Look out, Hoo-Mins!
Here comes a third adventure to make you squirm. Harry and George, the incident-prone centipede buddies who have had fans laughing through two hilarious sagas of accidental derring-do, Harry the Poisonous Centipede and Harry the Poisonous Centipede's Big Adventure, are back in their third and final escapade—and this time our two favorite arthropods are in really over their heads!
About the Author
Lynne Reid Banks is a bestselling author for both children and adults. She grew up in London and became first an actress and then one of the first woman TV reporters in Britain before turning to writing. She now has more than forty books to her credit. Her classic children's novel, The Indian in the Cupboard, has sold more than ten million copies worldwide and was made into a popular feature film. Lynne lives with her husband in Dorset, England.
Tony Ross has illustrated many favorite books for children, including Lynne Reid Banks's Harry the Poisonous Centipede titles, the popular series about extra-terrestrial teacher Dr. Xargle by Jeanne Willis, and the Amber Brown books by Paula Danziger. Tony Ross lives in Cheshire, England.
Read an Excerpt
Harry the Poisonous Centipede Goes to Sea
By Lynne Banks
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Lynne Banks
All right reserved.
How It Began
Harry and George were lying in the moonlight. They'd gone up to the no-top-world as soon as it got dark--looking for an adventure, George had said, but there didn't seem to be one. Harry had his suspicions that George wasn't so much looking for adventure as for Something Else.
These aren't people we're talking about. They're centipedes. And not those little wiggly wire-worms you dig up in your garden, either. These are giant tropical centipedes, and they are poisonous. They have pincers on their heads to defend themselves with, and also--I have to be perfectly frank--to kill things with, by biting them and paralyzing them with their poison.
Terrible, you think? Cruel? Oh, please. This is the Natural World. Not many creatures in nature get by without eating some other creature, and that includes most Hoo-Mins.
What's a Hoo-Min? Well, you're going to have to do a bit of guessing in this story anyhow, so you can start with Hoo-Mins. If you reckon giant poisonous centipedes are scary, it may surprise you to know they're much more scared of us. Us Hoo-Mins. Get it? Right. We're the Hoo-Mins. That's your first puzzle solved.
Hoo-Mins, or rather H-Mns, is Centipedish, the language of centipedes. They mainly use signals, but they can crackle very faintly to one another, and when they dothere are no vowel sounds. So you must realize at once that their real names couldn't be Harry and George. That's just what I call them. Their real, Centipedish names were Hxzltl and Grnddjl.
Go on. Try to say them. Try to say your own name without the a's, e's, i's, o's, and u's (I'll let you keep the y's) and you'll be talking Centipedish.
I must just add that of course centipedes don't have words for a lot of things that they don't know much about, so they've become very good at inventing ways to describe them. You'll find a lot of these centi-descriptions in this story. I'm sure you'll be able to work them out, but I'll just give you a couple of examples. (Don't worry--the story's going to start at any minute!)
Hoo-Mins are the enemies of centipedes. But they have others. There are also hairy-biters (which is anything hairy that bites), flying-swoopers (birds, of course, plus maybe bats), and belly-crawlers. No prizes for guessing that one--it's snakes.
But Hoo-Mins are in a category all by themselves. The category of the fastest, biggest, and scariest things around.
Harry and George lived underground in earth-tunnels, which are nice and damp (it's very important to centipedes not to Dry Out), and came up at night to hunt. You'll soon find out that their favorite foods were not things that you'd fancy.
When they were younger, they were centis, which are child centipedes. But now they were centeens, about seven inches long--nearly as big as Belinda. Belinda was Harry's mother and George's adopted mother. Her Centipedish name--are you ready for this? --was Bkvlbbchk.
Belinda was getting quite old now, though she could still give a toad or a beetle a run for its money--it was just the very fast things like lizards and mice she had trouble with. So Harry and George did some of her hunting for her. They'd had lots of cuticle-rippling adventures and feeler-close escapes, but they always managed to get back home in the end. So she'd decided to stop poison-claw-clicking, which is how mother centipedes nag, and let them have their freedom.
"Just take care," she would beg, as they headed out of their home tunnels up into the dark-time.
"We'll be all right, Mama," Harry would say as he chased after George, who still usually led the way. "We'll bring you back something delicious for end-of-dark-time meal!"
So, on this night (night--dark-time--okay?), they'd done some hunting and had a tasty heap of goodies beside them. These included a couple of slugs, three assorted caterpillars, one large rhinoceros beetle--which had put up quite a fight but they'd overpowered it in the end--and a mouse. This was their big prize because they knew Belinda loved a tasty bit of mouse before she went to sleep for the bright-time. All right, I'll help you out this time--the day.
"Mama will be really pleased with us," Harry said contentedly as they lay there resting, feeling the pale, un-hot light of white ball shining down on them. It wasn't a full ball tonight or they would have scuttled underground to escape it--they didn't like too much light, being night creatures.
"Apart from the beetle, though," mused George, "we can't say any of it was very exciting." He didn't seem to be enjoying the rest. Half his twenty-one segments were off the ground and he was waving his feelers around in all directions.
"Why don't you relax, Grndd?" asked Harry rather peevishly. "We've got enough food. Do you want a snack?"
"No," said George.
"So what are you questing around for?"
George didn't answer. He dropped to his forty-two feet and took off without another crackle.
Harry was feeling rather lazy after his night's hunting and for once he didn't follow. He pretty well guessed what George had gone after. It wasn't food. He'd sensed the Something Else. The Something Else was a centeena.
Yes, George was into girls. Girl-centipedes, that is. Only Harry didn't feel quite ready for all that yet. So he gave a centipedish sigh, laid his head on the good, warm earth, and waited.
Harry loved the no-top-world. It was so full of interesting smells and sounds. Of course he knew it could be dangerous. Apart from Hoo-Mins, which didn't usually hunt at night, there were all those flying-swoopers and hairy-biters and belly-crawlers that I told you about to watch out for.
But then there was danger everywhere. When he was a young centi, Hoo-Mins had pushed a cloud of white-choke down into the centipedes' tunnels and nearly killed . . .
Excerpted from Harry the Poisonous Centipede Goes to Sea by Lynne Banks Copyright © 2006 by Lynne Banks. Excerpted by permission.
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