The Magic Campervan, Book 1: The Forbidden Slide

Other submissions by Lisa S:
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The Last Dance over the Berlin Wall (Contemporary Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
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'Merida, the magic campervan, is a fantastic creation - a kind of modern-day Mary Poppins crossed with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang... With wild travels, humour and a glorious journey, this is a story for children and adults to enjoy together.'
First 10 Pages

The Forbidden Slide

Chapter 1 The Strange Girl 9

Chapter 2 The Mystery Campervan 17

Chapter 3 ‘M’ 24

Chapter 4 Magic 31

Chapter 5 Ely’s escape from Balli 34

Chapter 6 A Child in the Road 36

Chapter 7 Mary Poppins and Rubbish 44

Chapter 8 The Rock 51

Chapter 9 The Campsite 56

Chapter 10 The Enormous Slide 61

Chapter 11 The Girl Again 64

Chapter 12 A Police Check 68

Chapter 13 Ely’s Magic Cloak 71

Chapter 14 The Night Flight to the Faroe Islands 78

Chapter 15 An Invisible Message 85

Chapter 16 Thor’s Harbour 88

Chapter 17 Abela and Dana 95

Chapter 18 To the Bottom of the Sea 97

Chapter 19 The Island of the Arched Whale Bone 101

Chapter 20 Zoe’s Request 109

Chapter 21 The Cat and the Slide 112

Chapter 22 The Troll’s Mountain 118

Chapter 23 The Snatch 123

Chapter 24 Troll Peninsula 126

Chapter 25 Balli 131

Chapter 26 The Laughing Donkey 137

Chapter 27 Under the Northern Lights 143

Chapter 28 The Helicopter and the Snowmobile 149

Chapter 29 Abela, Dana and a Gift 157

Chapter 30 The Purple Slide 161

Portugal, United Kingdom (Norwich, Skegness, York, Glasgow), Iceland) and the Faroe Islands (Tórshavn)

(missing image)

Chapter 1 – The Strange Girl

Zoe’s legs pounded up the staggered steps to the slide in their park in Norwich. Her teacher, Miss Colman, had told them in class earlier that Norwich was ‘a fine old city’. Fine or not, Zoe thought the spelling was definitely not fine. Why wasn’t it Norridge, like porridge? Or even Norage, like forage?

‘English spelling is old and no longer phonetic,’ Miss Colman had explained. ‘That means it is not written as it sounds. Unlike Spanish or Portuguese, for example.’

That might well be true. Zoe had been to Alicante in Spain and had read quite easily ‘ae-ro-puer-to’ (airport) and ‘es-pi-na-ca’ (spinach – which should, of course, be ‘spinidge’, Zoe thought – if the horrible stuff really must exist). True, but it didn’t help as they had to learn English. But the slide was fine and not at all old. It was one of those wide silver ones that rolled down the hill in waves.

‘Come on, Vincent,’ Zoe shouted behind her. ‘They’ll be here soon!’

They needed to go on before the big boys arrived. And horrible Sheena who sat behind her at school and stuck her chewed out chewing gum in her hair. For now, Zoe and her neighbour, Vincent, had the slide to themselves. Almost. A girl, with two long blonde plaits, appeared at the top before them. She must have run up the slide. That wasn’t allowed.

‘Hey!’ Zoe called out. But the girl disappeared as quickly as she appeared.



She flew down.

Zoe watched, open-mouthed, from the top. Behind the girl the slide shone gold like rays of sunshine.

‘Vincent! Did you see that?’

‘It’s because it was wet,’ Vincent explained. Vincent always had an explanation.

The strange girl smiled up at them from the bottom. The shiny golden surface faded as she skipped away in just her socks, as if a cloud passed over the sun.

‘Quick, Vincent. Before she comes back.’ Zoe pushed Vincent down the slide but he hardly seemed to move, let alone leave a golden streak behind him.

‘It’s rubbish,’ Vincent called up. ‘It’s too dry now.’ He ran off to play in the sandpit.

Before she knew what was happening, Zoe had a naughty moment. Her mother would be furious but she pulled off her black school shoes and clattered them down the metal slide. Her big toe poked through her white-mucky beige socks. Then she pushed herself down the slide. And stopped. With shoes, or without, made no difference. Vincent was right: it was rubbish. Her bottom felt as if it was glued to the slide. She got off and scowled at the sky-grey metal. Perhaps if she took off her skirt?

A distant voice said, ‘Zoe, can you come and put your coat on please. It’s cold and it might rain.’

Zoe pretended not to hear her mother but maybe taking off her skirt wasn’t a good idea. The girl was at the top again. Zoe watched her fly down as if she was sliding on water. Behind her the slide shimmered sky blue. BLUE? The girl turned to go up again. The blue faded back to grey.

Zoe slipped her shoes on, flattening the backs. She ran up behind the girl and pushed in front. ‘Hey, it’s my go!’ she said, panting.

The girl smiled and stepped out of the way. Zoe pushed past and sat down where the girl had gone but, again, it was like pushing her way through the playdoh her mother used to make. Behind her the slide was as grey as the flat Norfolk sky above her.

‘Zoe!’ Her mother again.

Zoe got up and watched the girl fly down, her blonde plaits flapping behind her like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz.


This time the slide shone PURPLE.

Zoe stood rooted to the spot as the girl bounced up and headed to the slide again. It was not possible. How would Vincent explain that? Zoe ran after her. When she got to the top she had another naughty moment. She pinched her arm. Hard. The girl yelped and looked at her. She was taller than Zoe, probably older, maybe ten.

‘Why did you do that?’ she asked calmly.

‘Do what?’ Zoe said. ‘You are real then?’

‘Of course I’m real. My name is Lilly.’ She looked at her arm. ‘It doesn’t matter.’

What did she mean it didn’t matter? Sheena would have not only pulled her hair but stamped on her toes and thrown her down the slide. Zoe pinched her again.

‘That’s not nice. But it’s okay,’ Lilly said. ‘I used to do that.’

‘What?’ Zoe felt confused. What did she mean? ‘This slide is rubbish. I know where the fastest slide in the world is!’ she boasted. ‘We’re going there one day. Like tomorrow.’ She didn’t like the girl’s smile. Silly Lilly.

‘That’s great,’ Lilly said, before flying down the slide.

Zoe shuffled down the grey metal. She didn’t want to go up again. She spat on it. Like Sheena did. A big glob of spit hit the metal and stuck there before snailing down.

(missing image)

Zoe looked over at her mother who was talking to another mum, probably Silly Lilly’s. Then looked down. Lilly’s sunbright yellow shoes were in the sand near the bottom of the slide. Then Zoe had one of her naughtiest moments yet. She scanned the park. Lilly had disappeared again. No one was watching her, except a little bird who was pecking at what looked like a piece of chewing gum in the sand. Zoe kneeled down and dug like a dog with a bone and did the most terrible thing: she buried the shoes in the sand. A smile of satisfaction crept across her face.

She skipped over to get Vincent from the sandpit and raced him to the swings. She was two years older than Vincent and at least a book taller, an encyclopaedia-size book. She won.

The other mother called for Lilly. Silly Lilly looked for her shoes but she couldn’t find them. Lilly’s mother came over. She smiled at them.

‘Hello! Have you seen Lilly’s shoes?’ she asked.

Zoe shook her head, darting her eyes to the side to check that Vincent was doing the same.

‘She wasn’t wearing them on the slide,’ Zoe said.

‘I left them here,’ Lilly said, staring at the spot where the shoes had been.

To Zoe’s surprise, Lilly’s mother didn’t start shouting at Lilly for losing her shoes. Instead, she crouched down and Lilly climbed on her back. Then she smiled at them.

‘Nice to meet you, Zoe and Vincent,’ the mother said. ‘If you find them, let us know!’

As they left the park they turned and waved. They were still smiling. Even shoeless. Zoe looked down and pushed Vincent on the swing. He wobbled from side to side.

‘Zoe! Will you please put your coat on,’ her mother shouted, coming over to her, carrying her navy-blue boring coat. She had wanted a purple one but her mother had said it was too expensive and against school regulations. ‘And put your shoes on properly.’

‘What? They are on.’ She pushed the coat away. ‘I’m not cold.’

‘It’s about five degrees, Zoe. It is cold.’

Zoe ran to the see-saw. Vincent ran after her.

Her mother flapped her coat, huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. Zoe knew she was about to lose a star. Or worse. But, really, how had that girl slid down the slide so FAST? And why had the slide turned GOLD, BLUE and PURPLE? And why hadn’t she pinched her back? She was definitely not from Norwich. She must be an extra-terrestrial.

Her mother paced around her.

‘Okay, we’re going,’ she said. ‘Vincent, come here.’

Zoe ignored her and sat down on the see-saw so Vincent couldn’t get off.

‘I can’t, Lizzie,’ Vincent said.

Sure enough, her mother started shouting at her and told her she’d lost a star. Zoe slowly let Vincent off and together they walked with her mother out of the park. Just in time as Sheena and about six of her friends were coming down the road. Sheena was allowed out on her own. Zoe’s mother wouldn’t let her.

Zoe put her head down and thought about the sunshine yellow shoes beneath the dirty sand. She wanted to go and get them but knew that she would lose a million gazillion stars if anyone found out what she’d done.

‘I don’t understand why you can’t do as you’re told, Zoe?’ her mother was saying.

Zoe didn’t know either. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be good. It was just that she always seemed to do the opposite. And the more her mother got cross, the more she did what she wasn’t supposed to. And the crosser her mother got until they were all crossed up. She kicked the pavement with the tips of her black scraped shoes.

‘Don’t do that, Zoe. You’ll ruin your shoes. And we can’t afford any more.’

Zoe scuffed them again.

‘Zoe!’ her mother screamed. ‘What did I just say?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Zoe.

‘I need a holiday!’ her mother said. ‘The mother I was talking to, Claudia, I think her name was, and her daughter have just driven back from Portugal in a campervan. Spent a month there. Had a fantastic time. Even in April. Wouldn’t it be great to have a campervan.’

‘What’s Portugal?’ Vincent asked.

‘It’s phonetic,’ Zoe said, remembering what Miss Colman had said. ‘Much easier than English.’

Both Vincent and her mother frowned at her.

‘Portugal is a country, like England, but much hotter,’ her mother explained.

‘How much hotter?’ asked Vincent.

‘About twenty degrees,’ said her mother.

That sounded hot, too hot. ‘I don’t like hot countries,’ said Zoe.

‘Me too,’ said Vincent.

‘Well that’s fortunate,’ her mother said. ‘Because we’re not going to Portugal and it’s not hot here.’

‘Mummy, where is the fastest slide?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Can we go?’

‘Of course not.’

They walked between the cars and the houses, grey cardboard shoeboxes her mother called them. There were no shops, unfortunately, between the park and their house, but Zoe had a feeling that there would be no sweets or treats today anyway. She kicked a pizza box. Tut-tut-tut, her mother tutted. They passed a garage. Outside was a strange vehicle. A shiny silver campervan, higher than a mini-bus and with two big boxes on top, one slightly higher than the other. It had a window at the side and a nose like a dolphin. Zoe thought it winked at her but, of course, it didn’t. Someone must be inside pulling down a shutter.

‘Come on,’ said her mother, stopping at the curb. ‘Let’s cross the road.’

‘Wait!’ said a man in a dirty white shirt and old faded jeans, rushing round the front of the camper towards them. ‘This is for you, I reckon.’

The man held out a shiny key to Zoe’s mother. Lizzie stopped and smiled, holding Zoe and Vincent back.

Vincent broke free, ran up to the man and took it.


‘Vincent?’ the man said nodding, looking first at Vincent, then Zoe, then her mother. ‘They said to give it to a woman with red hair, Lizzie, and two children, Zoe and Vincent. That’s you, I reckon. It’s the key for the campervan.’