Stories for children

* The Owl Room
* Owl Night
* After Honey
* The Dreaded Day
* The Cat in the Close
* Slick Nick and the Wasp Catcher 

These books will be published shortly. To read an extract from each book, either scroll down or click on that books' book title

Children's Writing

John's stories for children focus on how real, imaginary or even magical events change how children see the world and themselves.

In  ‘The Owl Room’  Louise, who is afraid of the dark meets an owl who is afraid of the light. The owl is stuffed but as night falls and he is released from his glass case by the little girl, a strange magic gives new life to both of them.  In this extract the two talk to each other for the first time, much to Louise’s surprise. The owl says:

‘I’ll tell you a secret, but first you must lift up the glass and put it next to me so that you can hear me more easily.’
Louise trembled. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said kindly as if he had read her thoughts, ‘I’ve been in here for a hundred years? What harm could I do?’
She thought about this. He was much older even than Gran and she wouldn’t hurt anybody. He looked at her hopefully. Reassured, she went to fetch the chair from her bedside. She’d have to stand on it to reach him.
‘Good girl,’ he said.
Once she was up, she took hold of a small handle of top and found she could move the glass quite easily. She placed it beside the owl. She watched then as he moved stiffly, trying to ease open his wings.
She plucked up courage to speak. ‘Will you tell me now?’
The owl shuffled again and started turning his head around.
‘Please…?’ she asked, ‘I did what you said.’
He stopped moving and gazed at her. ‘All right, I will, but you mustn’t laugh.’
‘Why would I?
‘Because,’ the owl said gravely, ‘you see, it is something I don’t like to talk about.’ He paused and looked uncomfortable. ‘The fact is – I'm afraid of the light.’
Louise almost giggled but stopped herself. The owl looked at her suspiciously.
‘It is not so difficult to understand,’ he said stiffly, ‘Freddy is a daytime bear and he’s afraid of the dark, isn’t he? Well, I’m a night-time creature. I’m afraid of the light. Go and open the window and I’ll tell you more.’
Louise hesitated, then did as he asked. Giving a surprisingly nimble hop, the owl landed on the sill beside her. 
‘Look out of the window with me,’ said the owl, ‘See how the velvet darkness shines gently in the starlight. Your beastly sun glares at me and hurts my eyes.  No wonder I’m scared of the light.’
Louise, her legs shaking, went over to him.
‘Just look at it,’ sighed the owl, ‘Look at the slender moon. See its gentle glow.  See how blue and grey and silver and gold lights surround us. This is what the cruel sun hides from you. This is true beauty.’
‘It is lovely,’ whispered Louise.

And that’s when a greater magic still changes Louise’s life for ever.

In ‘Owl Night’, the next story about Louise and her owl, Halloween provides the setting for another magical tale.... In this extract, Louise has questioned the owl about ‘Owl Night’

Louise smiled sweetly. ‘and Owl Night?’
The owl gave an annoyed little jump. ‘You call it Halloween. It’s the night when all witches get on their broomsticks and take to the air – and before you ask, we call it Owl Night because without us owls, the witches would end up in hospital along with their cats!’
‘Open the window and I’ll show you.’
Louise did it. The moment it was open, the owl was on the window sill searching the darkness with his eyes. She stood behind him, squinting into the night. She could see the dark shapes of trees in the light of a thin moon. The silence made her want to hold her breath. There was nothing. Then Just as she was about to turn away, she heard what sounded like a crackly old laugh and a swishing sound.
The owl hooted suddenly, a weird ghostly sound that shivered through the air, whoo-ooo-ooooh! Immediately the call was answered from nearby and another and then another owl whistled in reply.

Thus begins a mission of mercy to save the crazy flying witches and their cats from disaster.

After Honey’, is about the death of a boy's beloved cat, ‘Honey’, that brings new understandings to a boy named Peter.  At this point in the story Peter’s father is trying to help by distracting him, but to no avail....

His dad took him into the garage, which was full of junk and talked on and on about the different things you could do. First you would have to tidy it up of course, then you could build some proper cupboards to put things in. Did Peter think that was a good idea? Perhaps Peter could learn to use some of the tools. Would he like that? When you had built cupboards there would be room for a table-tennis table. Did Peter like table tennis? His dad played it all the time when he was a boy. Or perhaps you could have a dart board? Or if you didn’t have things like that, what about a studio? Yes, you could have a studio for drawing and painting…….
Peter had no idea. He didn’t care about the garage. He wanted Honey and he longed for silence.
Sometimes he sat alone in his bedroom where there were no voices and just looked out of the window at the garden. As the sun and clouds changed the patterns of shadows, he saw all the places where Honey no longer sat. She wasn’t peeking from behind the old flower pots in the corner near the fence; She wasn’t washing on the garage roof; she wasn’t under her favourite bush, her eyes blinking out at him. She wasn’t anywhere at all in the garden, but in some strange way, at these times, he could almost feel her purring beside him as if she was sharing his memories.

The Dreaded Day

Dan’s father leaves home. Dan and his mother have to move to a much smaller place and the boy has to change school.  Recently, the school he is to go to has been in the news – a boy died there after being hit by another boy. The story starts with the removal men taking the home he loved apart.  Dan watches and thinks....

Once they had moved, he had to go to a different school. Everything was changing around him. He felt like he might wake up one morning and find himself in prison or abandoned, crying, in a ruined town where bombs fell in the night.
They were sending him to that school – the one where they killed people! It had been on the telly, so he knew it was true. There was a group of kids who had surrounded this small boy outside the school gates. Someone threw a punch –  and the boy died! A shiver ran through Dan’s whole body.
‘So you decided to just stand there and watch,’ his mum’s voice brought him back, ‘I thought you might want to carry some of your own things perhaps, but no, never mind. They have nearly finished, so go and get in the car,’

The Cat in the Close

Maddy, the Cathedral cat has a great idea  - to start a choir for cats. Things do not quite go according to plan but her scheme brings about a minor miracle.

It was a calm Summer’s night in the close.  On the ridge of a gently sloping garage roof sat Maddy, the white Cathedral cat. She could see the oval green with benches all around it, where people liked to sit, the peaceful little houses behind that and of course the fine cathedral with its soaring spire.

The air was warm and stars twinkled in the midnight sky. On the green, a bearded young man slept and was snoring.  He had a stuffed-full, plastic bag beneath his head as a pillow. The rubbish he’d left from his chips and beer lay by his side.  In the morning, a uniformed groundsman would clear all the mess away as he did every morning.

But for Maddy this night was the beginning of her great idea. She had it in the afternoon, dreaming amongst the flowers in the choirmaster’s garden, where she lived. Now she was going to make it come true. She was going to have her very own choir.  A cats’ choir!

How can a cat create a choir? Well, most cats couldn’t, but Maddy was a special cat. She had watched the real choir practise in their stalls in the Cathedral. She watched the choirmaster wave his arms and heard the lovely singing.

Of course, she wasn’t meant to be inside.  If one of the priests or guides saw her, they would chase her out with a ‘shoo!’ and she would have to run. But the Cathedral was very large. There were many doors, many shady corners that a cat could hide in and Maddy knew them all.  From small dark places, her bright green eyes watched everything that happened.

Slick Nick & the Wasp Catcher.

Nick from Poland, a bit of an outsider with a scientist father, tries to solve a classroom problem, wasps, with an ingenious device.  Unfortunately his invention seems to have a mind of its own.

All eyes were on the Wasp Catcher.
It did nothing, absolutely nothing. The wasp circled round it, kind of eyeing it up. Next it got cheeky and landed on one of the long, flexible arms and made its way up towards where a shoulder would have been.  The Wasp Catcher didn’t move a muscle. Nick sat calmly back in his chair. The wasp then hopped onto its other arm and crawled as slowly as it pleased towards the other hand. Everyone, including Miss Creed, was watching now.
Then it happened.  The wasp did a fast low-level dive across the classroom.  The Wasp Catcher leapt to life and was after it.  Those crabby legs clattered and hopped across desks. Girls screamed. Boys lay back and laughed in disbelief. The thing’s hands were moving wildly from side to side ready to cup the wasp. 
The wasp flew again, high this time. The alien creature leapt again. It hurtled towards Sophie’s desk. With a neat clap of its hands it grabbed her furry pencil case, jumped back onto the window sill and chucked it out! There were roars of laughter.  Sophie’s cries for help were scarcely heard.