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Batpants and the Vanishing Elephant

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Batpants and the Vanishing Elephant

  Illustrated by Rowan Clifford



  1. An Unexpected Delivery of Fudge

  2. Zak Goes Down on His Knees

  3 Who is Manky Pup?

  4. Fudge Cakes

  5. Manley’s Busy Day

  6. Fantasti-bubbly-crumbo!

  7. Batpants on the Trail

  8. Disaster Strikes

  9. All About Thursday

  10. Surprised? You’re Telling Me!

  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.

  Are you feeling silly enough to read more?










  (A Cosmic Pyjamas Adventure)




  (A Cosmic Pyjamas Adventure)








  This is for all those working to save threatened animals around the world, and in particular for all orang-utans, especially any that can read.

  Batpants the orang-utan is back!

  Join Tilly and her brothers, Finn and Zak

  for a hairy new adventure – hoo hoo hooey hoo!

  1 An Unexpected Delivery of Fudge

  The first thing I saw was the post van. Well, it wasn’t actually a van, it was a lorry. A large post office lorry with double wheels at the back and everything. Finn was busy showing me his best caterpillar at the time. He has five caterpillars at the moment, plus three spiders, several woodlice and an earwig called Thursday, because it was a Thursday when Finn found it.

  I asked if it was morning or afternoon when he discovered it and Finn said afternoon, so I said maybe he should call it Thursday Afternoon. Finn looked at me as if I was an idiot, which was a bit much coming from someone who definitely is an idiot and certainly WEIRD. How many people do you know who go around with their pockets stuffed full of beetles and wriggly things? Exactly. Weird.

  Finn is my little brother. He’s seven, which means he’s a child, as opposed to me. I’m ten, which is almost teenage and therefore grownup. Finn gets very excited by small squiggly things and ginormous noisy things, so you can imagine how hyper he got when he saw the post office lorry. Finn said it was the biggest lorry he had ever seen, ever, EVER.

  We watched from the window as a big, hairy guy with tattoos all over his arms got out and came to our door.

  ‘Delivery. Sign here,’ he said and Dad scribbled on Hairy Guy’s electronic pad.

  ‘Why are lorry drivers fat?’ Finn asked. I tried telling him they weren’t.

  ‘Yes, they are,’ he insisted. ‘All the ones I’ve seen are fat.’

  ‘OK, so now you’re a fat-lorry-driver spotter are you? Anyhow, look, there’s another man from the lorry. He’s not fat.’

  ‘He’s not the driver,’ Finn said. HE IS SUCH A KNOW-ALL! I gave up. What’s the point in arguing if you can’t win?

  The second man opened up the back of the lorry. He pressed some buttons and a long ramp slid out of the back and down to the road.

  ‘That’s a very big lorry for one small letter,’ I muttered. Finn looked up at me with his big, serious eyes and shook his head.

  ‘It can’t be a letter. It’s got to be something MEGA-MASSIVE. I bet it’s an elephant!’

  ‘Oh yeah, people are always posting elephants to each other, aren’t they? They probably say things like “I’m just going down the road to pop an elephant in the post.”’

  Finn looked at me coldly. ‘You’re stupid,’ he grumbled.

  ‘And you’re very small and your brain is even smaller,’ I shot back. ‘In fact I can’t see it, not even with the world’s most powerful microscope.’

  At that moment I felt something very warm and hairy on my arm. It was an orang-utan hand. Yes, I know it’s unusual to have an orangutan in the house but, there you go, that’s what our house is like – orang-utans everywhere. Well, to be honest, we only have one, but Batpants gets everywhere so it often seems as if we have loads.

  Batpants is one of our pets. We have lots of animals around because our dad is an amazingly brilliant animal trainer. His name is Aslan and he trains animals for films and TV. He’s the best animal trainer IN THE WORLD, and I’m not exaggerating. Anyhow, Batpants was orphaned when she was very young and Dad looked after her and now she lives in our house.

  Actually, she mostly lives in the tree house that Dad built for us out in the garden. It’s brilliant! We’ve each got our own room, even Batpants, and that’s where Finn and Zak and I live too.

  You don’t know about Zak yet do you? I shall try not to mention him too much because he’s a pain. This is all you need to know about Zak.

  He’s just turned fourteen and is therefore a teenager and dangerous.

  He’s moody. (He’s a teenager.)

  He’s argumentative. (He’s a teenager.)

  He’s very tidy. (He’s a – hang on, teenagers aren’t meant to be tidy!)

  He plays guitar very loudly in a band called The Non-Organic Vegetables.

  His hair is black and purple. (It’s been dyed. Plus, he’s got a stud on his left eyebrow.)

  He’s ALWAYS falling in love. If you put a celery stick in front of him he’d probably fall in love with it. (It wouldn’t surprise me if he ran away and married it. Then they could be Mr and Mrs Celery.)

  He’s going to be famous, he says. (Yeah – for marrying a vegetable!)

  Anyhow, back to the post office lorry. Batpants was slowly climbing up on to my shoulders, which is quite nice but she does weigh an awful lot. Plus, she tries to hold on to you by wrapping her hairy hands round your eyes, or across your mouth, or up your nose – she doesn’t care, as long as you can’t see or breathe.

  Both the postmen were now in the back of the lorry and so was Dad. We heard a lot of thumping and banging and the lorry shuddered as if it was about to sneeze. Then Dad came and stood in the road to make sure there were no cars about.

  Finally, the postmen reappeared, pulling a long rope. They kept shouting at whatever it was inside the lorry.

  ‘Come on!’

  ‘You can’t stay in there forever!’

  ‘Here kitty-kitty!’

  Kitty-kitty? Was there a cat in there? That wouldn’t make everything rattle about, surely?

  Then the ramp on the road banged and buckled and shuddered beneath the weight, and slowly, bit by bit, out came –

  ‘It IS an elephant!’ yelled Finn, jumping up and down. ‘I said it was an elephant, didn’t I? I said it and you told me my brain was
too small, but I was right and you were wrong and that means you’re a poo-head.’

  ‘Thank you,’ I murmured. Well, how was I supposed to guess it was an elephant? How many times do you get elephant deliveries at your house? It’s not what you expect, is it?

  So, this elephant comes trundling down the ramp and on to the road, slowly swinging its trunk and gently flapping its ears, and that was when I saw the address and the stamps. There they were, on the side of the elephant – Dad’s name and address plus three hundred and seventy-eight stamps (we counted them). That’s an awful lot of stamps.

  I felt a sudden, terrible pain on my head. It was Batpants. She was thumping the top of my skull with her fists, like a drum, and shouting ‘Hoo hoo hooey hoo!’ very loudly in my left ear.

  I pulled her off my back. She immediately began running round in circles, which was very awkward for me because she grabbed my hand. Basically, I was spun round four times and just when I thought my arm would probably get twisted right off, I fell over.

  ‘Batpants! Get off me, you hairy ginger monster!’

  ‘Hoo hah! Hoo hah! Chk-chk-chk-chk-chk!’

  Batpants does this mad chattering thing when she’s excited and she was certainly excited by the elephant. Maybe the elephant reminded of her of her own country. They’ve got elephants in Borneo, which is where Batpants came from. She was going so bonkers you’d think she’d just found a long lost auntie or something. Maybe it was her long lost auntie!

  The postmen packed up the back of the lorry and off they went (with the fat one driving), while Dad slowly walked the elephant into our back garden, or maybe it was the other way round, with the elephant walking Dad. It was difficult to tell.

  The elephant stood there, surrounded by the whole family because Mum and Zak had appeared now. We all stood there looking at the elephant and admiring the three hundred and seventy-eight stamps and the elephant stood there looking at us with her small, crinkly, twinkly eyes. She seemed cool, calm and collected. Dad made the introductions.

  ‘This is Fudge,’ he announced. ‘The elephant,’ he added, unnecessarily, in case we hadn’t noticed.

  ‘I’d never have guessed, Dad,’ said Zak. ‘I thought she was a tortoise.’

  Finn went into hysterics, pointing at Fudge and spluttering ‘It’s a tortoise! A big, BIG tortoise with a trunk! No, no, it’s a tortephant!’

  Dad smiled patiently. ‘Fudge is going to be with us for about a month while I train her for a film. She’s a lovely beast, and pretty clever too.’

  Batpants was pulling me forward. She was fascinated and wanted to get closer. The orangutan slowly reached out with a long arm, poked the elephant gently with one finger and leapt back in case the beast sat on her.

  Fudge didn’t even blink. She just swung her trunk a little more, curled it round Batpants and gently lifted the orang-utan on to her back. Batpants was in heaven! She sat there with an enormous grin on her face, showing all her very white teeth. She obviously thought she’d just been made Queen of the Universe.

  ‘Fudge is a gentle giant,’ Dad chuckled. ‘She’s going to be easy to train.’

  ‘What film will she be in?’ I asked. ‘Will it be one of Mum’s Colorado Kate movies?’

  Dad shook his head. ‘No. Your mother won’t be in this one.’

  I should explain about Mum. She’s a stuntwoman! Most of her work is for a TV series called Colorado Kate. Kate is always falling off a building or fighting wolves or tumbling over the edge of waterfalls – all that crazy, dangerous stuff. The actress who plays Kate is way too important to do her own stunts so Mum does them for her.

  We were still standing there staring at Fudge and Batpants when there was a shout from the side of the house.

  ‘Hello! Anyone there?’

  ‘We’re in the garden!’ Dad shouted. ‘Make your way round!’

  We all turned and gazed expectantly at the corner of the house.

  2 Zak Goes Down on His Knees

  A moment later a young girl appeared. I say ‘young’, but I guess she was maybe fifteen or sixteen, dressed in a loose shirt, with her jeans tucked into wellies. She was quite pretty too and I immediately shot a glance at Zak. Oh, yes. Groan, groan. He was already overcome. He was practically on his knees proposing marriage. Well, no, of course he wasn’t, but you Know What I Mean. Boys. What can you do?

  The girl flashed a smile at all of us that was so dazzling I almost went blind. Good grief – what did she have in her mouth – searchlights?

  ‘Hi, I’m India. I see you’ve already met my elephant, Fudge.’ India reached up and patted the elephant’s flank. ‘Hello, sweetie – good to see you again. Who’s a booful gorgeous girl, did you have a safe journey? And oh, who’s this beauty then?’ India asked, reaching up to Batpants. ‘Hey, aren’t you a cutie-pie!’ India spoke in a breathy, hushed voice, like a comfy pillow.

  Finn nudged me hard. ‘India is VERY STRANGE, isn’t she?’ he whispered, stroking his pet earwig. ‘I think she’s probably a bit, you know, bonkers.’

  I was almost ready to agree with him, but Zak obviously didn’t care how bonkers India was. He had been knocked out by her megazonic, billion dollar, diamond smile.

  Meanwhile, Dad was introducing everyone. ‘I’m Aslan,’ Dad said. ‘I’ve heard a lot about you, all of it good. This is my wife, Emma, and this bunch of lunatics is all our own work – Zak, Tilly and Finn.’

  We all stood there grinning at each other in a rather embarrassed kind of way until Dad hastily went on.

  ‘India is Fudge’s keeper,’ he explained. ‘She’s looked after Fudge for the last three years. India will be staying with us until I finish Fudge’s training.’

  ‘She’ll be staying with us?’ repeated Zak, as if he’d just won the lottery. ‘Cool.’ He flicked back his long hair and smiled at India. ‘You must be very clever.’

  Huh. Nice try, Zak! But India only had eyes for Fudge. She was looking at all the stamps on the elephant’s side. ‘We can’t have you looking like that, popsicle. That’s no way for a lady to dress.’ She swung round and asked dad if he had a hose and broom. He nodded and went off to the shed.

  In case you’re wondering why my dad is called Aslan, it’s because he’s Turkish. Aslan is a common name in Turkey and it means ‘lion’. That’s what my Dad is like; he’s got a big mane of hair for a start and, and, well, now I come to think of it that is the only way in which he’s like a lion. I mean, he doesn’t have claws or sharp teeth, and he doesn’t pounce on people and eat them. In fact he’s the kindest man ever, which is probably why he’s so good at training animals.

  Dad came back and handed over the hose and broom, fixing the other end of the hose to the outside tap.

  India reached up to Batpants. ‘Come on, sweety-pops. You’d better get down from there, honey-babe, or you’re going to get a bit wet.’

  ‘Hooey hoo, ha, chk-chk-chk-chk!’ chattered Batpants, windmilling her arms and trying to drive India away. The orang-utan wasn’t having any of it. Her Majesty was going to stay put on her elephantine throne.

  ‘I don’t think honey-babe wants to play,’ I murmured to Finn and he giggled.

  ‘OK,’ sighed India. ‘But don’t blame me if you get soaked. OK, Aslan, turn it on.’

  The hose gave a few gurgles and shakes, a dribble of water flopped out lazily and then –


  Water splurged from the hose as if it was being chased by a million thirsty buffaloes. It thundered against Fudge’s flanks, drenching her from top to toe. The elephant lifted her trunk and blew a very happy fanfare – BLAARRR – DE – BLAAARRRRR!

  Batpants wasn’t nearly so happy. She ran, shrieking, backwards and forwards along the elephant’s back. She waved her arms furiously in the air, bared her teeth and screamed at everyone. I think she was trying to say ‘Help! I’m soaking wet. Get me down from here!’ What actually came out her mouth was –


  Meanwhile she carried on ge
tting soaked, while India aimed the water at all the stamps. One by one they were blasted off until all were gone, and that just left the address. India scrubbed away with the broom until that vanished too. Finally, she went all round the big beast giving her a good hose down. Fudge loved every minute of it. Batpants didn’t, and when Dad eventually turned off the hose Batpants collapsed in a soggy heap on top of Fudge’s head. She looked like an enormous, orange, overused mop. And very wet.

  India laughed. ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Batpants. Now, are you going to come down?’

  Batpants pushed out her lower lip, curled it down and pulled the sulkiest face ever, so India turned to the elephant for help. ‘Fudge, sweetheart, could you get Batpants down for us? She really needs to dry off.’

  Fudge flapped her ears a couple of times, reached up with her trunk, collected the giant, limp, orange mop and gently put her on the ground. Batpants lay there on her back in a spreading pool of water, her limbs flopped out in starfish fashion. She looked like a cross-channel swimmer who’d just been rescued from drowning.

  I have to say I was pretty impressed at the way India and Fudge seemed to understand each other. She may be completely dippy-daft but she certainly knew how to deal with elephants.

  Mum nipped into the house and reappeared with a couple of old towels. India set to, rubbing Batpants all over while she lay on the ground and moaned as if she was dying. The more India rubbed the more Batpants groaned.

  ‘Urrrrrrrrrrgh! Urrrrrrrrgh! URRRRRRRGGHHHH!’

  That orang-utan is such an actress! She’s even better than star-of-the-silver-screen, Victoria Sponge – though not quite as attractive, unless of course you’re an orang-utan too.

  India threw the other towel across to Zak. For a few seconds he stared down at it and then he launched into action. He strode forward, got down on his knees beside India – IN THE MUD – and began towelling Batpants too.

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