The Land of Giant Pineapples

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The following is an excerpt from the middle-grade (8 – 12 years of age) novel, The Land of Giant Pineapples, written by grandmother and granddaughter team, Judy Rankin and Shayla Gray.

Blurb: Eleven-year-old Shayla will have to join forces with an Aboriginal wizard (she doesn’t know exists), use powers (she doesn’t know she has), and enter a world (she doesn’t think is real) in order to rescue her fifteen-year-old sister, Willow.

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The Land of Giant Pineapples (extract)

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Chapter Two

Willow watched something strange going on at Mr T’s property. Dad insisted she mind her own business and forget about anything she thought she saw.

Willow ran to Plantation Island before heading over the road to the old house on Mr T’s property.

A white horse looked dazzling in the light, drawing Willow closer. As her hand reached to touch the horse, it bucked and swirled around her.

Sitting on the ground, Willow tried to make sense of her changed surroundings. Almost everything was orangey-yellow or yellowy-green. The trees. The sky. The grass. The only things that weren’t yellowy were the clouds and the slimy, green things that looked like big blobs of snot slithering along the ground. Things looked familiar but different.

Willow sat almost camouflaged under the shade of a large tree near a river. White, billowy clouds floated across the sky. A strange murmuring, like someone whispering, could be heard.

Jumping up, Willow ran to hide behind a large, orange-berried bush. She watched and waited. When no one came by, and the sound drifted off with the clouds, she came out from her hiding spot. She looked up realising the sound had come from the clouds.

‘Willow!’

 

Startled, I sat up in bed. It had only been a dream—but seemed so real! It was as if I was a ghost floating in the air or something. I could see Willow but she couldn’t see me.

I didn’t get out of bed until after ten o’clock. Instead of being the first one up, like usual, I was the last.

‘Good morning, sleepy head!’ said Mum when I walked bleary-eyed into the kitchen and sat at the dining table. ‘Would you like some breakfast? Or maybe lunch.’

‘Mum. It’s not that late.’

‘It is for you. You’re usually up with the birds. Did you sleep alright?’

‘Yeah,’ I answered. I didn’t really want to talk.

‘What are you going to do today?’ Mum asked.

I hadn’t thought about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about my dream and Willow. I knew Dad and the others in the search party were already out and I thought I could probably check out a few of the places mentioned in Willow’s diary too.

‘Not sure,’ I said, not wanting to tell Mum too much. ‘I might go for a  walk.’

‘In this weather?’ Mum asked. ‘You do realise it’s raining.’

I hadn’t realised.

‘Well, then I’ll sit and watch a movie.’

‘Why don’t you read a book?’

Seriously? Read a book? As if! I didn’t say that, but the smile on Mum’s face said she knew what I thought about that suggestion.

After breaky, I took Dad’s binoculars and went to sit on the front porch for a while. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I was just looking. Willow had said something in her diary about an old man she thought she’d seen at the abandoned house on Mr T’s property. It was probably just Mr T, but she’d written that he was taller than
Mr T, skinnier than Mr T, and walked with a stick. She didn’t say where this man came from or where he went. Just that she saw him.

As I sat looking through the binoculars at the abandoned house, I thought I saw something move. I took the binoculars away from my eyes but saw nothing. I looked again through the binoculars and there it was. It’s really hard to describe what I saw cos it was kind of like a shimmering. You know on a really hot day, if you look across a field to the horizon, there’s a shimmering heat haze? It was kind of like that. But it wasn’t a heat haze—it was winter. It wasn’t thick like fog either, but it was sort of misty.

I decided I needed a closer look.

‘Mum! I’m going for a walk.’ I yelled at the front door as I put Dad’s binoculars on the hallstand, picked up my coat and kept going before Mum could say anything. It wasn’t raining any more, but I thought the coat might help camouflage me a bit if Dad or someone else happened to look my way…

 

The abandoned house wasn’t far now, but it was beginning to rain. Not what I needed since I planned on crawling the rest of the way to stay hidden.

I got down on my hands and knees. The ground was wet, really wet. But if I was going to get close to the abandoned house without anyone seeing me, I was going to have to get wet too.

Mum was going to kill me!

I ran from Mr T’s shed to the nearest patch of grass and lay down. All good so far, I thought. I started to slither through the grass towards the abandoned house. My damp clothes were already cold and making me shiver.

Sheep came towards me, which made me feel more nervous. The sooner I could get to the abandoned house and have a look, the sooner I could get out of here. But sheep kept looking at me and coming closer.

‘Bahhh!’ A sheep bleated in my face.

‘Go away’ I whispered.

‘Bahhh!’ it bleated again getting close enough to sniff my head. I didn’t want to make any sudden movements so waited for the sheep to finish checking me out. Suddenly, I felt a nudge on my head. The sheep were nibbling at my hair.

‘Stop it, sheep!’ I whispered, pushing its head away from me.

‘Bahhh! Bahh! Bahhh!’

 

The sheep seemed to be bleating louder but began walking away. I quickly checked to make sure the stupid sheep hadn’t brought attention to me, when I saw it. The shimmering. It wasn’t easy to see but it was definitely there in front of the abandoned house.

That wasn’t all I saw. There was a dark, shadowy figure. I was too frightened to move and tried to stay as still as I could, hoping whoever it was hadn’t see me. It came closer and I could see it was an old man who looked exactly as Willow described in her diary. He was taller than Mr T, skinnier than Mr T and definitely was not Mr T.

‘What are you doing there?’ asked the old man as he walked closer to me. He sounded angry.

‘I, ahh…’ What was I going to say?

‘Stand up! Come on,’ he insisted.

I stood up in the long grass and realised I’d been lying in a muddy puddle. No wonder I felt so cold and wet.

‘Look at you. What will your parents say?’

‘Who are you?’ I asked.

‘Never mind who I am. What are you doing here?’

‘What are you doing here? This is Mr T’s property.’ I tried to appear braver than I felt.

‘I may be old but I know where I am and why I’m here. It’s you that shouldn’t be here. Now, get. Go home. There’s nothing here for you but sheep and an old house. Off you go. And don’t come back. This isn’t your place.’

The old man seemed to grow in size as he grabbed my arm and led me towards the gate.

‘I’m looking for my sister!’ I said, desperately.

‘Well, she’s not here.’

‘Have you seen her?’ I asked.

‘I haven’t seen anyone for a very long time. Now go!’

‘Please, mister, I’m just—’

‘Do you want me to tell your folks you’re over here? I will, you know. And you know you’ll be in trouble then. I suggest you leave now and don’t return. If I see your sister, I’ll tell her to go away too!’

The old man, now standing over me and yelling in my face, did not want to help. I turned quickly and, clothes dripping with mud and water, ran straight to the main gate, out over the road and back to our house.

Mum must have seen me coming as I came up the driveway dripping wet. She met me at the front door with a towel and wasn’t very happy, telling me to go to the back door and take all my wet clothes off in the laundry before coming inside.

I sat on the back step for a minute looking at Plantation Island and back over to the abandoned house before going inside. Who was that old man? Where did he come from? What was the shimmering I’d seen? Did that sheep tell the old man I was there?

Maybe Willow was on to something. I’d have to do more investigating. But what could I do?

I thought about it for the rest of the day. In my bedroom that evening, I decided I’d have to go back to Plantation Island and see if I could find any clues there.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Judy Rankin is the author of the memoir It’s [Not] All About Liz! (2014), historical fiction novel, Catelina (2017) and middle-grade children’s novel The Land of Giant Pineapples (2021). Judy has written for MUFTI (the Victorian RSL members magazine), That’s Life magazine and From the Inside Looking Out, 2020 General Anthology. She has also appeared in New Reader Magazine 1(2) June 2018.

When not writing stories, Judy runs her own financial administration business, Surf Coast Support, looking after the accounts of small businesses and funding for NDIS participants. She also runs ‘Jaymah’, a small press and online bookstore supporting emerging writers. Judy is also attempted to finish a creative-practice PhD in Communication and Media with RMIT.

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