Attics, magic and books

I wrote a short chapter book which would divide into six chapters. It seemed reasonable for the target age group to have a six-year-old girl going to a new school, having just moved into a new home. It would need colour illustrations on every page, I think, to encourage the new reader to read, even if being read to. The (dreaded, compulsory!) synopsis starts like this:

Jess hates her new house because it is draughty, noisy and ghostly. She also hates her new school because she has, as yet, no friends. Grandad has stopped travelling and moved into the attic. He remarks that his beautiful stones are magical and not to be touched. Jess creeps up at night to borrow one to help her solve her problems at school. But his caged mouse challenges her and demands cheese for his silence, after which he lets her take it, with warnings about telling on her if she loses it.

Obviously, things must go wrong with the stone and at the end she must have won a friend – by normal means using her skills – and be reconciled to the new house. Otherwise, where is the story?

The story starts likes this:

Jess hated her new house. The bedroom door moaned and groaned all night. She tried propping it open. She tried pressing it shut. She tried pushing her slippers against it. 

But: Creak! Squeak! 

Moan… groan…  

Cold air brushed against her face. 

A scuffle on the floor: mouse or ghost?

Jess shivered and pulled the covers over her head.

It was nearly morning before she fell asleep. She dreamt that tree roots were curling round her feet. When she woke, the quilt was twisted round her legs and the wind was whistling round her toes. 

She pulled her uniform on and ran down to the kitchen, where Mum was frying bacon. 

“I hate this house,” she said. “And I hate my new school.”

Anyway, I decided to sketch the bit near the end before the final thing happens, where we read:

Later, Jess lay in the dark listening to the door creaking and groaning, despite the pile of books she’d dumped in front of it. The wind blew cold about her ears.

Then I painted it digitally.

jess and books

It’s not intended to be neat and tidy. And I want to add a scene in the same style with Grandad in his attic room showing the melée of things from his travels, including the cage and its mouse (that is, or perhaps is not, also magical). I can see it in my mind’s eye, preferably with the sun streaming in, not darkness like here! But it will be hard to do, whether neat and tidy or scribbly!

This is not a story I would want to illustrate myself, though. More of an accompaniment to submitting a manuscript. But it was fun to try.

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