Extract 1

The Glass Knight



One stiflingly hot August morning, an old man moved through the forest undergrowth. He knew it would be a good day for magic because he was a wizard-not the type of kindly, enchanted figure, but a sorcerer of the dark arts.

The old man carefully placed on the ground a leathery looking egg. Pursing his lips together, he made a strange noise whereupon a large grey toad appeared. The toad had been summoned to guard the egg until it was time for it to hatch. The old man left as quietly as he had come. It was 1599; in a few months a new century would dawn, but not a fortunate time for the people nearby.

Nine long years passed when the egg started to shake and the grass began to tremble. The nervous creatures of the forest were the only witnesses to the deadliest beast’s birth. The creature that emerged from the egg, and stretched its young wings, was part rooster and part serpent.

Rapidly, its terrible form took shape with sharp barbs along its body. It had the head and claws of a rooster, a serpent’s forked tongue, the wings of a bat and a long, arrow shaped tail. It was every shade of black and yellow and on the top of its head, a crown of white fur. Unlike other serpents, it did not wind along the floor, instead it used its two strong clawed legs to move in an upright position, its great tail swishing behind it. By far the most terrible feature of this creature was its blood red eyes.

A couple of days after the hatching, a young farmer, up early to milk the cows, looked out of his window at the strangest sight. Part of the usually lush green forest that surrounded his land look shrivelled and dead.
“Hey George," he called to his labourer, "come and see this ‘ere.”
“On my word," said George. "I’ve never seen naught like that."

Walking through the blackened trees, they suddenly glimpsed the back of the most extraordinary creature. A strong sense of foreboding, made the young farmer instantly dart behind a tree. He tried to pull his friend back with him but the young labourer knew no fear.

The creature turned and for a brief second held the labourer's gaze. Crying in terror, the young man dropped to the ground, dead. Trembling, the young farmer somehow found the means to get his frozen legs to move and ran to alert the sheriff who dispatched his best men to find out more. They never returned.

The villagers consulted the local wise woman. On hearing the description, the old woman shuddered.
“Do you know what we are facing?" asked the town leaders.
“Yes,” said the old woman, “I fear I know what the creature is, and before this ends, many of you will die. In our midst is a basilisk. A rare and evil creature, created when a cockerel’s egg is placed in the care of a toad at the time when Sirius (the Dog Star), appears in the dawn skies with the sun.”

“What shall we do?” asked the sheriff.  
“I cannot tell you what to do," she said, “only what you face. This is a creature that can burn all living matter with its terrible poisonous breath. It destroys everything it travels over and spreads poison wherever it goes; no herb can grow near the place of its abode."

"Its eyes have the power to kill even the largest beast. It closes them not to sleep but only to drink. Worst of all, it eats humans. You cannot defeat it with a sword or spear for its poisonous blood will flow up the length of the weapon, withering the body of the one holding it. Only the herb rue can offer some healing."

Her words were soon proved true. The monster's breath withered the local trees and rotted the fruit. Its saliva killed the birds flying overhead and it poisoned all the rivers and wells from which it drank. Soon there was little food or water left. Many tried to defeat the beast, hoping its eyes to be shut, but so alert were its other senses, they too perished. The town was doomed.

As the townsfolk awaited their dreadful end, a wandering knight arrived at the town. On hearing the story of the dying town, he vowed that he would free the people from such evil. The people shrugged in disbelief.

It was clear that the knight could not use his mighty sword, for its breath would kill him. He could not hide in his armour of spikes, because the creature’s blood would enter the suit and wither him. He could not look towards it to unleash an arrow, for its eyes were deadly.

The brave knight sighed and glanced toward the window where there remained one cracked pane of glass. In the glass, the knight saw his own anguished reflection of the sadness that he was feeling because he could not help the terrified people. Yet he also saw a flicker of hope – for, at that moment, he realised why the beast needed to close its eyes to drink.

The next morning, the knight slipped out of town early. News soon spread of his departure.
“So much for promises," said the cooper.

Two days later, a knight in glimmering armour made from mirrors of the purest crystal glass entered the village. Reflected in the glass were the houses and the many open mouths of the people looking on in utter astonishment. In one hand, the knight carried not a sword, but a sprig of magic rowan and in his other hand, not a shield but a basket of rue.

Boldly the knight went towards the serpent’s lair. Raising itself up, the basilisk sensed the knight approaching. It flapped its mighty wings and turned to face its foe with its evil eye and rancid poisonous breath. It reared backwards and screeched in utter pain and devastation for it saw its own lethal reflection. It hit the ground with a thunderous crash-dead! That night there was great revelry and celebration.

I should say, before this story finishes that Basilisks are very rare creatures and rest assured, you are unlikely to come across one. However, if you ever happen to be walking through the woods at dawn, when the Dog Star is high in the sky, and you see a large leathery egg, guarded by an even larger toad, just remember, as a good citizen of this country, it is your civic duty to make haste and report it straight away.



Rue-an evergreen shrub with bitter, strong scented leaves.

Rowan-a tree, also known as mountain ash.

Cooper-a person who makes barrels.

Extract 2

How Anansi Became King Of All Stories

Once upon a time, all tales and stories belonged to Nyame, the Sky God. But Anansi, the spider, yearned to be the owner of all stories known in the world, so he went to Nyame with the request that he be named King Of All Stories and offered to buy them.

Nyame told Anansi that Chiefs, great warriors and powerful families had not been able to pay Nyame or meet his demands. He asked Anansi, "What makes you think that you will be able to do it? Do you think you can do it?"

Anansi replied, "I can do it. What is the price?"

Nyame, the sky God, then said to Anansi, "You could get the title only if you could catch Osebo, the jaguar, with teeth like daggers, Mmoboro, the hornets, whose sting is like fire, and Onini, the great python. For these things I will give you the title of King Of All Stories and the right to tell all the stories."

"Very well," Anansi said. "I shall bring them to you."

Anansi first made a small hole in a gourd. He then filled a bowl with water and went to the tree where the hornets lived. He poured some of the water over himself, so that he was dripping. He then threw some water over the hornets, so that they would think it was raining.

Then he put the bowl on his head, and called out to the hornets, "Are you foolish people? Why do you stay in the rain? Come here, in this dry gourd."

The hornets flew into the gourd's small hole. Anansi plugged the hole with a ball of grass, thus had tricked Mmoboro into pretending it was raining.

Anansi took his gourd full of hornets to Nyame, who said, "There are two more things." Anansi returned to the forest and cut a long bamboo pole and some strong vines. At a nearby river, he sat on a log; he waited until a snake came along.

Then he walked toward Onini, the great python, talking to himself in a very loud voice and pretending to be arguing with someone. "I say he is longer and stronger. My wife says he is shorter and weaker. Is she right or am I right? I am right, he is longer and stronger."

When Onini, the python, heard Anansi talking to himself he said, "Why are you arguing with yourself?"

Kwaku Anansi replied, "Ah, I have had a dispute with my wife. She says you are shorter and weaker than this bamboo pole. I say you are longer and stronger."

Onini said, "It's useless to argue when you can find out the truth. Bring the pole and we'll measure."

So Anansi laid the pole on the ground, and the python stretched himself out beside it.

"You seem a little short." Anansi said. The python stretched further.

"When you stretch at one end, you get shorter at the other end." Anansi said. "Let me tie you at the front so you don't slip."

Anansi tied Onini's head to the pole, then went to the other end and tied the tail to the pole. He wrapped the vine all around Onini, until the python couldn't move.

"Onini," Anansi said, "it turns out that my wife was right and I was wrong. You are shorter than the pole and weaker and you are now my prisoner."

Anansi carried the python to Nyame. "I'm impressed," he said, "you've done two of the three. Now bring me Osebo, the jaguar and the stories are freed."

Anansi dug a deep pit in the forest where the jaguar liked to walk. He covered it with small branches and leaves, so that it was impossible to tell where the pit was. When Osebo came prowling in the black of night, he fell to the bottom of the pit.

When morning came, Anansi saw the jaguar there. "Osebo," he asked, "what are you doing in this hole?"

"I have fallen into a trap." Osebo said. "Help me out."

"I would gladly help you," Anansi said, "but I'm sure that if I bring you out, you'll get hungry and want to eat me and my children."

"I promise it won't happen!" Osebo said.

Anansi then bent a tall green tree toward the ground, so that its top was over the pit, and he tied it that way. Then he tied a rope to the top of the tree and dropped the other end of it into the pit.

"Tie this to your tail," he said. Osebo obeyed.

He cut the other rope, the one that held the tree bowed to the ground. The tree straightened up with a snap, pulling Osebo out of the hole. He hung in the air head downward. As he twisted and turned, he got so dizzy that Anansi had no trouble tying the jaguar’s feet with vines.

Anansi took the dizzy jaguar, all tied up, to Nyame, saying, "Here's the third thing. Now I have paid the price."

Nyame said, "Anansi, great warriors and chiefs have tried, but they have been unable to do it. You have done it. Therefore, I will give you the tales. From this day onward, all stories belong to you and, whenever a man tells a tale, he must acknowledge that it is Anansi's tale."

And that is why, in parts of Africa, the people love to tell, and love to hear, the stories they call 'spider stories'. And now you have heard one too.


Gourd-a hard skinned fleshy fruit of a climbing plant.

Extract 3

Poem 1

Motor Cars

by Rowena Bastin Bennett


From city window, 'way up high,

I like to watch the cars go by.

They look like burnished beetles, black,

That leave a little muddy track

Behind them as they slowly crawl.

Sometimes they do not move at all

But huddle close with hum and drone

As though they feared to be alone.

They grope their way through fog and night

With the golden feelers of their light.


Poem 2


by Marian Lines


There's a graveyard in our street,

But it's not for putting people in;

The bodies that they bury here

Are made of steel and paint and tin.

The people come and leave their wrecks

For crunching in the giant jaws

Of a great hungry car-machine,

That lives on bonnets, wheels and doors.

When I pass by the yard at night,

I sometimes think I hear a sound

Of ghostly horns that moan and whine,

Upon that metal-graveyard mound.

Extract 4

Albert Einstein

By Stepanie Sammartino McPherson


Albert Einstein is one of the cleverest scientists that ever lived. Albert was born on 14th March 1879. He was born in Ulm, Germany and grew up in Munich, Germany, at a time when teachers were very strict. Students had to sit still, stay quiet and memorise long lists of facts. They were not supposed to question what they learned. However, questioning was one of the things Albert did best. Why was there a North Pole? What made magnets work? The world was full of wonders that he longed to understand.

Albert loved his secondary school. To his delight, the teachers were friendly and welcomed his questions. After finishing school, he was accepted into the Polytechnic School, a famous science college in Zurich, Switzerland. He had decided to become a science teacher. Albert was eager to learn everything he could about physics. Physics is the science of energy and matter. Everything in the universe is made of matter, from a planet to a toy car.

Science made Albert happy in a way that nothing else did. Numbers and equations were as beautiful as poetry to him. Albert was still fascinated by light. Some scientists believed a beam of light was made of billions of tiny glowing particles. Others believed that light was a wave, something like the ripples on a pond. Which group was right? Albert said they both were. He used maths to prove that light is both a particle and a wave. Finally, in 1909, Albert Einstein became a science professor.

Then the First World War broke out in 1914. Albert thought that peace was more important than differences between countries. Instead of helping the war effort, like most scientists, he lost himself in his work. He was trying to solve the mystery of gravity. Gravity is the force that pulls things towards the Earth. When a ball is thrown up into the air, gravity is the force that makes it come down again.

In May 1919, there was a solar eclipse. During a solar eclipse, the Moon passes in front of the Sun and blocks its rays. Even in the middle of the day it becomes very dark, and the stars come out. The eclipse gave scientists a chance to test Albert's strange idea. They would be able to see if the gravity from the sun made starlight bend as it passed by. During the eclipse, scientists took pictures of the stars and studied them closely. One of Albert's scientist friends stayed up all night, hoping to hear about their findings. Albert went to bed as usual. He wasn't worried. He knew he was right.

On 6th November 1919, the findings of the scientists were announced in London. Albert's theory was correct! Starlight had been bent by the Sun. The news spread quickly. Soon forty-year old Albert faced a long line of reporters eager to talk to him and take his picture. The sudden fuss took Albert by surprise. He didn't want to be famous. He had no time for it! Albert knew what really mattered though. He decided to make reporters pay to take his picture. The money went to feed hungry children who were still suffering after the war.

Not everyone loved Albert, however. Many Germans were still angry about losing the war and unfairly blamed Jews. Since Albert was Jewish, they criticised him and his work. It had become hard for Jewish students to get accepted at universities and for Jewish professors to get jobs. In 1921 Albert agreed to go to the United States of America to help raise money to create a university in Jerusalem, a city in Palestine. It was to be a centre of learning where Jews from all over the world would be welcome. Later that year, Albert won the Nobel Prize for physics for the work he had done years before showing that light was both a particle and a wave. The Nobel Prize is one of the most important awards in the world. It was a great honour.

Albert never stopped working. When he was rushed to hospital shortly after his seventy-sixth birthday, he asked someone to bring him his glasses, paper and a pencil. He wanted to spend his last days doing what he loved best. He died on 18th April 1955. People are still fascinated by Albert Einstein. He has been honoured over and over again. His face is on postage stamps, and a crater on the Moon is named after him. Albert once said, "I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious." Thanks to Albert's curiosity, our view of the universe has changed forever.

Extract 5

The Diary of Anne Frank

by Anne Frank


Teenager Anne Frank's heartbreaking diary, kept from 12 June 1942 until 1 August 1944, is one of the key eyewitness accounts of the Second World War. Penguin published the definitive edition of the diary in 1997 and it is read widely today both by children and by adults. The Secret Annexe begins on Tuesday 10 November 1942, when Anne and her family had already spent more than a year hidden in a cramped attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

Extract from this book


Dearest Kitty,

Yesterday was a very tumultuous day, and we're still all wound up. Actually, you may wonder if there's ever a day that passes without some kind of excitement.

The first warning siren went off in the morning while we were at breakfast, but we paid no attention, because it only meant that the planes were crossing the coast. I had a terrible headache, so I lay down for an hour after breakfast and then went to the office at about two. At two-thirty Margot had finished her office work and was just gathering her things together when the sirens began wailing again. So she and I trooped back upstairs. None too soon, it seems, for less than five minutes later the guns were booming so loudly that we went and stood in the passage. The house shook and the bombs kept falling. I was clutching my 'escape bag', more because I wanted to have something to hold on to than because I wanted to run away. I know we can't leave here, but if we had to, being seen on the streets would be just as dangerous as getting caught in an air raid. After half an hour the drone of engines faded and the house began to hum with activity again. Peter emerged from his lookout post in the front attic, Dussel remained in the front office, Mrs van D. felt safest in the private office, Mr van Daan had been watching from the loft, and those of us on the landing spread out to watch the columns of smoke rising from the harbour. Before long the smell of fire was everywhere, and outside it looked as if the city were enveloped in a thick fog.

A big fire like that is not a pleasant sight, but fortunately for us it was all over, and we went back to our various jobs. Just as we were starting dinner: another air-raid alarm. The food was good, but I lost my appetite the moment I heard the siren. Nothing happened, however, and forty-five minutes later the all-clear was sounded. After the washing-up: another air-raid warning, gunfire and swarms of planes. 'Oh gosh, twice in one day,' we thought, 'that's twice too many.' Little good that did us, because once again the bombs rained down, this time on the other side of the city. According to British reports, Schiphol Airport was bombed. The planes dived and climbed, the air was abuzz with the drone of engines. It was very scary, and the whole time I kept thinking, 'Here it comes, this is it.'

I can assure you that when I went to bed at nine, my legs were still shaking. At the stroke of midnight I woke up again: more planes! Dussel was undressing, but I took no notice and leapt up, wide awake, at the sound of the first shot. I stayed in Father's bed until one, in my own bed until one-thirty, and was back in Father's bed at two. But the planes kept on coming.

Extract 6

Online Safety



Children and young people spend a lot of time online – it can be a great way for them to socialise, explore and have fun. But children do face risks such as cyberbullying or seeing content that's inappropriate. That's why it's important for you to know how to stay safe online.

Whether you're unsure about what happens online or are up to speed with new technology, it's important that you keep safe!

What children do online and through social networking

Children and young people go online to connect with friends, and make new ones, to browse the internet for information, chat with others and play games. They may:

  • search for information or content on search engines like Google and Bing.
  • share images and watch videos through websites or mobile apps like Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and YouTube.
  • use social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter.
  • write or reply to messages on forums and message boards.
  • play games alone or with others through websites, apps or game consoles.
  • chat with other people through online games, BBM (Blackberry Messenger), game consoles, webcams, social networks and tools like Whatsapp.

When online, children and young people can learn new things, get help with homework, express themselves creatively and connect with friends and family.

There are also risks, but understanding the dangers can help you stay safe online.

Staying safe on mobiles, smartphones and tablets.

Mobiles or tablets can be used anywhere – from the bedroom to when out and about. Things to consider:

Taking and sending pictures

Photos can be sent instantly from smartphones and tablets. Sometimes this means people don't take a moment to think before they share images.

Consequently, as soon as images are sent to another person, there is no control over where and how that image is shared.

Using the device too much

Often, mobile devices are used too much. Although they can be good for people's social lives, they can also stop them from talking to people face to face. There are also concerns about how they affect concentration, sleep patterns and eyesight for very young children.

Throughout life, it is important to have a balance of activities - of socially interacting as well as working the body physically.

Public WiFi

Public WiFi hotspots let users connect to the internet via a wireless network. You can find WiFi hotspots in places like coffee shops, libraries, and airports. But they're not always secure and they can allow children to search the internet free from controls.

Just like on a computer, parents and carers can control any devices, so restricting what is accessible. These controls enable you to safely stay online when using a mobile or tablet too!

So remember….to always take care and think carefully when you go online. It is critical that all young people stay safe online to be happy!

Extract 7


by CBBC website

Why do earthquakes happen?

Although the ground we walk on seems solid, the earth is actually made up of huge pieces of flat rock called tectonic plates. These move very slowly, and where they meet is called a fault. When the plates rub together, the movement forces waves of energy to come to the earth's surface. This causes tremors and shakes - and this is what causes earthquakes.

Why are earthquakes dangerous?

Earthquakes can be very dangerous, if you are in the wrong place. They can make buildings fall down and set off landslides, as well as having many other deadly effects. An earthquake which occurs on the seafloor can push water upwards and create massive waves called tsunamis. These waves can reach speeds of up to 500 kilometres per hour and cause massive devastation to anything in their path. Earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale. The higher the number on the scale, the more powerful the quake. The more powerful a quake is, the more damage it can cause. Earthquakes have killed hundreds of thousands of people even though scientists are able to make buildings much safer than in the past. Unfortunately many quakes happen in parts of the world where people can't afford to spend lots of money on safety measures.

Did you know there are over a million earthquakes each year in all parts of the world? But we don't notice most of them because they are so small. Britain doesn't have a history of devastating earthquakes, but there are 200 to 250 on average a year, and about 30 of those can be felt.

Have there been serious earthquakes recently?

In recent years, there have been some really big earthquakes:

Japan earthquake and tsunami, March 2011

A massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan killing over 15,000 people. The tsunami damaged a nuclear plant in Fukushima in the north of the country which later suffered several explosions causing people living nearby to flee their homes.

Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake, February 2011

Over 150 people were killed when a 6.3 magnitude quake hit Christchurch in New Zealand. The tremors caused the city's cathedral to collapse and was the country's worst natural disaster in 80 years.

Sumatra earthquake, October 2010

A big 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Over 700 people were killed. The quake hit just a few hours after an earlier one in the area caused a tsunami that killed 100 islanders.

Haiti earthquake, January 2010

A strong earthquake hit Haiti in the Caribbean. It devastated the country, and it's thought between 100,000 and 200,000 people died. Hundreds of buildings were demolished and 1.5 million people were made homeless.

Why is it dangerous after an earthquake?

Earthquakes are often followed by aftershocks, causing even more damage to already weakened buildings and roads. Land, especially hills, can also be damaged by earthquakes and result in devastating landslides and mudslides.

What is an aftershock?

• It's basically a smaller earthquake that happens after the main quake, in the same area.

• If it registers higher on the Richter scale than the first quake, it's renamed as the main earthquake and the original main quake becomes known as a foreshock.

• Aftershocks can happen for up to two years after the original earthquake, losing power over time.

The risk of disease

In the chaos that can occur after an earthquake, sometimes electricity and fresh water can be lost. When there's no fresh water, this can lead to the spread of diseases.

Even getting hold of food and basic supplies can be difficult after an earthquake, because roads and other transport links can be destroyed.

The long-term effects of earthquakes can be felt for years afterwards.

Extract 8

The Iron Woman

by Ted Hughes


The marsh was always a lonely place. Now Lucy felt the loneliness. As she stood there, looking up, the whole bluish and pinky sky of soft cloud moved slowly. She looked again along the drain, where the reeds leaned all one way, bowing gently in the light wind. The eel was no longer to be seen. Was it still writhing and bobbing its head up, as the slow flow carried it away through the marsh? She looked down into the drain, under the bridge. The black water moved silently, crumpling and twirling little whorls of light.

Then it came again. Beneath her feet, the bridge road jumped and the rail jarred her hand. At the same moment, the water surface of the drain was blurred by a sudden mesh of tiny ripples all over it.

An earthquake! It must be an earthquake!

A completely new kind of fear gripped Lucy. For a few seconds she did not dare to move. The thought of the bridge collapsing and dropping her into the drain with its writhing eels was bad enough. But the thought of the marsh itself opening a great crack, and herself and all the water and mud and eels and reeds pouring into bottomless black, maybe right into the middle of the earth, was worse. She felt her toes curling like claws and the soles of her feet prickling with electricity.

Quickly then she began to walk – but it was like walking on a bouncy narrow plank between skyscrapers. She lifted each foot carefully and set it down firmly and yet gently. As fast as she dared, and yet quite slow. But soon – she couldn’t help it – she started running. What if that earthquake shock had brought the ceiling down on her mother? Or even shaken the village flat, like dominoes? And what if some great towering piece of machinery, at the factory, had toppled onto her father?

 And then, as she ran, it came again, pitching her off balance, so that her left foot hit her right calf and down she went. As she lay there, flat and winded, it came again. This time, the road seemed to hit her chest and stomach, a strong, hard thump. Then another. And each time, she saw the road gravel under her face jump lightly. And it was then, as she lay there, that she heard the weirdest sound. Nothing like any bird she had ever heard. It came from out of the marsh behind her. It was a long wailing cry, like a fire engine siren. She jumped up and began to run blindly.

Already the head was out. It still didn’t look much like a head – simply a gigantic black lump, crowned with reeds and streaming with mud. But the mouth was clear, and after that first wailing cry the lips moved slowly, like a crab’s, spitting out mud and roots.

Half an hour passed before the lump moved again. As it moved, the reeds away to either side of it bulged upwards and heaved, and the black watery mud streamed through them. The mouth opened and a long booming groan came out of it, as the head hoisted clear. Another groan became a wailing roar. A seagull blowing across the marsh like a paper scrap veered wildly upwards as the streaming shape reared in front of it, like a sudden wall of cliff, pouring cataracts of black mud and clotted, rooted lumps of reeds where grass snakes squirmed and water voles flailed their forepaws, blinking their eyes and squealing as they fell.

Extract 9

The Specimen

by Tim Stout


Christopher was ready to give up and go home for the night when he noticed the strange throbbing. Since twilight, the fifteen year old naturalist had been huddling motionless against a tree stump deep in Noakey Wood, hoping to see the family of badgers emerge from their sett, but after watching for two fruitless hours, he was cold and cramped and had grown thoroughly sick of the whole thing. The wretched badgers must have given him the slip. They were probably miles away by now, foraging in the distant meadows beneath the full moon. Well, there was no point in waiting beside an empty burrow. Stiffly he got to his feet. It was while he was making his way to the bush in which he had left his bicycle that the throbbing attracted his attention.

He paused and listened. Just a plane droning by, that was all. And yet the noise wasn't overhead, was it? It seemed to be coming from underneath the ground.

Christopher began to feel uneasy. Not a breath of wind was stirring, yet every tree in the clearing had started to rustle. Birds roosting in the big old oaks were twittering in alarm and quitting their perches. There was certainly something down there. He could sense the vibrations himself, pounding up through the earth.

Whatever was coming, it seemed a good idea to be as far away as possible when it broke surface. He made a dash for his bicycle, but already it was too late to escape. Before he could reach the bush, a violent tremor of the earth flung him off his feet.

As the frightened Christopher picked himself out of the bracken, he saw the ground tremble as if a giant fist were pummelling it from below. Cracks and fissures appeared around him. He clutched at an oak for support, and felt the sturdy trunk shudder in its roots. Was this an earthquake? Surely not - not in safe, settled England?

The oak creaked and lurched to one side. There was a colossal eruption of soil followed by a boom like the bellow of a genie set free. A streamlined metal mass the size of a house heaved up out of the ground.

Stones, severed branches and clouds of clay thudded across the clearing. Ten, twenty, thirty feet into the air rose the spinning pillar, thrusting conical shoulders between the trees until it's smoking point slowed to a halt high above the woodland floor. It's revolutions ceased and the clearing settled into a deep hush, broken only by the sizzle of damp leaves brushing the hot hull.

Christopher gazed awestruck at the enormous machine. Glittering in the moonlight, it loomed over him like a beckoning steel finger. He stared at the crater of churned clay and his eyes travelled up the dirt-streaked flanks to the flanged tip, which was still smouldering a dull red from the friction of its hurtling passage through the earth. Goodness knows what it was, or how much of it was still below the ground.

Seconds passed. He watched crusts of scorched soil fall from its sides and listened to the slow tick of cooling metal. Nothing happened and gradually his fear ebbed away. He came out from behind the oak and was tiptoeing forward for a closer look when suddenly a hatchway opened its round black mouth.

From the cylinder's dark interior issued a hollow sigh. Moments later, a howling current of air sprang up, snatching at every loose leaf, twig and acorn within the clearing. Christopher tried to scramble for cover in the undergrowth but he too was whisked up like a feather beneath a vacuum cleaner and sucked into the mysterious machine.

Extract 10

Demeter and her Daughter Persephone

by E2BN


Have you ever wondered how the seasons came about? Would you believe that it was all the result of a family drama?

Zeus, King of all the Gods, had a sister, Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, responsible for the crops and for feeding the people. Demeter was loved by all humans for her gift of soil and gentle, mild weather to grow their crops. Persephone was Demeter’s only child. Like her mother, she was kind and caring, with a happy nature and the most dazzling smile. She was the sort of person who spread light and happiness wherever she went and so, naturally, she was loved by everyone but most especially by her mother.

So you can imagine how distraught Demeter was when her beloved daughter disappeared one day.

It happened like this. Persephone was wandering in the meadows gathering flowers for Demeter, when she espied the narcissus and stooped to savour its perfume in full. Unbeknown to Persephone, Hades, mighty ruler of the Underworld, had spied her on one of his trips to the world above. He was dazzled by her beauty and her elegance. He decided that he must have her as his wife. Knowing that Demeter would never agree to her daughter living with him in his gloomy world of the dead, he decided to visit his brother, Zeus, to discuss the matter. Surprisingly, the great god Zeus agreed to Hades’ plan, to abduct the young woman and take her to his realm.

Persephone glanced up from the magical bloom and noticed little birds anxiously fluttering like trapped moths in a spider’s web. The sky began to turn grey and then darkened still further until it was black. There was a deep rumble that seemed to shake the very air around her and the ground began to shift and shudder. A crack suddenly appeared in the surface of the earth and, as Persephone watched in fear, a great chasm opened up before her. With a deafening boom, a hiss of steam and clouds of inky-black, billowing smoke Hades appeared, driving his horse drawn chariot of black and gold. Persephone froze in shock, the freshly picked flowers spilling from her fingers. Hades leant from the chariot, scooped her up and turned his horses back towards the opening. Persephone screamed, “Mother, mother, help me”, as down, deep down, into the widening crack in the earth the chariot plunged. Cavernous rocks split apart to make way. It was a world of sparse light; all black and grey.

Hades had led a sad and lonely life in the depths below, but now, could the dark lord of the underworld really be in love? Using all his powers of persuasion, he pleaded with her to stay and be his bride, to rule with him in the underworld. But this was not the world in which this beautiful, bright young woman wanted to live.

At first, Persephone cried until she had no more tears left to weep. She refused all offers of food, for she had heard the legend that those who eat in the Underworld can never return. Each day, Hades would bring dainty morsels to tempt her and declare his love. Each day, she turned away. However, gradually, she began to admire the soft, silky furnishings and the sparkling bejewelled surfaces.

One day, she turned and looked at Hades' dark, strong face and hypnotic eyes, filled with sadness and affection. He stretched out his hand and the girl tentatively put hers into it. “Come, my love, let me show you my domain. Come and see the world to which you bring such light and of which you can be Queen, if only you will marry me.”

Meanwhile, Demeter was beside herself with grief. She roamed the countryside, searching far and wide. The crops did not thrive, the land became barren and sorrow began to creep over the earth like a thick fog. “Who will help me find my daughter?” wailed Demeter with her arms lifted towards the sky.

It was at that moment that Helios, God of the Sun, took pity on the distraught Demeter and told her the truth. “Hades has stolen your daughter and taken her down to his dark realm to be his bride,” he explained. “Fair Demeter, I only tell you what I know. I am sorry to be the one … but Zeus himself agreed to the union.”

At that, Demeter’s wrath knew no bounds. Anger most terrible and most savage flared in her heart. She strode to the foot of Olympus and called upon Zeus to hear her oath. “Never again shall I let the ground be fruitful and yield its crops, until I once again behold my beloved daughter whom you have conspired to steal from me.”

Zeus, watching from on high and listening to his sister’s words, became worried by how events were turning out. “If the crops failed the people would be hungry,” he thought to himself, “and they would blame me and then who would worship me?” He had to do something. He sent Hermes, his messenger, to bring Persephone back.

Meanwhile, Hades' sincerity and patience were winning Persephone over. She still missed her mother terribly, but she had begun to enjoy the company of this elegant, powerful and adoring god, and was intrigued by the idea of being Queen of the Underworld.

As Hermes arrived, he saw Hades hold a pomegranate in his hand. “Persephone, I am so worried that you will fade away if you do not eat. Look at this sweet fruit, taste just a little.” Persephone carefully reached out her hand and took the luscious fruit to her lips. Deliberately, she swallowed just six seeds.

“Oh no!” Hermes thought, “I'm too late.” Persephone was now committed to Hades and the Underworld. Hades knew why Hermes was here, and knew that he would have to part with Persephone. But now she had eaten of her own free will, he also knew she would have to return to him.

“She has eaten six seeds,” said Hades triumphantly. “I am willing to let Persephone go to her mother for six months each year and for the following six months she will return to rule with me as my Queen.”

And so, it was agreed. Every Spring Demeter makes sure flowers blossom on the meadows and the mountains bloom to welcome home her loving daughter Persephone.

Every Autumn Demeter cries, the leaves fall and the crops are at an end, as her daughter returns, willingly, as Queen of the Underworld to Hades, her husband.

Until the Spring, when the cycle starts again!

Extract 11

Rouge Bouquet

by Joyce Kilmer


In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet

There is a new-made grave today,

Built by never a spade nor pick

Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.

There lie many fighting men,

Dead in their youthful prime,

Never to laugh nor love again

Nor taste the Summertime.

For Death came flying through the air

And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,

Touched his prey and left them there

Clay to clay.

He hid their bodies stealthily

In the soil of the land they fought to free

And fled away.

Now over the grave abrupt and clear

Three volleys ring;

And perhaps their brave young spirits hear

The bugle sing:

"Go to sleep!"

Go to sleep!

Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.

Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,

You will not need them anymore.

Danger's past;

Now at last,

Go to sleep!"

There is no earth, no worthier grave

To hold the bodies of the brave

Than this place of pain and pride

Where they nobly fought and nobly died.

Never fear but in the skies

Saints and angels stand

Smiling with their holy eyes

On this new-come band.

St. Michael’s sword darts through the air

And touches the aureole on his hair

As he sees them stand saluting there,

His stalwart sons;

And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill

Rejoice that in veins of warriors still

The Gael’s blood runs.

And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,

From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,

A delicate cloud of buglenotes

That softly say:



Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!

Your souls shall be where the heroes are

And your memory shine like the morning-star.

Brave and dear,

Shield us here.


Extract 12

Alexander Graham Bell: Giving Voice To The World

by Mary Kay Carson

Alexander was born on March 3rd 1847, and studied speech with his grandfather, learning how to precisely pronounce each word he spoke. He also sat in on many of his grandfather's sessions with his students, learning how to help those with speech problems. His grandfather firmly believed that education could raise people out of a life of poverty and crime. This was a fairly radical idea in the nineteenth-century England, where a person's social class was often set at birth.

In the mid-nineteenth century, many believed it was impossible to teach the deaf to speak. Alexander Graham Bell disagreed. He believed that if the deaf could learn how to make sounds of the alphabet, they could string those sounds together and speak words.

A tall, thin, serious-looking twenty-one-year-old man with black whiskers stood at the classroom blackboard. He wore a dark suit with a stiff collar and short necktie-the standard outfit of a London professional in 1868. Four young students sat in absolute silence, intently watching their new teacher. But when Alexander Graham Bell walked over to the children, they smiled and immediately stretched out their open palms toward him. One by one, instructor Bell took a small hand in his and began spelling words into it. None of the four deaf students could hear a sound. In the little classroom, the children learnt fast. But Bell would teach them to speak.

As an old man, Bell would write about these early lessons, saying he "was thus introduced to what proved to be my life work-the teaching of speech to the deaf." But this young teacher became famous for a very different kind of communication. In his late twenties, he invented a device that instantly sent voices across thousands of miles-the telephone. As fate would have it, Alexander Graham Bell spent the better part of his life improving the ways people communicated with one another. And in the process, he became one of the most famous inventors of all time.

With the help of his friend, Thomas Watson, Alexander invented the telephone. His first telephone looked nothing like what you answer today. A person talked into an odd speaking tube over a tub of liquid that transmitted the voice vibrations into an electrical current.

Alexander was becoming famous and everyone wanted to see a demonstration of his amazing telephone-even the queen herself. On January 14th 1878, Queen Victoria slowly entered the Council Room at Osborne House. The fifty-eight year old monarch wore a black silk gown and widow's cap. After receiving Her Majesty's invitation, Alexander Graham Bell had travelled to the royal residence in the Isle of Wight to set up the demonstration. The queen sat and listened to telephone conversations from nearby buildings and the neighbouring town, which was Cowes. At one point during the demonstration, Bell touched the queen's hand to offer her the telephone so she could listen in on a song. Onlookers were shocked by Bell's violation of royal rules. No one touches the queen! The error in etiquette didn't seem to dull Queen Victoria's excitement over the telephone. She wrote in her diary that night that it was "most extraordinary."

Bell became seriously ill in 1922 and died at seventy-five. In one of his earlier speeches, he stated: "The inventor is a man who looks around upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world..." Inventing technology and educating the deaf were the two things that he wanted to keep doing.

Extract 13

Meet four Ethiopian pastoralists dealing with climate change

by Lisa Hiller-Garvey

Meet Ahmed, Kadra, Osman and Muktar. They are among Ethiopia’s 14% of people who live along the country’s arid borders in pastoral communities, where the effects of climate change are already being strongly felt.

Ahmed Mohammed (pictured above) says: “We used to see a wind blow from one direction, a cool breeze. We used to follow this wind because it told us of rain coming. Now there is wind from four directions and even when it whistles to us we don’t trust it anymore.”

“Just like a farmer who cultivates the land, I cultivate these animals,” says widowed mother of two, Kadra Abdi (pictured above), outside her house in Madawayn – a small village of 400 households. “My life depends on them.”

“The rainy season is the period people expect plenty of milk. The animals have bred and are well fed from all the green plants that are normally everywhere. But now the animals breed when it is dry.”

With support from a UN-backed scheme, people like Kadra are improving the odds against them. She joined the local Madawayn Livestock Marketing Cooperative to diversify her income.

“It is beautiful for women to work so that they do not suffer from hunger and are able to feed their children and benefit themselves.”

“Before the cooperative, people might try to save the animals from dying on the road by using a vehicle to transport them to the market, but this was very expensive,” says Muktar Yousef Hasan (pictured above), the Madawayn cooperative chairperson.

“Our future is good.” Motivated by their success, the cooperative is now confident to look at expanding their business activities by opening the village’s first shop to sell foodstuffs and basic items like clothes and shoes, he says.

Most of time water was the problem, says community leader Osman Mohammed (pictured above, far left).

“This place was once dense with vegetation. The drought has wiped out everything and there’s too much wind, which gets stronger as the dry season gets longer.”

When the rains fail, the people living in Farah Liben would regularly have to haul water over 12 kilometres. Filling the reservoirs meant hiring expensive trucks to bring it from even further away.

This community was one of many to set-up a water facility under the scheme.

“Once we had the information we started to collect money and hired a digging machine. When the machine broke we continued to dig by hand. That is how we built it,” Osman says of their new community managed water reservoir.

Each family is given a coupon and is allowed to draw a set amount of water. This is the only community managed water facility in the area. Others are owned by individuals “who can charge what they want.”

“Even though the problem isn’t completely gone, we are now much better off.”

Small World Stories captured, on video, their stories of resilience in the face of climate change.

This was part of an effort by the United Nations Development Programme to inspire other pastoralists the get involved with similar activities.


pastoralist-a sheep farmer or cattle farmer.

Arid-dry, parched.

Extract 14

"Why Does Evolution Matter?"

by Stephen Montgomery

Dr. Who? Dr. Darwin!

Charles Darwin was born on 12th February 1809. He was a famous scientist and travelled the world exploring many amazing places. He collected numerous animal specimens, as he suspected that the earth was very old and was possibly changing slowly over time. Also, he believed that animals and plants could change...they could evolve. Charles Darwin was renowned for his books on evolution. Evolution is the slow process that changes animals and plants. Darwin could support his thinking on evolution as he had evidence from fossils, peacocks' tails, lions' teeth, birds' wings and human brains, just to name a few.

How our world is changing/evolving helps us to tackle disease. Humans have a lot of diseases we don’t want. The problem is a lot of diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses that, just like us, want to survive and multiply! Our main weapons against bacteria are antibiotics. These are drugs that act a bit like your body does in response to bacteria. They latch on to the outside of the bacteria and recruit our body’s killer cells to come along and eat the bacteria.

But many bacteria have evolved to avoid the antibiotics, which then become a bit useless really! So lots of people who are sick with things like colds, or even worse, can’t be helped. Understanding how the bacteria evolve is really important if we want to avoid being completely helpless to fight back against them!

What about viruses? Viruses evolve really, really quickly. It’s their main way of evading our defences! That’s why there’s nothing really like antibiotics for viruses.

One way we can help ourselves is to vaccinate vulnerable people, like the sick or old. Vaccines are dead versions of the virus which teach our body how to fight them. To be useful the vaccine has to be made from a similar virus to the one that is infecting people.

So how do you choose the vaccine? Scientists in Cambridge help to make the decision for the flu virus. They study family trees of the virus to make informed predictions about what the next virus to infect people will look like. This is really important. Flu kills tens of thousands of people every year! The scientists can also tell where the virus comes from, so can help stop it spreading.

Our changing world.

Our planet is in a state of change. All the pollution that we produce with our cars, power plants and aeroplanes is changing our climate. At the same time, we’re cutting down lots of forests and moving animals and plants from one part of the world to another. This is causing chaos in the natural world!

Climate change is a big issue; temperatures are predicted to rise rapidly over the next hundred years. This might sound quite nice but it will have lots of bad effects. Sea levels will rise and all the different weather systems will change. Lots of animals and plants are now found where they weren’t before. Their presence is causing lots of problems for local wildlife – they’re messing up all the food webs! The UK has lots of new species which have either been accidentally introduced or are taking advantage of the warming weather: cannibalistic ladybirds, rampant crayfish and exotic spiders to name a few!

The changing weather has also confused many birds which migrate. They rely on clues from the weather to time their migrations. Because the temperature is changing so quickly they’re starting to get it wrong and they can leave too early and arrive at their destination when there’s no food, or leave too late and face the same problem!

In many tropical regions people are cutting down the rainforests to use the trees as timber, or to make the land good for farming. Unfortunately half the world's species live in the rainforest! Their habitats are being destroyed or cut up into chunks, isolating small groups from each other and making them more vulnerable.

We have to tackle these problems otherwise we'll get ourselves into lots of trouble! But how? Part of the way we can do this is to understand how these changes will affect animals and plants. To do that we need to understand evolution! We can use our modern knowledge to help us conserve species, and cope with invasive species and climate change.

So, Darwin and evolution are proving very useful right now!

Extract 15

Why The Whales Came

by Michael Morpurgo


We did all we could to discourage the whales from coming in too close to the shore. Shouting and screaming at the water's edge, we hurled stones and driftwood at them but most fell far short and those few that did hit them did not seem to deter them. The Birdman's flock of gulls wheeled noisily overhead, but the whales took no notice of them either. All the time, they were drifting closer and closer to the beach and disaster. Every faint whistle from the stranded whale seemed to drive the others out in the bay to distraction, sending them rolling and plunging in amongst each other and precipitating a chorus of thunderous snorting and whistling that subsided only when the whale lay still and silent again on the sand. But each furious flurry of activity left them that much nearer the shore and there seemed nothing we could do now to stop them beaching themselves.

"Gracie," said the Birdman, "you go back to the whale and try and keep her happy. Stroke her, Gracie. Talk to her, sing to her, anything so's she doesn't call out." And he took off his sou'wester and handed it to me. "It won't do to let her get too dry either, Gracie. You can use this for a bucket."

So I went back and forth from the water's edge to the whale with the Birdman's sou'wester full of water. I began at her head, pouring the water all over her eyes and mouth. She seemed to relish it, blinking and rolling her head from side to side as the water ran down over her skin and into the sand, and all the while I talked to her quietly. I remember thinking as I looked into her eyes that she could understand me, that she could understand every word I said.

I was kneeling in the sand beside her, stroking her above the blowhole above her eyes, when I saw them coming back. They were hurrying along the path under Gweal Hill, Big Tim running out in front. It looked as though he had brought most of the island with him. Everyone had a weapon of some kind in his hand, a fork, an axe, a hoe or a scythe; and Daniel's father carried a harpoon over his shoulder. I looked for Mother amongst them but could not pick her out. The Vicar was there, his cassock tucked up into his trousers and Mr Wellbeloved was there too, striding out with his stick alongside Daniel's father.

"Stay where you are, Gracie," the Birdman told me, "and keep her quiet if you can." By the time they reached the beach, the Birdman, Daniel and Prince stood between them and the stranded whale. No one spoke for a moment. They all stood looking incredulously at the Birdman and the whale, at Daniel and me, whispering anxiously amongst themselves. It was only when they noticed the rolling black backs breaking the water out in the bay that they began to talk aloud.

"See," Big Tim shouted in triumph, pointing his machete. "Didn't I tell you? Didn't I tell you? There's dozens of them out there. I said there was."

"It's a narwhal," said Mr Wellbeloved. "Yes, I do believe it's a narwhal. Well I never. Only the males have tusks you know. He's a long way from home. That's the kind of whale that the Eskimos hunt off Greenland. Quite what he's doing here I cannot imagine. If I may take a closer look..." As he stepped towards us Prince began to growl, his lip curling back above his teeth, his neck tense with fury. Mr Wellbeloved stopped where he stood.