Meet the students at Puppy Academya team of plucky puppies learning to be working dogs.
Everyone says Star is much too fast to be a sheepdogbut when your mom is a sheepdog champion, what else can you be? When a lamb goes missing on a field trip to Stormy Mountain, Star races up to find it. But she soon discovers that the lamb isn't the only one who needs her help.
About the Author
Gill Lewis spent much of her childhood in the garden. When she grew up, she became a vet and a children's author. She lives in Somerset, England, with her husband and three children and writes from a tree house in the company of squirrels.
Sarah Horne is a versatile illustrator whose work has appeared in children's books, advertisements, and newspapers throughout the UK. She is also the writer and illustrator of the original series Molly & Mimi. Sarah lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
Star on Stormy Mountain
By Gill Lewis, Sarah Horne
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2015 Gill Lewis
All rights reserved.
The collie pups — Star, Gwen, Nevis, and Shep — pushed their way to the front of the crowd gathered at the bottom of the hill. A hushed silence fell across the dogs and humans who were watching. It was the final round of the National Sheepdog Trials, and it looked like Bleak Tarn, the old, gnarled collie and five-time champion, would win again.
But there was one dog remaining — one dog who still had to run the course.
Gwen nudged Star with her paw. "Look — here comes your mom."
The pups watched Star's mom, Lillabelle of Langdale Pike, trot alongside her shepherd. The black-and-white collie waited at the starting line for the signal, and then she was off. She raced up the hillside in a long curve toward the small flock of sheep grazing in the far field. She leaped the low wall and came up behind the sheep, slowing down as she did so. She knew that if she ran in too fast, she would scare them and they would scatter. The sheep saw her and drew together. Lillabelle kept her head low and crept closer to them, and the small flock set off steadily down the hillside toward the crowd.
"That was perfect!" said Nevis.
"If the rest of the trial goes this well, your mom might win," said Shep.
Lillabelle guided the sheep through narrow gates, then drove them into a circle marked on the ground. Next, she had to single out the ewe with the green spot painted on her back. She circled the sheep, keeping them in a tight group, and when she saw the ewe on the outside of the flock, she swiftly trotted in and herded it away.
The crowd held their breath.
Maybe Lillabelle's performance was good enough to beat Bleak Tarn, but there was one last part of the trial to complete. It was the most difficult part of all. Lillabelle had to herd the sheep into the square pen and shut the gate. It wouldn't be easy. The sheep were getting bored and restless. They wanted to be back out on the hillside with the other flocks.
Lillabelle kept them calm. If she charged in now, all would be lost. She tried to forget the crowd watching her. She also tried to forget Bleak Tarn, who would be willing her to fail.
Keeping her belly low to the ground, she crept forward. The sheep bunched together more tightly, looking for an escape route to the hillside. But Lillabelle kept them moving, and before they knew it, the sheep had followed one another into the pen. The shepherd swung the gate shut, and the crowd exploded with applause.
She had done it. Bleak Tarn had been beaten at last.
There was a new winner now.
A new champion.
Lillabelle of Langdale Pike had won the National Sheepdog Trials.
* * *
Gwen turned to Star. "Your mom is awesome," she said.
"The best!" said Shep.
"My dad said she would win," said Nevis.
Star puffed out her chest in pride. Her mom was a champion sheepdog. Everyone said Star would be a champion too. Star hoped so. She hoped one day she would win the National Sheepdog Trials and make her mom proud.
Star was looking forward to tomorrow. Tomorrow was the beginning of the pups' sheepdog training, and Star couldn't wait.
* * *
The next morning, Star, Gwen, Nevis, and Shep gathered in the classroom.
"Right," said Major Bones. "It's time to get started on your basic sheepherding skills. We'll go out to the field and see if Hilda and Mabel are ready for us."
The four collie pups followed Major Bones outside. Major Bones was a teacher at the Sausage Dreams Puppy Academy for Working Dogs. There were all sorts of puppies at the Puppy Academy. There were pups who were training to be guide dogs, pups who wanted to be hearing dogs (to help people who are deaf), and pups who wanted to be water-rescue dogs. But Star wanted to be a sheepdog like her mom. She was a border collie, after all, and border collies had sheepherding in their blood.
Hilda and Mabel, the academy sheep, weren't in the field. They were in the barn, sitting on hay bales, chitchatting and knitting woolen blankets for dogs in rescue shelters.
"Ooh, hello, my dears," Hilda bleated, seeing the collie pups.
"Hello," baa-ed Mabel.
Hilda put her knitting down. "Well, if it isn't little Gwen, Shep, Nevis, and Star," she bleated. She gave Star a little wink. "We're expecting great things from you."
"Great things," baa-ed Mabel in agreement.
Star smiled to herself. She imagined winning the National Sheepdog Trials: Star of Langdale Pike, the new champion.
"No need for idle talk," barked Major Bones. "Let's get started."
"Right-ho, right-ho," bleated Hilda. "Just give me time. My legs don't move as fast as they used to."
"Not as fast," baa-ed Mabel.
They climbed down from their hay bales and hobbled outside into the field.
Hilda and Mabel had lived at the Puppy Academy longer than anyone could remember and had taught many young collies the basics of herding sheep. They were gentle, kind, and patient sheep, although they could manage only a slow shuffle around the field these days.
"Now then, young'uns," said Hilda, "Mabel and I will stand over there." She pointed to the far end of the field. "And you have to run around us and drive us through that gate and into that pen there."
"That pen there," baa-ed Mabel.
"Remember," said Hilda, "run a wide curve and keep it nice and steady."
"Nice and steady," baa-ed Mabel.
Star watched Hilda and Mabel totter across the field. She could feel excitement fizz through her. She was about to herd sheep for the first time — ever. Her paws twitched. Her nose twitched. Her muscles felt like coiled springs just waiting to bounce.
Star was the last to take her turn. She watched Gwen, then Nevis, then Shep, herd Hilda and Mabel across the field and into the pen. Once or twice, Hilda pretended to hobble away but let the pups herd her back again.
All the time Star was watching them, she felt her muscles tighten even more. She wanted it to be her turn. She wanted to be herding Hilda and Mabel. Her heart thumped inside her chest. The tip of her tail tingled with excitement. She couldn't keep her feet still. She jumped up and down on the spot.
Major Bones waited for Hilda and Mabel to shuffle back to the far end of the field, and then he turned to Star. But before he could say GO, Star was off, streaking across the field in a blur of black-and-white fur. She leaped the fence, did a midair half spin, and flew like a bullet toward Hilda and Mabel.
"Ooh, heavens!" bleated Hilda, breaking into a trot.
"Oh, lordy!" baa-ed Mabel, running off in a different direction.
Star ran around them to herd them up again.
"Ooh, me knees," bleated Hilda, stumbling on a rock.
"Slow down, young'un," baa-ed Mabel. "We're not spring lambs anymore."
But Star couldn't slow down. She was a sheepdog, and she had to herd these sheep. She ran around them in circles to keep them together. Round and round. Faster and faster. Round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round.
"Ooh! I'm quite dizzy," bleated Hilda.
"My head's spinning," baa-ed Mabel. "I think I need to lie down."
"Me too, dear," agreed Hilda.
"STAR!" bellowed Major Bones. "Come back at once."
Star stopped running. She looked back at Major Bones and then at Hilda and Mabel. What had she done? She hadn't even managed to herd them through the gates. She watched the two old ewes head back to the barn in dizzy circles.
Gwen, Shep, and Nevis were staring at her with their mouths wide open.
Star was supposed to be a sheepdog, the daughter of a champion, but her first attempt at herding had gone horribly, horribly wrong.CHAPTER 2
"Too fast," bleated Hilda.
"Much too faaaast," baa-ed Mabel. "You almost frightened the wool off my back."
Star sat down next to the two sheep, who were lying in deep straw — recovering.
"I didn't mean to scare you," said Star.
"We know that, my dear," said Hilda, "but other sheep won't. If you go in so fast, they will think you're about to attack them. You're not a wolf, my dear. You are a border collie with sheepherding in your blood. You've got to go in slowly and calmly."
"Calmly," repeated Mabel. "I remember your mom when she was a young pup. Soft and gentle she was. Paws like velvet."
Star stared at her own paws. They twitched with energy. They wanted to be running, running, running. They wanted to jump and spring and bounce. How could she ever be like her mom? She had so much to live up to.
* * *
"Don't worry," said Gwen at playtime. "It will be better next time, I'm sure."
"But we won't be herding sheep," said Nevis.
Star frowned. "Why not?"
"The vet said Hilda and Mabel need a long rest after today."
Shep pricked up his ears. "What will we be herding?"
Nevis looked at them all. "Haven't you heard? We'll be trying for our Level One Bo-Peep badge at the end of the week. But instead of sheep, we'll be herding ... ducks!"
"Ducks?" said Star.
"Ducks?" said Shep.
"Those quacky things?" said Gwen.
"Yes, ducks," said Major Bones. "Not exactly ideal, but they're the best we can do under the circumstances. I had a word with a few of the village ducks on the pond, and they said they'd do it for a bag of grain."
"But we're sheepdogs," said Star, "not duckdogs!"
"A true border collie can herd anything," said Major Bones gruffly. "Why, I remember the time your mother herded some human toddlers away from a busy road and back into a park."
Star sighed. She looked enviously at Gwen, Nevis, and Shep. They were never compared with anyone. Sometimes she wished her mom weren't the National Sheepdog Champion.
Star worried all week. The Level One Bo-Peep badge was easy. Everyone said so. In fact, no one had failed it. But Star chased her tail in worry. She wished Hilda and Mabel would be there to help instead of the ducks. She'd never found the village ducks particularly friendly. They spent most of their time in the water with their bottoms in the air, ignoring everyone.
* * *
It was the end of the week. Friends and family had arrived to watch the pups take their Level One Bo-Peep badge. Star had been practicing all week, running the course with imaginary sheep. She saw her mom and waved a paw. She wondered if the other parents expected Star to be as brilliant as her mom. She wished there weren't so many people watching.
"Quack!" said the ducks crossly. "Quack ... quack ... quack ... quack, quack ..."
The ducks gathered in an angry group in the middle of the field. Clearly they didn't want to be there. They had only come for the food.
"Quack ... quack, quack ..."
"WELCOME," yapped Professor Offenbach.
Professor Offenbach was the head of the school. She was a small dog with a loud voice. Too loud, most people said, although no one dared tell Professor Offenbach that.
"WELCOME, FRIENDS AND FAMILY, ON THIS GLORIOUS AFTERNOON. TODAY IS A VERY SPECIAL DAY. OUR FOUR YOUNG PUPS WILL BE SHOWING THEIR DUCK — ER, SHEEPDOG SKILLS. IN THE CROWD, WE HAVE NONE OTHER THAN THE NATIONAL CHAMPION, LILLABELLE OF LANGDALE PIKE."
A ripple of applause spread across the crowd.
Professor Offenbach glanced directly at Star. "LET'S HOPE SOME OF THAT TALENT HAS RUBBED OFF ON A FEW OF OUR YOUNG PUPS TODAY."
Star watched Gwen, Nevis, and Shep take their turns. The ducks were an awkward bunch, running this way and that, quacking rudely at everyone. But each of the pups managed to coax them across the field, through the gates, and into the holding pen, where Major Bones had scattered some grain to encourage them to go in.
Star waited for her turn. Her whole body trembled. Her paws twitched. Her nose twitched. Her eyes focused on the rowdy ducks. They were dabbling in a puddle in the middle of the field, squabbling over the muddiest bit. Go in slow on velvet feet, Star told herself. But her body wasn't listening. Her feet wanted to run and run and run.
She was off, racing like a greyhound toward the ducks, her feet flying across the grass, her paws barely touching the ground. She leaped the gate with plenty of room to spare. Too high! Too fast! She went skidding and skittering out of control. Round and round and round she spun.
Feathers and mud flew into the air, and Star landed with her face in the puddle.
She picked herself up. It hadn't been the greatest of starts, but she hadn't finished yet. Maybe she could still herd the ducks into the pen. Maybe she could still save face and earn her Level One Bo-Peep badge.
When the mud and feathers settled, Star looked around for the ducks. But they were nowhere to be seen. Nowhere at all. It was as if they had vanished into thin air.
Star looked up. High in the sky, the ducks were getting smaller and smaller and smaller as they flapped away toward the village.
Star felt everyone watching her. She had nothing to herd now. She wouldn't get her Level One Bo-Peep badge. She would be the first puppy in the academy to fail it. She couldn't face any of the other pups. She couldn't face her mom, either. Star scrambled up from the muddy puddle and ran and ran and ran.
* * *
"Funny things, ducks," bleated Hilda.
"Temperamental," agreed Mabel.
"They flew away," wailed Star.
"It's their wings that does it," bleated Hilda.
"Wings!" baa-ed Mabel.
Star flumped down in the straw. "What was I meant to do? Sprout wings too?"
Star looked up. Her mother had found her hiding in the barn with the sheep.
Star put her head in her paws. "You're mad at me, aren't you? I've failed. I didn't pass the test."
Lillabelle sat down next to her. "Of course I'm not mad. It was only one test. It doesn't matter."
"But I can't herd," cried Star. "I'm too fast."
"Too fast," bleated Hilda.
"Like a rocket," baa-ed Mabel. "An out-of-control rocket," she added as an afterthought.
"It's just excitement," said Lillabelle. "You'll learn."
Star curled herself into a ball. "But you never rushed in when you were young. I'll never be like you."
"Star," said Lillabelle softly, "I don't want you to be like me. I want you to be you."
"You mean fast and bouncy and unable to keep still?" said Star crossly. "Who wants a sheepdog like that?"
"You don't even have to be a sheepdog." Lillabelle sighed. "Just because I am doesn't mean you have to be."
"But what else can I be? I don't want to be a pampered pooch in the city. I want to be outside, running in the hills."
Lillabelle put a paw on Star's shoulder. "Star, you have many, many talents. One day, you will find out what they're for."
But Star wasn't listening. She had covered her ears with her paws. She was useless. She couldn't even herd two old sheep or a few rowdy ducks. What hope did she have of herding a huge flock of five hundred or more sheep? She was no good at anything at all.CHAPTER 3
"All aboard," woofed Major Bones.
Star climbed into the van with the other collie pups.
Today they were heading off to Hilltop Farm, in the mountains, to earn their Mountain Shepherd badge. They would be herding sheep down from the high hills.
Star sat next to Gwen and looked nervously out the window. "How many sheep do you think we will have to herd today?" she asked.
"They have huge flocks in the mountains," said Gwen.
"Oh," said Star. "I can't even herd a few ducks."
"Don't worry," said Gwen. "You just had a bad day. Anyway, I heard Mabel say we don't have to herd the mountain sheep by ourselves. We'll do it as a team."
"At least they won't have wings," said Shep.
"We'll help each other," said Nevis.
But Star was worried. The others seemed much better than she was at herding. Would it really be that easy, working as a team?
The journey took a long, long time. Star hated having to sit still. Her legs twitched with energy. After midday, the van began to climb up toward the mountains. The road became steeper and steeper and narrower and narrower. Green fields gave way to wide-open mountain slopes of coarse, stubby grass and trickling streams.
"Sheep," said Gwen.
"Sheep," said Nevis.
"Sheep," said Shep.
They couldn't take their eyes off all the sheep. So many sheep. They had never seen so many together at one time.
But Star wasn't looking at the sheep. She was looking up at the mountains, at the way the clouds swirled and danced across the snowcapped peaks. She was looking at the high ridges and the tumbling waterfalls.
Excerpted from Star on Stormy Mountain by Gill Lewis, Sarah Horne. Copyright © 2015 Gill Lewis. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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