Magic Bunny: Dancing Days, page 1
Sue Bentley’s books for children often include animals, fairies and magic. She lives in Northampton in a house surrounded by a hedge so she can pretend she’s in the middle of the countryside. She loves reading and going to the cinema, and writes while watching the birds on the feeders outside her window and eating chocolate. Sue was brought up surrounded by small animals and loved them all – especially her gentle pet rabbits whose fur smelled so sweetly of rain and grass.
Illustrated by Angela Swan
To Nirvana – so sweet. Baby you’re the best.
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.)
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(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 2010
Text copyright © Sue Bentley, 2010
Illustrations copyright © Angela Swan, 2010
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
Arrow jumped into the air and happily kicked out his back legs as he looked round at Moonglow Meadow. His silky white fur, flecked with silver, gleamed in the moonlight. Tiny rainbows shone in his warm brown eyes. It felt good to be back.
His fellow magic rabbits were nibbling juicy leaves or gathering around crystal pools to drink. The moon seemed to turn all the brightly coloured wild flowers into pale jewels.
The grass smelled delicious and Arrow began to eat. The tiny key he wore on a fine chain round his neck tinkled faintly.
Arrow saw a movement from the corner of his eye. An older rabbit with a wise expression and a dark grey muzzle was bounding towards him.
‘Strike!’ Arrow stopped eating and bowed his head in greeting before the leader of the warren.
‘It is good to see you,’ Strike said warmly. ‘Moonglow Meadow is lush and green again because of the key’s magic.’
As chosen keeper of the magical key, it was Arrow’s job to look after it. ‘I came at once when the key glowed brightly, telling me that more of its magic was needed.’
‘We are all thankful to you.’ Strike reached out a paw and touched Arrow’s shoulder. ‘But I have bad news. The dark rabbits are approaching to try to steal the key.’
The dark rabbits lived in a deep gulley next to Moonglow Meadow. Their land had become so dry that nothing grew there any more and they were hungry.
‘So they are still unwilling to share our land?’ Arrow guessed.
Strike nodded. ‘They want to use the key’s power to make only their gully green and beautiful again.’
‘But then our meadow would become a desert!’ Arrow said, shocked. ‘What can we do?’
‘You must be brave, Arrow, and go back to the Otherworld to keep the key safe,’ Strike said.
Arrow felt very young and afraid as he thought of all the unknown dangers. But he took a deep breath and nodded slowly. ‘I will go.’
Strike smiled with pride and affection. ‘Well said.’ Then, lifting his head, he gave a soft but piercing cry.
All the rabbits in the warren pricked up their ears and came rushing towards them. They formed a circle round Arrow. The golden key glowed as brightly as the sun.
The light slowly faded and where the young pure-white-and-silver rabbit had been, there now sat a tiny fluffy black-and-white bunny with huge chocolate-brown eyes that gleamed with tiny rainbows.
‘This disguise will protect you. Only return when we need more of the key’s magic,’ Strike instructed. ‘And watch out for dark rabbits!’
Arrow drew himself up. ‘I will not fail the warren!’
Thud. Thud. Thud. The rabbits began thumping their feet in time. Arrow felt the magic building and a cloud of crystal dust shimmered around him and Moonglow Meadow began to fade …
Sara Penfold bit back tears as she hobbled across the hospital car park.
‘Lean on me. That’s it.’ Sara’s dad steadied her so she could scoot awkwardly into the back seat of their car. ‘OK?’ he asked. ‘At least you’ll be able to get around on those crutches the hospital has loaned you. And the doctor says your ankle will soon be as good as new. Things could be a lot worse.’
‘No, they couldn’t,’ Sara said glumly. She flicked back her shoulder-length brown hair as she arranged her long legs across the seat. ‘The auditions are next week. Why did this have to happen to me?’
Jane Lewis, her dance teacher, was going to choose four of her best students to form a troupe that would train together every week, and eventually dance at local events.
‘Accidents happen sometimes, I’m afraid.’ Sara’s mum got into the driver’s side. She glanced into the rear-view mirror and gave her daughter a sympathetic smile. ‘Cheer up, love. There’ll be lots of other opportunities.’
Not like this, Sara thought glumly.
She really wanted to develop her dancing skills and become a more confident performer. Being part of a regular troupe would have been perfect for her.
Sara stared fixedly out of the side window at the familiar streets as her mum drove them home, but in her mind she was back at the studio with all her dance friends. Just a couple of hours ago she was enjoying the wonderful feeling of her body moving in time to the music as she learned some new steps.
Then it had happened. She’d landed awkwardly, slipped on to the side of her foot and felt a sharp pain zing through her ankle. The doctor had told her she’d sprained it, and even though it didn’t hurt that much now that it was all bandaged up, she’d been told that if she wanted it to heal properly she had to rest it completely.
So no dancing for three whole weeks!
Despite Sara’s efforts to put on a brave face, her eyes pricked with tears.
‘I wonder what Beth’s going to do now?’ her dad remarked. ‘You two practically live at that studio.
‘I know. I feel really bad for her,’ Sara said miserably.
She and Beth were best friends as well as dance partners. They’d been practising a brilliant new routine, ready for Jane’s auditions. Now Beth would have to perform it on her own.
Sara remembered something. ‘I’ve left some of my stuff in the lockers at the studio. Could we go and get it, please?’
‘Are you sure you want to? I can get it for you any time,’ her mum offered.
Sara shook her head. ‘Dance classes will have finished for the day, so I can just go in quickly without everyone making a fuss. Anyway, I might as well start getting used to these things.’ She waved one of the crutches.
Her mum nodded. ‘OK.’
A few minutes later they parked outside the community college. It was an impressive dome-shaped building, always flooded with light from the glass panels that formed its walls. Its wide staircase and high ceiling could be seen through the entrance windows.
Sara’s dad helped her out of the car. He walked with her through the automatic front doors and then up to the first floor in the lift. Adults and kids wearing sports kit passed them in the corridor. The smell of freshly brewed coffee met them as they approached the large open-plan cafe.
‘I’ll be fine now, Dad. The studio’s just over there. Why don’t you wait here for me?’
‘If you’re sure,’ he said, taking a seat in the cafe. ‘Take care on those crutches then.’
‘I will.’ Sara negotiated the door into the changing rooms next to the studio. She managed to get across the room, but it was difficult to fish her locker key out of her jeans pocket while balancing on crutches.
She carefully propped one of them against the lockers, so she had a hand free. Opening her locker, she reached for a book, a CD and some practice clothes and began stuffing them into a spare holdall that she found crumpled at the back. It was a bit awkward with one hand, but she finally managed it.
As she closed the locker, she didn’t notice that she’d brushed against the crutch that was propped next to her. It slid sideways and crashed to the ground. The loud noise made Sara almost jump out of her skin and she dropped the holdall in surprise.
‘Oh great! Now what do I do?’ she groaned.
There was no point in calling for her dad as he wouldn’t hear her through two doors. She’d have to try to bend down to pick up the crutch herself.
‘Right. How hard can this be?’
Sara gritted her teeth. Keeping her injured ankle in the air, she balanced on one crutch and tried to crouch down. But then she lost her balance and felt herself falling.
‘Oh!’ she gasped as she braced herself for a painful landing.
Suddenly, there was a bright flash and a cloud of crystal dust appeared and swirled around Sara. She felt a strange warm tingling sensation down her spine, but the hard bump she expected never came.
To her complete amazement, Sara found herself hovering in mid-air a few centimetres above the floor. She caught her breath as she felt herself turning and then floating gently downwards until she ended up sitting on the floor with her long legs outstretched.
‘What just happened?’ She felt like pinching herself to see if she was dreaming.
‘I hope you are not hurt?’ asked a little voice from across the changing room.
Sara looked around and saw a tiny fluffy black-and-white bunny crouching on top of the nearest bench. It had big chocolate-brown eyes and they seemed to be twinkling with tiny rainbows. Sara’s eyes widened as she tried to make sense of what had just happened. She must be more shaken up by her fall than she thought. She was imagining the oddest things!
Sara watched as the cute bunny hopped closer towards her – it was definitely real. But there was no way it could have spoken to her!
‘How did you get in here?’ she thought aloud. ‘I wonder if you belong to someone from the dance class?’
‘I do not belong to anyone,’ the bunny told her. ‘I had just arrived here when I saw you fall, so I used my magic to stop you hurting yourself. I am sorry if I startled you.’
Sara did a double take. ‘You … you really can talk!’ she blurted out.
The bunny blinked at her. Despite its tiny size it didn’t seem to be afraid of her.
Sara noticed that it wore a tiny gold key on a chain round its neck.
‘All the rabbits in my warren can talk. I am Arrow, guardian of Moonglow Meadow and keeper of the key that keeps our meadow lush and green,’ the bunny said, lifting his fluffy little head proudly. ‘May I know your name?’
‘S-Sara. Sara Penfold. I just … um … called in here to … erm … pick up some of my stuff,’ she stammered. Her mind was still whirling. She couldn’t believe this was happening, but she didn’t want to scare this amazing bunny away. ‘Thanks for saving me from hurting myself. I could have made my bad ankle even worse.’
‘You are welcome!’ Arrow bowed his head. ‘I am honoured to meet you, Sara.’
‘Um … me too.’ She dipped her head, feeling a bit strange at being so formal while still sitting on the floor with only one trainer on and a heavily bandaged ankle.
Arrow twitched his long floppy ears and his face took on a serious look. ‘I need somewhere to hide, and quickly.’
‘Why do you need to do that?’ Sara asked. ‘Is someone after you?’
The black-and-white bunny’s brown eyes flashed with sadness and anger.
‘Yes. I am in hiding from our neighbours, who are fierce dark rabbits. Their land is dry and stony, but they refuse to share our meadow with us. They want to steal the key and use it to make their own land green again. If they do this, Moonglow Meadow will become a desert.’
‘Oh no! That would be terrible!’ Sara exclaimed.
‘Yes, it would. That is why Strike, our leader, sent me here to keep the magic key safe.’
Sara frowned, puzzled. ‘Is Moonglow Meadow near here then – behind the community college?’
The tiny bunny shook his head. ‘It is far away. In another world.’
Sara felt her curiosity taking over from her shock. Arrow’s homeland sounded so strange and wonderful! ‘No offence, but you’re very tiny for such an important mission,’ she said gently.
Rainbows gleamed more brightly in Arrow’s dewy brown eyes. ‘Please stay there,’ he ordered, rising up on to his back legs.
Sara felt another warm prickling sensation down her spine as the key round his neck began flashing and a cloud of shimmering crystal dust appeared. It swirled round Arrow like a miniature whirlwind, and when it cleared, Sara saw that the cute black-and-white bunny had disappeared. In his place stood the most beautiful and impressive rabbit she had ever seen. It was the size of a large cat and had silky pure-white fur, flecked with silver. The tips of its large ears looked as if they’d been dipped in silver glitter and its glowing chocolate-brown eyes flashed with jewel-bright rainbows.
‘Arrow?’ Sara gasped in wonderment.
‘Yes, it is still me, Sara,’ Arrow said in a smooth velvety voice.
Before she had time to get over the shock of seeing Arrow in his true form, there was a final flash of bright light from the key round his neck and he reappeared as a tiny fluffy black-and-white bunny.
‘Wow! That’s a really cool disguise.’
Arrow shook his head. ‘The dark rabbits will see through it if any of them find me. I must hide now. Can you help me, please?’
‘Yes! You can live with me!’ Sara decided without a second thought. ‘We’ve got a big garden with lots of grass and stuff to eat. Just wait until I tell Mum and Dad about you. And Beth, she’s my best friend. No one’s going to believe it!’
‘No, I am sorry, Sara. You cannot tell anyone about me,’ Arrow said seriously. ‘You must promise me.’
Sara felt disappointed, especially about not telling her best friend. She and Beth always told each other everything. But if it would help to keep the magic bunny safe, then she was pr
‘OK then. Cross my heart. I’ll have to smuggle you into our house somehow. I know, you can get into my holdall …’
‘Sara?’ a voice called out. ‘Are you all right? You’ve been a long time in there.’
Sara froze and then quickly turned her head to see her dad coming into the changing room. A horrified look crossed his face as he saw her sitting on the floor.
‘Oh, my goodness! Have you hurt yourself? I knew I should have come in with you!’
‘I’m fine. Really,’ Sara reassured him. ‘I landed on my bottom, not my bad ankle. But then I couldn’t reach the crutches to get up again.’
From the corner of her eye she saw Arrow leap off the bench, hop towards the open holdall lying on the floor and crawl inside it. But for some reason her dad didn’t seem to notice.
‘Have you got everything you wanted from your locker? Then let’s get you back on your feet!’ Her dad helped her get up and balance on her crutches and then he picked up the holdall with Arrow inside it.
‘Thanks, Dad. Let’s go. Mum must be wondering where we’ve got to,’ Sara said as she limped towards the door. All she wanted to do was get Arrow safely back home and then settle in with her secret bunny friend.
When they got home Sara struggled up to her room, closed the door and put her holdall on the bed. Arrow immediately jumped out and sat on the duvet.
He looked round her room with bright, intelligent eyes.
Sara sat next to him. ‘How come Dad didn’t see you get into my bag?’ she asked, stroking the bunny’s fluffy black-and-white fur.
‘I used my magic so that only you will be able to see and hear me,’ Arrow told her, his whiskers twitching.
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