The Picture Book Thief
“That’s odd!” exclaimed Miss Charlton, the school librarian.
“What’s up, mum?” asked Lizzie with a frown as she looked up from her favourite compendium of Detective Stories.
“I’m sure there’s books missing. Quite a few.”
“You sure you haven’t just mislaid them? They’re not on the returns’ shelf?”
“No. I’ve looked everywhere.”
Her mum handed Lizzie a list. “None of these are on the shelves. I checked the database but they’re not out on loan.”
Lizzie tried to quell the excitement which rushed up her body. “You mean someone’s stolen them.”
Mum bit her lip. “I sincerely hope not.”
Lizzie and her mum looked at the list of books. Her mum saw a tragedy unfolding before her eyes, whilst Lizzie delighted in the thrill of a whodunit.
Lizzie the detective rose to the surface. “I’ll look for you,”she said.
As she looked, she scribbled the titles of the missing books in her notebook. She separated them into categories, a separate page for each.
When she’d finished, this is what she had:
The Space Cadet by Venus Mercury
Night Train to Jupiter by Aurora Borealis
The Black Hole Dilemma by Barthlomew Brain
Search for the Stars by Stella Night
Polar Bear Crazy by Aunt Arctic
Zoe’s New Zoo by Animal Madder
Unhappy Hyena by Laffa Little
Fifi the Forest Fox by Red Taylor
Bugs for Lunch by Lady Bird
The Butterfly Garden by Pretty Wings
Buzz! Buzz by B.B Stripe
Bikes are Us by Yamaha Kawasaki
The Ghost Train by Melody Goole
Trucks, Lorries and Vans by Rollin Wheels
Hayley’s Helicopter Ride by Air Bourne
Fairies, Princesses and Angels
Princess Pretty by Mimi Mee
Angel Wings and Halos by Innocence Goodie
I’m Gorgeous by Pixie Faye
Leaping Leprechauns by Tiny Greenman
I’m going to have to report this to the Head.” Lizzie’s mum heaved a big sigh.
“Don’t worry, Mum. I’m sure the culprit will be found.”
“Oh Lizzie,” said her mum. “You sound just like your dad.” She even managed a weak grin when she saw Lizzie’s neatly categorised notes.
“Mum,” said Lizzy. “Have you noticed?”
“All these are all picture books.”
“So they are!”
“Looks like we have a picture book thief.”
Lizzie flicked through the pages, reading the titles of the books under each category.
She turned to a fresh page on which she pencilled the words Possible suspects.
Lizzie then drew a vertical line down the middle of the page labelling the left hand column Name and the right hand one Evidence.
Two minutes later her list read:
James: likes astronomy, animals and bugs
Rula: animal mad, rescues them
Rena: as above
Chia: animal mad, loves insects too
Bella: loves herself and all things girly
Sallyanne: complete bookworm, Irish descent,
Bea: has a scooter, top of class in English
“When did you notice the books had gone, Mum?” she asked.
This morning when Sallyanne from your class came in to borrow ‘Leaping Leprechauns’.
An image of Sallyanne came to Lizzie’s mind. That morning, when Lizzie had returned to class after break, she’d seen Sallyanne sat on the bookshelf at the back of the classroom. She’d been reading a book, but it had looked like a novel, not a picture book.
Her mother continued, “It wasn’t there. So I checked the database, which showed it was not out on loan.”
“Was that before or after break?”
“Before break. The bell went and she went off looking so disappointed.”
Lizzie recalled Sallyanne had been wearing her favourite blue sundress, a thin cotton one.
“Did Sallyanne have a bag with her, a knapsack maybe?” Lizzie gazed intently at her mum.
“Was she wearing a sweater, a cardigan ... a hoodie?” Lizzie asked, a little too enthusiastically.
“No,” said her mum emphatically, “Just that pretty blue dress she often wears, and matching shoes.
“So she couldn’t have sneaked the books out, somehow?”
Her mum shook her head. “No way. She was the only one in the library at the time. Came straight over to the desk, asked for the book, and like I said, left empty handed.”
Lizzie crossed Sallyanne’s name off the list. Her mum rubbed her chin then said, “I’m sure some of these books were returned yesterday.”
“That’s right! I put them on the return shelf myself.” said Lizzie.
Lizzie’s mum scrolled through the records. A minute or two later she looked up at her daughter. “The books which are missing were all returned at some point yesterday. That means they must have all been taken ...”
“... last night!” chorused Lizzie and her mum.
The following morning Sir took the register.
“James Aster.”
“Present, Sir.”
“Ah, James. Welcome back from Florida. Did you have a good vacation?”
“It was amazing, Sir! We went to the Kennedy Space Centre and I got to swim with dolphins.”
“Wow! You have had a great time. You must tell us all about it later.”
James beamed with pride as Sir continued with registration.
“Lizzie Charlton.”
“Present, Sir.”
“Rena Donaldson.”
“Present, Sir.”
“Ah, pleased to have you back, Rena. Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, thank you, Sir. I felt dreadful yesterday. Spent all day in bed, but I’m so much better now.”
“A bad dose of flu?”
“Yes, sir!”Lizzie eyed Rena carefully. Her nose was red and inflamed around the nostrils and her eyes had shadows. She crossed James and Rena off the list.
“Rula Donaldson”
“Present Sir”
“So your twin sister didn’t give you the flu?”
“No, Sir.”
Everyone laughed, except Lizzie who was lost in the world of detection.
“Patience Greenway.”
“Present, Sir.”
“Bella Hernandez.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Chia Jackson ... no Chia?”
Rula raised her hand. “She’s gone to the Arctic with her dad.”
Lizzie flicked through her notebook under her desk. Yes, she was right! There it was under the heading Animals - Polar Bear Crazy by Aunt Arctic.
She drew a large asterisk beside Chia’s name and scribbled the word, ‘Arctic.’
“Beatrice Kingley.”
“She’s not here, Sir,” called Lizzie.
“Do you know why?” asked the teacher.
“No, Sir.”
“She was at gymnastics last night,” said Bella.
Sir shrugged. “Perhaps she’s caught the flu.”
The words were barely out of his mouth when the classroom door opened wide to reveal a very flustered Bea.
“Sorry I’m late Sir. Scooter broke down!”
“Better late than never, I suppose.”
“Yes, Sir. Sorry Sir.”
Bea slid her long legs into position, knocking Lizzie’s notebook to the floor. It landed open at the page on which she’d written her list of suspects. Thankfully, Bea was busy straightening her hair and didn’t see it. Lizzie picked it up and slid it into a pocket.
On the way to the Science lab, Lizzie caught up with Rula.
“So Chia’s gone to the Arctic?” she asked.
“Yeah. Went on Tuesday. She was so excited.”
“Tuesday?” Lizzie tried to hide the disappointment in her voice.
“Yeah, Tuesday? She even missed the History test,” replied Rula.
“She is so lucky!” Lizzie agreed as she made a mental note to cross Chia’s name off the suspect list. She was out of the country the day the books went missing so she wasn’t the thief. “I got a terrible mark for mine.”
“Me too. I had no time to revise.”
“Really?” inquired Lizzie.
“No. We’re rearing a whole litter of fox cubs. I’m on bottle-feeding duty every evening. Have extra chores to do too, with Rena ill in bed.”
So it was unlikely that Rula was the picture book thief either.
Lizzie turned her attention to Bella, who sat next to her in the Science lab.
“Been up to much lately?” she asked innocently, as she piled her Science books on the bench in front of her.
Bella flicked back her hair and pouted. “Modelling swimsuits for that new beach shop.”
She pulled a photo from her bag and placed it on top of Lizzie’s books.
“That’s just one of the proofs the photographer emailed me yesterday. Can’t wait to get the real ones.”
“That’s great,” said Lizzie. “When did you do the photo shoot?”
“Day before yesterday. Went straight after school. He took loads of pics. Said I was a natural model.”
Lizzie opened her Science exercise book. She propped it against the pile of text books, so that it was out of view from Bella. Then she placed her notebook over the exercise book. She scribbled out Bella and Chia’s names and wrote “highly unlikely” beside Rula’s. She was about to close the notebook when Bella nudged her.
“Look over there,” she said, leaning her head to her right. Lizzie saw that Alicia’s backpack had fallen to the floor, spilling a pile of books, which Alicia was hurriedly pushing from the floor back into her bag.
“Didn’t some books go missing from the library?”
“Hmm!” murmured Lizzie.
“Might be worth mentioning Alicia’s name to your mum.”
“Hmm,” said Lizzie again.
“Oh, and apparently Sara’s been selling books to the younger kids. So I’ve heard.”
Lizzie lay her face on the bench behind the books. She didn’t want Bella to see the shock and disappointment on her face.
She now had three strong suspects. Alicia, Sara and Bea. Her three best friends!
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