plastic palace (9781743583555)

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CONTENTS

TITLE PAGE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

COPYRIGHT PAGE

Lola was sitting on her bed, staring at her favourite toy Buddy.

Buddy was a clown. And he was a clown with
pen
all over his face.

Someone had drawn a pair of glasses on poor old Buddy. And a
moustache
.

Lola knew exactly who had done it.
Nick!

Why did she have such an annoying brother? Why couldn't he stay out of her room?

Poor Buddy! She would have to wash him, but she knew Buddy hated getting wet.

‘
Hey
, Lola.'

Nick was standing at her door. He had a big stupid grin on his face. ‘I thought Buddy needed a new look,' he said. ‘What do you think?'

Lola glared at Nick. She was so angry she couldn't speak. He was
horrible
.

She
had
to get him back somehow!

‘No need to thank me,' Nick sang as he went off to his own room.

Lola groaned. ‘I know what will cheer us up,' she whispered to Buddy. ‘We need a little
adventure
. Come on!'

At the end of her bed, Lola had a toy box. But it wasn't just
any
old toy box.

This one was
special
.

Lola opened the lid of the toy box and climbed inside with Buddy. She gently closed the lid above them.

Then the toy box filled with a bright light and started to shake. It was a bit like being inside a washing machine!

Lola held on to Buddy and closed her eyes. Her tummy flipped and tumbled.

Finally, the toy box stopped shaking.

Everything went still.

Lola opened her eyes. She took a deep breath, pushed up the lid and climbed out.

She had climbed
into
her toy box. But she had climbed
out of
…

She had climbed
out of
a very tall plastic wardrobe.

Buddy climbed out behind her.

‘Well, bless my buttons, Lola,' said Buddy, as he closed his eyes and did a nice big stretch.

‘It's good to be back in the Kingdom!'

Lola smiled. She
loved
hearing Buddy talk. He said some funny things!

The toy box always brought them somewhere in the Kingdom. It was the place where toys came when children weren't playing with them.

The question was,
where
in the Kingdom were they today?

‘Hey, the toy box has become a wardrobe,' said Lola. ‘Perhaps we're in Narnia.'

Buddy looked puzzled. ‘I beg your buttons?' he said.

‘Doesn't matter,' said Lola with a smile. She looked around.

They were in a very fancy bedroom. There was a huge bed, a chair that looked like a throne, and the tall wardrobe.

Only – and this was strange – everything was made of
plastic
.

Lola looked closely. It was all made out of hundreds of tiny little plastic bricks.

Everything was shiny. And yellow. Very, very yellow.

‘There's only one place in the Kingdom made of plastic,' said Buddy slowly, looking worried. Then he went silent.

‘Well?' Lola asked. ‘Where do you think we are?'

But before Buddy could answer, Lola felt an odd thumping.

Everything seemed to
jump
. It was a bit like when Nick stomped down the hallway at home. Only
louder
.

Lola wanted to explore the strange plastic world, but the thumping was getting
louder
and
louder
.

She looked at Buddy. Under his drawn-on glasses, his big eyes were even
bigger
than usual.

He looked scared.

The thumping sounded like marching feet.

Lots
of marching feet.

And they were coming closer!

‘Quick!' hissed Buddy. ‘Hide!'

‘Who's coming?' asked Lola as she rolled under the huge bed. ‘And where are we?'

‘We're in the Plastic Palace, of course!' whispered Buddy.

He sounded more scared than ever. ‘In
Nevercalm
!'

Oh,
thought Lola with a shiver.

She knew that Nevercalm was the home of the evil Plastic Prince. She also knew that he had formed an army of Almost Toys.

Lola tucked herself out of sight. Buddy ducked behind the throne.

The marching was much
louder
now.

Lola was quiet, but her mind was racing. She knew there was a battle going on in the Kingdom. A battle between the Great High Bear and the Plastic Prince.

If Buddy was right, and they really were in Nevercalm, then the toy box had taken them to a very
dangerous
place.

All the toys that Lola knew agreed on one thing: Nevercalm was the
scariest
land in the Kingdom.

But then Lola had a comforting thought.

‘They can't be looking for us,' she whispered. ‘No-one knows we're here yet.'

But before Buddy could answer, the marching stopped.

Right
outside
the door.

Lola gulped.

The door handle turned. The door slowly squeaked open.

Lola held her breath. She didn't want to get caught. They'd only just arrived! Where was the fun in that?

Lola peeped out from under the bed. She saw a large plastic soldier peering into the room.

The toy didn't look very well made. Lola reckoned she could have done a better job herself.

It wasn't very well painted, either.

Lola was still holding her breath. But any moment now, she would have to gasp for air …

Luckily, the toy soldier stepped back and closed the door behind him. As soon as the door clicked shut, the marching began again.

‘Phew!' said Buddy, standing up on his wobbly long legs. ‘By my buttons, that was
close
!'

Lola rolled out and stood up too.

‘That was an Almost Toy, wasn't it?' she asked softly, but she already knew the answer.

Buddy nodded so hard his floppy hat bobbed up and down.

‘I thought so,' whispered Lola. ‘It's just like the ones I've seen in other parts of the Kingdom.'

Lola listened as the sound of marching feet faded away. ‘They've gone now,' she said. ‘Let's go and explore!'

‘But it's not safe!' cried Buddy.

‘Oh, Buddy!' said Lola. ‘It's never totally safe in the Kingdom. But it's always fun. Come on!'

And she flung open the door and
bolted
down the corridor.

The corridor was long and straight. And very
yellow
.

Lola raced down it. Buddy chased after her as quickly as his big clompy clown shoes could carry him.

He had just caught up with her when Lola noticed that one of Buddy's buttons was flashing.

She pointed. ‘Look, Buddy!'

‘Well, twist my toggle!' he said. ‘Someone's trying to contact me.'

Lola peered at the button. It looked ordinary, but a red light was
flashing
in the middle.

‘How clever!' said Lola. She didn't know Buddy's buttons could do that.

‘How does it work?' she asked.

‘It's a signal,' Buddy replied. ‘It will lead us to whoever is calling.'

‘Come on, then,' Lola said. ‘You lead the way.'

As they hurried on, Buddy kept checking his button. ‘We're getting closer. I can feel it in my stuffing.'

Lola raised her eyebrows. She knew buttons were really important in the Kingdom. But still, she was surprised.

‘Useful things, buttons,' Buddy said importantly. ‘What did you think they were for?'

Lola nearly said,
For keeping up your pants?
But then she thought better of it.

‘We'd better be quiet,' said Buddy, as they got further down the corridor. ‘We mustn't be seen by the Almost Toys.'

Lola didn't know much about the Almost Toys, but she did know that all the other toys were scared of them.

Was it because they were different? Or because they were plastic, and the other toys were made from soft fabric or fur?

Or maybe the Almost Toys hadn't been played with very much, and so they weren't quite toys at all. Not quite, but
almost?

Buddy stopped and stared at the yellow wall ahead. He took another look at his button.

Lola shivered. She loved the Kingdom, but it could be quite scary sometimes.

‘OK, are you ready?' he asked Lola in a serious voice.

She wasn't.

‘Can you see that doorway?' asked Buddy.

She couldn't see
anything
.

‘The signal is coming from inside,' Buddy said.

It didn't look like a doorway to Lola. It looked like just another shiny plastic panel in the endless plastic corridor.

‘There's nothing here,' said Lola.

‘Nothing is ever as it seems in Nevercalm,' Buddy explained. ‘There'll be a switch somewhere.'

He ran his soft mittens over the plastic wall.

Lola stood beside Buddy and copied him.

‘Oh!' she said suddenly.

To her delight, she felt a
switch
on one of the panels.

‘Lucky Lola with the clever fingers!' said Buddy. ‘Flick the switch. And on the count of three, we push.'

Lola could feel her heart beating as she flicked the switch.

‘One, two …'

But before they got to three, the door
swung open
and Lola and Buddy fell through!

‘Hey! Grand entrance!' said a deep voice.

Lola was staring at a pair of furry, orange paws.

‘Well, don't just lie there,' said the voice.

Buddy leapt up. ‘Felix!' he cried. ‘Son of the Great High Bear himself!'

Lola stood up as Buddy threw his arms around Felix. Then she shook Felix's paw politely.

Felix was one of Lola's old toys. She had left him at her gran's one day. Felix came to the Kingdom because she wasn't playing with him. But then he decided to stay there.

He was needed to help his father run the Kingdom.

Lola was proud of Felix. He was brave and clever, and an important bear in the Kingdom.

‘I'm so glad you could make it,' said Felix. ‘I need your help. Look!'

He took a letter from his bag and passed it to Lola.

She began to read:

‘It took me ages to find the right room,' said Felix. ‘They all look the same, you know. Yellow!'

‘How did you get in here?' asked Lola.

‘I stick to the shadows,' Felix said with a smile. ‘And paws don't make much noise.'

Buddy looked very impressed. ‘Well, pull out my
stuffing
and call me a pillow case!'

Felix and Lola laughed.

‘This place is crawling with Almost Toys,' said Buddy. ‘We just heard a whole army of them!'

‘Can't worry about that sort of thing,' said Felix, shrugging. ‘Not when there are
top-secret
plans to steal back.'

Lola cleared her throat. ‘May I ask a question?'

‘Fire away,' said Felix.

‘If you can slip in and out of dangerous places so easily,' Lola asked, ‘then why did you call for our help?'

‘Good question, Lola,' said Felix. ‘I didn't need help to get in here. And I'll be fine getting out. But I need help to reach that.'

Felix pointed his furry paw to the middle of the room. Set into the floor was a huge safe.

Something was not quite right about it.

‘Umm, Felix?' said Buddy, scratching his woolly hair. ‘That doesn't look very hard to reach.'

Lola crept closer to the safe.

‘But Buddy,' she said slowly, ‘you said
nothing
in Nevercalm is as it seems, remember?'

Lola leaned over to get a better look at the safe.

And what did she see?

Herself
, looking back!

‘It's a mirror!' cried Lola. ‘The real safe is up there.'

She pointed up at the ceiling.

‘Well done, Lola!' said Felix. ‘And the stolen plans are inside.'

Lola smiled at Felix.

Then she thought for a moment. It seemed that they had
two
problems.

‘First, we need to get up there to open the safe,' she said. ‘Then we need to work out the code to get into it.'

Felix nodded. ‘There is a key pad on the safe with letters, not numbers,' he said. ‘So it must be a code
word
.'

Lola thought about that.

‘I've got an idea. Let's see which letters on the key pad have been used the most.'

‘We'll never see from down here,' said Buddy, staring up at the roof.

‘Of course we will,' said Lola, kneeling down. ‘We'll use the mirror.'

They huddled around the mirror on the floor.

Buddy gave a cry when he saw himself in the mirror. ‘Twist my
toggle
! What happened to me?'

‘Oh sorry, Buddy!' groaned Lola. ‘My brother thought glasses and a moustache would suit you.'

Felix smiled at Buddy. ‘I thought it was your new look, friend. I rather like it.' Buddy took another look, then turned to Lola. ‘Hmmmpppphh!' was all he said.

Lola turned back to look at the letters again, trying not to laugh.

‘The most worn letters will make up the code word,' she said extra seriously.

Most of the letters looked brand-new. But sure enough, some looked a little worn.

‘I think it's
C
,
L
,
A
,
S
,
P
and
I
. And definitely
T
.'

Felix pulled out a piece of paper.

Lola wrote the letters down. Buddy watched over her shoulder.

Buddy studied the letters. ‘
CLASPIT
!' he cried.

‘
CLASPIT
?' said Felix. ‘What does that mean?'

‘Tangled laces, you're right!' said Buddy. ‘It should be a real word. Hang on.' He went back to studying the letters.

‘
SALTPIC
!' he cried next.

‘Buddy,' said Lola. ‘Can you make an actual word from these letters?'

‘Let me see. Yes … yes … yes. Um, no.' Buddy shook his head sadly.

‘Did we miss a letter?' asked Felix.

Lola stared at the key pad again. ‘I don't think so,' she said.

Lola was quiet for a few moments.

She arranged the letters this way and that. Then she smiled and wrote something new down. She held up the paper for them to see.

‘Oh, you're good, Lola,' said Felix, smiling. ‘You're very good.'

And what Lola had written?

PLASTIC
.

Felix was delighted. Buddy turned a quick cartwheel. Lola was happy too, but something still didn't feel quite right.

‘OK,' said Buddy. ‘We have the code word. Now how do we reach the key pad to type it in?'

‘We'll never climb up there,' said Felix. ‘Too high.'

‘Anyone carrying a spare ladder?' joked Buddy.

‘We're not carrying
anything
,' said Lola.

Buddy checked his pockets.

‘Looking for these?' Felix asked. In his paws were three juggling balls. ‘You lent them to me, remember?'

‘Are you thinking what I'm thinking?' grinned Buddy, taking the balls from Felix.

Felix nodded. ‘You can hit the letters from down here.'

‘So
that's
why you called me!' said Buddy, an even bigger clown grin on his face than usual.

Felix clapped his friend on the back. ‘If anyone can do this, it's you.'

‘Buddy the juggler, at your service!' said the clown.

He started to juggle.

He was
really
good. Lola was always surprised at how clever her favourite toy was.

Slowly, Buddy started to send the balls higher. And higher.

Almost to the ceiling.

‘I'm ready to give it a try,' called Buddy.

He was about to aim the first ball at the letter
P
, when Lola suddenly pushed him aside.

‘Stop!' she cried.

The balls fell to the floor. Buddy looked at her, his big eyes confused.

She'd realised what was bothering her. ‘It won't be
PLASTIC
,' she said. ‘It's too obvious.'

‘What do you mean?' said Buddy.

‘It's like you said,' Lola told him. ‘Nothing in Nevercalm is as it seems. It won't be
PLASTIC
.'

She paused, her mind racing. Then she looked up. ‘I think it will be the opposite.'

‘If you're wrong, Lola …' Felix trailed off.

‘I'm not sure,' she replied. ‘But I think it will be
PLASTIC
, but backwards. Like seeing the words in the mirror.'

Felix looked at Lola for a long moment. Then he nodded. ‘Get ready, Buddy. I'll call out the letters. You hit them!'

Lola held her breath.

Buddy was magnificent. He didn't miss a single throw.

C! I! T! S! A! L! P!

The door to the safe hummed a little and clicked, then slowly opened.

‘You've done it, Buddy! You've done it!'

Felix was dancing from paw to paw.

As the safe door opened, it started raining.

But it was raining paper!

The
top-secret plans!

Felix, Buddy and Lola grinned at each other.

That's when all the lights started flashing.

And somewhere not too far away, a
very loud alarm
started ringing.

‘Oh,
blast my buckle
!' said Buddy, over the noise of the alarm. ‘That can't be good.'

Lola felt the floor start to vibrate. ‘I think they know we're here,' she called.

‘It's the Almost Toys,' said Felix. ‘Marching this way!'

Suddenly this wasn't quite so much fun.

This was the first time Lola had helped someone break into a
top-secret safe
and steal back some
top-secret plans
.

Lola had never been in a real scrape before. In fact, she'd never done anything dangerous at all.

Fighting with Nick didn't count.

‘I have an idea,' she said. Then Lola quickly explained what it was.

From time to time Buddy cried, ‘Impossible!' or, ‘You can't be serious!' But when she was finished, there was silence.

Then Felix said, ‘I knew it would be handy having a real girl around!'

‘It's decided then?' she asked.

‘Hang on,' said Buddy. ‘There's a problem.'

‘What?'

‘For your plan to work, I'll need a disguise. The Almost Toys know who I am. They will arrest me!'

‘I don't think so,' said Felix. ‘Not with your new look.'

‘Bless my buttons, of course!' said Buddy. He pretended to smooth his moustache. ‘The new-look Buddy. Let me at them!'

Lola carefully sorted all the plans into two folders. She gave one folder to Felix and the other to Buddy.

‘Just be confident,' she told Buddy. ‘Then they'll believe you.'

The sound of marching was getting closer. The Almost Toys would be at the door at any moment.

‘Ready?' she asked.

Buddy and Felix nodded.

Lola was glad that they were ready. Because she wasn't at all sure
she
was!

Felix opened the plastic door – and then he and Lola hid behind it.

Almost Toys filled the corridor as far as you could see. They were almost identical soldiers, but not quite.

They were almost marching in time, but not quite.

They were almost
scary
, but not quite.

Looking through the crack in the door, Lola was sure that she recognised some of them. Didn't Nick have a set of toys just like these?

Buddy stepped out of the room and into the corridor. The entire army stopped at once.

Well, they
almost
stopped at once.

Buddy cleared his throat. He stood up straight, took a deep breath and tried to say, ‘Well done!'

But his voice was as wonky as his long legs.

A strange muttering came from the Almost Toys.

Lola had planned to stay hidden.

She didn't think the Almost Toys would be pleased to see a real girl. But she knew she had to help her friend.

Lola stepped out from her hiding spot with a flourish. ‘The Plastic Prince will be proud,' she said. ‘You got here very quickly! Very quickly indeed.'

Buddy smiled gratefully at Lola. But she wasn't sure her plan was going to work.

The Almost Toys were probably going to grab her and throw her in prison. Or whatever it was that Almost Toys did to real girls who were caught stealing
top-secret plans
.

With Lola by his side, Buddy found his voice again. ‘The Plastic Prince asked us to break into the safe, to see if the alarm worked,' he boomed. ‘And to see how quickly you could get here!'

Some of the Almost Toys started to look around at one another.

‘This was a test,' said Lola. ‘And you've passed!'

Buddy was nodding in an important kind of way. ‘You will be rewarded.'

‘But the final part of the test,' said Lola in her best adult voice, ‘is to return the secret plans to the Plastic Prince.'

The Almost Toys all looked at one another.

‘Which of you brave guards will take these plans back to your leader?' Lola added.

There was a pause. By now, Lola's heartbeat was
racing
. She was sure the Almost Toys could hear it.

Suddenly there was a rush as every plastic hand shot into the air.

Almost Toys were hopping up and down on the spot, chanting, ‘Me, me! Oh, choose me!'

Buddy offered the folder to the nearest Almost Toy. It grabbed the folder and began marching back along the corridor.

Not wanting to be left out, all the other Almost Toys marched off after it.

Lola and Buddy watched as the entire army moved back down the corridor. They weren't even trying to march in time now.

Felix's furry head appeared from his hiding place behind the door. ‘Well, that seemed to go well,' he said, beaming. He was still clutching the second folder.

Lola smiled. ‘They aren't very bright, are they?'

‘No,' said Felix. ‘But when they find out they've been tricked, they'll be back!'

Lola, Felix and Buddy crept back along the corridor to the plastic bedroom. They watched for Almost Toys all the way.

‘What was in the folder you gave the Almost Toys?' asked Felix.

‘Oh, not much. Lists, some letters, and the recipe for the Plastic Prince's
favourite
ice-cream.'

Buddy and Felix laughed.

‘Will you come home with us, Felix?' asked Buddy, opening the door of the tall plastic wardrobe.

‘I can't,' said Felix. ‘I must return these plans to my father. The Plastic Prince has not been stopped. We've slowed him down, but we haven't defeated him yet.'

Lola felt the floor vibrate again. She looked up at Felix.

‘They're coming back,' Felix said. ‘You need to hurry.'

‘Will you be OK?' asked Lola.

Felix nodded. ‘I'll stick to the shadows,' he said. ‘Go now. And
thank you
both for your help. I'll see you again.'

Buddy and Lola climbed into the tall plastic wardrobe.

They climbed
into
the plastic wardrobe, but Lola climbed
out of
…

Lola climbed
out of
her toy box. They were safe and sound, back in her bedroom.

Lola pulled Buddy out of the toy box and popped him on the pillow on her bed.

‘Bless your buttons, Buddy,' she said. ‘I think your new glasses and moustache suit you. What do you think? Shall we keep them?'

Lola decided she wouldn't get Nick back for it after all. It wasn't worth starting a war over.

But her favourite toy was silent. He could only talk to her in the Kingdom. Lola sighed. She missed having proper chats with Buddy.

She
always
had mixed feelings when she came back from the Kingdom. She liked being home. But she was sad to be away from all the adventures.

Lola smiled. Then she started to giggle. She just couldn't resist it. She grabbed Buddy and jumped back into the toy box.

‘Come on, Buddy boy!' she cried. ‘Let's go again!' And she closed the lid above her.

The Plastic Palace

published in 2015 by

Hardie Grant Egmont

Ground Floor, Building 1, 658 Church Street

Richmond, Victoria 3121, Australia

www.hardiegrantegmont.com.au

This ebook is also available as a print edition in all good bookstores.

A CiP record for this title is available from the National Library of Australia.

eISBN 9781743583555

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers and copyright holders.

Text copyright © 2015 Danny Parker

Illustrations copyright © 2015 Guy Shield

Series design copyright © 2015 Hardie Grant Egmont

Design by Stephanie Spartels

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