Twelve year old Amanda Ross finds herself on an elegant riverboat with her bestie, Leah, cruising down the beautiful Danube, passing medieval castles, luscious green valleys and charming villages. When she is entrusted with a valuable violin by a young, homeless musician during a stop in Germany, a mean boy immediately attempts to take it from her.
Back on their cruise, Amanda struggles to keep the precious violin safe for the poor prodigy. Along the way, she encounters a mysterious monk, a Santa Claus look-alike, and the same nasty boy.
Follow Amanda down the Danube, through Germany, Austria and Hungary, as she enjoys the enchanting sounds of music everywhere she goes. She remains on the lookout though, wondering just who she can trust.
About the Author
Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. It’s no surprise that she’s now the award-winning author of a children's adventure series about a travelling twelve-year-old girl. A world traveller herself, Darlene spends her time in Vancouver, Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain.
Read an Excerpt
Amanda on the Danube
The Sounds of Music
By Darlene Foster
Central Avenue Marketing Ltd.Copyright © 2016 Darlene Foster
All rights reserved.
Pleeease, Mom. Can we go? Please. Please?" Amanda Ross stared at the computer screen. "Come and look at this website. The boat looks awesome, and the scenery along the river is amazing."
Mrs. Ross approached the laptop. "A river cruise on the Danube would be nice, Amanda, but I don't think your dad and I can get the time off."
"But, Mom, it would be so much fun and you'd get to meet Leah's parents. They're real cool. I know you'd like them."
"Those river cruises are quite expensive. I'm not sure we can afford it."
"It says here in Leah's email that if we book now, we can get a big discount. I really want to see Leah again."
Amanda's mom sighed. "It was nice of the Andersons to invite us. I could use a holiday. I'll discuss it with your dad and we'll see. Don't get your hopes up, sweetie." She patted Amanda's head.
Amanda sent an email back to Leah, "This just might work out."
* * *
"Guten Tag, fräulein." The young, blond flight attendant smiled at Amanda as she left the plane.
'I like it here already,' Amanda thought as she saw a large sign.
WILLKOMMEN TO NUREMBERG
"Can you believe we're in Germany, Mom?"
"Just stay close to us, Amanda. I don't want you getting lost in this big airport."
"Mom, you seem to forget I have been to big airports before. This isn't any bigger than the ones in London, Madrid or Dubai."
Mrs. Ross rolled her eyes. "Are you going to remind us this entire trip that you've travelled more than we have?"
"This way to the baggage." Don Ross pointed to a sign.
* * *
After a comfortable sleep in a squeaky clean hotel with the biggest, fluffiest pillows Amanda had ever seen, the Ross family was ready to start their trip down the Danube River.
"There's our boat!" shouted Amanda as she peered out the cab window. "The Sound of Music. That's our boat. I wonder if Leah and her parents are here already."
The cab dropped them off beside a long, low boat with The Sound of Music written in large letters on the side. The 'f' was replaced with a treble clef.
Once on board, they entered an elegant lobby furnished with blue velvet chairs and couches. "This is sooo adorable," Amanda said. "You love The Sound Of Music movie, Mom, and there are pictures of the von Trapp family all over the walls."
Her mom's face lit up when she saw the familiar scenes.
Suddenly, everything went black and Amanda couldn't see a thing.
"Hiya, Canadian girl."
Amanda recognized that English accent. She peeled off the hands covering her glasses and turned around. "Leah!" She gave her tall, blonde friend a huge hug.
"We only just got here ourselves. Mum and Dad are putting the luggage in our room. Your room is just across from us." Leah flashed a wide grin at Amanda's parents. "I'm so glad you could make this trip. We are all going to have loads of fun. Come, Amanda, let's explore the boat."
"See you later." Amanda barely looked at her parents as she tripped down the narrow hallway behind Leah.
First stop was a large room completely surrounded by windows. Round tables with crisp white tablecloths, set for a meal — without a fork or knife out of place — indicated it was the dining room. Sparkling chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
"Wow! Every table has a view. This will be a fab place to eat." Amanda looked around. "I hope we can all eat together."
"Mum has already made sure of that. We got here early so we got to pick which table we wanted for the entire trip." Leah pointed to a table at the very front of the boat. "Ours is that table for six, the one with the best view."
Amanda noticed an undone shoelace on her runner and bent down to tie it. Her purse slipped off her shoulder and fell to the floor. As she picked it up, she spotted small red dots sprinkled on the beige and blue carpet.
"What's this? Do you think someone spilled ketchup?" Leah bent down to look closer. "Yes, it could be tomato sauce."
More red spots appeared further along. "Something must have dripped from a plate when they were clearing the tables," remarked Leah.
"I think it might be ... blood." Amanda followed the spots to a set of stairs.
Leah shook her head. "There goes your overactive imagination again."
"I think we should follow the spots. I have a funny feeling about them." Amanda proceeded down the short flight of stairs. Leah followed her. The faint red dots led them to a closed door with STORAGE written on it. Amanda reached for the handle.
"Wait a minute, Amanda. I don't think we are meant to go in there," Leah said.
"What if someone's in there and hurt?"
Amanda turned the handle. The door opened to a small, dark room. She could make out shelves packed with items like toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, soaps and shampoos. She was about to close the door when the sound of a groan stopped her. Finding a light switch, she noticed a shoe sticking out from under a shelf.
"There's someone in —"
"What are you girls doing? That room is only for staff. If you need any supplies, just ask any one of us." A young man appeared behind them.
"S-Sorry. We're just finding our way around," Amanda stammered. She closed the door.
"Is this your first time on a river cruise?" asked the young man with a kind smile.
"Yes," said Amanda. "We should get back to our parents."
"Enjoy the cruise and remember if you need anything, just ask. I'm Michael, the cruise director."
When they returned to the cabins, the girls were happy to find out that they shared a room adjoining Leah's parents' suite.
"OMG. We have our own entrance and our own keys!" Amanda looked around. The comfortable room with a large side window overlooked the peaceful canal and emerald green banks. "And look at that great view!"
"This is going to be an amazing trip. We'll get to see all kinds of things for the first time. I'm so glad your parents agreed to it." Leah grabbed Amanda around the waist and did a little dance.
"I'm super excited too," Amanda said when she caught her breath. "I just wonder who's hiding in the storage room. Do you think he's hurt?"CHAPTER 2
That evening, after a delicious meal of wiener schnitzel, roasted potatoes and a dessert of plum cake called pflaum kuchen, everyone moved to the lounge for the entertainment. Young men in lederhosen, leather shorts with decorated suspenders, and young women in dirndls, colourful dresses with poofy sleeves and aprons finished off with a pretty bow, performed a vigorous dance called the Schuhplattler. Amanda enjoyed the lively music and the dancers who slapped their knees, thighs and soles of their feet while hopping around in a circle.
Next, a man in a tuxedo with a violin tucked under his chin appeared. Amanda closed her eyes while he played a calm, peaceful tune. She imagined a deep, blue, slow moving river, as it passed by green pastures and quiet villages.
She looked beside her and noticed tears in her mother's eyes as she held her father's hand. Amanda sighed. It made her happy to see her parents relaxed and content together, instead of rushing off to work or meetings.
Michael, the young man they met earlier, stood in the centre of the lounge and spoke into a microphone. "Thank you, Jozsef, for that lovely rendition of The Blue Danube, by Johann Strauss II. Tomorrow, after a tour of the city of Nuremberg, we will leave this canal and head out onto the Danube. Is that not what you came for?"
Everyone clapped and cheered.
Amanda stayed up late chatting with Leah. They had so much to talk about since they last saw each other. It's hard when your BFF lives in England and you live in Canada. Amanda was so excited, she could hardly sleep that night.
Sometime in the early hours of the morning, Amanda woke up to the strains of The Blue Danube. 'Who would be playing a violin at this hour,' she thought and fell back to sleep.
* * *
After breakfast, they boarded a tour bus that took them around the city of Nuremberg. Elsa, the tour guide, explained the difference between 'berg' and 'burg.'
"A berg is a hill or mountain. So if a name of a place ends in 'berg,' like Nuremberg, it usually means it was built on a hill. A burg is a fortified town. If a name of a place ends in 'burg,' it has, or used to have, a wall around it."
Amanda loved little pieces of information like that. Writing it down in a notebook, she planned to share it with her teacher and classmates back home in Canada.
The bus passed a colourful cemetery with more flowers than graves.
"Oh my goodness! What a beautiful graveyard! I wish we could get off the bus and look more closely at those tombstones," Amanda exclaimed.
Leah shook her head. "I just don't get your weird fascination with graveyards."
The knowledgeable Elsa provided interesting information about the history of the city including its part in World War II. Amanda paid close attention because in school they were learning about twentieth-century wars. Elsa was also funny and shared some amusing stories and jokes. Amanda liked her and thought being a tour guide would be a fun job.
The bus stopped in front of The Beautiful Fountain situated in the town square Elsa called the Hauptmarkt. Amanda, happy to get off the bus, stretched and looked around.
The fountain was indeed beautiful. It looked like a tall, three-tiered wedding cake, decorated with many colourful figures. Elsa explained that if you spun the two brass rings on the fence surrounding the fountain, and made a wish, your wish would come true.
"One young woman wished that her boyfriend would ask her to marry him and the next day he did. So I guess it works." Elsa flashed a generous smile.
Amanda and Leah each took a turn spinning the brass rings while silently making a wish. They were interrupted when they heard a commotion on the other side of the fountain. A young boy with curly blond hair ran out from behind the fountain and through the market square. Two crew members from the boat chased after him. The boy darted in between stacks of hats on display.
One of the piles tumbled to the ground. Hats spilled over the path like spiders escaping from a jar. The crew members dodged feathered alpine hats and tripped over Deutschland baseball caps with the black, red and yellow German flag. They lost sight of the boy, shook their heads and returned to the group.
Elsa explained, "You have time to have lunch, shop and look around on your own. Remember to be back at the boat by two o'clock as that is when we will depart. Be sure to watch the metallic clock and glockenspiel on the top of the Church of Our Lady, at noon."
"Noon is only ten minutes from now. I don't want to miss it." Amanda noted the church at the end of the market square.
The girls stopped to help the merchant pick up his hats. In return, he let them try some on. Leah put on a hat that looked like an upside down cone with a gigantic feather on the side. Amanda giggled and took a picture.
The vendor pointed to the church and said, "The glockenspiel. Watch!"
Bing! Bong! Bing! Bong!
The huge blue and gold mechanical clock with a sun painted in the middle chimed twelve times. A large figurine, wearing a gold robe and a crown, sat in an alcove below the clock. Seven smaller medieval figures in red robes, trimmed in fur, came out of a side door. They slowly circled around the larger figure, bowing and then leaving through a door on the other side. Throughout the performance, the sound of bells played a pleasant tune.
"That was totally awesome!" remarked Amanda. "It's like a giant music box. It says under the figure, 1509. That is so incredibly old. I'm so glad we got to see it."
"The figure, in the middle, is the Holy Roman Emperor Karl IV. The seven electors come out to pay homage to him every day at noon," explained the hat seller with a strong German accent.
Out of the corner of her eye, Amanda thought she saw someone with curly blond hair sneak around the side of the church. "I wonder why they were chasing that boy."
"Who knows?" Leah looked across the square. "Lebkuchen Haus! We must get some gingerbread. I absolutely love gingerbread!"
Beside the Gingerbread House, a younger boy in a flat cap played a violin. Amanda threw a coin in his open violin case.
"Danke schön," He smiled shyly as he looked up at her with big blue eyes.
Amanda smiled back. She noticed a dirty bandage on his thumb.
Leah purchased two large, round cookies and handed one to Amanda. "You just have to try this."
Amanda took a bite though the sweet clear glaze and tasted a spicy mixture of molasses, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. "This is sooooo yummy. Thanks, Leah."
"I see you found our famous lebkuchen or gingerbread," Michael commented behind them. "Did you know that Nuremberg was once the 'gingerbread capital' of the world?"
"I'm not surprised," said Amanda. "These are the best I've ever tasted. By the way, what is a glockenspiel?"
"It's an instrument that looks kind of like a xylophone and makes a sound like bells playing. Glock is German for bell and spiel means to play," explained the young man as he surveyed the area.
Amanda noticed there was no trace of the boy playing the violin.CHAPTER 3
I thought we would find you two here at the Gingerbread House," said Mrs. Anderson. She ruffled Amanda's short, brown hair. "Remember how much you loved the gingerbread when we lived in Germany, Leah."
"You lived in Germany?" Amanda raised her eyebrows.
"Oh, yes. I was quite little then. We've lived in loads of places because of Dad's job."
"Lucky you." Amanda thought it would be fun to live in different countries.
"It wasn't always great. I would make a friend and then we would move."
Amanda's parents showed up carrying shopping bags.
"Your mom has already found a pair of shoes she can't live without." Mr. Ross grimaced. "Look, we're getting tired. We should go back to the boat. Evelyn needs a rest after all this shopping."
"We'll join you," said Mrs. Anderson. "I'm feeling a bit tired myself. You girls can look around the market some more and take the tour bus back to the boat on your own."
"Sounds great! See you at the boat." Leah grabbed Amanda's hand and started to walk away.
"Now be safe and watch the time. The boat leaves at 2:00 pm sharp," said Leah's father.
"Don't worry, we'll be there." Leah didn't turn around but gave a little wave.
The girls continued to look around the market, stopping to pull the strings on jumping jacks and stroking teddy bears dressed in lederhosen, just like the dancers wore the night before.
Amanda looked around but couldn't see anyone.
Amanda swung around and saw a finger motioning to her from between two stalls. Leah was busy looking at jewellery. Amanda slipped into the tiny space. There crouched in the corner, sat the young boy who played his violin by the Gingerbread House earlier.
"Please, Miss. I need your help."
Amanda noticed blood seeping out of the dirty bandage on his thumb. "What happened to your thumb?"
"Oh, that. It is nothing." The young boy reached for his violin case. "You are on the boat, yes? The Sound of Music boat?"
"Yes, I am. Why?" She looked at the bloody finger. "You should have that cleaned up. You could get an infection."
"Please, could you take this with you on the boat?" His large blue eyes pleaded with her as he held out the case.
"Why can't you take it to the boat?" asked Amanda.
"I do not have a ticket. But my violin must get on the boat. It is of much importance."
"Well," Amanda took a deep breath. "I guess I could take it, but then what will I do with it once I'm on the boat?"
"Perhaps you could keep it in your room until you get to Vienna. I will meet you there."
"Amanda! Where have you gone?" She could hear Leah shouting.
"OK. I have to go." Amanda snatched the violin case.
"Danke, fräulein. Don't tell anyone you saw me, bitte. I mean, please."
Amanda emerged from the small space between the two stalls just before Leah spotted her.
"I found a rad choker necklace." Leah held up a clear bag and shook it. "What do you have in your hand?"
"I found a vintage violin case," answered Amanda. "I think I'll surprise my dad with it later."
Excerpted from Amanda on the Danube by Darlene Foster. Copyright © 2016 Darlene Foster. Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
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