Tom Jones Saves the World

Tom Jones Saves the World

by Steven Herrick

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780702252204
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Publication date: 04/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 186
File size: 879 KB
Age Range: 9 Years

About the Author

Steven Herrick is one of Australia's most popular and widely heard children’s authors. Many of his fourteen books for children and young adults have been on the CBCA Children's Book of the Year Awards shortlist, including Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair (1997), A Place like This (1999), The Simple Gift (2001), and Tom Jones Saves the World (2003). Do-wrong Ron (2004) and By the River (2005) were named Honour Books. Steven’s first novel, Rhyming Boy, was published in 2008. At school his favourite subject was soccer, and he dreamed of football glory while he worked at various jobs. For the past twenty-five years he’s been a full-time writer and regularly performs his work in schools throughout the world. He lives in the Blue Mountains with his partner and two sons.

Read an Excerpt

Tom Jones Saves the World

By Steven Herrick

University of Queensland Press

Copyright © 2002 Steven Herrick
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7022-5220-4



    Dead parents

    I wish I was like
    those kids I read about
    in books.
    The kids who live with
    weird Aunts because their parents
    died in a car accident
    of some heartbreaking disease.
    The kids who lead exciting lives
    without parents to moan about
    unfinished homework
    unmade beds
    uncombed hair.
    When these kids
    don't do homework
    or don't make their beds
    everyone thinks
    "oh, that's all right,
    they're still recovering from the loss."
    Even when the accident
    happened ten years ago,
    the kid is allowed
    to be a slob.
    Don't get me wrong.
    I don't want
    Mum and Dad to die.
    Maybe if they went
    to live in another country
    for twenty years
    and left me alone?
    That would be enough.


    My name is
    Thomas Wilbur Johannas Harold Jones.
    But, please, call me Tom.
    Everyone else does,
    except Dad
    who calls me Thomas
    because he says Tom
    is what you call a stray cat,
    and Mum
    who calls me Darling,
    or Sweetie,
    or if I do something wrong, Honey.
    (Now you know what I mean
    about dead parents.)
    I live in a big brick home
    in a new suburb
    called Pacific Palms.
    Between us and the Ocean
    are five suburbs —
    Pacific Meadows
    Pacific Green
    Pacific Heights
    Pacific Crescent
    and, of course,
    Pacific Beach.
    Because of our name
    every house has a palm tree
    planted smack-bang
    in the middle of the frontyard.
    There are no other trees.
    Everyone has planted
    shrubs instead.
    That's all Mum
    and Mrs Johnson next door
    talk about.
    "Your camellias are looking lovely, dear."
    "Why thank you, Mrs Johnson.
    And so are yours."

    Dead Parent Wish # 1

    The house

    The Real Estate Agent
    said it was an
    five-bedroom, two-bathroom
    slice of heaven set
    among immaculate gardens
    in the prestigious gated-community
    of Pacific Palms".

    Well, the architect
    must have been very popular
    because I've already counted
    fifty-two houses
    exactly the same as ours.
    Yes, it does have five bedrooms–
    one for Mum and Dad,
    one for me,
    and three for Dad's
    bottle top collection.

    (Dead Parent Wish # 2).

    The bathrooms each have a spa.
    And the "immaculate gardens"
    are one palm tree
    and forty-eight varieties of Camellia.
    All of this is surrounded by
    a wrought-iron fence
    on which Dad has hung
    a sign that reads
    NO Hawkers Allowed
    NO Junk Mail
    BEWARE! Dog on Premises

    That last line is a lie.
    Dad said if the first two lines
    didn't work
    the last one would.

    A gated community

    To get into our suburb
    you drive
    down Cherrywood Avenue
    and at the end of the street
    is a sandstone wall
    and a massive iron gate.
    To get through this gate
    you reach out of
    the car window and punch your
    Personal Entry Number (PEN)
    into the keypad on the pole.
    The gate slides open,
    you drive through,
    and it closes behind you.
    Often there is a Security Guard
    in the office beside the entrance.
    He sits at his desk
    reading the paper
    waiting for something to happen.
    After two months
    of living here
    I realised it was
    like a prison that
    parents paid lots of money
    to live in so
    they could say things like
    "I feel so secure now.
    Thomas can walk the streets
    and I know he's safe."

    In our old town,
    I used to walk to the shops
    to the river
    to the school.

    I knew everyone.
    At Pacific Palms, I only know
    Mrs Johnson
    who keeps trying to show me
    her garden.
    I live in a Camellia Prison.


    My Dad is Arnold Jones
    from Beacham Beacham Beacham and Zibrowski,
    Arnold the Accountant.
    Each morning
    Dad drives his clean white Commodore
    down Cherrywood Avenue
    to his office at Pacific Beach for a day spent
    adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
    He returns at exactly 5:30pm,
    parks the car in our double garage,
    removes his shoes at the back door,
    and says
    "I'm home, dear",
    places his briefcase in his office —
    Bottle top Collection Room # 2 —
    kisses Mum,
    sees me in the kitchen doing homework
    and says,
    "How was your school experience today, Thomas?"
    (Yes, Dead Parent Wish # 3).
    I answer "Okay, Dad".
    Arnold the Accountant
    then goes upstairs to
    change into
    white shorts, white polo shirt,
    white bowling hat,
    white long socks,
    and white running shoes.
    Arnold the Albino Accountant
    then walks downstairs
    and out the front door with Mum,
    also dressed all in white,
    for their "Afternoon reflection walk"
    as Dad calls it.
    Sometimes, they ask me
    if I'd like to go with them.
    I lie about too much homework,
    watch them walk, wiggling bottoms,
    down the street,
    then I run upstairs
    and change into my swimmers
    and jump into the spa,
    sit back,
    and read novels
    about children with dead parents.
    Some people have all the luck!

    Our old town

    Dad's always been like that.
    In our old town,
    not far from here,
    he had more time
    to spend with me.
    We'd play cricket in the backyard,
    and he'd bowl these wild
    spinners that seemed to
    turn at right-angles.
    "Here's my astronaut ball, Thomas," he'd say.
    Then he'd bowl one
    really high
    so high it took forever to land.
    I'd smash it over
    the neighbour's fence.
    Mum would say,
    "Another astronaut in space, dear?"

    Then Dad got this new job
    and we moved here.
    Now he's always working.
    Our old town is so close
    it's a million kilometres away.


    My Mum is Barbara.
    She used to be an Accountant as well,
    but she "retired"
    to have a baby (that's me!).
    Dad calls her
    The Minister for Home Affairs.
    And she does
    spend a lot of time at home.
    She loves cleaning, and cooking,
    and gardening.
    I try to tell her about
    and Equality of the Sexes,
    but she just says
    "Tom, darling,
    why would I want to
    be anywhere but here,
    with you and Arnold."

    (Dead Parent Wish # 4?)

    Shock! Horror! Belly!

    that's the Barbara
    that Dad knows.
    And it's the Barbara
    that Mum wants the world to see,
    I know a different Barbara.
    One day, two weeks ago,
    I came home early from school.

    As I'm unlocking the back door
    I hear this really loud music —
    bongos, drums, and strange wailing sounds,
    coming from upstairs.
    All the curtains are drawn.
    I quietly close the door
    and follow the sound.
    I'm a little scared.
    It could be a burglar
    with mad musical tastes
    robbing our house!

    But no,
    It's Mum,
    dressed in some weird
    Middle Eastern costume
    with balloon trousers,
    spangled top,
    and bare
    totally naked!!! stomach
    belly dancing
    in front of the bedroom mirror.
    she's so involved in her dance
    she doesn't see me
    so I duck into the hall closet
    leaving the door open
    just enough to watch
    Barbara the Belly dancer!
    glide, shimmy, shake,
    and gyrate through an hour
    of dance.
    Mum's pretty good too
    and here in the dark of the closet,
    I realise,
    that to be this good
    Mum must have been
    dancing and practising for ages.
    Me and Dad
    never knew.
    Dad would have a heart attack.
    Maybe I should tell him!

    (Dead Parent Wish # 5)


    Now get this.
    Our suburb is so new
    it doesn't have a school.
    Every morning
    a bus picks up all the children
    outside the gate
    and drives us to
    Muttaborra Primary School.
    It's the oldest school I've ever seen
    with three wooden buildings
    surrounded by huge old fig trees
    and a toilet block
    that looks like it was built
    a few years after Captain Cook arrived,
    and smells like it too!
    Muttaborra was a dairy farm
    until someone had the bright idea
    of building hundreds of new homes
    in the meadows.
    In two years the school
    has gone from one teacher and twenty children
    six teachers and one hundred and forty kids,
    and one very angry snake
    that lives near
    the boys' toilets.

    Class 6 W

    I like Ms Watkins.
    It's her first year as a teacher.
    Each Monday she adds a prize
    to her Treasure Chest of Mystery,
    which is a wooden basket
    of wrapped presents on her desk.
    During the week
    she awards points for
    Correct Answers

    All our names are on a
    scoreboard near the door.
    At Friday recess
    Ms Watkins awards
    the highest point-scorer of the week
    with a wrapped present from her basket.
    It's four weeks into the year
    and I'm still trying to win.
    I think it's because
    everyone likes the mystery
    of the Prize.
    It doesn't matter what it is.
    It's a surprise.


    When I told Mum and Dad
    about wonderful Ms Watkins
    and her Awards List
    Dad said,
    "Bribery is an outmoded
    and ill-advised form of
    social engineering."

    Double Dead Parent Wish # 6!

    Time and motion

    my Dad talks weird.
    Since his new job
    it's got worse.
    He's obsessed with something called
    "Time and Motion"
    He says,
    "Maximise time.
    Maximise life!"
    Mum says
    Dad has a lot of worries
    with a new job
    a new car
    a new house in
    a new suburb.
    I think
    he needs a new brain as well!


    We moved here
    because of Dad's job.
    "Appearances, Thomas.
    One must look successful
    to be successful."
    Over dinner
    Dad goes on and on about
    Share Trusts
    Managed Funds
    Investment Portfolios
    and Money.
    Always money.

    My Dad is being slowly
    I want my real Dad back!



    Grandpa Jones

    Last week,
    I met Grandpa Jones.
    It was at my Aunt's funeral,
    in our old town.
    What a day.
    Everyone dressed in black,
    in church,
    listening to the Priest
    talking about Aunt Ella
    when we hear a bottle smash outside
    followed by lots of swearing.
    We all turn to see
    a very old man
    with long grey hair and beard
    dressed in an oversized suit
    holding a walking stick
    and swaying.
    He lifts his walking-stick
    knocks on the already open door
    and says
    "Is this the funeral for Ella,
    the old battleaxe?"
    Welcome, Grandpa Jones!

    Shock! Horror! Drunk!

    It got better.
    Lots better.
    Grandpa Jones stumbled
    down the aisle
    singing, yes, singing,
    "Here comes the bride
    here comes the bride
    big, fat, and wide
    slipped on a banana peel
    and died died died."

    He sat in the front row
    next to Dad and said
    in a loud voice,
    "hello Arnie,
    going bald, I see!"
    and motioned for the Priest
    to continue,
    then fell asleep and snored
    throughout the eulogy
    and all the singing
    and even when they carried
    poor Aunt Ella's coffin out of the church.
    Everyone stood to follow
    trying to be really quiet
    so as to not wake Grandpa Jones,
    and we would have made it
    if only Grandpa hadn't burped
    really loudly in his sleep
    and I couldn't help but laugh
    which woke
    who picked up his walking-stick
    and followed us
    still singing —
    "there goes the bride
    there goes the bride
    with a face so ugly
    she should stay inside."

    The Grandpa Jones list of
    things to do at a funeral

    1 At the cemetery, as the coffin
    was lowered into the ground,
    Grandpa Jones sang,
    "She was an Ella of a girl she was ...
    She was an Ella of a girl she was ..."

    2 When all the relatives threw flowers into the grave,
    Grandpa walked over to a gum tree,
    broke off a small branch,
    and threw that onto Aunt Ella's coffin.

    3 Everyone filed past the Priest and shook his hand.
    Grandpa patted him on the back and said,
    "Good game, son,
    good game."

    4 We all slowly walked back to the cars.
    Grandpa jumped into the back of the hearse
    and asked to be taken to the Wake
    at Aunt Pat's house.

    5 At the Wake, we all sat around,
    nibbling Aunt Pat's cakes,
    and talking quietly about how nice Aunt Ella was.
    Grandpa Jones went to the kitchen,
    made himself a huge sandwich,
    sat on the lounge, and sang some more.

    The moon and the stars

    I talked to Grandpa Jones
    later that night.
    I was sitting on the back steps
    looking at the moon and the stars
    and hoping Aunt Ella was happy,
    wherever she was,
    when I heard a burp
    from behind the trees
    in the backyard.
    It was Grandpa Jones,
    doing up his trousers
    and looking up at the sky saying
    "there's nothing like
    going to the dunny
    under a full moon.
    It makes you glad
    to be alive."
    Then he saw me,
    smiled and said
    "Hello, Tiger,
    all the beer finished inside, is it?"
    He sat down next to me.
    He didn't look so scary up close.
    He had big sad eyes,
    and his hands shook,
    even when he placed
    them in his pockets.
    He started telling me
    about Aunt Ella.
    Good stories.
    Not rude ones, not mean ones,
    but stories about
    how nice and friendly she was.
    After a while Grandpa Jones
    looked at me and said
    "You're Arnie's son
    aren't you?
    You're Tom?"
    I said I was
    and that he was my Grandpa
    and I stood up
    and shook his hand
    as Dad had taught me.
    "You're Arnie's son all right,"
    said Grandpa
    as he shook my hand.

    The deal

    I told Grandpa Jones
    about our new house
    and Dad's three-bedroom
    bottle top collection.
    We both laughed at that.
    We sat together
    on the wooden steps
    for a long time
    and Grandpa talked
    about where he lives now
    and how he's only allowed out
    for funerals, weddings,
    and the occasional picnic
    with the other old people from the home,
    which he hates,
    because he's not allowed to drink.
    He laughs some more,
    and says,
    "You've noticed I like
    a drink or three
    haven't you, Tom?
    I'm not like your Dad."
    And even though
    Grandpa is a rude old bloke
    I felt sorry for him,
    stuck in the Old People's Home
    so I told him I'd visit
    if he promises not to drink
    for the day when I'm there.
    He held out his hand,
    still trembling,
    and we shook.



    Cleo and the pinhead parents

    Why can't I be like normal kids,
    with normal parents?
    Parents who go off to work,
    come home at night,
    say, "How was your day at school, Cleo?"
    Parents who lead
    boring lives, like everyone else.
    But no,
    I have to have pinhead parents
    obsessed with their work
    digging up ancient bits of rubbish
    from all over the world
    which means
    they go to China,
    and leave me here
    with my Aunt Ruth
    and Uncle Robert
    in this stupid suburb
    that looks like a prison,
    miles from anywhere.
    Why can't my parents be bank managers,
    or own a shop,
    or work in an office?
    Why do I have to have
    who leave 400-year-old vases
    scattered around the spare bedroom
    which I'm never allowed to enter?
    I tell them
    if I want to look
    at a pile of old rubbish
    I'll go to the Council Dump.

Aunt Ruth and Uncle Robert

Robert: I like to cook.

Ruth: I like to cook as well.

Robert: I like to eat what Ruth cooks.

Ruth: I give the dog what Robert cooks. We like Cleo. We look after her when her parents are away.

Robert: We don't have children of our own on account of ...

Ruth: Bad luck. That's what it was, just bad luck. But we've got Cleo. She loves my cooking.

Robert: She loves Ruth's cooking.

Ruth: She gives Robert's cooking to the dog as well.

Robert: The dog likes my food.

Ruth: We moved to Pacific Palms to retire.

Robert: We like the big walls, and the gate.

Ruth: I like the gate too, but we keep forgetting our Personal Entry Number.

Robert: Yes. When the Guard isn't there we wait hours sometimes for a neighbour to arrive home and let us in.

Ruth: But we like the safety.

Robert: Yes. It's so safe, we can't even get in.


Excerpted from Tom Jones Saves the World by Steven Herrick. Copyright © 2002 Steven Herrick. Excerpted by permission of University of Queensland Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Chapter One: Tom Jones and the Bottle Top Collection,
Chapter Two: Grandpa Jones and the Funeral,
Chapter Three: Cleo and the Escape Plan,
Chapter Four: The First Day of Freedom,
Chapter Five: The Gardens of Mercy,
Chapter Six: Gobbledegook, And the History of Tom's Family,
Chapter Seven: Cleo, the Genius,
Chapter Eight: Barbara, To the Rescue!,
Chapter Nine: Tom Falls In Love ... with a Dictionary!,
Chapter Ten: Quivering Lips, Trembling Hands, Beating Hearts and Other Stuff,
Chapter Eleven: Cleo's Last and Absolutely Final Plan,
Chapter Twelve: The Time of His Life,

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