11 Mar The Tiger Who Came To Turnpike Lane
I wasn’t able to be at North Harringay Primary School, my Patron of Reading school, for World Book Day, as I was off having adventures in Cheshire. But I was still keen to be involved so I got in touch with Emma Hassan, the school’s Assistant Head Teacher, to see if she had any ideas.
Emma told me they were setting the children a writing stimulus:
Imagine your favourite book character has come to life for a day. What would you do and what would you experience on that day?
and asked if I would come up with an example story they could read out during World Book Day. Of course I said yes, and so I came up with this…
THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TURNPIKE LANE
I must admit it was a bit of surprise to see a tiger at Turnpike Lane bus station. He was waiting for the 144 bus, which is my bus, but as I didn’t want to get eaten I thought I might walk instead. As I tried to creep away, the tiger turned his head and smiled.
’Excuse me,’ he said. ‘I’m very hungry. Can I come to tea with you?’
‘Um,’ I said, trying to buy time as I edged backwards. ‘I don’t know if my wife would like that. I mean, she likes cats, but it’s her turn to cook tonight and I don’t think she’ll have made enough for both of me and her and a tiger. Besides, we’re vegetarians. Do tigers eat vegetables?’
‘I don’t know. We eat sandwiches. And buns. Are they vegetables?’
‘Oh. I don’t know then. I think we eat everything, don’t we?’
‘I don’t know much about tigers,’ I said. ‘I hadn’t known they could talk, for example.’
’No?’ said the tiger. ‘I can’t say I know much about them either. All I know is we go to people’s houses, eat all their sandwiches and buns, drink all the water from out of their pipes, and then disappear never to be seen again.’
‘I’m pretty sure that isn’t how tigers work,’ I said. ‘Or pipes, for that matter.’
The tiger opened his mouth, but he didn’t get a chance to reply. There was a loud crash, and both the tiger and I ran round the corner to see what the trouble was. There had been a car crash. A woman in a white van had run into the back of a large vintage car driven by a toad wearing a tweed suit. All around them people were getting out of their cars and shouting. I started to think something weird might be going on. Although I hadn’t been sure about the conversational abilities of tigers – I had never met one before – I was sure that toads couldn’t wear clothes or drive cars. At this point I took a look around and noticed there were a few other things that were out of place. There were kids playing on Ducketts’ Common, except instead of playing football or basketball they were flying around on broomsticks chasing a small golden ball with wings. A young girl with a bow and arrow was chasing a vampire with sparkly skin down Wood Green High Road. There was even a small kitten terrorising an old lady’s dog with his kung-fu skills.
‘Ah,’ I said, as a lion emerged from the tube and began a conversation with a small group of rabbits. ‘I think I see what’s going on here. It’s World Book Day, isn’t it? And those clever teachers at North Harringay Primary School must have come up with another great way to celebrate. I bet they’ve asked the pupils to imagine their favourite book characters have come to life for a day, only they’ve underestimated how creative the children are. The power of all of them imagining at once is so great that their favourite book characters really have come to life and are now causing chaos. I’ll never get home at this rate.’
‘Does that mean I’m a fictional tiger?’ said the tiger.
‘Yup,’ I said. ‘You’re the star of The Tiger Who Came To Tea, by Judith Kerr.’
The tiger beamed. He seemed to like the idea of being a star. Then his mighty stomach rumbled, like a tractor trying to get to the top of Muswell Hill, and the smiling stopped. ‘I’m hungry,’ he said.
‘I’m not surprised. We need to get you back in your book. Luckily I’m the Patron of Reading at North Harringay Primary School, so I can probably get this sorted out quite quickly.’
‘I think so. Have you got a pen?’
‘Do tigers normally carry pens?’
‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘Probably not. Not to worry. Luckily I am an amazingly talented children’s author, so I should have a pen somewhere.’
I routed around in my pockets, produced one of my many notebooks, and an old biro. ‘Give me a sec,’ I said. ‘I can probably knock this out quite quickly.’
‘Be my guest,’ said the tiger.
I scribbled down a few sentences. There was a flash of light, and before us appeared an old man with long white hair and a massive beard. He was carrying a white staff, and a large sword.
‘Woah,’ said the tiger.
‘What conjuring tricks are these?’ said the man.
‘Gandalf the White!’ I said. ‘Hello! Sorry to bother you. We’ve got ourselves into a bit of a magical pickle here in Haringey. Beloved book characters are coming to life, and both me and this tiger need to get home for tea. I thought if I wrote about my favourite book character, he might come to life and sort all this out. So I wrote about you. Can you put all these people back in their books?’
‘One does not simply put people back in their books.’
‘Do you mind giving it a try?’ I said.
Gandalf the White sighed. ‘I suppose not. It’ll be nice to get a chance to practice some real magic, to be honest. Back home it’s mostly trudging around until you get bored, then calling on giant eagles to sort everything out for you. Very well.’ He struck the ground with his staff, and his voice boomed out across Wood Green. ‘I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udûn! Go back to The Shadow in the North. Or whatever book it was you came from.’
With another flash, everything reset. The book characters, including Gandalf and the Tiger, disappeared. The people of Turnpike Lane appeared to instantly forget the strange events of the day, and went back to whatever they were doing.
I walked back to the bus station. My stomach rumbled, and I thought of the tiger, and how he was probably enjoying his tea now.
As I looked at the traffic stretching up the road and off into the distance, I found myself wishing I had written ‘Before he disappears back into his book, Gandalf gets a giant eagle to fly me home.’
So there it is. Emma and I decided the best stories would be posted here, so to find out what Eloise, Leelou, and Hunter came up with, click here!