Magic in the city, p.1

Magic in the City, page 1


Magic in the City

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Magic in the City

  ISBN 978-1-77138-853-5 (EPUB)

  Text © 2017 Heather Dyer

  Illustrations © 2017 Kids Can Press

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of Kids Can Press Ltd. or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a license from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright license, visit or call toll free to 1-800-893-5777.

  This is a work of fiction and any resemblance of characters to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

  Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book and Kids Can Press Ltd. was aware of a trademark claim, the designations have been printed in initial capital letters (e.g., Popsicle).

  Kids Can Press gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Ontario, through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative; the Ontario Arts Council; the Canada Council for the Arts; and the Government of Canada, through the CBF, for our publishing activity.

  Published in Canada and the U.S. by Kids Can Press Ltd.

  25 Dockside Drive, Toronto, ON M5A 0B5

  Kids Can Press is a Corus Entertainment Inc. company

  Edited by Debbie Rogosin

  Designed by Marie Bartholomew

  Illustrations by Serena Malyon

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Dyer, Heather, 1970–, author

  Magic in the city / written by Heather Dyer ; illustrated by Serena Malyon.

  ISBN 978-1-77138-203-8 (hardback)

  I. Malyon, Serena, illustrator II. Title.

  PS8557.Y476M33 2017 jC813’.6 C2016-902615-9

  For Kate and Abbey — H.D.



  The magician was standing outside Coffee Central at the highway service stop. He was wearing a black top hat and a satin cloak, and he had a collection of curious-looking objects laid out on a rug. “Lovely oil lamp, this!” he cried, holding up what looked like a small brass watering can. “Still contains the genie!”

  When none of the passersby took any notice, he said, “No? What about a white dove, then? Going cheap!” Reaching inside his cloak, he produced a dove as slim as a bar of soap. He tossed it into the air, and it flapped away to join several others on the roof of Coffee Central.

  Simon Grubb stopped to watch. His mother stopped, too. And so, reluctantly, did Jake.

  “Bonjour, madame,” said the magician, tipping his hat to the boys’ mother. “Philippe Fontaine. Pleased to meet you.”

  “Hello,” said Rachel Grubb.

  Philippe Fontaine stroked a long black box with stars along the side. “I don’t suppose I can interest you in a box for sawing people in half?”

  “We haven’t got room in the car, unfortunately.”

  “Ah! On holiday, are we?”

  “No,” said Simon. “We’re going to live in Dulwich with our auntie Helen. Our dad isn’t coming with us because he’s —”

  “He’s away,” said Jake.

  “I see,” said the magician. His eyes were as blue as a husky dog’s, and, strangely, it seemed as though he really did see. “In that case, what about a pair of white gloves? Or a top hat?”

  “No thanks,” said Jake, who was eleven. He had never much liked magicians. Or clowns. He didn’t like men who flirted with his mother, either.

  “Do you really saw people in half?” asked Simon, who was only six.

  “Of course he doesn’t,” said Jake.

  “As a matter of fact,” said Philippe Fontaine, “I have sawn one hundred and twenty-nine ladies in half in this very box. Alas, I shall do it no longer.”

  “Why not?” said Simon.

  “Nobody has time for magic nowadays.” The magician gestured toward the people going past. “Busy-busy-busy, see? My only fans these days are children, and children don’t have any cash.”

  “I’ve got cash!” Simon said.

  “No, you don’t,” said Jake. Simon’s coin collection was in his suitcase. It contained several American quarters, a one-franc piece and a penny that had been flattened by a train. Jake, on the other hand, had a £20 bill hidden in his sock for emergencies. But he wasn’t about to mention it now.

  The magician winked at Simon. “Keep your cash, young man,” he said. From his pocket he produced a large black stopwatch. “You can have this for nothing.”

  “What does it do?” asked Simon.

  “It stops time. And as for you,” said the magician, turning his light-blue eyes on Jake, “are you an armchair traveler?”


  “Do you want to visit far-off destinations but can’t afford the airfare? Would you like to go straight from the brochure to the poolside at the click of a button?”

  “No,” said Jake. “Not re —”

  “Well, now you can! The Magic Camera puts you in the picture.” The magician picked up a camera on a long leather strap and handed it to Jake. It looked like the old-fashioned sort that you have to buy rolls of film for.

  “That’s very kind. What do you say, Jake?” said his mother.

  “Thanks,” muttered Jake.

  “My pleasure,” said Philippe Fontaine, turning away to attend to an old lady who was trying on a black top hat.

  “Come on, boys,” said their mother. “Aunt Helen’s expecting us by seven.”

  They all went into Coffee Central. There was a long lineup. Just in front of them was a small boy wearing a satin cloak. In front of him was an old man shuffling a deck of cards; then two girls, each hugging a large white rabbit; and finally a small boy who kept whacking his mother’s backside with a magic wand. It took ages to get served. Then Simon needed to use the washroom. By the time they came out, the magician was rolling up his carpet.

  “You’ve sold it all?” said Simon, surprised.

  “Everything but the carpet. I don’t suppose you want it?”

  “Oh, no,” said their mother. “I don’t think —”

  “Yes!” cried Simon. “We do!”

  So Philippe Fontaine gave the rolled-up carpet to the boys, who staggered under the weight of it.

  “It’s very obedient,” said Philippe Fontaine. “It goes wherever you tell it. I’d keep it myself, but it doesn’t like the wet.”

  “Why would it get wet?” said Jake.

  “The sea, young man! I plan to sail the world aboard my yacht, the Suzette, charting the movements of the stars and writing online horoscopes.” He tapped the side of his nose in a knowing way. “Astrology. It’s the thing of the future.”

  Their mother laughed. “It certainly is! Good luck.”

  “The same to you. And don’t forget — keep that carpet dry!”


  Since their rental car was already crammed with suitcases, the only thing to do was to fold the carpet in half, lay it flat across the backseat and sit on it. It was mysteriously slippery, and as soon as the car pulled out, Simon slid across the backseat into Jake.

  “Stay on your own side!” said Jake, giving him a shove.


  “Settle down, you two,” said their mother, “or I’ll give that carpet back.”

  But when they drove past Coffee Central, Philippe Fontaine had gone. Only the white doves remained. There were several pecking on the groun
d, and one perched on the roof.



  Hannah was standing at her bedroom window, looking out across the nighttime city. Aunt Rachel and the boys were supposed to have arrived at seven o’clock — but now it was nearly ten and they still hadn’t turned up. “Do you think they’re lost?” she said.

  “I’m sure they’ll find their way,” said Hannah’s mother, closing the curtains. “Now, bed!”

  Hannah climbed into bed. “Do you think the boys will like living here?” she asked.

  “I’m sure they’ll get used to it,” her mother said. “Of course, it’s not an easy time for them.”

  “Why not?”

  “Well, they didn’t want to move. Jake and Simon will need to start new schools and make new friends. And they couldn’t bring their dog with them. It means they won’t see much of their father, either. Jake has taken it particularly hard, apparently.”

  “Why didn’t they stay in Canada, then?”

  “Rachel can’t afford a big old house like that. Not on her own.” Hannah’s mother sighed. “I’m afraid your uncle John has rather left them in the lurch. No, it’s best they stay with us until Aunt Rachel’s on her feet again. Now get to sleep; you’ll see them in the morning.” She kissed Hannah goodnight, switched out the light and went downstairs.

  For a long time Hannah lay with her eyes wide open in the dark.

  She had last seen her cousins a year ago, at their house in Canada. She’d liked Aunt Rachel’s house. It was surrounded by pine trees, and there was a rusty swing set and a sagging trampoline in the backyard. Sometimes, early in the morning, you could see deer at the edge of the forest. Inside the house there were lots of potted plants and dream catchers hanging in the windows.

  Simon had only been five at the time. He was a scruffy, blond boy whose tongue was always the same color as the Popsicle he was sucking. Jake was older — a year older than Hannah. He liked building tree forts and drawing cartoons, and he’d let his hair grow long in front so that he had to flick it back if he wanted to look at you (which wasn’t often). The boys spent most of their time in the woods, and everywhere they went, their old black Labrador, Monty, went with them.

  “Rachel lets those boys run feral,” Hannah heard her mother say.

  Hannah wasn’t exactly sure what “feral” meant, but she liked the sound of it. She’d tried keeping up with the boys, but she didn’t have much experience bushwhacking or jumping from rock to rock across rushing rivers. And sandals aren’t much good for crossing bogs. Sooner or later, the boys always came to a place where Hannah was unable to follow.

  Once, while trying to find her way home alone, Hannah got lost. Eventually, she had stumbled out of the woods onto a logging road that led back to Aunt Rachel’s house. But by the time she got home she was crying, covered in scratches, and was missing her hair ribbon. After that, Hannah had spent the rest of the week reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on Aunt Rachel’s porch.

  This time would be different though. Aunt Rachel and the boys would be the visitors, and Hannah was looking forward to showing them around. She would take them to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, the treetop walkways at Kew Gardens, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and —

  The doorbell rang.

  Hannah sat up to listen better. She heard her father say, “Jake? Simon? My word! Look how much you’ve grown.”

  “The traffic was appalling!” said Aunt Rachel. Then the voices retreated to the front room. But eventually, Hannah heard suitcases being dragged upstairs. “Sleep tight, boys. See you in the morning,” said Aunt Rachel. Then the house was quiet.

  But not entirely quiet. Hannah could make out the murmur of her cousins’ voices in the room next door. A moment later there came a muffled shout and a thud. What were they doing in there? Hannah threw back her covers, slipped out of bed and tiptoed down the corridor.


  Jake hated England. Everything here was tiny. The houses were all squashed tight together. The cars were small. The roads were narrow. Even Aunt Helen’s refrigerator was half the size of theirs at home. He didn’t see why they’d had to come here at all. Couldn’t they have found someone in New Brunswick to stay with? He was pretty sure his aunt Helen didn’t want them here, either. The house was full of little notices that said things like: DON’T FORGET TO FLUSH and PLEASE TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES. Their cousin Hannah was a drag, too. Last summer she’d gotten lost in the woods, and Jake had been blamed for leaving her behind. But it wasn’t his fault if she kept following them and then wimping out and going home, was it?

  Just then, Simon, who had been bouncing from bed to bed, landed with a crash on Philippe Fontaine’s carpet, then sat down and began pulling off his shoes. “What do you think Dad is doing now?” he asked.

  Jake glanced at his watch. “Having dinner, probably.”

  “On his own?”

  “No. In the cafeteria.” Jake preferred not to think about his father. The last time Jake had seen him, he had made Jake promise to take care of Simon and their mother. But how was he supposed to do that? Did his father think Jake could pay the mortgage with his paper route? Unless he won the lottery or robbed a bank, he didn’t see how he could take care of anything.

  Jake flopped into bed and thumbed through the Pocket Guide to London on the bedside table. There were pictures of Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and the waxworks in Madame Tussauds — none of which interested Jake. Then he came across a picture of a crown in a glass case. He paused. “The Crown Jewels,” said the book, “feature some of the world’s largest and most valuable gems. Several attempts have been made to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower, most famously by Colonel Blood in 1671. But none have yet succeeded.”

  Jake looked at the crown thoughtfully.

  “What are you reading?” asked Simon.

  “A book about London,” said Jake.

  “Is there a picture of Buckingham Palace?” said Simon. “I want to meet the — aah!”

  Jake glanced up. The carpet had risen off the floor and was undulating gently as though it was floating on water. Simon was still sitting on it.

  Jake’s mouth fell open, and the Pocket Guide to London slid to the floor with a thump.

  “You see?” cried Simon. “I told you it was a magic carpet.”



  There was a line of light beneath the boys’ bedroom door. Hannah knocked softly. There was no answer. She knocked again a little more loudly. “Jake?” she hissed.

  Footsteps crossed the room, then the door opened a crack and Jake looked out. He was taller than Hannah remembered, and his dark hair fell forward, over one eye. He was wearing a raincoat and a T-shirt with the face of a wolf on it.

  “Oh,” said Jake. “It’s you. What do you want?”

  “I thought I heard a noise,” said Hannah.

  “What sort of noise?”

  “I don’t know. It sounded like —”

  “Jake!” came a cry from inside the room.

  “Was that Simon?” said Hannah.

  “JAKE!” came the cry again.

  Jake made an irritated noise. “Come in. Quick!” he said, and he pulled Hannah in and shut the door.

  “What’s going on?” said Hannah. “I … Simon?”

  Simon was sitting cross-legged on an oriental rug, which was floating level with the windowsill. He was wearing his coat and backpack. “Hello!” he said, waving.

  Hannah stared at him, speechless.

  “It’s a magic carpet,” said Simon. “The magician gave it to us.” He started telling Hannah all about Philippe Fontaine and his white doves and the long black box with stars along the side.

  But Hannah wasn’t listening. At the word “magic,” a thrill had gone through her. “A magic carpet?” she whisper

  Jake opened the window. The night air blew into the room and made the curtains billow. He stepped onto the bed in his socks and climbed aboard the carpet. It sagged a little in the middle.

  “What are you doing?” said Hannah, alarmed.

  “We’re going out,” said Jake.

  “Out? You can’t go out! You’re supposed to be in bed.”

  “Give us a push, will you?” said Jake. He drew the edges of the carpet up on either side and, reluctantly, Hannah helped him nudge it through the window. Once outside, Jake held on to the sill and offered his other hand to Hannah. “Coming?”

  Hannah hesitated. Ever since watching Aladdin, she had longed to ride a magic carpet. Once, she had even sat cross-legged on the oriental rug in the hall and commanded it to take her to the Taj Mahal in India. But nothing had happened. Now she had her chance — but the gap between the carpet and the windowsill was just the wrong distance. Hannah could see the flagstone path below. It was a long way to fall.

  “Where are you going?” she asked.

  “The Tower of London,” said Simon.

  As soon as the words were out of his mouth the carpet began moving off. Jake was forced to let go of the windowsill, and by the time he’d recovered his balance, the carpet was already halfway over the garden next door.

  “Wait!” called Hannah. “Come back!”

  But it was too late. The carpet was rising steadily. Up it went, across the rooftops and away. Soon Jake and Simon were just two dark figures aboard a small dark square. Then they were gone.

  Hannah waited for a long time, but the boys did not return. Once again, they had left her behind. Oh! If only she’d been braver. She was reminded of the time she’d lost her nerve on the high diving board at last year’s swimming extravaganza and had had to climb back down the ladder with everyone watching.

  Hannah shivered. It was chilly standing by the open window, and her teeth began to chatter. Where were the boys? Surely they should have come back by now. Had one of them fallen off? Or had the carpet kept on flying straight across London and out to sea? How long had they been gone, anyway? She reached for what looked like a digital alarm clock on the bedside table. It was a strange sort of clock, though. On the front it said TIME IS MOTION and there was one button to press. “Time is motion?” murmured Hannah. She pressed the button. Immediately, she felt a strange popping in her ears, and the numbers on the digital display began counting down. So it wasn’t a clock after all; it was a stopwatch. Hannah pressed the button a few more times, but the numbers kept on going, so she put it back and looked out across the silent city. It was unusually quiet, as though the whole of London was asleep. The carpet was nowhere in sight.

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