in the fact that her friend had anything even resembling expectations. As far as she was concerned, this was just the latest scene of the sort of dream that always followed on from too much cheese before bedtime. “But what is it exactly Spike? What does it mean? How do we get out?” The questions tripped quickly off her tongue and really, they weren’t even the questions she wanted to ask. She just didn’t have words for those, and her four years of primary science just didn’t cut it when it came to explaining this as anything other than magic.
“You’ll have wait a bit longer, Frankie. It will all become clear, I promise. What don’t we just sit back and enjoy the show. You’ve got nowhere else to go have you?” Frankie thought that even if she had ever had the opportunity to program her newly created dog, she was quite sure that sarcasm would not have featured on the menu. She gave Spike one of her looks, but the dog just returned it with a look of his own, an attempt at a serious face which couldn’t fail to make Frankie laugh. “That’s better! That’s the Frankie I like to hear. Now make yourself comfy – it could be a while.”
It was a while. Frankie didn’t know if they had been sitting against the wall drinking in the light show for minutes or hours – her mind dizzied by the display. They were certainly comfy; the little painted furball had snuggled into her side without a second’s hesitation and Frankie automatically stroked his head to the rhythm of the beams. Then, just as she thought a bucket of popcorn and a bottle of pop would finish the experience off nicely, the lights grew dim, the flashes slowed down and the beams, starved of energy, faded against the dullness of the walls. As the last wash of colour disappeared, the passageway was still and lifeless again, the air only punctuated by Frankie and Spike’s slightly unsteady breathing.
Then, something dawned on Frankie. The blackness was gone, replaced by a dusky grey which, despite its drabness, allowed her to fully take in her surroundings. The walls were as curved as she had felt them to be, and the passageway disappeared around a bend where the darkness found its home again. She felt as if they were sitting in a gigantic hosepipe, just waiting to be sprayed onto the field. Spike uncurled his body, stretched his legs, and looked back at Frankie. “Well, time for the next adventure my friend! If I’m not mistaken, the way out is just a short walk away.”
“How do you know so much about what’s going on here, Spike?” Frankie replied, staring at the dog with her usual disbelief. “It’s like you’ve been told something I haven’t!”
“I only know what I know Frankie, and what I feel in these bones….well, whatever’s keeping this body together! I don’t know why I feel it really, but if we don’t get going, we’ll never find out. Come on, it might just make sense to me if we keep moving!”
This seemed like a trick to Frankie, but as she craned her neck to peer around the next beckoning curve of the tunnel, she couldn’t help feeling curious and a little excited at the next adventure. “Alright, let’s go. Who knows? There might even be a popcorn and drinks stall round the corner.”
Spike looked at her, with what seemed to Frankie to be a puzzled frown, and she remembered that she hadn’t shared the idea she had earlier, and Spike had probably never even been to a cinema. However, by now nothing would surprise her completely, and if Spike was able to recite the entire script of ‘Toy Story’, she knew that she would just shrug her shoulders and accept it. “Oh never mind – go on, lead the way.”
As they walked into the darkness, it gradually lifted, as very dim light from an unknown source kept everything dull but visible, easing their journey. There was nothing of interest in any part of the passage; it was as if the light show had been a magical trick of their minds and that this underground tunnel was back to boring reality. Also, it seemed to go and on and on, each ash grey blending into mud brown and ink black, as they wound their way round the twilight path.
And then, without warning, yellow light soaked into the final twist of their journey. Their escape had to be close! Frankie and Spike read each other’s minds and their slouching walk turned into an upbeat trot and then a gallop to the finish line. As they ran past the golden walls, they could see the prize ahead of them; blurred at first, and then clear as daylight, was a doorway with a helpful sign glowing above it: EXIT. As they neared it, Frankie’s excitement turned to puzzlement, and her feet ground to a halt. “Well that’s odd. I thought it would be an old door, like the one we came through, but that, well, it’s like the back door of the school!”
“Hmmm – interesting,” came the reply, and Frankie half-expected Spike to be stroking his chin like some scientist discovering a new chemical formula. “Well, further investigation is needed here, Frankie. You go first – I’m not a door handle expert as you well know.”
Without the argument that Spike had come to expect, Frankie did as she was asked, and pulled on the door handle, ready to take in fresh air and sunlight. But just when she had accepted that there was no such thing as a surprise any more, another one jumped up and bit her. Behind the door was another passageway, but this was not part of a winding underground tunnel. What lay before her was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. She could see double doors at the end of a long straight corridor and beyond these, tall gates leading to a sloping green. It was very clear exactly where they were now. “Um, I think we’re back in school, but the carpet…and the paint on the walls…and the doors – they’re all different! Just how long have we been gone Spike?”
To be continued…
‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ by Onjali Q. Rauf.
My next read was ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ and I absolutely loved it!
It was a heartwarming book and a definite must read! It will bring you close to tears with the stories that are told, but also have you giggling as you turn the page.
The book rightly highlights the importance of kindness in the world to everybody, even those who may seem a little different to you.
Well I’ve just finished the novel I’ve been reading at home and once again, it’s made me cry! It’s called Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams and is a beautiful (but very sad) read about 2 characters who share a wonderful friendship, living next door to each other. It is a great lesson in the importance of being a good friend, whilst understanding the emotions attached to various situations. It’s also written in a diary format which is a lovely way to read a story. I’m off to school tomorrow to update my pile of books so I’ll keep you posted with any other books that are worth a read….this one certainly is! Stay safe everyone, missing you all!