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Cartoon Kid

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Cartoon Kid

  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.





















  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 2011

  Text copyright © Jeremy Strong, 2011

  Illustrations copyright © Steve May, 2011

  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

  ISBN: 978-0-14-196659-5

  For Arthur – undiscovered genius.

  With many thanks for

  the friendship, the letters,

  the company and, of course,

  the elephants.





  This is the noise my brain makes when it can’t think:

  Now it was the first day back at school and the first day in my new class and the first day with my new teacher. What a lot of firsts. And my new teacher had just asked me a question. WHY ME? Why couldn’t he ask someone else? It was a really, really, REALLY difficult question too. First day in class with all these people listening and I don’t even know half of them, and my new teacher has to ask me a REALLY difficult question.

  That’s NOT FAIR!

  And do you know what Mr Horrible Hairy Face Teacher asked me? I will tell you.

  How am I supposed to know THAT?! And my brain was doing that stupid durrrrrrrr sploop blurble klunkkk thing because everyone was looking at me. And my eyeballs probably rolled up inside my head because that is what it felt like and then …

  I fell off my chair.

  And everyone laughed. Mr Nasty Horrible Big Nose Hairy Face came across and helped me up and asked if I was all right. So I said yes and got back on my chair. Then he asked if I knew who I was yet and I said of course I did. Casper. Casper Jenkinson.

  Mr Horrible Hairy Face said he had never taught anyone called Casper before. I very, VERY nearly told him that I had never had a teacher called Mr Horrible Hairy Face before. But I didn’t, because I am NOT stupid. (Except when my brain goes

  Anyhow, I think everyone’s brain was doing something like mine because my new teacher pointed to the girl sitting opposite me and asked her what her name was and she just stared at him. He had to ask her again and you’ll never guess what she said.

  That’s not a name. It’s a date! At least she didn’t fall off her chair like Mr Stupido (ME)!

  Mr Horrible Hairy Face didn’t laugh. He just smiled and asked her if that was when her birthday was and you know what? IT WAS! That Mr Horrible Hairy Face was pretty clever to work that one out. She went as red as a bowl of tomato soup and said it was her birthday and her name was Mia.

  Mia has got curly hair that wiggles all over her head and a turned-up nose and some freckles. She smells of soap so I guess she’s got one of those mums that are always saying things like ‘Don’t forget to wash your hands before you go out’. Don’t forget to brush your face and wash your teeth and wear clean underpants and all that rubbish. Except girls don’t wear underpants, they have knickers. (Snigger snigger.)

  My mum never says anything like that to me. I guess that’s why I don’t smell of soap.

  After that we all said our names and birthdays and Mr Horrible Hairy Face smiled and showed his teeth a lot. He’s got an awful lot of teeth and I think he likes flashing them about. Anyway, it turned out he wasn’t called Mr Horrible Hairy Face at all, his name was Mr Butternut. (But I think I might still call him Mr Horrible Hairy Face sometimes, like when he’s in a BAD MOOD. I know he has bad moods sometimes, and so do you, because all teachers have bad moods. You know what they’re like.)

  Well, Mr Butternut looked at us all for a long time and we all looked back at him with big, round eyes. Then he went over to the old armchair in the corner of the classroom and sat down. You can tell it’s old because the stuffing is coming out of one arm. I think the class hamster got hungry and ate it. My friend Pete’s got a hamster called Betty. She’s always escaping and eating the carpet and cushions. I’ve got a chameleon called Colin. He’s very exotic and changes colour but he doesn’t eat the furniture, only insects.

  Mr Horrible Hairy Face told us to come and sit around him, so we did. Then he told us to sit closer, so we shuffled together, and he said we still weren’t close enough. Well! If I got any closer to Mia I would have been sitting on her lap and I was NOT going to get as close as THAT.

  Mr Butternut leaned forward. He bent down to us and he spoke very softly like this:

  ‘This is your first day with me and I can see that there is something amazing about you. You may not know this but all of you are hiding a BIG SECRET. I am the only person who knows what your secret is and this is what I know. You are all …’

  And we all fell over backwards because he shouted so loudly. I can tell you, it made us all feel very excited to know that we were superheroes.

  Mr Butternut said that if we believed in ourselves we could do ANYTHING. I’m not so sure about that because of course we can’t do ANYTHING. For starters, we can’t blow up the school without getting into BIG TROUBLE.

  And I’m hopeless at maths, unlike Sarah Sitterbout, who is on my table and is probably the cleverest girl in the world and knows EVERYTHING. I think she probably eats brains for breakfast. She can spell ‘silhouette’ AND SHE KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS! She knows her seven times table and she once wrote a story that was eight pages long and it wasn’t even in big writing.

  When we got back to our table I sat there wondering what kind of superheroes we might be. I LOVE drawing. I do it all the time. I can’t stop myself. You should see my school books. They’re covered in doodles. Anyhow, superheroes are very good at Doing Things. I couldn’t think of anything I was good at, except drawing, of course – and falling off my chair. Plus I am short and thin and have knobbly knees and ginger hair. Pete calls me The Ginger Twiglet and Stick Insect and stuff like that. I call him Penguin Pete and Big Nose and stuff like that. We are BEST friends.

  So I drew a picture of my friend Pete. He sits next to me and has been my friend ALL MY LIFELONG LIFE. He isn’t good at anything either, but he does have a big nose and big ears and very big feet. When I say ‘big’ I mean they are MASSIVE – as big as skateboards!

  Pete looked at my picture and his eyes almost popped out of his head. He does that when he’s excited. His eyes bulge until you think they’re going to go SPING! right out of his head.

  ‘Why have you drawn me with great big feet and a huge nose?’

  ‘Because you’ve GOT great big feet and a huge nose.’

  ‘They’re not THAT big,’ he complained. ‘You’ve made me look like a giant penguin.’

  And that was it – BRAINWAVE! I got REALLY excited. I’d found my first superhero!

  ‘Pete! It’s you, as a superhero. Big Feet Pete!’

  Then Pete got very excited and hit me on the head with his reading book and said I should be called Massive Ginger Twit Person.

  ‘Because you are ginger. And you’re a twit.I look as much like a superhero as a hamster in a tutu.’

  (In case you don’t know what a tutu is, it’s one of those frilly skirts that ballerinas wear and it’s supposed to make you look like a fairy, but I think it just makes you look STUPIDO!! Especially if you happen to be a hamster.)

  ‘Anyhow,’ said Pete, ‘I’m going to call you Cartoon Kid because: (1) you are always drawing comicky stuff and (2) you’re an idiot.’

  I said thank you very much and I told Pete very calmly that he was the nicest person I had ever met. So we hit each other a few times and after that we started looking around the classroom to see what other superheroes we could invent. And do you want to know something? There were lots.

  For starters there was Lucy, who wears glasses and has a brace on her teeth and says ‘yeth’ instead of ‘yes’ and ‘thothageth’ instead of ‘sausages’. It’s not her fault. She can’t help it and one day she’ll say ‘sausages’ properly, just like that, and we shall all clap because she’s been trying hard for a long time.

  Mr Butternut says we all have things we can do and things we can’t do and none of us can be good at EVERYTHING. Except, of course, for Sarah Sitterbout. Pete asked Mr Butternut what he wasn’t good at and he turned very red and wouldn’t tell us, so it must be something like he doesn’t eat his food tidily.

  Anyhow, we decided to call Lucy the Mighty Munch, because of her teeth, which are a bit noticeable.

  ‘And Mia has to be Curly-Wurly-Girly,’ said Pete, which made me laugh.

  ‘That’s great!’

  Mia doesn’t like her curls and comes to school wearing a big hat, but her hair still sticks out. It looks like she’s wearing a hat full of spaghetti, probably all the spaghetti Mr Butternut has dropped on the floor. Pete thinks Mia is very pretty and he likes her, especially as she plays football and is a brilliant goalie. BUT she’s still a GIRL, isn’t she? Huh.

  So, who else is there? There’s Sarah Sitterbout, of course. She’s as smart as an entire space station full of computers and stuff and she makes me mad because she knows EVERYTHING before anyone else does.

  At break time I said that Sarah’s superhero name should be Big Brain.

  ‘But she’s fat and her bottom sticks out,’ Pete argued. ‘You can’t be a superhero if your bottom sticks out.’

  ‘Why not?’

  ‘Because,’ he said.

  ‘Because what?’

  ‘Because because. Has Superman got a giant bum? No. We should call her Big Bum, not Big Brain.’

  ‘But Sarah is very clever,’ I pointed out.

  ‘OK,’ he said. ‘How about we call her Big Bum Brain?’

  And we laughed like monkeys in a chocolate-banana shop. Then we talked about some of the others in class.

  ‘What about Noella Niblet?’ asked Pete. ‘She’s always whining about something. I know – the Massive Moan?’

  I grabbed Pete’s arm and creased up laughing. ‘No, I’ve got the best one ever. The Incredible Sulk!’

  ‘Brilliant!’ cried Pete. ‘And there’s Hartley Tartly-Green. He’s so stuck-up, just like his mum and dad. He’s such a snot-box.’

  ‘Bang on,’ I grinned. ‘Snot-box is PERFECTO.’

  We were laughing and sharing my packet of crisps when who should come along but Murder on Legs. Also known as the Vampire Twins – Gory and Tory.

  They are in an older class and are therefore BIGGER. Also, they always wear black and their faces are very white. They have pointy boots that look as if they could stab you and pointy steel fangs too. (They don’t really, but they definitely look like vampires and I’m sure their teeth are a bit longer every time I see them.)

  Gory and Tory loomed right over us, casting a vast, gloomy shadow like the Cloud of Death. Everything suddenly went very cold. We tried not to show how scared we were. Unfortunately, nobody had told my knees about not being scared and they started knocking together all by themselves. (I have got the skinniest legs EVER and VERY knobbly knees.)

  ‘Those are our crisps,’ said Tory, while her sister picked at her fangs. (She was probably picking out bits of the last child she’d eaten.)

  ‘No, they’re mine,’ I said. ‘That’s why they’re in my hand.’

  ‘You stole them from our bag,’ said Gory.

  ‘No way!’ I blurted.

  ‘We’re not even in your class,’ Pete said. He could have run away, but he didn’t. Now you know why he’s my very best, bestest friend.

  ‘I saw you steal them,’ said Tory. ‘You took them from our bag. Give us those crisps.’

  The Vampire Twins made a grab for the crisps but I was too quick. FWOOOOOOSH! Pete and I were speeding away across the playground like lightning on Rollerblades.

  The Vampire Twins came thundering after us, screaming horribly, with their coats flapping like giant bat wings.

  ‘Help!’ I squeaked. (You know how your voice goes when you’re scared? It doesn’t work properly, does it?)

  ‘Do something!’ yelled Pete. So, of course, my brain sprung into supersonic action and went:

  And then, It came to me.

  ‘Come on, you know what Mr Butternut said – we’re superheroes!’ I yelled. ‘We must fight back!’

  So we skidded to a halt, spun round and almost melted with terror because the Vampire Twins were nearly upon us. Pete gripped my arm fiercely.

  ‘Come on, let’s do it. Let’s …

  But it wasn’t quite like that …

  ‘I’ll take those crisps, thank you so much,’ Tory sneered, plucking the bag from my hand.

  ‘And now we’re going to pizzarize you both,’ snarled Gory.

  I gulped. My brain was going durrrr sploop burble. HELPPP! What could we do to escape?

  ‘You go that way!’ Pete yelled at me.

  He dived to the left so I went to the right. The Vampire Twins tried to get both of us and crashed into e
ach other head on.

  We made our escape and hid round the corner, panting like monkeys in a lion enclosure.

  ‘We did it!’ Pete grinned.

  ‘Yeah, but we lost the crisps,’ I moaned.

  ‘They’re here,’ said a little voice. It was Mia! She’d rescued our crisps!

  ‘I jumped in the air and caught them while they were giving each other a big headache,’ she explained. ‘I don’t think they even saw me.’

  ‘You are so amazing!’ said Pete.

  The three of us went and sat on a bench, sharing the crisps.

  ‘I thought you were very brave,’ Mia told us.

  Pete nodded wisely. ‘The thing is, when you’re facing Death like that, you’ve just gotta do what you gotta do.’

  I stared at my best friend. What on earth was he talking about? He hadn’t done anything. He’d run away, just like me! Before I could think of an answer Pete was passing the bag of crisps to Mia.

  ‘Have some more,’ he said, looking at her adoringly.

  This is the noise I make when I discover something horrible, like my big sis, Abbie, has got a brand-new spot on her face and it’s as big as Australia. It looks pretty volcanic too. It will probably explode soon and her head will turn into a huge eruption.

  It’s also the noise that comes out when Mum wants me to help her make a cake in the kitchen, which means DEATH BY BOREDOM. Mum is ALWAYS baking cakes. She makes them for birthdays and weddings. But she is super-dooper-splooper when it comes to decorating them. My mum can make a cake look like ANYTHING you like. But it’s very boring helping her. I’m just her slave and all I ever get to do is stir things for years and years. AND she never lets me lick the spoon.

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