Audio Books Read by UK Actors

Fabulous stage and screen actors reading gloriously fun books.  I listened to eight beautifully narrated sound clips by Kate Winslet, Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Chris O’Dowd––and I’ve just drooled over Dan Stevens short reading of Roald Dahl’s famous ‘Boy’.  What a selection!

Reviewed by Rachel Smalter Hall for Book Riot way back in 2013 who gushed:

“Rioters, I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’ve been holding my breath to share this with you for weeks! The new upswing in audiobook publishing has sent lots of publishers to their backlist to record beloved classics, and one of my favorite projects in this vein is from Penguin Audio, who just released several Roald Dahl audiobooks in July and will release several more this September.  The series features some of the UK’s best known screen and stage actors. Here are sound clips from eight of the narrations that have got me squealing like a thirteen-year-old at a slumber party.”

I SAY IT’LL MAKE YOUR EARS HAPPY––SMILES GUARANTEED

TAP ON EACH INDIVIDUAL TEASER WHICH I HAVE CAREFULLY SELECTED FOR YOU FROM A LOVINGLY CURATED ROALD DAHL SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST

Roald Dahl Audio Book 04

 

Kate Winslet reads excerpt ‘Matilda’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/matilda-by-roald-dahl-read-by

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 03

 

Richard Ayoade reads excerpt ‘The Twits’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-twits-by-roald-dahl-read

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 05

 

Chris O’Dowd reads excerpt ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/fantastic-mr-fox-by-roald-dahl

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 06

 

Dan Stevens reads excerpt ‘Boy’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/boy-by-roald-dahl-read-by-dan

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 02

 

Stephen Fry reads excerpt ‘The Enormous Crocodile’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-enormous-crocodile-by

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 01

 

Hugh Laurie reads excerpt ‘The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-giraffe-and-the-pelly-and

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 08

 

Miriam Margolyes reads excerpt ‘Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/revolting-rhymes-dirty-beasts

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 07

 

Andrew Scott reads excerpt ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-wonderful-story-of-henry

 

I found their voices soothing, hypnotic and hilariously infectious.
What more can be said except ENJOY!
 Gretchen Bernet-Ward 

I do reviews not advertisements but––Thanks to Penguin Books Ltd and Book Riot who say “Sign up for our newsletter to have the best of Book Riot delivered straight to your inbox every two weeks.  No spam.  We promise.  To keep up with Book Riot on a daily basis, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, , subscribe to the Book Riot podcast in iTunes or via RSS.  So much bookish goodness––all day, every day.”

Giant Wallabies

Wallaby 01

My short story mentions a rural event known as a show.
Alternate names can be exhibition, county fair or agfest.

Looks of disbelief washed across the children’s faces.  Robbo’s face shone with a self-satisfied smile.  Next to his work boots lay Dugger, his Labrador dog, who raised an eyelid then went back to sleep.
A snort came from school teacher, Miss Evelyn, and all eyes turned to her as she gathered up her patchwork squares.
“What a lot of nonsense,” she said as she stuffed sewing material into her carrybag.  “Brookfield Show eve and you’re going to fill their heads with fantasy.”
One of the younger children put his hand up.
“Did it really happened, Robbo?”
Robbo said “Yes” at the same time Evelyn snapped “No” and the young boy retracted his hand in disappointment.
“Can you prove it?” asked Angela, an older girl with jet black hair and thoughtful eyes.  She was one of many third generation Brookfield students whom Miss Evelyn had known from babyhood.
“Hmm,” Robbo said thoughtfully.  If he had a beard, he would have stroked it in contemplation.  “I reckon I can try.”
Robbo was a well-known local figure, a carpenter by trade who could turn his hand to any odd job around the residences in the area.  He and Dugger were a volunteer Story Dog team at the local school.
Today they had veered off topic and instead of the slow readers reading, Robbo had tantalised them with an opening salvo to his tale.
“Start from the beginning,” Miss Evelyn sniffed “so we can get into the right mood.”
The children chuckled nervously and settled themselves back on the kindergarten cushions.  Some of the older boys had objected to being in the kindy room but the seating arrangements were more comfortable than their classroom, currently overflowing with paintings and craft waiting transfer to the Show pavilions.
Miss Evelyn settled herself down again like a kookaburra shuffling her feathers.  A couple of the young ones inched closer to her, hoping for motherly support should the need arise.
“Okay,” Robbo rubbed his hands together.  “Here goes!”  He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.  A security thumb or two was popped in, soft toys were hugged and someone let off a smell.
“It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, in fact, it wasn’t dark but there was a rain cloud,” began Robbo, lowering his voice, “and two small brown wallabies grazing in a paddock near the Showgrounds.”  His eyes roved the attentive audience.  “A large crow was sitting high in a nearby gumtree when––”  Robbo clapped his hands and everyone jumped.  “A bolt of lightning struck the gumtree and the crow flew away.  The lightning had ignited the tree and fire was crackling fiercely through it branches before someone in the general store rang the fire brigade.”
Everyone wriggled then settled again, eyes just that bit wider.  “The flames had reached the ground and were burning towards the Brookfield Showgrounds at a furious pace.”  Robbo looked around.  “Where are those two wallabies?”
A hand shot up and the timid voice of Frederick of the smells said “They ran away to safety.”
Robbo shook his head.  “No, they were still there.  And you know what?”  He raised his calloused hands high in the air above his head.  “They had turned into giant wallabies.”  Then, for extra emphasis, he stood up and reached for the ceiling.  His fingers almost dislodged a butterfly mobile but it added to the atmosphere as they fluttered wildly around his uncombed hair.
“These were energised wallabies, they had super powers and were big enough to roll the Ferris wheel away.”
The group froze; Frederick crouched ready to run.
An older boy scoffed “Yeah, but what can they do about the fire?”
Nodding heads inspired him to add “Maybe the crow flew to get help?”
Robbo pulled a face and told them the crow was another story.  Sitting down, he attempted a sage storyteller voice.
“They bounded over a fence to Moggill Creek and began drinking lots and lots of water.  It tasted a bit like dirt and leaves and stuff but they guzzled until they were full.  It was difficult for them to walk so they sort of rolled back towards the outer fence.  It flattened and they put themselves right in the path of the oncoming blaze.  With puffed cheeks and one big blast like a wall of creek water, they hosed over the flames until they went out.”  He cleared his throat.  “Of course, the smoke made them cough and they had to wipe their eyes but all in all they didn’t even get their fur singed.”
“What happened next,” shouted two girls in unison, grabbing each other’s hands.  “Did they get a medal?  Or a free pass to the Show?”
Miss Evelyn pursed her lips and shushed them.
Robbo’s expression sobered.  “Not that simple, I’m afraid.”
Dugger shifted position on the floor and put his bony jaw on his paws, the seams of his orange vest creaking beneath him.
“The two giant wallabies heard a sound,” continued Robbo, “and turned to see that stray sparks had ignited inside the main Showground and were crackling and spitting across the dry leaves, past the arena, towards the agricultural buildings and meeting hall.  Oh no, historical buildings.”
Nobody saw Miss Evelyn trying to swallow a laugh and regain her composure.
“Surely the local fire brigade would have arrived by now?” she said.
“Their siren could be heard in the distance,” said Robbo, “and the general store had put up makeshift road blocks to stop traffic.  The store owner was hosing down the store and the giant wallabies knew if they were seen by him, their cover would be blown.  After one mighty spurt of water, they shrunk and hopped off into the distance, far away, up towards Mount Elphinstone.  There is a cave high on Mount Elphinstone where, legend has it, two wallabies sit and keep watch over the dry land.”
Robbo surveyed his listeners.  “The paint had been blistered off some buildings, and a palm tree was sooty but it survived and a quick paint job fixed the rest.”
“Phew, that’s a relief,” said one of Angela’s younger siblings and everyone laughed.  Apparently they shared similar thoughts – the cake pavilion housing their entries sitting under cling wrap on paper plates.
“And sideshow alley,” thought Miss Evelyn.
“However,” Robbo spoke at full volume, causing several children to squeak, “whenever there is lightening in Brookfield, or a barbecue out of control, you are wise to stay away from the flames because the giant wallabies will activate.”
“But,” said Frederick gravely, “they are our friends and they would protect us.”
“True, true.”  Robbo was momentarily fazed.  Even asleep, Dugger thumped his tail in encouragement.  Robbo rallied “Just don’t get in the way of giant wallabies at work.  Like flood waters, giant wallabies could unleash a wave of water which would wash you off your feet and into Moggill Creek.”
Miss Evelyn puckered her brow.  “Robbo, please.  No more scary stories.”
Robbo avoided her gaze, patting Dugger and adjusting his leather collar.
“Show’s over, kids.”
Determinedly, single-minded Angela spoke up.  “You said you had proof.”
Judging by the looks Miss Evelyn saw on the younger faces, caps nervously twisted between little fingers, they did not want proof.
“Sure,” replied Robbo with an airy wave of his hand. “If you go into the pony club grounds near the Brookfield Cemetery, you’ll spy a bleached eucalyptus tree trunk.  That’s the one which got struck by lightning.”
“Also,” piped a helpful voice from the sidelines, “I’ve seen wallabies.”
The collective chatter was enough to wake Dugger.  He got to his paws, shook his furry head and looked around.  He let out a sharp bark and ran to the open door.  With a slight pause to sniff the air, he bounded out of the room.
The space Dugger left seemed suspended, a motionless void.
“Wallabies,” whispered Frederick.
The electronic school bell sounded, breaking the spell.
“Lunch time, children.”  Miss Evelyn rose and smoothed her tartan skirt.  “After lunch we have choir rehearsal for the opening ceremony.”
As the children helped stack cushions in the corner, Miss Evelyn turned to Robbo.
“Was Dugger motivated by the aroma of tuckshop pies or something bigger?”
Robbo shrugged.  “That dog has a great sense of theatre.”
She wagged her finger.  “Giant wallabies or not, the Show must go on.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wallabies Ferris Wheel

AUTHOR NOTE:  This short story is dedicated with love and respect to Kookaburra Kat of KR, a long-time friend who supports and encourages my literary endeavours and is a passionate wildlife warrior, nurturing and caring for all creatures.  GBW.

 

Feathered Fraudster or Duped Duck

Duck KSSS 02
Duck No: 4938

As I left the local gym, a rat scampered towards me waving a crumpled envelope.

“You’re Bertha East, right?” he squeaked. I started to explain I was Bertha West but he let the envelope flutter to the footpath and raced off. I scooped it up and saw on the back that it was from Duck No. 4938, a nodding acquaintance at the gym. The letter had been scribbled with a quill and Duck No. 4938 explained that she was currently behind bars at Critters Incarcerated. According to her letter, she was blameless of the charges levelled against her, while remaining tight-billed about her true intentions.

I was puzzled until next day the story became public knowledge. This had prompted her lawyer Henny McCluck to state that her client Duck No. 4938 was nowhere near The Duck Pond on the afternoon in question.

Apprehended with a plastic bag of crumbs under her wing, proceedings are currently underway to determine if Duck No. 4938 gobbled all the dry bread crusts before other ducks had a chance to exit the water. The Duck Pond is a popular picnic spot, a prominent sign warns Do Not Feed The Birds, and investigators are urging the child who dropped the bread crusts to come forward.

“My client pleads not guilty and hopes for early release,” said McCluck. She added that the Duckolympic champion held the coveted title of Paddling Fury and should be respected for her sporting prowess. I realised that this would not help her cause. In a photograph released today, Duck No. 4938 appeared rather haunted, her feathers askew. Lawyer McCluck can be seen loitering in the background.

Meanwhile, the letter I received from Duck No. 4938 hinted that she believes lawyer McCluck is pecking through what little grain savings she has left and asks for my support. I decided against sending a 2kg bag of cracked corn to the address she nominated and considered the letter to be some sort of scam.

The arrest had caused a flurry in the catering industry and representatives were standing in readiness to take stomach content samples.

By now social media tweets were going viral, ruffling large flocks of the feathered fraternity with #stuffedduck #duckdiving and #whatsitallaboutduckie.  Television news coverage focused on the issue of slim pickings for underprivileged water birds. Dramatic press headlines read “Feathered Fraudster” and “Dead in the Water” with an inflammatory byline from an angry drake.

“She snatched it right out from under my webbed feet!”

A shiver ran up my spine. The drake has engaged the services of Paulo Dingo, known in legal circles as ‘Hungry’.

Undisclosed sources close to The Duck Pond were striving to gain access to security camera videos which could prove Duck No. 4938 was not in the vicinity of the water’s edge at the time of the incident.

“Video footage won’t prove a thing,” said ‘Hungry’ Dingo in his scathing report on the inadequacy of the wildlife penal system. “Judge Cassowary wouldn’t know one duck from another,” he howled.

My after-lunch doze was unsettled by thoughts that blackmail and swamp weed may be at the root of the allegations. At the very least Duck No. 4938 may have been duped and become ensnared in a network of fowl crime. But why come to me? Why doesn’t she tell the truth?

The phone rang and I discovered that local Constable Steve Brolga was conducting enquiries. He said he would be undertaking a nest-to-nest search and interviewing anyone who may have seen or heard Duck No. 4938 acting suspiciously in the surrounding area.

“Keep your ears tuned for me, Bertha,” he said.

My ears twitched and I pondered the fact that Duck No. 4938 may have a secret hiding place. Unexpectedly I had the answer. A clutch of ducklings, safely hidden from the likes of ‘Hungry’ Dingo.

A guilty verdict would certainly hinder her parental responsibilities. She had to plan, she needed someone on the outside, someone who lived nearby and could go to the address in the letter. Someone she could trust to protect her family.

I confided my swirling thoughts to young Joey.
“I guess I can help,” I mused, “What’s 2kg of cracked corn anyway?”
He was dubious and thought it may have been a trap. “Or we might be followed.”

But the more we talked, the more I thought about food relief. “Maybe we could scrounge some stale bread rolls from the back of the supermarket?”

This proved to be a difficult task and I scrambled over enough plastic bags and wasted food to last me a lifetime. A couple of crows helped by flicking slices of bread out of a half-opened skip but maintained their image by cawing loudly every time one hit me on the head. Joey laughed until a mouldy slice hit him.

Next day I alerted Constable Brolga and planned to meet him at the location specified by Duck No. 4938. Joey and I set off mid-morning and arrived earlier than intended. I stopped at a rusty wire gate to confirm the address.

“This is it.” The only noise was the rustling of eucalyptus leaves.

Before I could stop him, Joey bounced out with the bulky package and pushed through the gate.
“Let’s blow this case wide open!”
I sighed and shoved the letter back in my pouch.

We hopped up a set of shallow steps to the wooden door of an old shed. Heat radiated from the corrugated iron cladding and we strained to hear any sound of ducklings from within. Flies buzzed around us, the smell was overpowering and Joey wrinkled his nose. I knocked forcefully, rattling the door.

There was scuffling and very slowly and carefully the door slid open. Suddenly we were engulfed in a tide of fluffy yellow pinfeathers and eagerly quacking bills. Joey moved forward as bright little eyes scanned our food parcel.

He held up his paw. “Who wants to be first in line?”

I felt comfortable with our decision. Whatever truths the trial may reveal, the innocent must not suffer.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Run Rabbit Run

The yellow rabbit picked his front teeth with a twig and contemplated what it would be like baked in a rabbit pie. He remembered a tune the tone-deaf gardener used to sing “Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run, something, something, he’ll get by without his rabbit pie…” Stupid song but with a happy ending for the bunny. The yellow rabbit didn’t have to worry about ending up in a pie because he crept among the marrows and hid in the sunflower patch or in buttery dandelion clumps and the gardener couldn’t see him. There were so many things to hide in, or on, or against when you were yellow. He remembered the nerve-wracking time he stopped on a double yellow line so a council truck wouldn’t run over him. The driver wasn’t going fast but that’s beside the point. The yellow rabbit nearly hopped out in front of the vehicle. Of course, stopping still on the yellow line made him invisible. His paws were a bit shaky once the truck had driven passed and he’d vowed then and there never to cross a road again. He looked up at the back verandah of the old homestead and continued his contemplation. There was a big yellow tablecloth fluttering on the railing which meant plans were afoot to eat outside. He had already spied the plump yellow cushions on the cane chairs. The big glass jug was frosting over, filled with ice and lemon nectar. Rabbit 09The yellow rabbit always thought it strange how the humans ate with tools. They doled out piles of food and delicious salads with forks and scoops and ladles. Then they sliced succulent pineapples with large knives and chopped it into chunks. The strangest thing he’d ever seen was when they would cut the sides off mangoes and grid the luscious inner flesh before turning the skin inside out. At least the young human consumed large portions of her meals with her fingers. This meant that the female of the warren would continually wipe the fingers and face of the little fluffle. The yellow rabbit was now watching for this small fluffle, a young girl who always wore a yellow and white striped dress. She strolled outside holding a glass bowl, spooning egg custard into her mouth without watching the spillage. Her bright eyes were scanning for him. It didn’t take long for her to see him crouched down in a tray full of marigold seedlings. He twitched his long ears. She brushed a curl out of her eyes. He wiggled his nose. She gave a wiggle of her fingers then turned away, disappearing back inside.  Out came the male and hung a wire cage on a fancy hook. The canary inside the cage started singing. The male started to set the table with yellow spotted plates and serviettes with sunbeams on them but seemed more interested in taking long swigs from a bottle of amber liquid he had left on the open window sill. The little girl reappeared and behind her trailed several yellow balloons on long shiny strings. She was wearing a cardboard hat decorated with sprigs of wattle which tangled in her blonde hair. The female emerged from the kitchen door with a bunch of daffodils in one hand and an empty honey jar in the other. She put the flowers in the jar and placed it in the middle of the table while talking to the male.Scribbles The Yellow Rabbit 02 The yellow rabbit shuddered and averted his eyes from the hot metal plate where the male had just thrown raw meat. Even the smell of fresh lettuce couldn’t stop him feeling slightly nauseated. After a few minutes, the little girl looped the balloon strings around the handrail and skipped down the verandah steps. She was coming straight towards him. Instinctively he shrunk low into the cool earth and tensed his muscles. She was swinging her arms casually and appeared to be looking over his head at a light catcher made from shimmering pieces of tinfoil clipped to a branch. The yellow rabbit blinked in surprise. She walked right by. However, quick as a wink, she flipped something out of her pocket and into the seedling tray. It was a carrot! Joy swelled in the yellow rabbit’s heart. He snatched up the fresh carrot in his big front teeth and leapt out of the seedling tray. He landed on the grass and bounded for the back fence. He knew it was ungracious of him, but he didn’t turn around to acknowledge the young girl. Biting hard on the carrot, and with a bit of pulling and tugging, he managed to crawl under the fence without getting stuck. He hopped off across the paddock with his tasty prize. The young girl trailed slowly back to her parents. They had soft smiles on their faces. With a happy nod, the young girl sat down at the table where a chunk of pineapple was waiting. As the sticky juice ran down her hands, she listened to her parents tell the familiar story of how they had been shown the nearby rabbit colony when they were her age. The yellow rabbits were a family tradition but nobody knew why they were yellow. Strangely, most of the bits and pieces in the homestead were the same colour, a shade her grandmother called sunshine. Legend says the yellow rabbit always appears on bright sunny days.

The above story was written as a free-write, a freefall stream of consciousness, and I had no idea where it was going or how it would end.  It’s a fun technique!  To find out more, click  Jen Storer Girl and Duck Scribbles

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Comfy Couch

 

Friends Couch 07
Comfy

(Rewriting metaphor)  The paddocks of writing are strewn with rough drafts.  You kick, trip, fall, get up and struggle your way across rugged terrain until you see a smooth pebble ahead.  The closer you get, the more polished it becomes.  Eventually you walk over golden sand and reach out; that pebble has become a jewel.  The following children’s picture book story is still a pebble.

(Living room)
Everyone in Neil’s family wants to sit on the soft cosy comfy couch.
Because the soft cosy comfy couch is the best place to sit.
But sometimes it’s just not big enough.

(Takeover)
Sometimes Neil can’t sit down to read his book because his two brothers and Tiny the dog sit down first.  And they spread out.

(Solid cushion)
So Neil tries to sit on a hard red cushion but slides off – bump!

(Kitchen chair)
Just when Neil goes to sit down on the front doorstep with his book, it is time for lunch.
The cushion on the kitchen chair is very thin.  Neil wriggles to get comfortable.
The thin cushion slips down and lands in the cat’s food.

(Various seats)
Neil’s mother watches a movie with Tiny the dog and Rat the cat snoozing on either side.
No room to squeeze in there.
So Neil drags in
a cardboard box – squash!
a wooden stool – crack!
a blue highchair – topple!
Everyone ends up grumpy so Neil goes outside to find a relaxing place to read.

(Outdoors)
In the garden the washing flaps across the wooden seat like a ghost – wooooo!
When the hammock swings back and forth too much it makes Neil feel dizzy.
He falls out – plop!

(Tree)
His leafy perch on a branch in the tree is swooped by noisy magpies – ouch!
Neil tucks his book inside his t-shirt and scrambles down.

(Various places)
The chicken roost, the guinea pig hutch and the vegetable patch are no good.

(Swimming pool)
Neil likes the idea of floating and reading.
It’s difficult to balance and read a book on the floating pool mat – splash!
Tiny the dog jumps into the swimming pool and rescues the book.

(Rainy day)
Next day a headcold makes Neil sneeze and sneeze and sneeze.
But he has a new book to read.
And he snuggles up, warm and happy on the soft cosy comfy couch.

(Family)
Then everyone decides to keep him company.
On the SQUASHY soft cosy comfy couch.Menagerie 01

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

 

Saving Grandpa’s Tree

Tree Without Leaves 09
Tree Rescue

Grey clouds raced across the sky and cold wind ruffled Paul’s hair.
He gazed with sadness at Grandpa’s new tree.
It looked sick.
Its leaves were brown and crispy and some had fallen on the grass.
Paul grabbed the garden hose and watered the earth around the tree.
A large puddle circled the trunk but nothing happened.
Paul thought it needed some food.  “What do trees eat?” he asked the sky.
In the garden shed, Paul foraged among lots of interesting containers.
On the bench he saw Grandpa’s half eaten sandwich and took it to the tree.
Crunch!  He picked up the dog’s smelly bone and gave that to the tree.
Cackle!  The hens followed a trail of grain as it trickled along behind him.
Paul was sure the cat wouldn’t miss her bowl of fish-flavoured treats.
From the kitchen, vegetable scraps joined a plate of leftover breakfast bits.
Paul stuffed an apple and a banana on top and ran back to the tree.
Icky!  He pulled a fuzzy lollipop out of his pocket and tossed it on the pile.
Gloop!  He found a jar of honey and poured that around the base.
Woof, cluck, meow, buzz!  Everyone enjoyed the food except the tree.
“You still don’t look right,” said Paul.
A leaf fluttered down, then another and another until the branches were bare.
Paul felt a tiny ache inside.
He walked slowly into the house – then thought of an idea!
With his coloured pencils and sheets of paper he drew and drew and drew.
His scissors cut and cut and cut until he had a handful of leafy shapes.
It was a big job threading these leaves on to the branches.
He stood on tip-toe and just reached the highest twigs.
Paul knew it wouldn’t fool Grandpa, but he did want to make him smile.
He tugged Grandpa by the hand, outside and all the way to the tree.
“What’s this?” said Grandpa.  “A Christmas tree?”
Paul shuffled uncomfortably.  “No.”
“A tree eating all our food?” said Grandpa as his boots squelched in honey.
Paul hung his head.  “Grandpa, your tree is sick.  I tried to make it better.”
Grandpa’s eyes twinkled.
“You did a great job, Paul.  The leaves look better than ever.”
Paul’s stomach did a happy flip.
Grandpa patted his shoulder.
“This tree will lose its leaves for winter and will grow new ones in the spring.”
Paul was relieved.  “You mean it’s just taking a nap?”
Laughter rumbled out of Grandpa.  “Exactly.”
Grandpa explained how the ground and the sun and the rain helped it grow.
Paul looked up at Grandpa.
“When it grows taller next year, I’ll need help with the paper leaves.”
Grandpa gave Paul a big, warm handshake.
At that moment Paul was surprised to see him wink.
“Don’t forget,” said Grandpa, “next year you’ll be taller too.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Tree Without Leaves 06

Wobble Jellyfish

Pirate Ship 02
Wrecked

Wobble Jellyfish was wobbling along under the sea when
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
A wave stranded her on a sandy beach.
It was midday and it was hot.
A seagull eyed her suspiciously.
Wobble Jellyfish hardly had time to take a breath when
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
She was slopping along in the bottom of a plastic bucket.
Wobble slowly blubbed her way up and peeked over the side.
The water park was full of wet, squealing children.
She saw a huge swimming pool ahead and got ready to slip overboard.
With a squeeze of her tentacles, she oozed up and over the edge.
Plop!  She missed the swimming pool.
This water was cold and bubbly and swirled Wobble up, up and over.
The fountain tossed her around and around like a washing machine.
Wobble waved her tentacles helplessly then plopped back into the water.
She grasped hold of a long purple ribbon dangling in the foam.
The person wearing the long purple ribbon stood up.
Aagh!  The young girl swung her long plait to get rid of Wobble.
Wobble soared high and fell with a splat on the hard ground.
A water canon spray hosed Wobble off the pathway into the gutter.
The force of the water swished her straight down the stormwater drain.
It was dark and stinky and slimy in the drain.
Wobble wrapped her tentacles tightly around her body.
“Oh, ooh, oooh, I want to get out of here,” said Wobble Jellyfish.
Many empty water bottles floated past and she grabbed one.
It was a bouncy ride, up and down through the pipes.
The bottle got jammed between the bars of a stormwater grate.
Wobble sucked in her jelly belly and squeezed through.
Now the water was quieter and flowed more smoothly.
Grass lined the bank and the sun shone on a long stretch of clear water.
It made Wobble feel relaxed but the water was not salty.
She longed for the tang of the ocean, the surge and swell of the current.
A boy’s face loomed above her and another plastic bucket scooped her up.
The ride was sloppy and jerky hanging from the handlebars of his bike.
Wobble heard lots of voices talking and saw cheerful colours flash overhead.
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
Wobble was sluiced over the side of the bucket into a square glass tank.
The first thing she saw was another jellyfish.  He was very small.
“Hi,” he said.  “I’m Irukandji, or Iru for short.”
Wobble thought his smile was unfriendly.
She didn’t like his long, quivering tentacles and backed away.
Something sharp poked her side and she wobbled around to look.
It was a large starfish.  He said “My name is Spike.”
Wobble slubbed and blubbed “I’m not surprised.”
She introduced herself and peered closely at Spike “You’re a beautiful colour.”
Spike showed her around the glass tank.
He was proud of the rocks and the seaweed and a tiny pirate ship.
“But they are not real,” said Wobble.
“They are to me,” said Spike.
That made Wobble cry but nobody saw her tears because of the clean tap water.
“We have to get back to the sea!” she said.
Wobble saw blurry people lift the fish tank “Up ya go!” and “In ya go!”
The light dulled as a heavy canvas was pulled over the back of the ute.
Water slopped everywhere as the old ute bucked back and forth along the track.
The canvas was lifted and Wobble, Spike and Iru blinked at the bright sun.
The tank was hoisted up and carried along the beach towards tall cliffs.
At the base of the cliffs, the blurry figures stopped.
Wobble could see large rock pools and waves splashing over them.
Spike and Iru were very quiet, hardly daring to move.
Wobble rose to the top of the fish tank and blub blubbed excitedly.
The fish tank moved again, closer to the waves and the sea.
A huge sparkling wave rose up, curling and churning towards the rock pools.
The blurry figures leaned over and tipped the tank.
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
Wobble, Spike and Iru caught the wave and rode it high into the air.
They tumbled and mingled with the fresh, cool, salty water.
Whoo hoo!  shouted Wobble and Spike and Iru.
Seaspray carried them higher and higher until the wave rolled back into the sea.
Briefly they touched, careful of Iru’s stingers, then turned towards home.
Wobble Jellyfish had the tiny pirate ship wrapped in one of her tentacles.
She was going to show it to a real sunken pirate ship.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Jellyfish 03
Wobble
Star Fish
Spike

The Tall Table

A children’s picture book video.

When Jessie was small the table was tall.
She had to sit in a highchair to eat her meals.
One day she crawled on to the table.
But that was not a good idea.
Another time she pulled the tablecloth.
That was not a good idea.
As Jessie grew, she helped Tiny the dog on to a chair.
That definitely was not a good idea.
After dinner on Saturday, Jessie had a very good idea.
She didn’t need a chair cushion now,
And her feet could almost touch the floor.
So she helped clear the table.
She helped to wash the dishes.
Then Jessie went into her bedroom.
She tugged the top sheet off the bed.
She grabbed her favourite toys.
Jessie was tall enough to pull the sheet over the table.
It made a tent,
it made a cave,
it made a cubby,
and Jessie played until bedtime.

Words : Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Video : Mere Modicum

Tall TableCubby House Table 01

Dragon Daisies

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Dragon Daisies

In the middle of my grandpa’s paddock is a hill.
In the middle of the hill is an amazing glowing cave.
In this cave lives a dragon with bright eyes and shiny scales.
This dragon loves daisies almost as much as her dazzling jewels.
I always take a big bunch of daisies for her silver vase.
The dragon sniffs and I try not to laugh as petals stick to her snout.
I visit the dragon on windy days when she likes to test her leathery wings.
I have to duck my head as she flaps around and around the cave.
Swish!  Whoosh!  The daisies scatter.
I visit the dragon on hot days with an extra treat of frozen oranges.
The dragon chews wildly, scattering me with orange peel confetti.
Plink, plunk!
I visit the dragon on cold days and her fiery breath keeps me warm.
The daisies are scorching, I smell smoke.
“Be careful!” I cry as flames lick my wooden chair.
We cough and cough until I brew soothing cups of rosehip tea.
Next day I huff and puff as I tug a new chair up the hill.
The dragon has fresh daisies and does a happy twirl.
Oops!  Her tail spikes through the chair and it won’t come off.
She wiggles, the chair wobbles, I tug too hard and …
Oh!  The chair flies through the air towards a farm tractor below.
“Watch out!” I shout and wave my arms.
The dragon covers her eyes with trembling wings.
Crash!  A small figure jumps up and down and I know it’s my grandpa.
He must know where I borrowed that chair.
With a rustle of unfolding wings, the dragon stares at me.
“Time for me to go,” I say and pat the dragon’s claw.
Next afternoon, I sit on a solid stone but it scratches my legs.
I see the dragon’s head droop onto a rock pillow.
Even the daisies are wilting.  “Why is she so tired?”
I tap my chin thoughtfully.  “Dragon needs to snuggle.”
My arms and legs are working fast as I scurry around the cave.
Scooping up gold coins, I make a twinkling trail.
It circles the dragon in the shape of an egg.
Next I gather jewellery and gems and sparking diamonds.
My hands tingle as I pile everything into the oval shape.
I mix the treasure together and make a glittering nest.
The dragon barely blinks as I cover right up to her bony elbows.
She puffs steam, snuffles and falls asleep.
I tiptoe out of the cave and can’t wait for tomorrow.
“Do dragons hatch eggs?” I wonder.
In the middle of my grandpa’s paddock is a hill,
In the middle of the hill is an amazing glowing cave.
In this cave lives two dragons with bright eyes and shiny scales.
The new dragon flaps tiny wings,
The new dragon guzzles frozen oranges,
The new dragon burps little flames.
And the new dragon is called Daisy.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Draw-a-Dragon 01
Dragon Daisy

Hobgoblins Hate Books

Reading Takes You Places 03

Julia spun around and saw a tiny green blur scurry across the bookcase.
A scrabble of feet, a tiny sneeze, something squeezed out of sight.
A book of fairytales flew off the shelf and hit the floor with a thud.
“Who’s there?” Julia imagined a spiky grasshopper.
Carefully, so carefully, she put the book back where it belonged.
A tiny hand, a papery scrape, a puff of dust and the book whizzed off  the shelf again.
“Ouch!”  It hit Julia right on the nose.  “That wasn’t very nice.”
Zing, clunk, thump!  She heard a chuckle as more books pinged off the shelf.
“Stop that.”  Julia rapped on the bookcase.  “Don’t you like books?”
“No!” a tiny voice squeaked.  “Hobgoblins hate books!”
And out of hiding came a tiny green hobgoblin.
He had a gold buckle on his pointy hat and gold buckles on his pointy shoes.
She replied firmly.  “Then please leave my books alone and go away.”
“Was planning to make a pile of books up to your window,” he grumbled.
Julia thought for a moment.  “Use a chair.”
“Can’t move a chair all by myself,” he mumbled.
The hobgoblin watched as Julia pushed the chair under the open window.
“Difficult for me to get way over there,” he huffed, arms folded.
Quickly Julia gathered the books and stacked them like a staircase.
It wobbled but the hobgoblin skipped down as light as a feather.
He tapped his foot while she built another staircase up to the seat of the chair.
He scrambled onto the leather seat and stopped.  “Can’t grab the window ledge.”
With a voice like her mother’s, Julia said “Try.”
Bounce, bounce!  The tiny hobgoblin tried kangaroo hops.
Several books shook, but it didn’t work.
He changed his frowny face into a crooked smile.
He raised his tiny green arms. “Would be most grateful if you’d pick me up.”
Julia felt uncomfortable, she wondered if he might bite.
“Miaow.” Julia’s cat prowled into the room.
With a squeal, the hobgoblin jumped high in the air and flew out the window.
In a flash, the cat raced after him.
Julia ran to the window and saw the cat jump down as the hobgoblin flew up.
The hobgoblin’s tiny, shiny wings caught the breeze and he flew over the fence.
Julia looked down at her wide-eyed cat.  “Well, that was a mystery.”
The window stayed open as Julia heaped her books higher and higher and higher.
She placed her favourite book of fairytales on top.
Meanwhile her cat sniffed at a speck of green on the window ledge.
It was a tiny pointy hobgoblin hat.
Julia snatched it up and something fell out.
A teeny tiny book with a gold cover.
She laughed.  “He does like books after all!”
Something tiny and green hovered just outside her window.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Hobgoblin
Hobgoblin©DotBernet

 

The Shadow Bird

Bird Shadow 06
Shadow Bird

First Bird went peck, peck, peck.

Second Bird went peck, peck, peck.

First Bird is annoyed.

He looks in the window,

He hops along the path,

He sips from a water bowl.

And Second Bird is always there.

When it rains, Second Bird goes away.

But not for long.

One day First Bird flies straight at Second Bird.

Ouch!

First Bird is taken to the vet.

His beak hurts,

And he feels lonely.

First Bird looks out the window.

There is Second Bird looking back.

Second Bird waits until First Bird is released,

And they fly away together.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward