#7 Animaland
Lookout Kate

Now, just to be very clear from the outset, I have never been in any doubt about the existence or otherwise of Gruffalos. I know they exist: I know that they have terrible tusks and terrible claws and terrible teeth in terrible jaws, I know they mate for life and prefer temperate climates and wooded areas. But none of us have ever seen one.

So we are going to Animaland, a chameleon-shaped landmass off Fantasea, to seek out the Gruffalo. I shinned up my lookout post and kept an eye out for any white or pink whales.

The Gruffalo wasn’t easy to find. We asked an owl, and a fox, but they were no use at all. At last we found a mouse, who pointed us – rather twitchily – in the right direction.

The Gruffalo was leaning up against an oak tree, scratching his back and humming.

He glared at us as he approached, and bared his teeth. Then he let out the most terrible roar.

We stood on deck, in a line, and our hair blew backwards in the gale.

Then the Captain retrieved her hat, and set it back on her head. ‘When they said you had terrible teeth in your terrible jaws, my dear,’ she said, ‘I didn’t realise it meant you hadn’t brushed them for years.’

The Gruffalo glared. He was opening his mouth to roar at us again, this time with extra spittle, when Copy Kat interrupted him.

‘When did you last see a dentist? Dental hygiene is really quite important, you know.’

The Gruffalo blushed. ‘In 1999, I think,’ he said. ‘I don’t like the noise the machines make.’

‘Would you like a toothbrush?’ asked In-The-Know Joe. ‘I’m sure we have a spare one.’

The Gruffalo smiled: and although his teeth were truly atrocious, his smile was beautiful. ‘That would actually be nice,’ he said. ‘I’ve had a scrap of deer meat caught in my back teeth since 2007.’

I ran and found the spare toothbrush and some Colgate, and we all watched as, very carefully, very thoroughly, the Gruffalo brushed his teeth.

He spat, neatly and politely, over the gangplank. ‘Ugh!’ He made a face. ‘I hate mint. Is this dental hygiene? If so, it is not delicious.’

‘You get used to it,’ said Satnav Stephen.

The Gruffalo looked hopefully around the ship. ‘You wouldn’t have anything to take the taste away, would you?’ he asked.

‘We were just about to have afternoon tea,’ said Cook Conomos. ‘Would you like some?’

‘I’ve never had any. Is it like Dental Hygiene?’

‘No,’ said Cook Conomos. ‘You’ll love it.’ Cook Conomos began brewing tea, and uncovered a dish of toasted sandwiches. The smell of it wafted out of the ship and out into the forest.

There was a knock on the side of the ship.

‘I’ll bet you ten pounds,’ said the Captain, and a smile began to play at the corner of her mouth, ‘that that’s the Tiger.’

‘Did I smell tea?’ said a Tigerish voice.

‘My old friend!’ cried the Captain. ‘We meet again! After all these years! You don’t look a day older!’

‘Neither do you!’ cried the Tiger.

‘My dear Tiger,’ said the Captain, ‘I was six.’

‘Well, perhaps a little taller,’ said the Tiger.

At that moment there was another knock on the ship’s door.

Cook Conomos opened it.

Her face was very straight as she turned to the Captain, but there was something about her eyes that suggested she was trying not to laugh.

‘Captain,’ she said. ‘We’re going to need quite a lot more cake.’

‘Who is it?’

‘Well, it’s dogs.’

‘How many?’

‘101 dogs.’

‘Ah.’

‘Quite. They’re all Dalmatians. I assume. Some of them might not be: it’s hard to tell, there’s so many of them and they keep moving. But – yes, I think it’s safe to say, we have 101 Dalmatians to tea -’

The Ever After’s crew began to chip in:

‘Plus the Tiger -’

‘And the Gruffalo -’

‘And a bear,’ said the Gruffalo, ‘who’s just arrived and who claims, as far as I can tell, to be called poo.’

‘Oh lovely! How is he?’

‘Well, at the moment, he’s opening all the jars in the galley in the hope that they might be honey, or jam or marmalade -’

‘Did someone say marmalade?’ came a voice. A furry face peered round the ship’s door.

‘Is this the same bear? Or another bear?’

‘I,’ said the bear with great dignity, ‘am an entirely other bear.’

‘Of course you are! Let me take your suitcase,’ said Copy Kat. ‘You must be tired. Is it raining outside?’

The bear began to pull off his raincoat and wellingtons. ‘Not right now, no,’ he said. His voice was gentle and earnest. ‘But one never knows, with Animaland.’

‘One never does,’ said the Captain. ‘I wonder if -’

At that moment there was hideous, bone-shaking noise outside the ship. Everyone froze. Pooh put down the honey pot.

Joe looked out of the portal. His face, as he looked up, was inscrutable.

‘Ah,’ he said. ‘I think we have a problem.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gruffalo image by Katy Riddell inspired by Axel Scheffler’s illustrations for the Gruffalo stories written by Julia Donaldson and published by Macmillan Children’s Books.
Winnie the Pooh image by Katy Riddell inspired by E. H. Shepard’s illustrations for the Winnie the Pooh stories by A. A. Milne.

#4 Elephant Hairs
Lookout Kate

Lookout Kate here, reporting for duty. I’ve been up in the crow’s nest, watching the land of Fantasea grow closer.

Fantasea isn’t like the other lands we’ve visited – it’s a place between places. The West is a vast lake, full of islands which smell of extraordinary cooking and extraordinary people. A significant part of Central Fantasea – often inconveniently – is entirely invisible. But we were headed to the North of Fantasea, which, if you weren’t looking carefully, you could mistake for a forest. We landed at the edge of the wood, Satnav Steven studied the map, the Ever After deployed its wheels, and we trundled down a dirt path, into the deep darkness of the wood.

Navigating Fantasea is more exciting and perilous than most places, because it’s like walking a tightrope. Step off the path and you might find the ground giving way and yourself launched suddenly through time and space and story, into Middle Earth or Earthsea or Wonderland.

‘Everyone keep your hands inside, please – and catch the Bandicoot before she gets over the edge! We don’t want her ending up in Narnia again!’

In-The-Know-Joe reached out and caught Twist just as she got her front paws over the railing. He stroked her fur. ‘I know, I know. You want to explore,’ he whispered in her ear, ‘but the snow in Narnia gets in your whiskers and gives you flu. There’s nothing worse than a snotty Bandicoot.’

Fantasea is one of the richest lands in the world. The air smells enticing; of the winds of a thousand worlds and – perhaps unexpectedly, given how few great adventures involve washing – of clean laundry. There were many places we needed to go, and deciding where to go first was difficult. Everyone had a different opinion.

‘One at a time, crew!’ said the Captain. She took off her magnificent hat and shook her head. ‘Honestly, it’s like herding squirrels.’

I wanted to make the journey to Lyra’s Oxford, to see if we could find an alethiometer – it would make the job of a Lookout much easier, I thought, to be able to read the secrets of the world. Our Captain had a deep longing for the Pensieve, to store our memories safe forever. Cook Conomos thought we could do with a trip to Wonderland, to pick up some shrinking and expanding potions; useful for expanding rations.

But in the end, necessity won the day. The ship’s superb artist, Copy Kat, was in need of a new set of paintbrushes. There are many good paintbrushes available on Fantasea – just look at all the talking paintings – but the best, the really exquisite, fine-tipped paintbrushes, can only come from the ear-hairs of an enchanted elephant.

So we took a sharp right, towards a place where a cluster of black holes grew on great black oaks. We soared through the largest of the holes and into space.  

‘Hold on!’ cried the Captain – and we found ourselves flying through space – so fast I could feel my ribs rattling in my chest – towards Discworld and Great A’tuin.

Great A’tuin is a turtle. A big one. On the turtle’s back are four world-supporting elephants, and on the backs of the elephants is the Discworld, one of the most chaotic and sharp-witted worlds in the universe. Nobody knows the sex of Great A’tuin, though several spaceships have been sent to find out: but Great A’tuin is a private turtle, and people who get too close tend to end up more dead than they’d originally planned.

We swooped as close to Great A’tuin as we dared, steering clear of their claws, and Copy Kat leaned far over the edge with a pair of nail scissors. The front left elephant flapped its ears at us, annoyed, and as it did so Kat snipped off five fine hairs.

The elephant trumpeted – not hurt, but insulted – and we veered away into space, Kat clutching the hairs in her hand.

For a few minutes we stood on the deck, watching the great blackness of the universe, and the millions of stars. It was extraordinarily beautiful; the kind of sight you wouldn’t dare even dream of.

Then Satnav Steve spoke. ‘Captain,’ he said, ‘is this a good moment to mention that we’re lost?’