The Wonder Tails

'This is Kipling for the 21st Century'

Waterstones (Lewes)

The Wonder Tails is a book of short stories for 5-8 year olds published with The Wildlife Trust, about how Britain’s best-beloved wild creatures came to look and behave as they do.

Introducing Demelza the insomniac Dormouse, Brocker the big-bottomed Badger who burns to salsa like a Strictly star, and Nutter the nervous Rabbit who’s desperate to stand up and fight…

They’re all cheerful rebels and outsiders who simply want different things from their friends. And because they are all hopeful, determined and refuse to give up on their dreams, every one of them ends up getting the thing they long for most – and lives happily ever after till the end of their days.

'You want your children to be intelligent? Read them fairy stories. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy stories.'

Albert Einstein

The Otter Who Sang to the Moon

Sprout the Otter is pants at catching fish. He seems to have four left paws, can’t concentrate and if you tell him to Dive right!!’ he goes left. It’s not just that all the other animals laugh at him (which they do ). But he’s going to starve to death at this rate.

The young Otter’s self-confidence is at rock bottom when his grandfather points out that he’s actually got some very unusual skills which the others lack. He’s a brilliant water-dancer, he can sing – and he’s the only animal who can hear the Moon when she speaks.

Then one midsummer night when the Moon is at her fullest and brightest, she tells Sprout to do something extraordinary. He obeys – and finds it transforms his life forever.

A standing joke no longer, the clumsy Otter becomes a celebrity whom other Riverbankers come from miles around to see. What’s more, he’s now found the way to catch all the fish he wants so will never, ever, be hungry or worried again.

Where the Star-ling got her Stars

7min extract

Everyone thought Lavinia the Starling was weird. And all because she liked a bit of peace and quiet – no, make that being by herself as much as possible – when all her friends spent their time in feathery, shrieking huddles.

Back then, Starlings were just known as Lings. They were small, brown, ordinary and never had any adventures. Until the day, antisocial Lavinia was blown into space by a wild west wind…

Out there in the silence between the stars, Lavinia found that there was such a thing as too much peace and quiet. So she hitched a ride home on a comet, returning as a heroine with stardust colours on every feather, and tales of wonder stolen from the heart of the Universe Itself.

A Big Bum Doesn't Mean You Can't Dance

8 min extract

‘You want to get that LadyBadger to notice you? You do know, right, that the next Full Moon Rave falls on Midsummer Night’s Eve? That’s the night when magic happens. If its good luck you want, things don’t get any better than that. Brocker, this is your shot.’

Brocker the Badger has four left paws, a hopeful heart and is bonkers about Harriet, a LadyBadger who loves dancing. Desperate to get her to notice him (but in a good way for a change) he gets a fast-footed Shrew to teach him to salsa in secret.

Add to this a cloud of glow-worms, a muddy puddle and a pile of chalk, and you’ll also discover the secret of how the Badgers got their stripes.

The Gentle Fox

8 min extract

Bas’s family are losing patience because he throws up every time he eats meat and wants to be a vegetarian.

They’re also getting worried because he thinks henhouse raids are horrible, and prefers to sit on his backside gazing at the colours of the setting sun. Or better still, try and paint them with squashed berries and his paws.

His sisters are mean about his artwork: ‘Reminds us of when mum had the squits. Totally the same colour.’ But when Bas lends his tail to the Sunset God (who was in a panic because he’d lost his usual brush) he ends up helping paint the skies every single evening, and becomes the brilliant – world-famous – artist he always longed to be.

How the Owls Got Darksight

8 min extract

Once upon a time, Barn Owls were the laughing stock of the Owl kingdom. They just couldn’t see in the dark, no matter how hard they tried. Which meant they were completely useless at night-hunting, seldom caught anything and were always crashing into trees.

Until one night when a beautiful white Barnie called Bella spent several hours gazing directly at the full moon. As its silvery light streamed into her eyes, it brought her the lasting gift of DarkSight.

Word spread like wildfire. Within weeks, every Barn Owl in the country tried Moongazing too and their lives improved beyond all recognition. Because finally, at last, they too could look into the dark – and See.

The Dormouse Who Dared

8 min extract

Courage isn’t the absence of fear or despair. It’s the will to conquer them’.

Demelza the Dormouse emerges from hibernation to discover that her mate Dean cannot be woken. This is the one thing that all hibernating animals dread: the awful possibility that one day, you might just Sleep so deep that you never opened your eyes again.

The ancient Ash tree guarding the entrance to the Underworld permits Demelza a single night to rescue Dean’s spirit. Against all odds, for there are many thousands of Sleepers down there, she finds him. But because he still refuses to wake up, she has to use her tail like a rope to tie around his tubby middle and haul him back up into the light.

Ever wondered why Dormouse tails are so long? It’s because Dean was so heavy, he stretched Demelza’s to three times its usual length. And ever since then, every Dormouse in the world wears their tail long in honour of her bravery.

The Remarkable Rabbit

8 min extract

Rabbits have a thousand enemies. And no friends, except for other Rabbits.’

Nutter’s the youngest Captain of the Guard the warren’s ever had, and its his job to keep them all safe. But the Many-Too-Many (Foxes, Ferrets, Stoats, Humans) are attacking his tribe every day so Nutter’s at his wits’ end.

The mighty Tree of Trees which grows at the edge of the Known-About-World, is said to have a gift for the Rabbit tribe which could save them. But how do you talk to something that’s several thousand miles away? And yeeeuchh – what’s that damp, snotty handkerchief got to do with how Rabbits got their cottontails?

The Squirrel and the Starchild

8 min extract

Red Squirrels are being bullied out of existence by the big Grey ones. The Greys are stealing their food, chasing them out of the trees and menacing them at every possible opportunity.

It doesn’t help that the Reds aren’t great at remembering where they hid their nut stories. In fact, their memories are pants. Things aren’t looking good for the Reds’ chances of survival until a Starchild crashes out of the night sky, setting part of the forest on fire and making a hole in the ground the size of a house.

Her name is Maia, she’s come to help, and she teaches the Reds an extraordinary way to find their food stories so they will never go hungry again. But – how’s she going to get back home?

Images: Paul Brown, Terri Denardo & Fabio Perselli

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50% of profits go to supporting The Wildlife Trust