The Picture Book Thief
Lizzie’s heart was heavy as she trudged to the school library.
“What’s up with you?” asked her mum.
“This!” said Lizzie. She opened her notebook at the suspect list and laid it on the desk for her mum to see.
“I see,” said her mum. She closed the notebook and placed it in Lizzie’s hand. “Hide that away,” she whispered. “Here’s Alicia now.”
Lizzie stuffed the notebook into her bag. “Hi Alicia,” she muttered.
Alicia looked at her friend’s flushed face. “You okay, Lizzie?” she asked.
“Lizzie’s got a bit of a temperature,” lied her mum.
“Oh,” said Alicia. “I hope it’s not the flu.” She reached into her backpack and pulled out a pile of books. Lizzie recognised it as the pile which had fallen to the floor during Science. “Thanks for finding these books for me, Miss Charlton. I got top marks in the history test.”
“You’re welcome Alicia. Anytime.”
“Hope you’re better soon,” Alicia said to Lizzie.
“Thanks. See you later.” So it wasn’t Alicia. Lizzie felt a strange mix of relief and alarm. “That only leaves Sarah and Bea.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” said her mum.
But that didn’t help lift the heaviness in Lizzie’s heart. Being a detective, Lizzie realised, was not always fun.
She looked up to see Sarah’s younger sister, Bethany and her friend Amy walking over to the desk. Sarah had a box in her hand.
“Hello, Miss Charlton,” she said. “Hi Lizzie.”
Bethany opened the box and took out a beautiful hand-made scrapbook. She beamed as she showed it to Lizzie and her mum.
“Look what Sarah made me,” she said. “Isn’t it gorgeous? See how she’s written my name on the front. She made it yellow, my favourite colour.”
She flipped open the scrapbook. Lizzie and her mum admired the beautiful handmade paper pages adorned with pressed flowers and leaves.
“You’ve got a very talented sister,” said Lizzie’s mum. “I know,” said Bethany. “Show them yours, Amy.”
Amy placed a similar scrapbook on the desk. Hers was rose pink with lavender pages. It was decorated with tiny red hearts.
“You get to choose your own colours and decorations,” she said, “everyone’s buying them.”
“Maybe she’d make you a notebook, Lizzie.”
Lizzie shot her mum a glare, then regretted it. Her mum was only being kind.
“I think she’s making Lizzie one for ...” Bethany blushed and put a hand to her mouth. “Whoops! That was supposed to be a secret.”
“Don’t worry,” Lizzie replied. “I’ll not say anything. It’ll still be a great birthday surprise.”
Lizzie stamped the library books that lunchtime with a little too much force. She was angry with herself. How could she have suspected Sarah? Sarah who showed her how to make paper doll strings and origami animals.
Sarah who was making a personalised notebook for her friend’s birthday gift.
That left Bea. As Lizzie placed that morning’s returns back on the shelves, she went over the details of the robbery in her mind.
Bea had a scooter, so Bikes are Us would be her kind of book but why would she take Trucks, Lorries and Vans? She was a tomboy, so why princess and fairy books? It didn’t make sense. Bea was into animals, especially her pet gopher who travelled everywhere in her sidecar with Bea.
Space books however, were not Bea’s thing at all. She was the only one in class who hadn’t watched the eclipse. She didn’t even know there’d been one. When the eclipse happened she’d been in the mall shopping for clothes. It didn’t make sense that she’d take those particular books. In fact, come to think of it, it didn’t make sense that anyone would choose such a wide variety of reading categories.
The night the books went missing Bea had been at gymnastics. Gymnastics took place at the community centre next to the school, so Bea had been near the scene of the crime around the time it took place.
But how did she get into the school? The yard was easy. A gymnast like Bea could easily climb the wall.
But how would she get into the school itself? Only the head and the janitor had keys.
People shouting outside attracted Lizzie’s attention. She opened the window to lean out and see what was happening. A couple of boys were arguing over a disallowed goal. Disappointed, Lizzie struggled to close the window. The catch was loose. On close inspection Lizzie decided that it looked as though the catch had been deliberately loosened. Bea, she knew, carried a toolbox in the sidecar of her scooter.
“Mum,” said Lizzie. “I’ve got to go. Be back soon.”
Lizzie’s mum nodded as she tidied shelves.
Lizzie ran to the car park where Bea’s scooter leaned against the wall. She lifted the lid of the storage bag and there was ...
a pile of picture books!
A dismayed Lizzie flicked through the pile. Search for the Stars ... Zoe’s New Zoo ... Fifi the Forest Fox. Some titles were missing, but there was no doubt.
Bea was the picture book thief!
Lizzie hid the books under her jumper and ran back to the library. She handed her mum the pile of books.
“Where did you find them?” Miss Charlton asked.
“In the bag on Bea’s scooter,” Lizzie replied.
“So it was Bea. But why?” Lizzie’s mum called the head to the library.
He looked surprised and angry at the news. He announced over the school intercom.
“Could Beatrice Kingley please come to the school library ... immediately.”
Lizzie chewed her lip as she waited for Bea to arrive.
The head’s voice was icy. “Could you tell me Beatrice, why these books, which were removed from the library without permission, were found by Lizzie in the bag of your scooter?”
Lizzie gazed at the floor. For some time all that was heard was the tick tock of the library clock. Finally Bea spoke.
“Yes, Sir. I ... I took them because Ghoul couldn’t sleep.”
“My pet gopher, Sir.”
“You removed these books and others because your pet gopher couldn’t sleep?” The head’s eyebrows formed a solid black line. “I think I need a little more explanation, Beatrice.”
“Ghoul won’t go to sleep at bedtime. He runs around his gopher house making so much noise. He wakes my baby brother and the only way we can get him back to sleep is to read picture books.”
“You read picture books to your gopher?”
Lizzie and Bea exchanged a knowing look.
“No, Sir,” explained Bea. “To my brother.”
“But why take so many?” asked Lizzie’s mum.
“Because Ghoul likes them too.”
“Ghoul ... your gopher likes picture books?”
“Yes, Sir. At least he likes when someone reads picture books. He stops playing and making a noise. He likes the sounds I suppose.”
“And you don’t have picture books at home?” The head looked confused.
“Yes, Sir. We have lots, but Billy, my brother, was getting bored with hearing them time after time. I knew the library had loads of books but you’re only allowed to take three at a time. We’ve been going through a lot of books.”
“And so you broke into the library, at great effort to yourself , to help your brother get a good night’s sleep?”
“Yes, Sir. That’s right, Sir.”
“Miss Charlton,” said the head, “do you think it would be possible to allow Beatrice to take more than the allotted number of library books?”
“Yes.” Lizzie’s mum smiled. “I’m sure under the circumstances that could be arranged.”
“Good,” said the head. “Then all’s well that ends well.”
“Shakespeare,” said Bea.
“You’re so well read, Beatrice,” said the head.
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