What do you get when you mix some albino terrier fur and sand from Alum Bay? Timothy Pinkerton knows, and he’ll do anything to get his grubby hands on more of what he needs for his secret formula. Anything, including hypnotising the town’s residents and stealing their homes.
It looks like another boring summer of collecting crisp packets and playing the bagpipes for twelve-year-old Lottie Baxter. But a crazy adventure begins when she’s given a pencil case full of gadgets with remarkable abilities. Not a minute too soon! It falls on Lottie and her eccentric and cheese-loving great granddad, Cheddar George, to save Alum Bay and put a stop to Timothy Pinkerton’s evil plan to become a gazillionaire.
A laugh-out-loud adventure for kids aged 8-88!
Targeted Age Group:: 8-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to write books that are good old-fashioned adventures.
Lottie Baxter was 12 and a half, desperate to be a teenager. Sophie Noble-Nutall, her friend from Cringle Park School, was 13 and the coolest girl Lottie knew. Sophie was a cheerleader, could speak Dutch and Russian, and sing in perfect tune.
Lottie couldn’t do any cool stuff like that. She classed Sophie Noble-Nutall as her friend, but Sophie certainly didn’t see it the same way. Not at all. Sophie had her close circle of friends and unfortunately for Lottie, she wasn’t included (not even in Sophie’s wider circle, truth be told).
It wasn’t as if Lottie was a horrid child. She was just different and found it hard to fit in.
But, Lottie was convinced once she reached 13, Sophie Noble-Nutall would welcome her as a friend with open arms. The gesture would, of course, be returned. But, until her 13th birthday, Lottie would remain an unfriended outsider.
Lottie lived with her Nanny Vera, Grandad Frank and Cheddar George at number 25 Rose Crescent in Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight.
Cheddar George was Lottie’s great grandad. He’d eaten cheddar cheese sandwiches for lunch and tea every day since he’d been a bus driver way back in the 1930s. That was when he first got the nickname ‘Cheddar George’ and it had stuck.
At the age of 101, Cheddar George was now the oldest person living on the Isle of Wight, but he wouldn’t admit it. To him, 101 was ancient.
When asked his age, he’d reply, “90-11.”
Another two notable things about Cheddar George were firstly, he only had nine toes due to an argument he’d lost in the summer of 1976 to an electric lawnmower, and secondly, Cheddar George could fart at any time; the smell was indescribable. It must have been the tonnes of cheddar cheese he’d scoffed in his 90-11 years. And when he casually dropped a silent-but-violent one, the poor souls within whiffing range were always far too polite to say anything.
Nanny Vera never used the word ‘fart’. ‘Letting Tommy out of prison’ was what she called it. Unfortunately, Cheddar George would release ‘Tommy’ from his prison cell on a daily basis and without warning.
It was the start of her 2019 school holiday, which Lottie knew would involve six weeks of sorting out her collections of ‘stuff’ to take some of the boredom away.
She trudged downstairs and into the kitchen. “Ooh, hot-choc and two, Grank?”
Lottie had called Grandad Frank ‘Grank’ since she first learned to talk because it was far easier to say as a babbling, dribbling toddler.
“Hot-choc and two, Lottie. Freshly made, as usual.”
Grandad Frank passed her pink mug. He then dropped a teabag into another, which had ‘ANY TIME IS TEA O’CLOCK’ on the side. The tea was for Cheddar George who napped in the lounge, snoring and ‘letting Tommy out of prison’ in equal measures.
“What excitement awaits today, Lottie?” asked Nanny Vera.
“I need to glue all my crisp packets into a new album,” said Lottie.
Nanny Vera smiled. “That’ll keep you busy.”
Lottie slurped her drink and poured a dish of Frosty Flakes from a plastic tub on the kitchen table. Nanny Vera stored everything in plastic tubs—she owned hundreds of the things in different shapes and sizes with lids in rainbow colours. As soon as a packet or tin was opened, Nanny Vera would be ready and waiting with a tub in case there were leftovers to save. Breakfast cereal, tinned fruit, sugar, pasta, washing powder… anything and everything ended up in its own tub. The THLUP sound of a lid being rammed on was heard hourly in their kitchen.
The problem was, Nanny Vera wouldn’t stick a label on to show what they contained. Last week, Grandad Frank poured what he thought was double cream on his slice of apple pie, which turned out to be low-fat mayonnaise. It took him three spoonfuls to notice!
Lottie checked her phone. Zero messages, zero missed calls, zero texts. Nothing new there, then. Her thumb whizzed across the keyboard in a blur as she composed a text to Sophie Noble-Nutall.
‘Hi. Zilch going on here. What you up to 2day? XX’.
Lottie hit ‘send’. She didn’t actually have Sophie’s number but listed her own as ‘Sophie’ in her contacts. Two seconds later, her phone dinged as the text arrived back. One day, she’d get Sophie’s real number and be able to text her but for now, she had to settle for firing off boomerang messages to her future friend.
The doorbell rang. Nanny Vera went into the hall, opened the front door, and smiled at the man wearing a brown flat cap to hide his grey, thinning hair and skin that resembled the surface of the moon.
Owen the postie returned a toothless grin. He’d misplaced his false teeth a week ago, so spoke with a lisp.
“Morning, Mitheth J. Quite a few letterth here. Too many to fit through the letter boxth,” he said, handing over a pile of envelopes splattered with his own spit.
“Thanks, Owen. See you tonight at bingo. Cheery-bye.” Nanny Vera added Owen’s ample delivery to the cluttered kitchen table. “Poor Owen. He’s still toothless.”
“I’m thor he’ll find them thoon,” Grandad Frank replied, chuckling to himself and ripping open the first of the envelopes. “Letter from Doctor Jackson about an appointment for your ankle next month,” he continued. “More junk and the usual bin-fodder. And a letter from Broadman Homes. Yet another bunch of wise-guys offering us oodles of cash to sell-up and move. Another one! When, oh when, will these property developer low-life vermin get the message we’re not interested?”
“Calm down, Frank. Remember your blood pressure and what your yellow pills do to you,” said Nanny Vera.
Clonking erupted from the washing machine as it began its final spin. It was expected but always made Nanny Vera jump.
“That must be the fifth letter from developers we’ve had in as many weeks.”
“Blooming nuisance, that’s all they are. Pain in the bum.”
Lottie needed educating. “Why do you keep getting letters from those proper-whoppers, Grank?”
Grandad Frank laughed. “Well, darling, proper-whoppers – blooming property developers – want to buy all the old houses in Alum bay. Then you know what they’re going to do? Knock them down, that’s what, and build smaller ones in the same space. They’ll make an absolute fortune. Different slippery eels keep writing to us and the money they offer goes up and up. Don’t worry. Nan and I will never sell-up. We’re just too old to up-sticks now, isn’t that right, my dear?”
Nanny Vera picked up a duster and began polishing Lottie’s collection of glass ornaments which covered every inch of the kitchen windowsill. They were filled with thin layers of coloured sand from the crumbling cliffs in Alum Bay. The local gift shops were full of these ornaments and Lottie now had 76.
“Your grandad’s right, darling. We said when we retired we wouldn’t move from here. We’ve seen and done everything we want to in our lives.”
“Only problem is we can’t remember most of it!” added Grandad Frank.
He winked at Lottie and opened the rest of the post. Nothing else from the pile interested him.
After finishing her hot-choc and two, Lottie trudged upstairs to get dressed and find the album for her collection of crisp packets. She was glad her nan and grandad weren’t tempted to sell their house because it was where she’d been born—living anywhere else didn’t seem right at all.
She pulled on a pair of jeans and a lime-green t-shirt which had a ‘Lip Gloss is the Law’ slogan printed in red across the front. Now ready for the uneventful day ahead, she ambled downstairs to find Nanny Vera in the hall, slipping on her beige jacket. Nanny Vera always wore beige or what Grandad Frank called ‘granouflage’.
“We’re just off to the supermarket, Lottie,” Nanny Vera said, hunting in her beige handbag for her shopping list. “I’ll have a look for some different banana labels and a new purse for your collections.”
Grandad Frank waited patiently by the door. “In beige, perhaps?” he said and winked at Lottie. “Tell you what, while your Nan has her marathon knit-and-natter session with old Nosey Rosie Saunders after lunch, I’ll take you down the sea-front to play crazy golf. Another win for me will make the score eight all!”
“Sounds cool, Grank,” said Lottie.
Anything was better than having to listen to Nosey Rosie Saunders babble on and on all afternoon about stuff like her brother’s friend’s cousin whose cat hiccupped for a week, or something else just as yawn-worthy.
Grandad Frank opened the front door to find a woman clopping up their driveway in high heels, dressed in a dark grey suit with her hair tied back in a pony-tail. It made her look permanently angry.
“Mr Jenson, is it?”
“Are you from the council? Because, despite what Moaning Mavis says, I didn’t ‘throw’ the cat poo at her house, I was merely returning it from a distance to the residence of its owner.”
“I’m not from the council, Mr Jenson. I’m Harriet Dobson from Lovejoy Homes. You’ve probably heard our motto, ‘Such a joy to own a Lovejoy home’. I wonder if you’ve considered selling your property? Lovejoys would be delighted to offer—”
“On your way, Miss Whatever-your-name-is. You people never stop harassing us. My father-in-law built this house and we’ve lived here for over 50 years. Believe me, we wouldn’t move anywhere else no matter how much cash you proper-whoppers dangle as a carrot. So go and tell Mr Lovejoy the only way we’ll leave our home is horizontal and in wooden boxes,” said Grandad Frank.
Lottie giggled. She and Grandad Frank nodded in unison, satisfied.
“Well said, Frank. Now mind your blood pressure,” said Nanny Vera. “You can’t have one of your yellow pills after that red one you took at breakfast.”
“Well… you’re sitting on a gold mine, Mr Jenson,” said Miss Dobson, nodding her head furiously. “Yes, a gold mine, and sooner or later you won’t be able to refuse a crazy cash-offer.” She smiled thinly then turned and tottered away.
Little did Lottie Baxter know how true Miss Dobson’s departing words would be!
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Alan Barbara is a children’s author from the UK and lives in Berkshire (near The Queen) with his wife and dog, Ted.
Alan has written 2 Lottie Baxter adventure books for children – 'Fool’s Gold' and 'Maddie the Baddie'.
Writing stories that capture the imagination of children aged 8-88 is Alan’s aim and he certainly does that in his good old-fashioned Lottie Baxter adventures. He’s always dreaming up new characters for his stories and often wakes in the middle of the night with a great idea for a plot!