Monday 17 September 2012

Feather & Black Midsummer Nights' Dream Blogger Challenge

Nearly three weeks ago, I wrote about being asked to participate in Feather & Black's Midsummer Nights' Dream Blogger Challenge.  Feather and Black sell children's beds and all manner of gorgeous bedroom furniture, and have asked a number of bloggers to write a children's story based on a series of prompt images which they've posted over at their Facebook page.

Once all the participating blogs have posted their entries, visitors to the Feather and Black's Facebook page will be able to see all the entries and vote for their favourite, and the one with the highest number of votes will win £500.

Needless to say, I would be delighted if you would read my (probably far too long) entry below, and then consider visiting the Feather and Black facebook page and voting for me by clicking on the 'like' button in the box showing the screen shot of and which links to The Potty Diaries.  (If you click the 'like' button anywhere else on the Feather and Black page, your vote won't register for me).  And who knows, if you enjoy this story, maybe your children might, too.

First off, though, here are the picture prompts...



And here, my friends, is the story...

The Magical Bookshelves

Issy and Spike loved to go to Grandma’s house for the summer holidays.  She lived in a house that seemed stuffed full of magic; hidden staircases, quiet corners, and mysterious books that seemed to push themselves out from the shelves as if they knew – just knew – what it was that the children wanted to read about at that particular moment.

If Issy wanted to read about valiant princes and fearless princesses, a book telling a story about that very thing that would somehow be sticking it’s dusty spine out from between the others on the shelves just when she wanted it.  If Spike wanted to read about dinosaurs, cowboys, and pirates – all in the same book – then amazingly, the very book would appear.

It was as if the stories were being written especially for them.

“Grandma” said Issy one evening as they were getting ready for bed.  “Is there something special about your books?” “I should think so!” Grandma replied.  “I’ve spent years collecting them and would never part with them.  Why do you ask?”

“We wondered how it is that there always seems to be a story exactly right for us” said Spike. “At the library I look at lots of books, but it always takes me much longer there to find the one I want to read than it does here.”

“Ah,” said Grandma.  “I was wondering when you would notice that.  Would you like to know how it happens?”  “Yes!” they chorused.  “We would!  How does it? How does it happen?”

Grandma looked at them, seated either side of her on the sofa, and put an arm around each.  “Well, I shall tell you.  But you must promise not to tell anyone else, not until one day when you are sitting here with your own children and they notice the same thing.” “Why, Grandma?  Why can’t we?” asked Issy.

“Because, my dears, it’s magic – and magic always has to be kept secret, or it wears out.  And also because, well, most people don’t believe in magic these days.  Which is sad, but that’s just the way life is...”

Not really understanding, but realising that the only way to find out the secret was to promise, they both solemnly agreed to keep the magic to themselves.

“Very well” said Grandma.  “Here it is, then.  Just for you two; 'The Tale of the Magical Bookshelves'...

“Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a little girl.  She was an adventurous sort, always getting in trouble and never without scratched knees and dirt under her fingernails.  She loved to spend her days out on the beach near her home, watching the ships in the distance, climbing up the cliffs, and exploring the rock pools.

She was always out there, whether the sun was shining, the mist was settling, the rain was drizzling, or the wind was howling.  Her parents despaired because, although they loved her and were happy for her to spend so much time outside they also wanted her to learn to love reading, so she could learn about the world elsewhere as well.  But Jess – for that was our heroine’s name – was convinced that books and stories were boring and that nothing on paper could compare to the fun she was having outside.

One afternoon in late summer, Jess was walking alone along the shore-line.  It was nearing tea time and her friends had all set off home, but Jess decided to go for one last scramble up a jumble of rocks sticking out from the point.  It had stormed heavily the previous evening and the jigsaw of granite blocks was covered with flotsam and jetsam from the pounding waves the night before.  Pieces of driftwood, strands of seaweed, and luminous shells were caught in the cracks of dark grey rock.

She decided to climb to the top, where she knew that there were some hidden rock pools.  After a storm there were sometimes interesting things to be found up there, so she clambered up, snagging her fingernails, scuffing the fronts of her shoes, and grazing her elbows until eventually she made it.

As she stood there looking at the yachts on the distant water, Jess felt thirsty.  She was just wishing she had thought to bring an orange from home with her when she heard a voice. “Hello.  I thought I was alone up here, but here you are, too.” Jess looked around quickly.  There was nobody there.  Who had spoken? Had she imagined it?  Then she heard the voice again.

“I’m over here.  By the pointy rock.  Can you see me?”  Jess rubbed her eyes;  she still couldn’t see anything.  But then, as she walked closer to a curiously shaped triangular piece of granite, she became aware of a rock pool that she hadn't noticed before at it’s base.  It was about the same size as her bath at home, and was lined with feathery looking dark green seaweed. Lying floating in the pool was a boy, a little bit younger than she was.

Well.  I say a boy.  Because that’s what the top part of him looked like; dark haired, blue eyed, with a cheeky expression on his suntanned face.  But instead of legs and feet where you and I have legs and feet, this boy had a fish’s tail.

Jess gasped.  Then she squeaked, “What are you doing here?  I mean, how did you get here?  I mean, what are you?  I mean...”  Her voice trailed off.  She didn’t know what to say.  The merboy looked at her, grinning widely.  “You know, they always told me land-kids ask stupid questions but I never believed them before.  Now, though, I’m wondering if they were right.  Shall we start again?  Good afternoon.  My name is Felix and I’m a merboy.  Now – it’s your turn...”

Jess blushed.  “So sorry.  My name is Jess and I’m – well, I’m just a girl.  Well, a land-kid.  And I’m sorry to be rude but I never met a merboy before...  What are you doing here?”

Felix sighed heavily.  “Ah, well, it’s silly, really.  I got carried away playing with the white horses in the storm last night, came too close to the shore line and was picked up by an enormous wave and washed in here.  Hurt myself in the process” - here, he pointed to a gash running down one side of his glistening green and gold tail – “and whilst it shouldn’t take too long to heal, I can’t leave this pool and slide over the rocks until that happens, or the wound will open up again.  So I’m stranded for at least 4 days until the next spring tide and let me tell you, even though it’s been less than 24 hours, I’m already going mad with boredom.  I don’t suppose you know any stories, do you?”

Jess grimaced.  “I’m not very good with stories, I’m afraid.  More of an action sort of person...” Felix, trying very hard not to look disappointed, nodded understandingly.  “Me too, normally.  Just thought I would ask.”

Suddenly, Jess had a thought “Wait!  Wait – I think that actually, I might be able to help. Can you read?  I can bring you some books.”  Felix looked at her.  “What do you mean, ‘read’?  I can read the currents, if that’s what you mean. I can read the signs of the oceans, the stars at night, the patterns of migrating fish and birds.  Is that what you mean?”

“Ummm, no, it isn’t. But don’t worry.  I don’t do it very often, but I can read.  So I’ll come back tomorrow morning with some books and I will read them to you.  And then you’ll have all the stories you can handle!”

That evening, Jess’s parents were amazed to see her combing the book shelves.  “Jess – are you looking for something in particular?” her mother asked, watching her pull out one volume after another, glancing at the first page, frowning, and then adding it to a growing pile on the floor.

“Yes.  Yes, I’m looking for something interesting.  Something not boring!  And all these books seem so boring.  I don’t know where to start...”  Her mother reached past her and pulled out a battered volume from the far end of the shelf.  Then she opened it on the first page and read out loud “’Aladdin was a little Chinese boy.’  How’s that for starters?  You used to love the story of Aladdin when you were smaller – and in this book, there are lots of other interesting stories too...”  Jess smiled at her mother.  “That’s exactly it! How did you know...?”

The next four mornings saw Jess disappearing off to the beach straight after breakfast each day, with a book tucked under each arm and a picnic lunch in the rucksack on her back.  She read to Felix all day until her throat was sore, and Felix lapped up every word, exclaiming in wonder at the twists and turns  of the stories, and always asking for her to read “Just one more page, Jess.  Please?”

Slowly, slowly, his wound healed up, and by the end of the afternoon of the fourth day, the scar had closed completely.  The glossy scales on his beautiful tail looked as if they had never been scratched.

“It’s high tide tonight” he said, as she packed up her books and lunchbox before heading home as the sun set out over the sea.  “We must say goodbye to each other, and I have to go home – back to the wide open ocean.  My family will have been missing me.  But just think what stories I’m going to have to tell them, and it’s all thanks to you.  How can I repay you?”

Jess thought about it.  “You know, I think you already have, in a way.  I’ve loved reading these stories too, and I never would have done if it weren’t for you.  So I don’t think you owe me anything...”

Felix looked thoughtful.  “That may be true.  But I want to do something to say thankyou.  I’ll think about it, and you never know – maybe I’ll surprise you.”


It was windy and stormy that night and Jess and her parents could hear the waves pounding the beach in the distance, but the next morning dawned clear and still and she raced down to the beach as soon as she got out of bed.

Almost holding her breath, she scaled the granite rocks on the point.  The bath-sized pool was empty, with nothing to show that Felix had ever been there.  She looked out to sea and imagined him waiting for high tide and then hoisting himself out on to the rock and making his way across the granite, before flipping over the edge and disappearing beneath the stormy waves.

Reaching into the water, she picked up a striped pebble that glistened as it dried in the sunshine, and went home for breakfast, where she put it safely on the bookshelf and settled down to eat her toast.

Later that same day, Jess found herself missing something.  “It must be Felix”, she thought, “I must be missing him.  But there’s something else, too.  What is it?”  Without realising what she was doing, she made her way to the bookshelves.  “It’s reading” she thought.  “I want to read.  But what?”  She looked at the books, lined up neatly like soldiers, waiting for her attention.  One of them seemed to be sticking out a little. She tugged at it. ‘The Tales of Huckleberry Finn’ it read along the spine.

From that point on, Jess’s parents marvelled at the change that had come over their daughter.  She still spent a lot of her time on the beach, but now she took a book with her.  And somehow, she never needed to ask for their help on which one to choose; indeed, interesting books almost seemed to fall into her hand.  It was as if the years when she had thought reading was boring had never existed...”


“And that, my dears, is the end of the story” said Grandma.  The children looked at her, wide-eyed.  “Was that you, Grandma?” asked Spike.  “Were you Jess?  Did you meet a merboy and read him stories?”

“Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?  Now, time for bed.  Up you go.  Into your jammies, I’ll be there in 5 minutes.  And on your way up past the books, maybe you can choose one for me to read to you.”

Issy and Spike paused in front of the heavily laden shelves.  A brown and yellow striped pebble sat neatly on one of them, and just next to it the edge of a book jutted out from between it's neighbours.  “Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling” said Issy.  “Let’s have that one...”

The end.

If you enjoyed this story and think it should win the Feather & Black competition, please visit their facebook page here and click the 'like' button at the foot of the image of my blog. Please be sure to click the 'like' button on the post that links to The Potty Diaries as otherwise, your vote won't register for me.



  1. Best of Luck Mrs Potty

  2. Why thank you, kind frog lady... x

  3. Wow. That's a brilliant story. And it has a merboy. Love it!

  4. Oh dear, just read your story and loved it, went off to vote .... and it looks like I am too late! So sorry, yours was fab. Next time x


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