When Honey the Great Dane finds a hidden note inside a strange Christmas bauble, the festive season takes a sinister turn. Was the note from a trapped child? Join Honey and her canine friends as they set off on a Search & Rescue–from snowy playgrounds to eerie libraries–while they race to solve the mystery of the message in the bauble.
Kids and dog lovers will love this action-packed Christmas mini-mystery filled with suspense and humour – not to mention candy canes, gingerbread cookies and lots of mince pies! (Age: 9+)
Targeted Age Group: 9 years +
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Everybody loves a Christmas story, right? 🙂 I wanted to write a story that had all the elements of the other books in the Big Honey Dog Mysteries series – an exciting, edge-of-your-seat adventure with lots of humour – all within a cosy Christmas setting.
I devoured mystery stories as a child and also loved animal fantasies – books written from the animal’s point of view, such as Watership Down by Richard Adams and The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – so I decided to create my own mystery series, told from the animal’s perspective. And I wanted to include all the things I loved as a child – such as riddles and secret passages and mysterious puzzles – all wrapped up in a fast-paced adventure. The main character in the series is inspired by my own Great Dane, Honey, who has a very popular blog that’s been going for about 5 years now, with a large, worldwide fanbase. Each book in the series is a standalone mystery adventure, rather than a sequel – although each will feature the same key characters – and every story will revolve around a certain dog myth or legend.
“Where d’you want these?”
Honey the Great Dane looked up as a shadow loomed over her. An old man with unkempt grey hair stood holding a cardboard box which brimmed with gold and silver tinsel, glittering red baubles, frosted snowflake ornaments and a huge plastic snowman with a cheesy button smile.
The man’s face was not smiling, though. In fact, he was scowling heavily—deep lines running down from his nose on either side of his mouth and an angry knot between his grey eyebrows. Something about his piercing black eyes made Honey’s hackles rise and she wrinkled her muzzle in a low growl.
Honey turned to see her human, Olivia, giving her a reproachful look. Olivia rose from kneeling by the Christmas tree and gave the old man an apologetic smile.
“You must have startled her. She’s usually really friendly and never growls at anyone.”
The man didn’t respond, but just stood there, holding the box.
Olivia’s smile faltered a bit, then she pointed to a spot by the Christmas tree. “Could you leave the box there? Thank you very much.”
The man gave a grunt, dropped the box in place and stomped out of the room, leaving a trail of wet footprints on the floor behind him. Honey watched him go, still vaguely uneasy. Olivia kneeled by the box and began rummaging through it, lifting ornaments out and hanging them carefully on the Christmas tree. She gave Honey another reproachful look as Honey sat down next to her.
“What was that all about, Honey? It was just Jones, the school gardener. Why were you growling at him?”
Honey shifted uncomfortably. She hated getting a Telling-Off from Olivia. Besides, it was true. She hardly ever growled at anyone, unlike her friend, Tyson the Jack Russell Terrier, who was definitely more of a “growl first, sniff bums later” kind of dog. Still, there had been something about that old man…
“Psst. Honey. Don’t worry, I don’t like him either.”
Honey looked up to see Suka the Siberian Husky waving her plumed tail at her from across the room. Suka was the reason they were all here. Or rather, Suka’s human, her Boy’s Mother, who had asked them all to come and help decorate the school hall for the Christmas Fair tomorrow.
“My Boy says all the kids are scared of Jones. He lives in this cottage at the back of the school and cuts all the bushes around it into creepy shapes!” Suka gave a mock shudder. Suka might be a Husky, but her real calling was “newshound”. Nothing happened in the neighbourhood without Suka knowing about it first. The only problem was figuring out which part of her news was real and which part had been added by her imagination. By now, Honey had learned to take the Husky’s words with a big pinch of liver sprinkles.
Still, Suka was right about Jones being creepy. Honey thought of those piercing black eyes and hoped she didn’t have to see him again.
“Hmm… what’s this?” Olivia frowned at a round object in her hands. She pulled a face and tossed it aside, then continued taking more decorations out of the box. The round object rolled towards Honey and stopped by her paw. She leaned down and sniffed it carefully. At first she thought it was a bauble, like the other ones on the tree, but instead of being bright red, gold or silver this one was a dull crimson, the paint chipped and flaking. And instead of a loop for hanging, there was a large hole on one side. It smelled of plastic. And dirt. And paper.
Honey peered into the hole. There was a piece of paper wedged inside. Faintly, she could see black marks on it. Writing? Curious now, she nudged the strange bauble with her nose. It rolled in a circle, coming back to stop by her paw. She peered into the hole again. The piece of paper was still there. It had shifted a bit, though, and was now upside down, the black marks showing clearer. Definitely writing.
Honey hesitated and looked around, wondering if she should show her friends. On the other side of the room Ruffster, the mongrel mutt, was running around the base of a ladder, barking excitedly at a young man who was perched at the top, stringing coloured lights across the ceiling. Suka was following her Boy as he went from window to window, spraying something white from a can and covering the glass panes in snowy patterns. In the far corner of the room, several more humans were gathered around trestle tables, talking and laughing as they laid out mince pies, gingerbread cookies and other Christmas goodies on the brightly-coloured tablecloth. From a black box next to them, music drifted out, trying to compete with Ruffster’s barking, while a man crooned about chestnuts and open fires.
Everybody was so busy and happy that for a moment, Honey wondered if she should just forget the whole thing. But something about this strange bauble bothered her. She scooped it up in her mouth, her baggy jowls completely hiding it, and carried it over to Ruffster.
“Reckon my Guy’s fixin’ it straight? I keep tellin’ him to move it a bit to the left, but he just won’t listen.” Ruffster rushed to the right of the ladder then to the left, his eyes following the man, and barked again. “Oh, for kibble’s sake, you stupid human. Left. LEFT!”
“Ruffster, what do you make of this?” Honey dropped the strange bauble in front of him.
“Eeuuww. Mate, I’m not touchin’ that,” said Ruffster as he eyed the slobber-covered lump on the floor.
“Sorry.” Honey ducked her head in embarrassment and quickly licked the drool off. “It was in that box of Christmas decorations, but… it looks different. And I think there’s a note inside.”
“A note?” Ruffster cocked his one upright ear.
“Yes, there’s a piece of paper… look.” Honey showed Ruffster the hole.
He sniffed without much interest. “Could be anythin’, you know. Like those little bits o’ paper with lots o’ numbers, which always come with stuff humans buy. My Guy’s always leavin’ them scrunched up everywhere.”
“No, I think this is different,” insisted Honey. ‘Do you think you can get it out?”
Ruffster tried to stick his snout into the hole, but it was too big to fit. “Nah, mate, need a smaller dog.” He looked around. “Tyson here yet?”
“He left me a Peemail saying he was going to be late,” said Honey. “His family are taking him carol-singing first.”
At that moment, there came a shriek from the trestle tables. Honey and Ruffster turned to see a black nose suddenly appear from beneath the tablecloth, followed swiftly by a black, tan and white body. Biscuit the Beagle scrambled out from under the table, a large cookie clamped in his mouth, and raced across the room towards them.
“BISCUIT!” an exasperated female voice yelled after him, but it was too late. By the time he’d reached Honey and Ruffster, all that was left of the cookie was a few crumbs on his nose.
Biscuit licked his lips and looked defensively at them. “I had to. My Missus is starving me to death. She’s got me on half rations because she says I need to go on a diet. Can you believe that? A diet? Me?”
Ruffster eyed the Beagle’s podgy tummy. “Reckon you could lose a few pounds, mate. You’re lookin’ a bit tubby.”
Biscuit drew himself up indignantly. “I do not look tubby!” He started to say something else, but Honey quickly distracted him by showing him the strange bauble. He peered into the hole and thought for a moment, then looked up, his tail wagging. “It’s like a treat ball!”
“Huh?” Ruffster sniffed quizzically.
“You know, when humans think they’re being clever by stuffing treats inside toys and things… and making us spend ages getting it out.” He lifted his nose proudly. “My Kong record is one minute, fifteen seconds. Full destuffing. Not even a lick of peanut butter left.” He lay down with both paws around the strange bauble and stuck his mouth into the hole. “Now…”
It took a bit longer than one minute and fifteen seconds, but Biscuit finally got the scrap of paper out. They huddled together to look at it. Honey had been right—the black marks were writing. Thin, squiggly lines that ran crooked across the paper, stopping just where it had been torn in half:
DEAR SANTA –
PLEASE CAN YOU HELP ME –
I CAN’T GET OUT –
BUT IT’S AWFUL –
LOOK FOR –
About the Author:
H.Y. Hanna is Taiwanese by birth, British by education, pseudo-American by accent and currently Australian by residence! After graduating from Oxford University, she tried her hand at a variety of jobs, from advertising in London to English Language teaching in Sydney, before returning to her first love: writing. Always fascinated by dogs, she specialised as a pet writer for magazines in the UK, Australia and NZ, and has been heavily involved in training, behaviour, dog sports and photography. When she’s not working on her next novel, she’s usually found watching repeats of her favourite TV show, Fringe or wiping Dane slobber off the walls.
You can find out more about her (and the ‘real-life Honey’ who inspired the series) at: www.bighoneydogmysteries.com, where you’ll also find book discussion questions and other parents/teachers resources as well as fun activity sheets and interactive puzzles. Or follow the Big Honey Dog Mysteries Facebook Page – and become a fan to keep up with all the latest news and updates!
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