‘Do we have to go to the library? I hate reading! I’ll be there all day and I still won’t choose a stupid book - remember how long it took me last year?’ questioned Ben angrily whilst zipping up his jacket. ‘Cheer up Ben,’ replied Amber with a big grin across her face. ‘This year might be different’.
Ben – a ten-year-old boy – and his class were off to the local library because it was ‘Book Week’ in their school. Amber (who was Ben’s cousin) was the complete opposite of him in every way; she was the perfect pupil – smart, sensible and would spend hours on end in a quiet corner of her room engrossed in a book. On the other hand, Ben despised everything about school and would long for the day to end so he could go home and play his computer.
Arriving at the library, which was not far from their school, there was a sense of excitement amongst the pupils (well, most of them anyway!). As they made their way in, the librarian greeted them.
She was a tall, elderly lady, with a slightly hunched back. Her thin, silver hair was tied up in a bun, with a pen poking through the middle. Old, wrinkled skin sagged down her face in an ocean of wrinkles and her nose was long and pointy. Peering over the top of her reading glasses, were dull, grey eyes that squinted as she attempted to count all the children that had just arrived in her workplace.
‘Welcome to my library – feel free to explore and find a book of your choice!’ the librarian ordered in a croaky voice. There was something about the librarian that wasn’t quite right, but the children were far too excited to notice. Eagerly, the children ran off to search the library. Within minutes, Amber had gathered several books of her choice; Ben however, sat sulking on a beanbag in the corner of the library.
Noticing the young boy, who had a face like thunder, the librarian made her way over to him and asked if he would like some help. ‘I don’t like books,’ Ben mumbled stubbornly. Shocked and bewildered, the librarian ordered him to his feet and insisted, ‘I have just the book for children like you young man – come with me!’ Reluctantly, Ben trudged after the old woman and headed to the far end of the library.
There was a towering bookshelf covered in dust and spider webs; the librarian reached up and grabbed a thick, golden covered book titled ‘The Magical Book’. It didn’t look like it had seen the light of day in a long, long time. She handed it to Ben and told him to read the cover which said…
If you open me,
You will see a land as weird as can be,
If you seek my creation,
You’ll go to a world of your imagination,
But beware not all wishes have a happy ending,
Some lead to a terrible life that keeps descending…
Intrigued, Ben turned around but the creepy librarian was no-where to be seen. He slammed the book shut, put it in his bag and made his way back to the rest of his class, who were queuing up to loan out their books. ‘Where have you been?’ miffed Amber as she edged her way out of the door. ‘I’ll tell you later!’ replied Ben sheepishly.
Later that day - when Amber was over Ben’s house - he showed her what he had taken from the library. She couldn’t believe her eyes. ‘You need to take that back straight away or else I’ll tell your mum!’ barked Amber assertively. After Ben read her the cover, she too was curious. She did NOT want to open the book though, for fear of what might happen to them…
Later that day, curiosity got the better of them.
“I think that we should have a look in the book,” whispered Ben, “What harm can it do?”
“Alright,” replied Amber reluctantly, “But only once and then we should return it.” They decided that it would be best to take the peculiar book upstairs. So, the two children crept quietly up the wooden stairs, trying ever so hard not to tread on any of the creaky floorboards. As they reached the top stair, they heard a light switch on and a voice coming towards them. Quick as a flash, they shot along the landing to Ben’s bedroom. As they closed the door, the book slipped from Ben’s fingers and landed on the floor with a thud. It was open. But there was something strange about it. Something odd. Something that they had never seen in any other book. Every page was blank. Not a word or a picture to be seen. Amber bent down and reached out to grab it, As she stretched out her fingers, Ben yelled,
“Wait! Look Amber! The book.” In front of their eyes, the book began to twitch and glow the most beautiful bright yellow. Then as it slowly rose into the air, sparks began to fly out of the book and the pages started to flutter, flap and turn all by themselves. It was very strange and a little bit scary.
Ben and Amber stood and stared in wonder, when all of a sudden a tornado of words swirled out of the book and around the room, whipping up Ben and Amber, spinning them round and round until they disappeared. The room went dark and the book fell back to the ground as if nothing had happened.
After what seemed like hours, the two children landed in a place that was like nothing they had ever seen before. Everything was wrong. Trees were curved and grew sideways, the grass was yellow and birds barked like dogs. Amber and Ben were utterly confused. As they stood there looking at all the weird things in this crazy world, Amber noticed a strange but vaguely familiar figure heading towards them. As it got closer, they realised it was the librarian from earlier that day.
“Hello! You are the librarian aren’t you?” asked Amber nervously. “Can you please help us?”
“Yes I am,” replied the lady “But actually, I need your help and we only have twenty four hours.”…
"What could we do?" asked Ben.
"I need your help to get out of this book," replied the librarian. "If we don't get this book back to the Library in twenty-four hours, something terrible will happen!"
"Oh no!" cried the children.
"In twenty-four hours, this magical book will make all the books in all the world disappear into Bookland," said the librarian. "No one will ever get to read any books ever again!"
"We must do something to stop this," agreed the children.
"What can we do to help?"
‘Our task has already began and the clock is ticking,’ said the librarian, peering over her thick circular glasses and flashing the digital timer on her wrist at the two children.
‘Follow me!’ she said as she turned and marched off down the concrete road ahead of them.
‘There are a series of 3 tasks that we have to complete in order to save all the books from disappearing into Bookland,’ explained the old woman, with a steely determination the children hadn’t noticed before. ‘ For every task we fail, 8 hours will be lost from our timer.’
The woman continued marching. To where, Ben and Amber had no idea but they understood the severity of the situation and followed on obediently.
As time passed, the children noticed the weird vibrancy that had greeted them on their arrival in this strange place had begun to fade away: the yellow grass was slowly becoming a sickly, pallid shade; the bent branches of the peculiar trees lost their colour and the leaves were dying and falling to the ground before their very eyes; the loud barks of the birds flying in the sky had now been replaced by a painful whimper. All around them, the landscape was fading to grey.
Shortly after, the group arrived at a vast expanse of water. ‘Lake Lachrymose!’ announced the librarian. ‘Beware of the leeches!’ Task one would be to cross this huge lake, using a boat they would have to make entirely by themselves. The leeches that the librarian had mentioned were rumoured to have long segmented bodies with two fins that encircled their middle and neck, six rows of very sharp teeth and the ability to smell food at extreme distances. It was believed they had been responsible for the death of at least one man recently. The boat had better be a good one.
Ben and Amber collected wood from the rapidly decaying trees and the librarian began to collect long vines that could be used to tie it together. It took the trio hours to finally finish the boat, and by the end, each of them were blistered and blodied from the hard labour but the boat held its own on the lake, protecting them from the deadly leeches and safely transported them across to the other side.
‘Quick! We need to hurry!’ announced the librarian. ‘We must now follow the yellow, brick road to Rapunzel’s castle where we must look out the magic mirror. It will tell us what to do next.’
Another few hours elapsed and the trio had been trekking as fast as their legs could carry them; the castle was finally visible in the distance. Out of nowhere, a high-pitched shriek woke them from the monotony of their walk and stopped them dead in their tracks. All of a sudden, a tribe of flying monkeys—with razor-sharp teeth and matted, coloured fur and dragon-like wings—were fast approaching. Ben and Amber froze. The librarian, however, burst in to action. She whipped what had looked like a pen, but was now clearly a magic wand, out from her hair bun and swirled it around Ben and Amber, creating a pink, magical bubble around them.
‘Go!’ she demanded as she threw them her digital wrist-watch. ‘You must finish the quest without me. This is why I picked you to have the book, Ben.’ she yelled. The balloons flew off, whisking the two young children to safety, but leaving behind the librarian, with the blood-thirsty monkeys closing in.
The two children remained silent for the entire journey to the castle. Neither quite knew what to say. They arrived at the entrance and left their bubbles behind as they searched through every room for the mirror. Eventually, they found it. It was enormous and had a solid gold frame that glistened in the sunlight. Ben gently pressed his hand against the glass and a slow, deep voice bellowed out the next instruction. They were to rescue Rapunzel from the tower and return to the mirror to learn their last mission before they departed.
Sure enough, Rapunzel was exactly where the mirror had promised and the pretty, blond princess was extremely grateful to see her saviours. They freed her from her prison and returned to the mirror to learn what they must do next.
Again, Ben pressed his hand in the centre and the same voice returned:
‘Seek out the maze and you will find,
The answer she left behind.
Open the book and take a look,
At the solution that will leave you shook.’
The maze had been clearly visible from the top of Rapunzel’s tower and, after wishing the long-haired princess all the very best for her own journey home, the children headed towards it.
The sky was now barely lit and a dense mist had descended by the time Ben and Amber had arrived at the huge labyrinth. Huge, stone walls marked the edges and the children persevered as crumbled barricade after crumbled barricade stopped them in their tracks and forced them to re-evaluate their route, time and time again.
Hours passed but, spurred on by the last words of the librarian, the children never gave up.
Eventually, the book that the mirror had talked of appeared. They had turned a tight corner and it was Amber who had seen it first. It was lying on the muddy ground, around 10 metres ahead of them. Both children immediately moved towards it but, before they could reach it, a dark shadow burst passed them. There was barely any natural light left now and it wasn’t obvious who, or what, the shadow was at first but as their eyes slowly adjusted to the conditions, Ben and Amber realised who the sallow-faced man, with a large black cloak, who grew taller and paler by the minute was: Voldemort!
‘Avada ked…’ shouted Voldemort but he was cut off by a piercing shriek that filled the eerie atmosphere. Voldemort paused; he looked around in confusion.
‘Run!’ echoed around the maze and the voice was familiar. It was he librarian. Ben darted past the confused wizard, grabbed the book and dashed back around the corner with Amber. Together, they ran. Every now and then they would be blocked off by the crumbled barricades but they turned and ran some more. They ran and ran and ran until their legs ached so badly, they could run no more. The two children crouched down beside one of the crumbling walls that towered over them, looked around to check that Voldemort was nowhere to be seen and opened the book.
Like last time, the pages were empty. Within seconds though, a strong wind had picked up and it was clear another tornado was developing. The children clung on to each other and tucked in against the wall to see what was going to happen this time.
It was Voldemort that they noticed first. His dark, powerful body being whipped through the air by the fierce winds and deposited back within the pages of the book. Seconds later, Mother Gothel joined him and immediately after she had landed, trapped within the pages of the leather-bound tomb, the Wicked Witch of the West joined her. Over the course of the next few minutes, dozens more evil characters were whisked past Ben and Amber who watched on in amazement. Darth Vader, Bellatrix Lestrange, Smaug, Marcus Meldrew, a troop of daleks, Excellinor the Witch, Luke Castellan, Alvin the Treacherous and plenty more horrible villains all perished and slowly the winds died down. The cousins breathed a sigh of relief and Amber looked down at the watch that had been given to her by the librarian.
At that moment, the most vicious gust of wind of all powered it’s way through the stone corridors, whisking Ben and Amber off their feet. Terrified, they clenched their eyes shut but the gust of wind was brief and it quickly deposited the children back, safely, on to the ground. They opened their eyes together and were amazed to see, straight in front of them, only a few inches away, the poster of Zlatan Ibrahimovic that Ben had proudly displayed on his bedroom wall. They were home!
Rapunzel followed her new friends to the maze but she was a little bit sad to leave her only friend, the green chameleon, Pascal. Amazed by their success in rescuing Rapunzel, Amber and Ben were excited about entering the zig zag maze but they were also anxious about how they would find the right pathway and the way back home. The leaves of the bushes which lined the maze had already turned brown and the grass was grey. After walking along different routes, the children started to feel exhausted and they felt they were getting more and more lost. The clock was ticking! Suddenly Rapunzel had an idea. “You could use my hair to leave a trail so we don’t keep going on the same path. Also You could put some of my silky smooth hair under your shoes to make your feet slide faster.” Amber and Ben felt a glimmer of hope. As they continued on their journey, Rapunzel let down her hair and made a trail of where they had been. Still time was ticking by and they couldn’t find the right way out of the maze. Suddenly they heard a rustle through the brown, crunchy leaves. They turned to see Pascal scurrying along behind them with wires hanging out of his smiling mouth. His long, pink tongue flicked out of his mouth and a sat. nav. landed by the children’s feet. Thank you Pascal said Rapunzel, we can use that to find our way out of the maze. They typed in “Bookland – the other side of the maze” and the route flashed on the screen. Rapunzel, Ben and Amber followed the route and ended up outside the maze. The mirror glowed brightly and started to talk
“Now you have completed your quest
And my magic can do the rest.
A door will open where I lie
And back to home, you will fly!”
In a flash of thunder and a blink of an eye, Ben, Amber and Rapunzel zoomed through the magical door and flew back to the library, where they were surprised to find the class had returned to hand their borrowed books back. The clock showed there were 30 seconds to go. Ben and Amber started to tell the class their amazing adventure but nobody believed them. They turned to point to Rapunzel to prove they were telling the truth but when they turned to look they saw a tall, elderly lady with a slightly hunched back, with her thin silver hair tied up in a bun and her wrinkled skin sagging down her face in an ocean of wrinkles. She had a pointy nose. “THE LIBRARIAN” laughed the class. Ben and Amber were shocked. “Now do you like books?” the librarian said to Ben with a sparkle in her eye. He replied “Yes, I love books, they are full of adventures!”