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Tom and the Siege
by Tony Bradman
“bound to appeal to roguish boys everywhere”
Key Stage: KS2 E/H; Age 8+ (info)
198 x 130mm
Illustrator: Stephen Parkhouse
After graduating from Cambridge University, Tony Bradman worked as the Deputy Editor of Parent’s Magazine before beginning to write. He has sold over two million books worldwide and is the author of the well-known Dilly the Dinosaur books.
TOM AND THE SIEGE
“Where on earth do you think you're going, Thomas?" said Lady Eleanor Bailey, her unmistakable voice cutting across the courtyard of Creaky Castle, ancestral home of the Bailey family. Her son was halfway towards the gates, but he froze and turned to look at her. “And why haven't you put on your new outfit?" she added. “You're even scruffier than usual."
“New outfit? What new outfit?" said Thomas, confused. “I was about to take Sparky for his morning walk." Thomas nodded in the direction of his enormous pet dragon, who had stopped in his tracks as well. The great beast moaned softly and nudged Thomas with his snout, as if to hurry him along. “There's nothing else I'm supposed to be doing...is there?"
Thomas felt uneasy even as he said it. He had a vague memory of Mother giving him a series of instructions at breakfast, several things she had wanted him to do. He had ignored her, of course, as he always did when he had other stuff on his mind – like having fun with Sparky. Now Mother was standing at the top of the steps into the Keep, hands on hips, scowling at him with that familiar, irritable expression on her face.
“There most certainly is," she snapped. “You're supposed to be getting ready to go on an outing with your father and me today. Ring any bells?"
“Really?" said Thomas. “Er...I'm afraid you'll have to remind me of the details, Mother. I might not have taken it all in when you told me."
“Give me strength..." Lady Eleanor muttered. She sighed, and closed her eyes briefly. “We're going to look at a school for you, Thomas," she said, speaking slowly. “So you are to return to your room this instant, put on the lovely new clothes I laid out for you, and be down in the Great Hall ready to leave in precisely fifteen minutes. This could be the most important day of your life, and we will not be late. Is that quite clear?"
“As a bell, Mother," said Thomas, grinning. She gave him a sour look, and he wondered if his little joke might have been a mistake. Mother didn't have a great sense of humour at the best of times, and it tended to vanish altogether when she was in this kind of mood. Thomas could feel his own mood darkening by the second – an outing to some boring old school with his parents was definitely not what he had planned for today. “Sorry, Sparky," he whispered. “We'll just have to go walkies afterwards."
Sparky mooed tragically and lay down, his head on his paws. Thomas gave his beloved pet's smoky snout a quick hug, then trudged up the steps and into the Keep, Lady Eleanor watching him every step of the way. Some of what she'd said earlier was coming back to him, although he was even more confused now. He knew he would have to go to squire school eventually, like most boys. But he was pretty sure that wouldn't be for a couple of years yet, when he would be old enough. So why were they visiting a school today?
Thomas found the new clothes at the end of his bed, where Mother must have put them. He simply hadn't noticed them when he'd woken up earlier. They weren't too bad, although he could have done without the puffed sleeves on the jacket and the curly-toed red shoes... Thomas sighed, quickly got changed and hurried down to the Great Hall.
Mother wasn't there. Thomas's big sister Matilda was sitting at the table though, flicking through a catalogue of weapons and armour, something she loved doing. Her sole ambition was to become a soldier and fight in battles, although Mother had always been dead set against it. Mott, the family's ancient, harmless wolfhound, was dozing by the hearth.
“Hey, sis, did you know Mother and Father are taking me to see some school?" said Thomas. “What's the big deal? Mother told me this could be the most important day of my life. But it's just a school...isn't it?"
“Just a school?" said Matilda, giving him a pitying look. Thomas began to feel seriously uneasy. Lots of bells were ringing in his brain now – alarm bells. If his sister was sorry for him, then something had to be wrong. “The place you'll be visiting is as different from an ordinary squire school as your Sparky is from old Mott. Nice outfit, by the way. Those puffed sleeves are so you. And as for those crazy shoes..."
“Oh, ha ha, excuse me while I die laughing," muttered Thomas. An image of Sparky and Mott sitting beside each other had popped into his mind. “What do you mean? Is it a lot bigger than an ordinary school?"
“No, I was actually thinking more of the way Sparky can be very fierce," said Matilda. “That particular school has a reputation for—"
“For what, Matilda?" said Mother, marching into the Great Hall. The children's father – short, plump Sir John Bailey – scurried in behind her.
“Being very tough," said Matilda, with a shrug. “You know, it's all getting up at the crack of dawn every day, long-distance runs in full armour, cold baths, loads of hard work, and strict punishments if you don't make the grade. You're so lucky, Tom. I would absolutely love it. Not sure how you’ll survive though."
“Whoa, hold on," said Thomas. He had been listening to Matilda with mounting horror. “Are you saying I'd have to live there and do all that stuff? That it's a boarding school? Er...I'm sorry, but it doesn't sound like my kind of place."
“On the contrary, Thomas," Mother said sternly, “your father and I think it could be exactly the right place for you – don’t we, dear?"
“Well, I'm not entirely convinced yet," said Sir John. “I reckon he might still be a little young for it. I was much older when I first went to squire school, and I didn't much like it for the first couple of years. Come to think of it, I absolutely loathed it the whole time I was there... And Tom's not actually that bad, my love...just, well...a bit wayward."
“Wayward?" said Mother, with a frown. “Need I remind you what your son has done recently? Why, it's been nothing but mischief, mayhem and madness. What about those fireworks he got from that old fool who calls himself a wizard? You nearly had a heart attack when he let them off."
“I didn't mean to startle Father," said Thomas. “And Faldor is a good wizard...usually. Er...he just made the powder mixture too strong."
“You shouldn't have been playing with fireworks anyway," Mother growled. “I suppose putting red dye in the washing was an accident, too, was it? And dropping rocks down the well till it got blocked? And as for tying the men-at-arms' shoelaces together when they were on parade..."
“I was only having some fun," said Thomas, grinning at her again. “You have to admit it was hilarious when they all fell over like a lot of skittles."
Matilda snorted, and even Father's lips twitched slightly.
“I WILL ADMIT NOTHING OF THE SORT!" yelled Mother, her face red. The other three Baileys jumped. “You seem to think life is one huge joke, Thomas – you never treat anything seriously. I've tried with you, I really have, but you simply refuse to take any notice of me – so I give up! You need discipline, my lad, and going to squire school early might well be the only answer. We'll see, anyway. Now, can we get a move on?"
And with that, Lady Eleanor Bailey swept out of the Great Hall.
“Come along, Tom," Sir John murmured nervously. “We'd better not keep her waiting. You never know, the school might not be so bad."
“Oh yeah, right," Matilda muttered. “And pigs might fly, Father."
Thomas felt his heart sinking swiftly towards his curly-toed shoes as he followed his parents out of the Keep. But he was already madly plotting, trying to think of a way to save himself...
Fans of Horrid Henry and Bart Simpson will love Tom Bailey, the mischievous star of this fantastically colourful medieval world!
Betty Bookmark 5 star review
This humorous tale of Creaky Castle is enhanced with zany illustrations which children will love. The young hero, Tom, is the star of a colourful medieval world.
Parents battle-weary from the excesses of Horrid Henry can rest assured that Tom is mischievous rather than downright anarchic, and much more polite to his parents. And that is the sort of hero we can all applaud.
This book's action-packed plot and cheeky humour is bound to appeal to roguish boys everywhere.
Tony Bradman's storytelling is clear and swift and the book has plenty of enjoyably-bad jokes. The lively illustrations by Stephen Parkhouse contribute to a very attractive package.
Junior Education Plus
Although part of a series, Tom and the Siege can be read and enjoyed if you have not yet come across any of the other books about Creaky Castle...How Tom enlists the somewhat dubious help of Bad Bart in laying siege to the castle (so that he will not be able to go to boarding school) and how everything goes gloriously wrong, with plenty of slap stick thrown in for good measure, makes for a hilarious read. If you do buy this book, you would be well advised to buy other books in the series too!
Books for Keeps
Being familiar with Bradman’s poetry I was expecting a humorous medieval romp and I wasn’t disappointed! Tom and his adoring dragon feature in a tale jam packed full of exploding cows catapulting over battlements, evil baddies with their hilarious henchmen and the fearsome Sir Gilbert de Grouchy shadowed by his awful daughter Migraine. I know my Year 5 boys will be clamouring to read this.
This is part of a series of funny stories based on what life might have been like in a medieval castle. The high jinx and scrapes that the characters get themselves into will be enjoyed by Horrid Henry fans.
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