Truly Tan Baffled

T r u l y Tan by jen storer Illustrated by claire robertson Baffled!

‘Gosh those things are ugly, Tan,’ says Amber. ‘Absolutely ghastly.’ Amber is looking at my blue fingerless gloves that I love. They’re a bit shabby, I guess. They have little woolly balls all over them. And they are kind of grubby. But I’m a busy person. And when it’s as cold as this I don’t like to be separated from my fingerless gloves. Not even for a nanosecond . So I never put them in the wash. Or in the washing basket. Or anywhere near the laundry. In fact, my fingerless gloves have never been washed in their whole life. ‘Have those gloves been washed?’ says Mum. ‘Of course,’ I say and I shove my hands in my pockets. Mum sighs happily. ‘It’s so beautiful here,’ she says, looking out over the yard. ‘I really do think winter is my favourite time of the year.’ We are standing on the front veranda at Valleyview. Valleyview is the name of our big old farmhouse that is in the middle of nowhere. It has views out over a valley. But we


can’t see the valley right now. Just blackness. It is a dark, frosty night. But the sky is covered in sparkles and this is a cheery side effect of night-time. When we talk, there are little puffs of mist in front of us. They are like speech bubbles in a comic. Only misty. I call my sisters the Lollipops. Here’s how it goes, youngest to oldest: me, Rose, Amber, Emerald. We’re all here right now. We’re waiting for Dad to finish cooking the roast that has taken forever. Rose leans over the veranda railing and looks up at the sky. She is wearing a black cloak that goes right down to the ground and red leather gloves that she got at the Peppercorn Valley Op Shop. The hood is draped around her face and this is to make her look more magical. ‘Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,’ says Rose. Rose has been quoting poetry all day and I can tell you right now I am bored to my bones from hearing it.

‘Freeze, freeze, thou bitter brain,’ I say, and Emerald laughs.

‘Nice one, Tan,’ says Emerald. I do not often make my biggest sister laugh. She is not a laughing kind of girl. This is a proud moment for me and I smile proudly in the moonlight. Rose ignores us and keeps on muttering her poem. ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind …’ Blah blah … ‘So,’ says Amber, cuddling her dog, Doodad, ‘in case anyone is interested, I just want to announce that Jem is coming to stay for the holidays. Is that okay, Mum?’ ‘Jem?’ says Emerald. ‘I’ve already invited Miranda. Miranda is coming to stay.’ Rose pushes back her hood. ‘Sage is coming to stay,’ she says. ‘Remember? Sage and I have been planning our winter holiday all year. We are Daughters of Winter. Daughters of the Frost, the Ice, the Snow. We must be together during this magical time!’ The Lollipops all start arguing. They all want their friends to come and stay. Mum is looking at them and I bet she is thinking she would like to pack her bag and move out of Valleyview right now. ‘Be quiet, all of you,’ says Mum. ‘First we have the Lantern


Festival to get through. There’s such a lot to do. Lanterns to make. Menus and food to prepare. Rose’s costume to organise. I want all of you focused. Not squabbling.’ ‘What costume?’ says Emerald, turning to Rose. ‘No one told me about a costume.’ ‘Rose is competing forWinter Queen at this year’s festival,’ says Mum. ‘She wrote a remarkable poem and I’m sure she’s going to win.’ ‘Winter is my time,’ says Rose. ‘My time to rise up and shine.’ She holds her hands high. She looks impressive. ‘It’s desperately exciting,’ says Amber. ‘I can’t wait. I’m planning a Winter Wonderland outfit for Doodad, with blue sequins and a blue tiara and a silver neck ruffle. She’s going to look so pretty, aren’t you, Doody? Just like a princess.’ Doodad looks around with a dumb look on her face. She is wearing a bright pink sheepskin coat and she looks three times her normal size except her head is still the size of a peanut and so is her brain. Doodad has no idea what Amber is talking about because Doodad cannot understand plain English. I lean against my dog, Awesome, and give him a nudge. He wags his tail. He knows exactly what I am thinking. That’s how smart Awesome is.


We are all talking about the Lantern Festival and the bonfire and the official Lantern Walk when Dad interrupts from inside the house. ‘Tan. Urgent phone call!’ What? Cool! I leave Mum and the Lollipops and race inside. Urgent phone calls aremy favourite.They are an important part of being a Secret Spy. I am excited to hear what this one is about. I hope it is a call to adventure.

GHASTLY: say, garst-lee . My fingerless gloves are not ghastly. They are groovy and I love them. Amber’s diamond-and-ruby Rapunzel tiara is what’s ghastly.

RAPUNZEL: say, Ra-pun-zul . This was the name of a girl in a famous fairy tale. She got locked in a castle tower. She had really long hair – so long you would hardly believe it. She also met a prince. If you want to know more, you should read a fairy-tale book.


I grab the phone from Dad and bolt outside and up the ladder to World Headquarters. Urgent phone calls have to be taken in private, in a place you are sure is not bugged. World Headquarters is definitely bug free. I have seen to that. I flick on the battery-operated fairy lights that are draped all around the walls of HQ. I also turn on the torch-lamp that dangles from the roof. I shiver. HQ is like Antarctica tonight. I bet there are icicles growing somewhere in here. I sincerely wish HQ had central heating. But first it would need electricity and Dad still refuses to wire it up. I would like a fireplace too. But only in a perfect world could you have a fireplace in a tree house and live to tell the story. I sit on the corner of the desk. I look exactly like a TV detective. ‘Breaker, breaker?’ I say. ‘Identify yourself.’ ‘The purple duck flies backward at dawn,’ says a quiet voice.


‘The wise owl sleeps beneath the bramble,’ I say. ‘Tan?’ ‘Gloria?’ ‘Affirmative,’ we both whisper. ‘Oh, Tan, I’m glad it’s you,’ says Gloria. ‘I have something weirdly weird to report.’ ‘Do I need a notepad?’ I say, looking around. My desk is covered in junk. If Gloria were in this tree house right now, she would be frowning at me. My best friend and Secret Spy partner is neat and tidy. Her Spy Files are super organised and so is her desk and her brain. ‘No,’ says Gloria. ‘You don’t need a notepad. You just need your highly tuned listening skills.’ ‘What’s going on, GP?’ I say. ‘Well,’ says Gloria, ‘tonight after dinner, Mum and I went for an evening walk with Alfie. He’s fairly good at walking on the lead now.’ ‘Go on,’ I say. ‘I tookmy Secret Spy binoculars and a powerful torch,’ says Gloria, ‘in keeping with our Secret Spy Code of Conduct’. ‘Always be on the lookout. Always be prepared,’ I say. ‘Affirmative,’ says Gloria.


‘Go on,’ I say. ‘It was quite dark around the streets, but there were several street lights shining and plenty of stars so all was hunky-dory. We went past the school and around a corner and then, before I knew it, we were walking along Miners Avenue.’ I catch my breath. ‘Miners Avenue,’ I say. ‘Cue the scary music.’ ‘Exactly,’ says Gloria. ‘I tried to stay calm and keep strolling along like a normal person. But then Mum got a phone call. It was the lady who bakes sponge cakes for Mum’s café and they had a loooong talk. I was spooked, but I was bored too. So, while they were lost in conversation, I took Alfie and we kept walking; carefully, quietly, all my wits poised and prickly. We walked all the way along the avenue until we came to …’ ‘Journey’s End!’ I say. ‘Journey’s End,’ says Gloria. ‘The big greystone monster with the dead pine tree, the mutant daisies and the stone flamingo. Home to the Windrustle sisters.’


‘Gloria,’ I say, ‘that was beyond brave of you. I would never go near that place on my own, at night, with only a one-eyed Bedlington Terrier to protect me.’ Gloria giggles. ‘I know!’ she says. ‘I nearly fainted when I realised what I had done. But then …’ ‘Then what?’ ‘Things started to get even more strange. I saw a hazy light up high, in the window of the attic. I flashed my torch on it and saw a face behind the foggy glass. A thin old woman staring straight down at me.’ ‘One of the sisters!’ I say. ‘Yes. I was so freaked out that I just stood there shining my torch on her!’ ‘Like a spotlight,’ I say. ‘But here’s the weirder bit,’ says Gloria. ‘There were all these white shapes painted on the wood below the attic window.’ ‘Shapes?’ I say. ‘And the old woman kept her eyes on me and started drawing the same shapes in the fog on the window. The same strange shapes all over the windowpane. Stacks of them. Over and over …’ ‘What kind of shape was it?’ I say, jumping off the desk and


pacing around. ‘Was it a peace sign, or a daisy, or…a hex? ’ ‘It was a tree branch,’ says Gloria. ‘What?’ ‘It was the shape of a tree branch,’ says Gloria. ‘That’s the only way I can describe it. A dead tree branch.’ ‘So theWindrustle sisters have dead tree branches painted across their attic wall?’ ‘And across the windowpane. Affirmative,’ says Gloria. ‘Weirdly weird,’ I say. ‘Exactly,’ says Gloria. ‘What do you think it could mean?’ ‘I have no idea,’ I say. ‘But one thing’s for sure, we definitely need to investigate.’ ‘My thoughts precisely,’ says Gloria. ‘Anything more to add?’ I say. ‘Negative,’ says Gloria. ‘I have to go now. Mum’s calling. I think there’s pudding.’ ‘Roger dodger,’ I say. ‘Over and out.’ ‘Duck duckmoose goose,’ says Gloria. ‘Over and out.’ We hang up the Spy Phone. I pace around HQ, flicking my Spy Torch on and off, on and off. My cat, E, hisses at me and I jump. I didn’t even know he was in here. His big green eyes flare in the torchlight.


‘What on earth is going on at the Windrustle house?’ I say to E. ‘Who would paint dead tree branches on their house? And why? What could it mean, E?’ E hisses again and then Mum calls and I have to go to dinner. Which is a good thing. I am starving. Mysteries always make me feel starving.

HUNKY-DORY: this is a way of saying everything is fine and dandy and there’s nothing to worry about.

HEX: hex symbols kind of look like this. Some people think hexes are pretty and lucky.

Some people think they are evil and scary. I think a hex symbol written all over foggy glass would look super spooky and ghostly, and so does Gloria.


‘Tan. Please take off those gloves while you eat,’ says Mum as I pull up a chair. ‘They don’t belong at the dinner table.’ I decide not to argue. That would waste my time and I am a Secret Spy. My time is precious. Plus, I am eager to get hold of some food. I need roast lamb and crispy potatoes right now . ‘Where’s Awesome?’ I say. ‘He loves a Sunday roast.’ ‘Precisely,’ says Mum. ‘That’s why I’ve locked him and Doodad in the lounge room. They can watch TV while we eat.’ ‘Poor Doody,’ says Amber with a sigh. ‘Excluded from the family festivities again.’ ‘They dribble and beg and drive us crazy!’ says Emerald. ‘They’d be locked out of the kitchen permanently if I had my way.’ ‘That’s a bit harsh,’ says Dad as he reaches for the gravy. ‘Harsh is my middle name,’ says Emerald, stabbing a potato, and I think that might be the truth. ‘Who was on the phone, Tan?’ says Amber, changing the subject. ‘That’s my biz,’ I say. ‘But I can tell you this: strange things are happening in the bustling town of Peppercorn Valley …’


‘Do tell!’ says Amber. ‘Negative,’ I say. ‘My lips are sealed.’

‘The Winter Solstice approaches,’ says Rose quietly, ‘and with it comes deep change, unrest, a quickening . If you need me to pull an oracle card, Tan, just say so. I am here to guide you. To guide all of you,’ says Rose, glancing around the table. She is still wearing her hooded cloak. It is hard to see her eyes. They are deep in shadow. Just like Rose. ‘A card reading would be lovely, dear,’ says Mum. ‘But eat your peas first.’ WINTER SOLSTICE: this is also called midwinter . But Winter Solstice sounds better. Winter Solstice is a special day because, of all the days on the calendar, this day has the shortest amount of daylight and the longest night of the entire year. It can feel a bit spooky so that’s why it’s nice to make lanterns and build bonfires and have a festival that will keep you feeling busy and cheerful.


‘Mum,’ I say when it’s time for dessert, ‘can I take this apple crumble up to HQ? I’ve got a pile of work to get through. You know how it is. I’m under a lot of pressure.’ ‘It’s your turn to do the dishes!’ says Emerald. ‘Mum, this is a ploy. Tan’s trying to wriggle out of her chores. Again!’ ‘Am not!’ I say. ‘If you were half as smart as you think you are, you’d know that it’s not my turn. It’s, um, Dad’s turn.’ I point my finger at Dad. ‘Huh?’ says Dad. He’s sitting in the armchair by the wood stove, with E on his knee. ‘Is that right? My turn? Okay. Go on then, Tan. Take your pudding and scram.’ ‘Show me that roster,’ says Emerald, jumping out of her chair as I bolt out the door. I don’t think it was my turn. I’m fairly sure it was Dad’s. Maybe. I keepmy fingers crossed as I hurry up the ladder into HQ.

It is important that Secret Spies have all their files in order. This is why I have decided that tonight is the night to do some organising.There is amystery brewing and it is time to update


my records of the scariest houses in Peppercorn Valley. Dum de dum. Now, where is it? I run my fingers along the books and folders and cane baskets and colourful storage solutions. ‘Bingo!’ I pull a folder off the shelf. This folder has purple unicorns and pink stars all over it. A happy disguise of the highest order. All my Spy Files are in disguise and they also have a secret code that only Gloria and I can understand. Purple unicorns and pink stars are code for Creepy Houses That Must Be Constantly Watched And Always Kept Under Surveillance . ‘Surveillance’ is a hard word to spell and Gloria showed me how to spell it. Which is helpful. All spies must know how to spell the word ‘surveillance’. I take the folder, sit down at my desk, and as I eat my apple crumble with traditional vanilla custard, I read through to refresh my brain. So. There are seven houses in and around Peppercorn Valley that Gloria and I have under Constant Surveillance. But of these, there are two that win the Tan Callahan Creepiest House Prize. These two houses are:


T h i s h o u se is o n Bo gie S tr eet . Th e Millionaire’ s M a n s io n f a c es t h e r a i l w a y li n e a n d t h e n s o m e p a d d o c k s . N o o n e li ve s i n t h at ho use e x c e p t f o r o u t t h e f r o n t th at is like a Sta m p o f D is ap pr ov a l . 2 . J O U R N E Y ’S E ND . Th is is th e name of the o t h e r cr e e pi e s t h o u s e . J o u r n e y ’ s E n d i s i n M i n e r s A v e n u e n e a r ou r s c h oo l. It i s t h r e e stor e y s h i g h a n d b ui l t o u t o f b i g g r e y s to n e s . I t h a s a g a r d e n o f t h i s t l e s , v i n e s a n d ev i l d a i si e s t h a t gr o w i n s o m e h a p p y rats. It is a b anne d ho u se w it h a s i g n 1 . T H E M I L L I O N A I R E ’ S M A N S I O N . e v e r y d i r ec t i o n. I t h as a gi ga n tic dead pine t r e e o u t fr o n t a n d a p i c k e t f e n c e w i t h n o p a i n t . T h e r e i s a n a l ar m i n g a n d u n n a t urall y la r g e l a m i n g o h a s b e e n k n o w t o t e r r i f y s m a l l c hi l d ren. A n d s o m e b ig ch ildre n, to o. Th e r ail w ay l in e is n e a r b y . J o u r n ey ’s En d is liv ed in by two sister s . T h e y a r e c a l le d t h e W i n d r u st l e s i s t e r s ( s a y : W I N D - R U S - U L L ). ‘ W in d r u st le’ is a n a m e t h a t s o u n d s w i n d y a n d w i s p y a n d g h o s t l y . s t o n e l a m i ngo n ear the f ront g at e an d th a t

Here is what I know about the Windrustle sisters: The Windrustle sisters do not go past their front gate. Ever. Not even to buy a new TV. Here is a true story and Verity Crisp told me it. Once the Windrustle sisters had a TV that exploded. They liked that TV a lot and they missed it. But they could not leave their house to go buy a new one. So, they telephoned a handyman. They gave the handyman some money in a tartan pencil case and said, ‘Please buy us a new TV.’ So that’s what the handyman did and everyone was happy again. That is all I know about the Windrustle sisters. Until now. I aim to find out a lot more. I am particularly interested in the strange shapes painted on their house. What could they mean and why are they there? What is going on at Journey’s End? This is the burning question. ORACLE CARD: an oracle is a person who can tell the future or give wise advice to be proud of. An oracle card is a card with messages. It is the next best thing to a real, live oracle. I think.

‘I updated my Spy Files last night,’ I say to Gloria as we shuffle into the school assembly hall. ‘Nice work, partner,’ says Gloria and she gives me a high five. ‘Did you add my observation to the Journey’s End file?’ ‘Correcto-diddly-o. I even opened a new spy file. Operation Windrustle. ’ ‘Great minds think alike,’ says Gloria. ‘I knew you’d do that. Oh, Tan. You should have seen the creepy shapes, and the staring face, and the stone flamingo, which is still as harrowing as ever. The entire episode gave me nightmares. But most of all it was those shapes that got me worried. What was the purpose of them?’ Thump. ‘Ouch!’ I say. ‘Ouch! says Gloria. ‘Sorry,’ says a kid. He rocketed into us and almost knocked us flying.


A whole gaggle of prep kids are pushing and tripping their way past us and they are not watching where they are going. The prep kids sit up the front for assembly. They are the littlest kids in the school and they have to hold hands with a buddy whenever they are on the loose. The prep kids used to be shy. But that was at the start of the year. Nowadays they are noisy and as bold as brass. You would think they owned the school. ‘It’s freezing in here!’ says Gloria, zipping up her puffer jacket so that her chin disappears. ‘Let’s talk about the creepy shapes and the Windrustle sisters later,’ I say. ‘It’s hopeless trying to have a Secret Spy talk in here. Look at this farmyard!’ Kids are squiggling about everywhere, laughing and pulling faces and taking their seats on the floor.

We do not have chairs at our assembly. We have to sit on the floor and it has prickly school carpet that is like sitting on Velcro. The teachers have chairs. So do the visitors. But not us. Gloria calls this an injustice. I call it a pain in the bum. INJUSTICE: say, in-jus-tiss . This means something isn’t fair. It is an injustice that students have to sit on the floor. It is also an injustice that we do not get to choose the Monday morning song and that we are banned from giggling at assembly. ‘Hello, Tan. Hello, Gloria,’ says Verity Crisp, and I’m sorry to say that Verity has decided to sit beside us. ‘Looking forward to the holidays?’ says Verity. Verity Crisp never asks about our holidays or our life. She doesn’t even ask about our pets or anything of importance. But today she is asking and Miss Dragone, our teacher, would call this ‘making an effort’. I am polite. I make an effort too. ‘Yes,’ I say. ‘It will be a welcome break.’ Lily sits beside Verity and they start whispering and Gloria and I pull faces at each other that are secret-code faces for ‘Oh, brother, look who’s sitting next to us.’ And then Mr Lamble claps his hands.


‘Quiet, everyone,’ calls Mr Lamble from the stage. Mr Lamble is the Deputy Principal and he is nice and we like him. Today his bow tie has lemons on it. ‘Where’s Scooter?’ I say, looking around. ‘Ted is on the end of our row, but there’s no Scooter.’ Gloria shrugs. ‘Search me.’ ‘Settle down, everyone,’ says Mr Lamble. ‘The heating has gone kaput. So I’m afraid conditions are arctic. Let’s get this over as quickly as possible, shall we? Miss Zucko, Miss Dragone, if you please …’ Miss Zucko taps her music stand and Miss Dragone pounds out some opening chords on her electronic keyboard. The Happy Wanderers Grade Three Choir is up on the stage because it is their turn to entertain. ‘Sing along, everyone!’ calls Mr Lamble into his microphone. ‘It will warm you up.’ It is a ridiculous thing to sit on a cold floor on a Monday morning and sing a stupid song called ‘Every Glowing Candle’. But it is also funny, and Verity and Lily get the giggles and so do Gloria and I, but Miss Dragone has her back to us and she can’t see us which is lucky. ‘I love the end of term. It’s so exciting,’ says Gloria from


behind her puffy collar. ‘Only one more week of school. I can’t wait for the Lantern Festival and I can’t wait to see who wins Winter Queen.’ ‘Me too!’ I say. ‘I hope it’s Rose. She would be the most magical Winter Queen in the history of this school.’ ‘And the most poetic,’ says Gloria. ‘Blow, blow, thou frozen bum,’ I say, and Gloria and I nearly have a fit. We are still laughing when we notice Mr Lamble is frowning and pointing his finger at us. So we stop giggling and start singing the glowing-candle chorus because that is the deal. That is the code of Mr Lamble’s pointing finger. KAPUT: say ca-poot . This is a good and funny word that means something is broken or dead. Dad’s vet van went kaput the other day, but he got it fixed. Here at school, we are not happy that the heating in the hall has gone kaput and there is ice on the windows and it is hard to think, let along sing, when you’re sitting in an igloo.

HARROWING : say, ha-row-ing . This is a sophisticated word that means ‘scary’. Gloria is the queen of sophisticated words. I wonder if Gloria and I have stumbled into a harrowing mystery? I hope so.

After the candle song is finished and the Happy Wanderers have wandered back to their seats on the floor, Mr Lamble gives a speech about our delightfully busy term that is now over and how he is glad it is over because he is worn out. All the teachers clap. Then Mr Lamble hands out five merit certificates, but I don’t get one. Then Grace and Cindy get up. They are Verity’s friends and Verity claps loudly and so does Lily. Grace and Cindy give a book report about something they read together. The book is about magical horses who live on an island and even though I am not a fan of horses, I like the sound of the story and I will probably read it. Gloria will know the name of it. She is listening carefully. I am not listening carefully. I am conducting an experiment. I am staring at the back of my sister’s head. My sister Rose is sitting in the front row with all the other contestants, and I am trying to beam a signal into her brain. My signal says, ‘You will win Winter Queen, Rose Callahan. Good luck, from your faithful sister, Tan.’ Just as Grace and Cindy finish their book report and everyone is clapping, Rose turns and looks straight at me.


My heart thumps. She got the message! I’mmagical too, just like her! I smile brightly and give Rose a little wave. But her face is empty. She gives me a blank stare. Did she even get my message? I can’t tell. But I think she did, otherwise why would she turn around? A blank stare is a good thing to get from Rose. I find it very encouraging. Then Mr Lamble gives a stern talk about bad manners in the school canteen and also about healthy eating. These are boring topics. Then Miss Dragone reminds us of the anti-bullying pledge and the THINK before you speak rule that we all know off by heart. ‘These are delay tactics,’ whispers Gloria. ‘They know we’re busting to hear who’s won King and Queen and they’re just stringing us along.’ ‘Affirmative,’ I say. ‘I’m fed up with this assembly and I bet Rose is too.’ But then there is more! We have to say ‘farewell and have a good life’ to a grade five boy that we hardly know. He is moving to another town and a new school, and it is the rule that he gets a farewell


card and a round of applause. ‘This is so tedious. I wish they’d get to the good part!’ says Verity as we clap again and smile wearily at the goodbye boy. For once I agree with Verity Crisp. Then, finally, it is time for the big announcement. Miss Dragone plays introduction music and everyone is on the edge of their seats. The edge of their floor … Either way, we are all craning forward, listening hard, with our fingers crossed for our favourites. ‘Come on,’ I say, under my breath. ‘Come on, come on, come on.’ ‘This year’s entries in the Royal Winter Lantern Festival competition were exceptional,’ says Mr Lamble. ‘There were several truly profound poems handed in and a collection of art that would make our National Gallery sit up and take notice.’ The teachers beam like smiling cats who got the cream. ‘Finding the winners was not an easy task and the judges want to make it clear their decision was the most difficult yet.’ ‘Yakkity yak,’ whispers Gloria. ‘Get to the point, Deputy.’ ‘Envelopes please, Miss Dragone,’ says Mr Lamble, holding out his hand. Miss Dragone hands him the large, sparkling silver


envelopes that were especially made for this important competition. The names of the two winners are in the envelopes and the winners get to keep the envelopes as part of the prize. This is impressive. Mr Lamble makes a grand and sweeping gesture with his arm as he opens the first envelope. ‘This year’s Winter King is going to a grade four boy,’ says Mr Lamble. Grade four? Gloria and I gasp. ‘This is the first time in the history of the competition that the prize has gone to grade four,’ says Mr Lamble. ‘Shivers,’ says Gloria. ‘Imagine if it’s Ted!’ I shake my head. ‘No way, Aunty May. That boy couldn’t win if his life depended on it. The only poems Ted ever writes are about farts. And the only things he ever draws are three-headed monsters, and Viking chickens …’ Mr Lamble holds up the certificate. ‘The winner of this year’s Winter King is … Master Scooter Gray,’ says Mr Lamble. ‘Congratulations, Scooter!’ ‘Scooter?’ says Gloria with a funny squeak. ‘Scooter?’ I say. ‘What a sly old fox. He never told anyone he was entering this competition!’


Now I know why Scooter wasn’t sitting in our row. He’s sitting with the other contestants. They’re a few rows ahead of us.’ Everyone is so excited. Scooter is the best artist in our entire school, even better than the art teachers. Scooter has many fans. Plus, added bonus, he sits at our table and that makes us famous too. Miss Dragone flicks on the projector and as Scooter walks up to receive his certificate, his winning drawing is projected on the screen behind him. ‘It’s just like Hollywood,’ says Verity, and this is true. It is a magical moment and we are proud of Scooter and even though he is Ted’s best friend and Ted will never stop bragging about this, we are happy. Then Gloria says, ‘Well, that’s the end of Rose. There’s no way they’ll give the queen prize to a grade five girl. That would be too uneven and just look downright silly.’ I had not thought of this. Now, suddenly, I feel happy and sad at the same time. My friend has won, but my sister has lost. Miss Dragone hits the keyboard again. It’s time for the girls’ prize.


Mr Lamble tears open the envelope. ‘Please be Scarlett,’ says Verity, under her breath. ‘Pleeeease.’ Scarlett is obviously Verity’s favourite. ‘This year’s Winter Queen,’ says Mr Lamble, picking open the envelope, ‘is …Miss Rose Callahan!’ I squeal so loud that Gloria falls sideways. The music starts playing. Miss Dragone has all her special effects on full volume as my sister Rose glides up onto the stage to take her prize certificate. On the screen behind Rose is her prize-winning poem: As I stepped out at Valleyview, one cold and frosty morning … ‘Nice one, Rose!’ yells Ted. ‘Nice one, Scooter!’ Ted does a super-loud two-finger whistle and Miss Zucko glares at him. Everyone in the whole school is happy to see Rose win. Even Verity gives me a tight smile. ‘Look at them,’ says Gloria with a sigh. ‘Such an odd pair. A royal muddle-up. Scooter is so short and Rose is so tall and regal.’ And it’s true. Scooter is in grade four and Rose is in grade five and they look funny standing up there, side by side.


But Rose is not affected. She stands tall like a famous monarch and ignores Scooter. Rose ignores everyone. Unless they are her bosom buddy. The screen behind the king and queen is glowing. Scooter drew a winter king in a flowing fur cape, riding a wild brumby through a snowstorm.

Scooter draws the best horses in PeppercornValleyand that’s saying something because Lily draws good horses too. Even Verity Crisp has some exceptional horse- drawing talent. But I would never tell her that. Rose’s poem is complicated and hard to understand and that’s why it won. It is a rule that prize-winning poems should never make sense. It is the end of a strange and freezing, boring but enjoyable assembly. It is good to get out of there. ‘I feel so exhilarated,’ says Gloria as we file out, and I agree. It is fun to feel exhilarated on a Monday morning.


O f a l l t h e t hi n g s we dr aw a t s ch ool an d at home or an y w h e r e e l s e i n t h e w o r ld , h o r s e s a r e h a n d s - d o w n t h e h a r d e s t. I d o n o t k n o w w h y ho rs e s ar e s o ha r d to dr a w. But y o u h a v e t o m a k e t h e ir h e a d s m atch with t heir n ecks an d th eir le gs m a tc h w i th A D R A W I N G H O R S E S O B S E R V A T I O N , B Y T A N CALLAHAN

t h e ir b o d ie s a nd th en th ey ha ve

e y e s a n d e a r s and manes

a n d t a il s a n d h o o ves

d o e s n ’ t. a n d o f t en it p r o p e r l y f i t t o g et h e r a n d i t a ll h a s t o

BOSOM BUDDY: say, boo-zum bud-ee. This is a special and very dear friend that you hold close to your heart and tell secrets to and love forever. I will not tell you what Ted says about bosom buddies. But if anyone ever says the word bosom , Ted nearly chokes laughing.


The ABC ‘Wave’ device is a trademark of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and is used under licence by HarperCollins Publishers Australia. First published in Australia in 2018 by HarperCollins Children’sBooks a division of HarperCollins Publishers Australia Pty Limited For Alice. A long-time Tan fan. – CR For Lily. Our cover queen! – JS

ABN 36 009 913 517 Text copyright © Jen Storer 2018 Illustrations copyright © Claire Robertson 2018

The rights of Jen Storer and Claire Robertson to be identified as the author and illustrator of this work have been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000 . This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 , no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher. HarperCollins Publishers Level 13, 201 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia Unit D1, 63 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand A 53, Sector 57, Noida, UP, India 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF, United Kingdom 2 Bloor Street East, 20th floor, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1A8, Canada

195 Broadway, New York NY 10007, USA A catalogue record for this book is available from the National Library of Australia ISBN 978 0 7333 3413 9 Cover and internal design by Stephanie Spartels, Studio Spartels Cover illustration by Claire Robertson Images on pages 9, 72, 78, 95, 101, 126, 157, 170, 201, 218 and 269 from Printed and bound in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group The papers used by HarperCollins in the manufacture of this book are a natural, recyclable product made from wood grown in sustainable plantation forests. The fibre source and manufacturing processes meet recognised international environmental standards, and carry certification.

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