Saturday, December 10, 2011

"The Pumpkin Princess" by V.A. Jeffrey (Novella)

Genre:  Children's Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Eerie dreams. Rotten pumpkins. A fairy princess in trouble!

A sudden, strange blight strikes pumpkins everywhere which means no pumpkin pie, no pumpkin bread, no pumpkin spiced cookies, not even pumpkin soup! Worse, the blight will eventually spread to other crops. Queen Faye's skulduggery spills out ever more into Anne's own world. She knows that the fairy Queen of Winter is behind this dark mischief. The blight and one of Anne's dreams leads her back to Other Land to rescue the Pumpkin Princess, the fairy who helps usher in the fall harvest.

Since Anne's first visit, the Winter Queen has grown more powerful and is terrorizing all of Other Land with her plans to rule the land. Many fairy folk have fled, have gone in hiding or are preparing for war and a cruel, unending winter. Anne must find the courage and fortitude to brave the dangers that face her in Other Land and along the way she finds unexpected friends in unexpected places, but is it enough to stop the Winter Queen's rampage?

In a wood in the middle of a clearing there was a wooden shed with a green door. It once led to a place called Other Land, where all manner of fairy tale beings lived, but not anymore. Of the door, I mean. But of course, you might already know that and in case you didn't, the short of it is this: there was an adventure that began and ended with the green door and a little girl named Anne Greene and then the way to Other Land was shut.

But there are other ways. . . .


School started when the weather was still hot but that had been a month ago and then October had come. The month of October ushered in the full fall season. Sometimes a very thin frost could be found in the morning and some of the trees were just beginning to turn their coats from green to gold, scarlet or caramel. Anne was excited to go back to school. It meant new teachers, new classmates and old friends to see and catch up with. It also meant homework, which Anne only liked some of the time. This particular morning she was slow to get ready and slow getting to school. She'd had a bad dream the night before and didn't feel well that morning. She had been groggy and a bit grouchy. She dreamt that she was being chased by long, pointy shadows with cold, starry eyes. She couldn't stop running and there was nowhere to hide. They chased her over rocks and mountains, over trees and snowy fields and into an icy sea. Then she awoke suddenly to find the alarm of her ladybug clock going off.

Later that afternoon she was walking home from school with two of her friends, Emma and Tanya. All three of them were engrossed in conversation over who at school was suddenly wearing lip gloss, who had collected the most Fashion Princess dolls (there were 20 of them) and what they were all going to do over the weekend. Being that it was Friday, they were more excited than usual and since there was a Teacher's Planning Day on Monday they had a three day weekend which made it even better! Emma and her family were going to Pacific City to visit her grandma. Tanya was going shopping for clothes and gadgets with her family. Anne's family would hold to their yearly tradition of visiting the pumpkin patch on Sauvie Island. Anne loved going to the farms out there and mama and dad always let her pick out her own pumpkin.

They passed a group of boys, fifth graders all, playing a game of catch while walking home. The very same boys that broke the window of the shed, Anne noted.

“Boys are so loud!” She said, annoyed. “If it were girls, they could play catch without being so loud!” Tanya snorted and laughed.

“My little brother makes so much noise when he's playing! He especially likes to pretend he's a tiger and even puts a belt in his pants and runs around the house on all fours! It drives me crazy!” Tanya said.

“My brother and his friends love to play football in the house when mom and dad aren't home,” Said Emma, “and they always manage to break something important!” They all laughed and rolled their eyes. Anne didn't have a brother or a sister. Sometimes she wished she did have one. Even if it was a little brother, she decided. She didn't want one that ran around breaking things all of the time though. The wind suddenly picked up, rustling tree tops and blowing through the girls' hair. On the wind current Anne heard something odd. The fallen leaves, crusty and dry, rustled and whirled lightly but between the wind and the leaves there was a voice so low it was barely audible. Or rather, it was many voices made up of organic things pressed together. Neither Tanya or Emma seemed to notice it but Anne heard it. It was speaking to her through the crackling pops of dry leaves and the thick, wooden timbre of the branches.

“Anne. Anne. The Winter Queen grows strooooong. Yoooouuu must come baaaaack.” The wind, the drifting leaves and waving branches whispered. Tanya turned down a dirt road to catch her school bus and Emma had nearly reached her house.

“See you guys on Tuesday!” Tanya waved.

“See ya.” Anne and Emma chimed. Emma said goodbye to Anne and ran up the driveway to her house. Anne continued on to the trail towards her own house. She looked up at the sky, listening for anything else unusual. The sky was a blanket of gray. A chill coursed through her when she heard the voice mention the Winter Queen. As she reached the clearing she saw her dad standing near the little shed, waiting for her.

“Little one! How was school today?”

“It was good.” She said quietly.

“You feeling better?”

“Yeah. I didn't get any homework today.”

“Well how about that? Mama might not be too pleased to hear that.”

“Mama will just assign me more books to read this weekend. Which is fine because I like reading.” She said, feeling a bit grumpy again. Her dad chuckled.

“Well, let's get home. Grandma Veronica is coming to dinner.” Anne's face lit up.

“Oh, and mama is making our favorite dish!” He added.

“Grandma! Lasagna! Yay!!” She cheered. Dad smiled and they started off home. The clearing, once a wild, riotous tangle of wildflowers was now a field of tall, dull grasses and some grayish brown weeds, the wildflowers gone with summer.

Buy this novella on Amazon or B&N.