Ribticklers!: Funny Stories

Ribticklers!: Funny Stories

by Michael Rosen

Paperback(First Edition)


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780753461396
Publisher: Kingfisher
Publication date: 11/15/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Michael Rosen is a best-selling poet and writer for children, as well as a recognized authority on children's literature. His books include The Kingfisher Book of Children's Poetry, The Kingfisher Treasury of Funny Stories, and Walking the Bridge of Your Nose. He is also the author of the best-selling We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



"ROBIN WON'T GIVE you any trouble," said Auntie Lynn. "He's very quiet."

Anthea knew how quiet Robin was. At present he was sitting under the table,

and, until Auntie Lynn mentioned his name, she had forgotten that he was there.

Auntie Lynn put a shopping bag on the armchair.

"There's plenty of clothes, so you won't need to do any washing, and there's a spare pair of pajamas in case—well, you know. In case . . ."

"Yes," said Mom firmly. "He'll be all right. I'll call you tonight and let you know how he's getting along." She looked at the clock. "Now, hadn't you better be getting along?"

She saw Auntie Lynn to the front door, and Anthea heard them saying goodbye to each other. Mom almost told Auntie Lynn to stop worrying and have a good time, which would have been a mistake because Auntie Lynn was going up north to a funeral.

Auntie Lynn was not really an aunt, but she had once been at school with

Anthea's mom, and she was the kind of person who couldn't manage without a handle to her name; so Robin was not Anthea's cousin. Robin was not anything much, except four years old, and he looked a lot younger; probably because nothing ever happened to him. Auntie Lynn kept no pets that might give Robin germs and never bought him toys that had sharp corners to dent him or wheels that could be swallowed. He wore hoods and stocking caps in the winter to protect his tender ears and a knitted undershirt under his shirt in the summer in case he overheated himself and caught a chill from his own sweat.

"Perspiration," said Auntie Lynn.

His face was as pale and flat as a saucer of milk, and his eyes floated in it like drops of cod-liver oil. This was not so surprising, as he was full to the back teeth with cod-liver oil; also with malt extract, concentrated orange juice, and calves-foot jelly. When you picked him up, you expected him to squelch, like a hot-water bottle full of half-set gelatin.

Anthea lifted the tablecloth and looked at him.

"Hello, Robin."

Robin stared at her with his flat eyes and went back to sucking his woolen doggy that also had flat eyes, of sewn-on felt, because glass ones might find their way into Robin's appendix and cause damage. Anthea wondered how long it would be before he noticed that his mother had left. Probably he wouldn't, any more than he would notice when she came back.

Mom closed the front door and joined Anthea in looking under the table at

Robin. Robin's mouth turned down at the corners, and Anthea hoped that he would cry so that they could cuddle him. It seemed impolite to cuddle him before he needed it. Anthea was afraid to go any closer.

"What a little troll," said Mom sadly, lowering the tablecloth. "I suppose he'll come out when he's hungry."

Anthea doubted it.

Robin didn't want any lunch or any dinner.

"Do you think he's pining?" said Mom. Anthea did not. Anthea had a nasty suspicion that he was like this all the time. He went to bed without making a fuss and fell asleep before the light was out, as if he was too bored to stay awake. Anthea left her bedroom door open, hoping that he would have a nightmare so that she could go in and comfort him, but Robin slept all night without a squeak and woke up in the morning as flat-faced as before. Wall-

eyed Doggy looked more excitable than Robin did.

"If only we had a real backyard," said Mom as Robin went under the table again, leaving his breakfast eggs scattered around the plate. "He might run around."

Anthea thought that this was unlikely, and in any case they didn't have a real yard, only a little paved area at the back and a stony strip in the front, without a fence.

"Can I take him to the park?" said Anthea.

Mom looked doubtful. "Do you think he wants to go?"

"No," said Anthea, peering under the tablecloth. "I don't think he wants to do anything, but he can't sit there all day."

"I bet he can," said Mom. "Still, I don't think he should. All right, take him to the park, but keep quiet about it. I don't suppose Lynn thinks you're safe in traffic."

"He might tell her."

"Can he talk?"

Robin, still clutching wall-eyed Doggy, plodded beside her all the way to the park, without once trying to jam his head between the library fence or get run over by a bus.

"Hold my hand, Robin," Anthea said as they left the house, and he clung to her like a leech.

The park was not really a park at all; it was a garden. It did not even pretend to be a park, and the notice by the gate said king street gardens, in case anyone tried to use it as a park. The grass was as green and as flat as the living room carpet, but the living room carpet had a path worn across it from the door to the fireplace, and here there were more notices that said keep off the grass so that the gritty white paths went obediently around the edge,

under the orderly trees that stood in a row like the line at a bus stop. There were bushes in each corner and one shelter with a bench in it. Here and there, brown holes in the grass, full of raked earth, waited for next year's flowers, but there were no flowers now, and the bench had been taken out of the shelter because the shelter was supposed to be a summerhouse, and you couldn't have people using a summerhouse in the winter.

Robin stood by the gates and gaped, with Doggy hanging limply from his mouth where he held it by one ear, between his teeth. Anthea decided that if they met anyone she knew, she would explain that Robin was only two, but very big for his age.

"Do you want to run, Robin?"

Robin shook his head.

"There's nothing to be afraid of. You can go all the way around, if you like, but you mustn't walk on the grass or pick things."

Robin nodded. It was the kind of place that he understood.

Anthea sighed. "Well, let's walk around, then."

They set off. At each corner, where the bushes were, the path diverged. One part went in front of the bushes and one part around the back of them. On the first circuit Robin stumped glumly beside Anthea in front of the bushes. The second time around she felt a very faint tug on her hand. Robin wanted to go his own way.

This called for a celebration. Robin could think. Anthea crouched down on the path until they were at the same level.

"You want to walk around the back of the bushes, Robin?"

"Yiss," said Robin.

Robin could talk.

"All right, but listen." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "You must be very careful. That path is called Leopard Walk. Do you know what a leopard is?"


"There are two leopards down there. They live in the bushes. One is a good leopard, and the other's a bad leopard. The good leopard has black spots.

The bad leopard has red spots. If you see the bad leopard, you must say, 'Die, leopard, die, or I'll kick you in the eye,' and run like anything. Do you understand?"

Robin tugged again.

"Oh, no," said Anthea. "I'm going this way. If you want to go down Leopard

Walk, you'll have to go on your own. I'll meet you at the other end.

Remember, if it's got red spots, run like crazy."

Robin trotted away. The bushes were just high enough to hide him, but

Anthea could see the tassel on his hat doddering along. Suddenly the tassel gathered speed, and Anthea had to run to reach the end of the bushes first.

"Did you see the bad leopard?"

"No," said Robin, but he didn't look too sure.

"Why were you running, then?"

"I just wanted to."

"You've dropped Doggy," said Anthea. Doggy lay on the path with his legs in the air, halfway down Leopard Walk.

"You get him," said Robin.

"No, you get him," said Anthea. "I'll wait here." Robin moved off reluctantly.

She waited until he had recovered Doggy and then shouted, "I can see the bad leopard in the bushes!" Robin raced back to safety. "Did you say, 'Die,

leopard, die, or I'll kick you in the eye'?" Anthea demanded.

"No," Robin said guiltily.

"Then he'll kill us," said Anthea. "Come on, run. We've got to get to that tree.

He can't hurt us once we're under that tree."

They stopped running under the twisted boughs of a weeping ash. "This is a python tree," said Anthea. "Look—you can see the python wound around the trunk."

"What's a python?" asked Robin, backing off.

"Oh, it's just a big snake that squeezes people to death," said Anthea. "A

python could easily eat a leopard. That's why leopards won't walk under this tree, you see, Robin."

Robin looked up. "Could it eat us?"

"Yes, but it won't if we walk on our heels." They walked on their heels to the next corner.

"Are there leopards down there?"

"No, but we must never go down there anyway. That's Poison Alley. All of the trees are poisonous. They drip poison. If one bit of poison fell on your head,

you'd die."

"I've got my hat on," said Robin, touching the tassel to make sure.

"It would burn right through your hat," Anthea assured him. "Right into your brains. Fzzzzzzz."

They bypassed Poison Alley and walked on over the manhole cover that clanked.

"What's that?"

"That's the Fever Pit. If anyone lifts that manhole cover, they get a terrible disease. There's this terrible disease down there, Robin, and if the lid comes off, the disease will get out, and people will die. I think there's enough disease down there to kill everybody in this town. It's very loose—look."

"Don't lift it! Don't lift it!" Robin screamed, and ran to the shelter for safety.

"Don't go in there," yelled Anthea. "That's where the Greasy Witch lives."

Robin bounced out of the shelter as though he was a rubber band.

"Where's the Greasy Witch?"

"Oh, you can't see her," said Anthea, "but you can tell where she is because she smells so horrible. I think she must be around somewhere. Can't you smell her now?"

Robin sniffed the air and clasped Doggy more tightly.

"And she leaves oily marks wherever she goes. Look—you can see them on the wall."

Robin looked at the wall. Someone had been very busy, if not the Greasy

Witch. Anthea was glad overall that Robin could not read.

"The smell's getting worse, isn't it, Robin? I think we'd better go down here,

and then she won't find us."

"She'll see us."

"No, she won't. She can't see with her eyes because they're full of grease.

She sees with her ears, but I expect they're all waxy. She's a filthy old witch,


They slipped down a secret-looking path that went around the back of the shelter.

"Is the Greasy Witch down here?" asked Robin fearfully.

"I don't know," said Anthea. "Let's investigate." They tiptoed around the side of the shelter. The path was damp and slippery. "Filthy old witch. She's certainly been here," said Anthea. "I think she's gone now. I'll just take a look."

She craned her neck around the corner of the shelter. There was a sort of glade in the bushes, and in the middle was a pipe, with a faucet on top. The pipe was wrapped with canvas, like a scaly skin.

"Frightful Corner," said Anthea. Robin put his cautious head around the edge of the shelter.

"What's that?"

Anthea wondered if it could be a dragon, up on the tip of its tail and ready to strike, but on the other side of the bushes was the brick back wall of the King

Street Public Restrooms, and at that moment she heard the unmistakable sound of a toilet flushing.

"It's a Bathroom Demon," she said. "Quick! We've got to get away before the water stops, or he'll get us."

They ran all the way to the gates, where they could see the church clock,

and it was almost time for lunch.

Auntie Lynn took Robin home the next morning, and three days later she was back again, striding up the path like a warrior queen going into battle,

with Robin dangling from her hand and Doggy dangling from Robin's hand.

Mom took her into the living room, closing the door. Anthea sat on the stairs and listened. Auntie Lynn was in full throat and furious, so it was easy enough to hear what she had to say.

"I want a word with that young lady," said Auntie Lynn. "And I want to know what she's been telling him." Her voice dropped, and Anthea could hear only certain fateful words: "Leopards . . . poison trees . . . snakes . . . diseases!"

Mom said something very quietly that Anthea did not hear, and then Auntie

Lynn turned up the volume once more.

"Won't go to bed unless I leave the door open . . . wants the light on . . . up and down to him all night . . . won't go to the bathroom on his own. He says the—the—," she said, hesitating, "the bathroom demons will get him. He almost broke his neck running downstairs this morning."

Mom spoke again, but Auntie Lynn cut in like a band saw.

"Frightened out of his wits! He follows me everywhere."

The door opened slightly, and Anthea got ready to bolt, but it was Robin who came out, with his thumb in his mouth and circles around his eyes. Under his arm was soggy Doggy, ears chewed to nervous rags.

Robin looked up at Anthea through the banister.

"Let's go to the park," he said.

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