Doch Lyubyi Uspenskoy po.., p.1

My Brother's Hot Cross Bottom, страница 1


My Brother's Hot Cross Bottom

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My Brother's Hot Cross Bottom

  This is my dad.

  He had a great idea to hatch lots of chicks from eggs.

  But before that could happen my little brother, Cheese (he's the one with the famous bottom), and his twin sister, Tomato, developed a strange problem…

  Jeremy Strong once worked in a bakery, putting the jam into three thousand doughnuts every night. Now he puts the jam in stories instead, which he finds much more exciting. At the age of three, he fell out of a first-floor bedroom window and landed on his head. His mother says that this damaged him for the rest of his life and refuses to take any responsibility. He loves writing stories because he says it is ‘the only time you alone have complete control and can make anything happen’. His ambition is to make you laugh (or at least snuffle). Jeremy Strong lives near Bath with his wife, Gillie, four cats and a flying cow.

  This is the seventh book Jeremy Strong has written about Nicholas and his family.

  The first six books, in reading order, are:







  Are you feeling silly enough to read more?





  Illustrated by Rowan Clifford



  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

  Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published 2009


  Text copyright ©Jeremy Strong,2009

  Illustrations copyright © Rowan Clifford, 2009

  All rights reserved

  The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted

  Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

  British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  ISBN: 978-0-14-190890-8

  For chicken lovers of all ages


  1. Inky Potatoes

  2. What's Worse Than Being Called Pants?

  3. Sticks and Stinkypoo Stuff

  4. Rabbit Eats Goat?

  5. Meet Earthquake Woman!

  6. One of Our Hens Is Missing

  7. The Curse of the Phantom Scarecrow

  8. Spotty Botties

  9. Going Cheep!

  10. The Mystery Is Solved

  1. Inky Potatoes

  ‘What on earth is it?’ asked Mum, wrinkling her nose as she stared at the box. She always does that when she's puzzled by something and thinking hard. I don't see why wrinkling your nose helps. I've tried it at school when we have maths but it doesn't work.

  Mum bent forward and peered at the big, plastic container. The bottom half was white, the top half clear. On the side was a dial and a switch. An electric plug hung off one corner like a bedraggled tail.

  Dad stood there, hands on his hips, grinning with excitement. ‘Isn't it great?’

  ‘I don't know said Mum, ‘because you haven't answered my question yet. What is it?’

  ‘Have a guess,’ Dad prompted.

  Mum rolled her eyes and sighed. ‘It's a box, Ron,’ she said flatly. Dad's grin began to fade.

  ‘Of course it's a box. Anyone can see it's a box, but what do you think it does?’

  ‘It makes me cross,’ Mum shot back. ‘That's what it does.’

  Dad's grin vanished. ‘What do you mean? How can a box make you cross, for heaven's sake?’

  ‘Because I don't know what it does, Ron, and I want you to tell me and stop asking me to guess when I haven't the faintest clue and if you don't tell me very, VERY soon I shall run away from home and join a circus. Anything for a quiet life.’

  Dad looked at me helplessly. Mum wasn't going to play along with his little game so now he wanted me to have a go instead.

  ‘Nicholas? What do you reckon?’

  I shrugged. ‘Think I'll join Mum at the circus.’

  Dad turned to the twins, Cheese and Tomato. If you are wondering why my four-year-old brother and sister are called Cheese and Tomato it's because they were born in the back of a pizza delivery van.

  They were! Our car broke down on the way to hospital and Mum climbed in the back of the pizza van. By the time she finally reached the hospital the twins had already been born. Their real names are James and Rebecca, but Dad thought it would be fun to call them Cheese and Tomato and the names have stuck.

  Now Dad wanted the twins to guess what the box was. Cheese pulled the plug-in tail.

  ‘Elephant,’ he said, and Tomato jumped up and down with laughter. I could tell from her face that she was trying to think of something as silly as possible so as to outdo her brother.

  ‘Sausage-car-bird!’ she yelled, pulling her brother on to the floor, where they rolled about in hysterics, repeating their nonsense in as many ways as they could think of. ‘Elephant-sausage!’


  At least that was an interesting change but Dad was not amused.

  ‘Sometimes I wonder why I bother with you lot. What's wrong with this family?’

  ‘Their father, probably,’ smiled Mum, smoothing Dad's hair with one hand, as if he were a small child. ‘Tell us what it is, Ron,’ she suggested. ‘Then we can all get on with our lives.’

  ‘You're no fun at all, any of you,’ grumbled Dad. ‘OK, it's an incubator.’

  Now my nose really did wrinkle. ‘A what-abator?’


  ‘But what does it do, Dad?’

  ‘Ah,’ he began, and his excited grin came bouncing back. ‘That's my brilliant idea, you see. It's for chickens. It's a bit like a sunbed.’

  ‘Since when have chickens needed a sunbed?’ asked Mum. ‘Do they want a suntan? Most of them are brown already. You'll have them strutting about the garden in dark glasses next.’

  ‘I said it was LIKE a sunbed!’ yelled Dad. ‘And you don't put chickens in there, you dopey doodle, it's for their eggs.’

  ‘Eggs need a suntan?’ Mum asked, winding up Dad even more.

  ‘NO! OF COURSE NOT! The box keeps the eggs warm until little fluffy yellow chicks hatch out, going cheep cheepy-cheep, and guess wh
at? We shall have more egg-laying hens. Plus, it will be Easter in a few weeks and lots of people will see the chicks and they'll probably want some for themselves and I can sell off the ones we don't want. Now, am I brilliant or what?’

  Mum was desperately pressing her lips together to stop herself bursting into giggles. ‘I think you're probably more what? than brilliant.’

  ‘Thank you for your support,’ growled Dad. ‘Huh, I go to all this trouble and you just make fun of me.’

  Mum slipped an arm through Dad's. ‘There, there. We all love you really,’ she smiled. Dad grunted.

  I guess I should explain that our back garden is like a mini-farm. We grow lots of vegetables and we now have eight chickens. The first five we got were the cockerel – he's called Captain Birdseye – and four hens, Mavis Moppet, Beaky, Leaky and Poop. Last month we got three new hens, Big Betty, Fusspot and Duvet (who is obviously VERY fluffy), but Poop has always been Cheese's favourite. Tomato loves her too because Poop likes to follow them everywhere.

  ‘Inky-tater,’ said Cheese. ‘Poop can get a suntan.’

  ‘No,’ said Dad. ‘You cannot put your pet chicken in here, Tomato. It's for eggs. And it's an incubator, not an inky potato.’

  ‘Can Poop have sunglasses, Daddy?’ Tomato pleaded. (She's got some big red ones that she loves.)

  Dad groaned and eyed Mum. ‘See what you've started?’

  Mum smiled back at him. ‘Well? Can Tomato's chicken have sunglasses?’

  Dad stuck his fingers in his ears and started to sing. ‘La-la-la, I can't hear anyone. La-la-la, you're all talking nonsense.’

  I took the lid off the box and peered inside. A plastic foam lining covered several rows of heating elements. The lining had lots of egg-shaped hollows in it, enough for thirty eggs.

  ‘Not all the eggs will hatch,’ Dad explained. ‘But we should have a pretty good success rate. I thought we could take the chicks down to the Easter Fair at your school, Nicholas. Children will love holding them and we can raise money for the new library.’

  ‘Cool,’ I said. ‘I'll tell Mrs Morgan in class on Monday.’

  ‘Now you're beginning to talk sense,’ Mum admitted.

  ‘I always talk sense,’ said Dad. ‘And don't raise your eyebrows at me like that and you can stop laughing. You too, Nicholas. I expect some support from my eldest son.’ Then he strode off in a huff.

  He won't be grumpy for long. My dad's not like that. He's always cracking jokes and being daft. He's a bit embarrassing at times but he's great!

  2. What's Worse Than Being Called Pants?

  Guess what? We've got two new additions to the family! I don't mean Mum's suddenly given birth to another baby – it's something else. It started this morning when the doorbell rang.

  It was Granny and her husband, Lancelot. I usually know when they're coming because they go roaring about on a monster motorbike wearing full leather gear. I mean Granny and Lancelot wear the leathers, not the motorbike! Lancelot recently bought himself a new jacket. It's got studs all over the back that spell out HELL'S DINOSAURS.

  They must have come on one of their other bikes because I didn't hear them roar up and the windows didn't rattle either. It was Dad who answered the door.

  ‘Oh, it's you,’ he grunted.

  ‘What a lovely, cheerful welcome from my favourite son,’ Granny replied.

  ‘I'm your only son,’ Dad reminded Granny, giving her a dark look.

  Lancelot chuckled. ‘Hey, man! Who got out of bed on the wrong side this morning?’ He flung an arm round Dad's shoulders. ‘What's up, dude?’ he asked. ‘You're a bit down in the dumps.’

  Dad sighed and told them about the incubator.

  ‘It's for eggs,’ Tomato butted in.

  ‘We can make omelette,’ added Cheese.

  ‘That'd be a cheese omelette!’ I suggested.

  ‘Boom-boom!’ said Dad, cheering up at once. ‘That's my boy!’

  Mum shook her head. ‘Nicholas, you won't get too much like your father, will you?’

  ‘He is going to be exactly like me,’ declared Dad with pride.

  ‘Oh dear,’ chorused Granny and Mum, before looking at each other in surprise and laughing.

  Dad didn't notice. He was staring at Lancelot's chest. His leather jacket seemed to have come alive. The whole chest area was heaving, as if an alien monster was about to burst out and attack us, like in one of those horror films.

  ‘Got a problem with your stomach, Lancelot?’ asked Dad.

  ‘Oh! Yes. Almost forgot about them.’ He unzipped his jacket halfway, plunged in a big hand and pulled out two black and white rabbits.

  ‘Happy Easter!’ he cried.

  ‘But it's not Easter for four weeks,’ I pointed out.

  ‘Couldn't wait that long. Had to get them on the spot,’ Lancelot explained, while Mum cuddled one of the rabbits against her chest.

  ‘They are so cute!’ she said.

  ‘Yum yum,’ drooled Dad, patting his stomach.

  ‘Ron! Don't be so horrible. They are not for eating!’ Mum snapped at him.

  ‘They're pets, man,’ Lancelot explained, flicking his long, grey ponytail behind him. ‘An early Easter present for each of the twins. We had to get them today because they were going cheap.’

  ‘Going cheep?’ I grinned. ‘I thought chickens went cheep, not rabbits.’

  ‘Boom-boom again!’ cried Dad, punching the air.

  Lancelot chuckled. ‘You're on good form today, Nickers.’

  Mum winced. ‘Please don't call him that.’

  ‘What? Nickers? Nickers doesn't mind, do you, mate?’

  Well, actually, yes, I did mind. I mean, you wouldn't like it if you were called Pants, would you? Knickers is even worse. But Mum had already moved on to new problems and wanted to know if the rabbits would have babies.

  Granny patted Mum's hand. ‘They're both males, so you won't have any problem with little bunnies hopping about everywhere. You have quite enough hopping about going on in your house with those twins of yours.’

  ‘Where are we supposed to keep them?’ asked Mum.

  ‘In the oven,’ muttered Dad and Mum immediately dug her elbow into his side.


  ‘Just be sensible for a few moments, Ron, please. We are not going to keep them in the oven. They can go in the old chicken pen we used to have until you build them a proper hutch.’

  Dad groaned. ‘More work,’ he grumbled.

  I suddenly had a bright idea. ‘Hey! There's going to be an Easter Rabbit Race at the school fair. We could enter these two.’

  ‘Cool, dude,’ Lancelot smiled. ‘You could train them up. You know, give them some running exercises. There's a kid up our road who built an exercise machine for his dog. You could do the same. That'd be cool.’

  Dad looked at Lancelot as if he was completely mad. (Takes one to know one – that's what I think!) ‘I don't think that's a helpful suggestion, thank you very much,’ he shot back.

  Lancelot turned red. ‘It was just an idea, man,’ he shrugged and turned to Granny. ‘Think it's time we went home, babe.’ And off they went.

  Dad says we are NOT going to have any rabbit exercise machines, thank you very much. Just chuck a few carrots for them to chase after,’ he suggested.

  So there we are. Not only are we growing vegetables in our garden, we are going to grow chickens now AND we have two rabbits to add to our backyard farm. (Not to mention a lot of carrots flying through the air!)

  I wonder what our next-door neighbour Mr Tugg will say. He's already pretty annoyed that we have a goat, seven hens, a cockerel and a tortoise. I don't suppose he'll be the least bit pleased to discover that we're going to have a load more chicks, not to mention the rabbits, Saucepan and Nibblewibble.

  Don't blame me! Those are the names the twins chose. (Don't forget Cheese calls his favourite hen Poop.) I tell you, everyone is bonkers in our house, except Mum and me. In fact sometimes I think we're the only sensible ones on the whole st

  3. Sticks and Stinkypoo Stuff

  You'll never guess what! Our next-door neighbours, the Tuggs, have got a child staying with them! Amazing! They don't even like children! At least Mr Tugg doesn't.

  Mrs Tugg is OK. She does aromatherapy and spends most of her time indoors. If you're wondering what aromatherapy is I can tell you because she did it on Rubbish, our goat, once. You don't normally give goats aromatherapy but Rubbish was in a bad way and we were grateful for any help. It worked too.

  What you do is get loads of smelly stuff and people come to you and tell you their problems and you rub something gloopy on them and they go away happy. For example, suppose some woman goes to Mrs Tugg and says she's got abad foot? And not only that but she's also had a horrible letter from her bank and she's upset.

  Mrs Tugg gets out some stinky stuff and rubs it on the woman's elbow, big toe, knee or wherever. She lights smelly candles and makes the woman sniff something with a weird name like Tping-Tpong or Rubber Bishop's Slipper. Then the woman pays Mrs Tugg lots of money and goes away feeling happier. And smelling rather odd.

  Well, I think that's what happens. I could be wrong.

  So Mrs Tugg is OK but Mr Tugg is PROBLEMO HUGE-O! He is like a volcano in full eruption and has a temper the size of Indonesia, which is where a lot of volcanoes come from. Also, he's definitely allergic to children. I know this because he always scowls at me as if I've done something awful. Mind you, Mr Tugg can't stand Dad either, so perhaps he just hates everyone.

  But now there's a girl next door – a girl! She's nine, has long, straight, blonde hair and looks a bit like a doll. She's got big eyes and she's very clean and neat.

  The first I knew about it was when I was out in the back garden checking the hens. (Lots of eggs today – Dad will be over the moon and jumping!) I was bending over to stroke Captain Birdseye – he's the cockerel – when something hit my back. I straightened up and just caught sight of this girl turning away from the fence.

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