Authors: William Sutcliffe
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8HB
A CBS COMPANY
Text copyright © 2014 William Sutcliffe
Illustrations copyright © 2014 David Tazzyman
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention. No reproduction without permission. All rights reserved. The right of William Sutcliffe and David Tazzyman to be identified
as the author and illustrator of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is
available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN 978-1-4711-2024-4
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
For Saul, Iris and Juno,
with love and gratitude –
To my Awesome Mel x –
A boy on a camel
T STARTED WITH A RUMBLE
and a clatter and a faint trembling of the air. At first, only the animals noticed.
Fluffypants McBain, the tabby cat from the Post Office, moved one ear towards the noise, thought for a second, and having established that the sound did not indicate the arrival of food, went
back to sleep. Magnificat, the far-too-pleased-with-himself Bengal from the pub, who had stolen all of Fluffypants’ territory except for half a windowsill, turned his head towards the unusual
noise and immediately calculated that it was being made by a large group of humans travelling in unusually shaped vehicles. The real puzzle was a faint clip-clopping, to the rhythm of hooves, but
without the hardness of a horse or a cow. This was something else. Something loping and tall. Magnificat raised his tail in a look-how-beautiful-I-am way and looked around, to see if anyone else
had noticed or interpreted the sounds wafting into town.
Of course they hadn’t. It really was tedious to live in a place where everyone else was so much less intelligent (not to mention less beautiful) than oneself.
He yawned and stretched – for a second feeling the urge for a doze, a meal, a cuddle and a fight, all at once – then prowled on down the high street, in search of something else to
do. This large, mysteriously-hooved creature, he decided, was probably best avoided.
Fizzer was the next to notice. Fizzer ought to have been an astronomer or a nuclear physicist or at the very least a university professor, but unfortunately these career paths hadn’t
opened up to him, so he had to settle for being a dog. He knew something big and important was arriving, and he suspected it might change the whole town forever, but at this moment there were
several trees on his morning walk that he’d not yet sniffed, and this vital task simply had to be finished before he could set about researching the identity of the intruders. It’s
amazing what you can find out from sniffing a tree, specially if you happen to be Fizzer. He considered himself to be the town’s unofficial police dog, and the trees of the high street were
his private CCTV network. Just half an hour of careful sniffing, and Fizzer knew exactly who had been where and when (and what they’d eaten for breakfast).
Hannah was the first human to notice that something was up. She was busy doing an experiment with flying fish (not real ones, paper ones) to see whether big ones or small ones fly furthest when
you drop them out of your bedroom window,
when she felt the trembling of the air and heard the clatter and rumble that had twitched Fluffypants’
ear, raised Magnificat’s tail and diverted Fizzer from his tree sniffing. Hannah, being just a human, didn’t have any idea what this sound might indicate, but being a human in
possession of an unusually perceptive and curious brain, she knew it was her task to find out. She also knew this job was urgent, far too urgent to leave time for such boring things as breakfast
and getting dressed.
She ran downstairs in her pyjamas, jumped into a pair of wellies, shouted to her Mum something along the lines of, ‘Mumble mumble mumble shop mumble mumble BACK SOON BYEEE!’ and
darted out of the front door.
Almost immediately, she passed Fizzer, who looked up from a particularly rich and fascinating tree trunk, noticed Hannah’s speed and unusual outfit, and gave her a quizzical but knowing
look which seemed to say, “Are you going to check out that noise?”
She paused and scratched him between the ears,
a gesture which Fizzer took to mean, ‘Yes. Do you want to come, or are you too busy reading your
Fizzer raised his head, reluctantly withdrawing his nostrils from the quite exquisite odour left by Princess (the precious, prancing, primped poodle who presided over her prized pack of panicky
puppies in a palatial parlour on Privet Place) and shook his bottom, which in Fizzer’s language meant, ‘Why not?’ or, more specifically, ‘I wasn’t going to bother but
I like a spot of company, so let’s go.’
They headed off together, along the high street, through the rows of small red-brick houses that circled the town, then out into open fields, with Hannah running as fast as she could and Fizzer
walking as slowly as he was able without feeling like he was going backwards.
Fizzer often felt sorry for humans. It must be incredibly frustrating to have to do everything
, and to be practically blind, nose-wise, not to mention half deaf and totally
ignorant about everything of any real importance. If it wasn’t for their ability to open tins of dog food, humans would be almost completely useless. He liked Hannah, though. She was much
less dumb than the rest of them.
Just past the level crossing, Hannah and Fizzer saw something that made them stop dead, almost as if they had both crashed into an invisible glass wall. Weaving down a narrow, rutted road that
was normally only used by tractors, rabbits and lost hikers was the strangest and most extraordinary procession of vehicles and animals either of them had ever come across.
At the front was a camel. On top of the camel was a boy dressed from head to toe in purple velvet, singing at the top of his voice. Behind the camel was an elephant, which was being ridden by a
man who was lying on his back, fast asleep. Behind that was a camper van with two deck chairs on the roof, containing a man in a leotard who seemed to be waxing his moustache, and a woman wearing
what was either three thimbles tied together with string, or a very skimpy bikini. The camper van was towing a caravan, which was towing another caravan, which was towing another caravan. It was,
you could say, a caravan of caravans. Behind that was a huge articulated lorry,
painted with rainbows and butterflies and flowers and ice cream and smiley
faces and shooting stars and dancing puppies. Emblazoned on the side in chunky 3D letters were the words
SHANK’S IMPOSSIBLE CIRCUS.
‘It’s the circus!’ cried Hannah.
,’ replied Fizzer, sarcastically, meaning, ‘Thanks for explaining.’
Hannah spun round on the heel of her wellies and began to run back towards town, shouting, ‘It’s the circus! It’s the circus! It’s the circus!’
Fizzer stayed put, knowing she was about to change her mind.