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The Ruby Bottle

The Ruby Bottle by Janet Reid
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Winner, IP Picks 2011 Best Junior Prose When Amber discovers a dusty red bott le in her elderly neighbour’s shed, she knows at once that it’s meant to be hers. Then she meets the strange djinn that lives in the bottle, and is catapulted into an adventure she never imagined. Amber’s had a few problems to deal with lately – bullies at school, a cranky teacher and her best friend moving away. Now at least she has a magical friend to talk to … if she can keep him safe. Can Amber find the courage to deal with the bullying, make new friends and protect her djinn from harm? And what’s the mysterious task she’ll have to perform that the djinn keeps hinting at? Janet Reid grew up on a dairy farm with hay sheds and pigsties, old abandoned farm machinery, and lots of open space. It was a haven for hours of story weaving with her sister between milking cows, feeding calves and pigs, and sneaking milk for stray cats. She went into teaching and taught in places from the cane fields in Central Queensland to Brisbane before retiring to concentrate on her writing. She lives on the northern outskirts of Brisbane with her husband, two sons and a very ‘human’ cat called Kelsey.
IP (Interactive Publications); February 2012
ISBN 9781921869419
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Title: The Ruby Bottle
Author: Janet Reid
Chapter One Amber jigged about on the front doorstep, waiting, her skin tingling with excitement, though she didn’t know why. After all, this was just Mrs Heggety’s place … There was a click and the door opened. ‘Oh, hello, Amber.’ Mrs Heggety pushed her glasses back onto the bridge of her nose and squinted in the bright afternoon sunlight. ‘What a lovely surprise. Come on in, dear.’ Amber stepped into the gloomy hallway of the old house and waited as Mrs Heggety closed the front door. ‘Come on, dear. Let’s go down to the kitchen. I’ll get you a glass of milk and I think I’ve got some cream biscuits somewhere.’ Amber’s stomach rumbled as she followed Mrs Heggety down the hallway. Mrs Heggety always had cream biscuits. The sort her mother didn’t buy. ‘How is school going?’ asked Mrs Heggety as she rummaged through her pantry, opening tins until she found what she wanted. Awful. ‘Good,’ muttered Amber, nibbling at a ragged fingernail she’d broken at netball practice the day before. ‘We’re having the annual fete in a few weeks.’ ‘Well, that should be fun,’ said Mrs Heggety as she poured Amber a glass of cold milk. ‘Would you like me to bake some cakes again?’ Amber smiled. Mrs Heggety made the best cakes. They were always the first to be sold at the cake stall and she always made something special … unusual … as first prize in the raffle. One year she’d made a piano, and another year, a cactus. Last year she had made a cake in the shape of a witch’s hat and Amber’s best friend Bethany had won it. Now Amber felt her insides clench. What was she going to do at the fete without Bethany? ‘Our class isn’t doing cakes this year, Mrs Heggety,’ she murmured. ‘We’re doing the jumble stall.’ She reached into her pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, then flattened it out and pushed it across the table. ‘It tells you all about it in this note. We need to collect lots of old jumble that people don’t want anymore and sell it to someone who does want it. I was wondering if you had anything we could use.’ Mrs Heggety gave a chuckle as she pushed some of her wispy white hair from her forehead. ‘I’m sure I have,’ she said, lifting her nose so she could peer through her glasses at the note. ‘I tell you what. I’ll give you a box and you can look through Mr Heggety’s shed. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of useful things in there.’ Amber hadn’t been in Mr Heggety’s shed since he had died a few years ago, but she could remember the mountains of junk piled everywhere. For just a moment she felt her body tingle with anticipation. ‘Come on. Finish your milk and we’ll see what we can find,’ said Mrs Heggety, passing the note back. ‘And have another biscuit before you go.’ The shed was a mess. In one corner, stacked against the wall, were garden tools, lengths of timber and an old wooden ladder. There was an old cot full of bags, pieces of wire and buckets with no handles. An ancient mower, a broken chainsaw and something that might once have been a bike were dumped together on the floor. And boxes were stacked everywhere, crammed full of junk that was no longer needed. At least, not by Mrs Heggety. Amber wondered where to start. She found plenty to fill the box – a vase, coffee mugs, an old recipe book, a game of Ludo and a couple of jigsaw puzzles, and a small china tea set that must have belonged to Mrs Heggety’s daughter, Vera, a long time ago. Amber liked Vera. Whenever she came over to visit her mother – nearly always wearing her police uniform – she brought Barney with her. ‘Come and play with Barney, Amber,’ she’d say, poking her head over the fence, laughing. Barney would rest his huge paws on the top railing next to her. Barney was the biggest dog Amber had ever seen. So somehow she just couldn’t imagine Vera ever playing with a tea set. Amber looked at the box of junk. Was something missing? She shook her head, not knowing why she had even thought that. It was getting late. She heaved the box up into her arms and was making her way to the door when something caught her eye. Something shiny. Something red. Rich red. Ruby red. Holding the box, Amber craned her neck. What was catching the fading light? And at that moment, a bold streak of sunlight flashed through a crack in the wall of the old wooden shed and shone through the glass of the most beautiful bottle she had ever seen. Standing by the door with the box of jumble in her arms, Amber was spellbound. As the light from outside dulled, the bottle brightened, its rays fanning out, striking objects with deep red beams, just as a sun catcher would in the early morning sunlight. She had no idea how long she stood there, but when Amber glanced out the grimy window she noticed that night was falling. Yet she could still see the ruby bottle. Very clearly. How was that possible? Carefully, Amber placed her jumble on the floor. She pushed her way through a stack of boxes and reached out. As her fingertips touched the glass she felt a shiver run through her body. Her arm tingled, and she knew instinctively this bottle was meant for her.