Jake and the Man-Eating Picnic Basket – Peter Preston
“You don’t so much ‘read’ this book as you ‘experience’ it… a magical adventure full of crazy twists and lots of action.” – Jenna
“Weird and fun and original and I can really see teens, especially boys, loving it.” – Samantha
Jake Crabtree is an unwilling volunteer for his granddad’s inventions. They’re supposed to cure the twelve-year-old of his stammer, but more often than not he’s lucky to escape with all of his limbs intact.
Jake has an accident at a local science fair when his secret formula spills onto his neighbour’s harmless picnic basket. This creates a creature that starts to abduct the villagers of Little Codswallop, replacing them with not so perfect copies.
Jake and his family have to come up with a plan to stop the man-eating picnic basket taking over the planet.
And try to avoid Granddad’s crazy inventions.
“Wow, what a crazy fun fantasy adventure book! … Trust me when I say you’ve never read anything like this before!” – Laura
About the Author
Peter Preston joined the armed forces at the age of eighteen. After a posting in America he spent six months in Cyprus, the last three of those as part of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force. The last seven months of his army career was spent mostly dodging rocks thrown by children, some still in nappies, in Northern Ireland.
After leaving the forces, Peter’s first civilian job was at the UK’s number one pork pie company, Port Farms, and he spent the next twenty years working in factories. It was while working in one of those ‘noisy sweat boxes’ that he fantasized about writing a book and, after becoming a carer many years later, he managed to find enough spare time to put pen to paper.
Jake and the Man Eating Picnic Basket is Peter’s first book.
Speaking of Jake, Peter says, “I decided to give the main character a speech impediment because I’ve suffered with a stammer all my life and there aren’t that many books that approach the subject.”
The last weekend before it was time to go back to school began just the same as always – slow and boring. Jake and his family were sitting around a large oak table eating breakfast. Mum insisted on no talking at meal times, so there was an abnormal quiet in the room; it was as if the century-old house intself was too frightened to make a sound. That was, until a radio channel burst through the silence.
All heads swung around to look at Granddad, who was smiling as he tried to shovel an overflowing fork of beans into his large, gaping mount. Once the beans were in, he put a finger to his lips. “Shh! No talking!” he whispered, propelling some of the mini orange projectiles onto the table.
“I’ll give you shh, you crafty old devil!” shouted Jake’s mum. “You know the rule, now turn that thing off!”
Granddad grumbled for a moment before conceding defeat, slowly stretching over to turn off the radio. His fingers were mere millimetres away from the dial when he stopped, and instead of switching it off, he turned the volume up.
Mum looked furious, and was about to give Granddad a proper telling off when he suddenly sprang to his feet, grabbing the small portable radio from the sideboard and placing it in the centre of the kitchen table, amongst all their plates.
The announcer was describing another disappearance, this time of an elderly gentleman who used to go foraging for wild herbs and mushrooms in an ancient wood a couple of miles away. The police weren’t, however, connecting it to the missing children, instead putting it down to a forgetful old man who simply lost his way. The insisted he would turn up any day now.
“That’s Charlie Fishface they’re talking about!” Granddad exclaimed, pointing a finger at the radio. “He’s as mad as a tap-dancing donkey with no ears, but he knows those woods better than anyone.” He shook his head. “There’s no way he’d get lost, and especially not if Killer was with him!”
Killer was Charles Fisher’s Yorkshire terrier, and despite his menacing name, he was more likely to lick someone to death than do them any harm. He was also a decent tracker, managing to navigate his owner to every pub that offered the cheapest pints for miles around. It was a talent only the dog and the local students seemed to possess.
‘Sounds like a cover-up to me,’ said Granddad, more to himself than anyone else. “I bet it was those flipping aliens again; they can’t leave no bugger alone without probing them.”
At this statement, everyone around the table burst out laughing – even Mum couldn’t help herself; she giggled like a schoolgirl, and while she covered her mouth with her hand in an attempt to hide the huge grin, she just appeared to be doing the longest yawn anyone has ever done in the history of… well, ever.
Of course, this just made matters worse, sending everyone into hysterics, and Jake was no exception – tears streamed down his face as he tried to get himself under control. He’d just about managed to do this when he heard something at the
end of the broadcast that interested him. Wiping his damp eyes with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, he picked the radio up and retreated into the living room, leaving his laughing family behind him.
Closing the door, he placed his ear next to the speaker, not wanting to miss a word. One of the locals was being interviewed by a news reporter about the latest disappearance. She was called Aunt Lil, and she was the owner of a butcher’s shop
that Charles Fisher used to frequent when he needed to buy cheap mince for himself and his dog. She hadn’t seen old Charlie for several days, which was odd because he never missed Friday’s fill-your-basket-for-a-fiver special offer (the basket being not much bigger than a doll-sized wooden bowl). She’d just begun to reel off a list of the other offers she had on that week when the reporter steered the subject back to Charlie.
“I haven’t seen the old fella since Tuesday. He came in as usual and bought a meat and potato pie – they’re on offer at the moment, half price when you buy a dozen eggs, and…” The reporter interrupted with a throaty cough; Aunt Lil got the message and carried on. “I thought he looked a bit peaky, so I asked him if everything was OK. He said he’d eaten something weird that he’d found in the woods, thought one of the ramblers had dropped it.”
“Did he say what it was?” asked the reporter.
“He said it looked like a large apple pie, but that when he cut a piece off, it was purple inside with a bright pink jelly, and it tasted of cabbage,” came the bizarre reply.
“So the colour and taste put him off?”
“No, he finished the lot. Said the taste changed the more he ate, from leek and onion to apple and plum. One thing he said that sounded a bit off was that the strange pink jelly had a metallic aftertaste.”
Jake’s spine tingled from top to bottom. The jelly of the apple pie sounded exactly like his formula, and it made sense – his formula contained a tiny amount of iron, which would give it a metallic taste. Plus, it had a different taste to what you would
expect from its appearance – just like his hybrid plants. Jake thought for a moment as he paced up and down the room, eventually deciding that the only way he could be certain that the strange substance seen at the recent disappearances was somehow connected to his formula, was to get a sample. Of course, that was easier said than done.
The missing children had vanished weeks ago, so anything left at the scene would have degraded by now, or been taken away as evidence. But Mr Fisher had only just been reported as missing… Jake stopped pacing. He had to get to the location where old Mr Fisher was last seen, and he had to do it as fast as he could.
“Great for readers who are too old for children’s books but aren’t quite ready for typical young adult books” – ALynnPowers