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THE Survival Tails: The Titanic
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- Trade Paperback $7.99 $11.99 CAD
- ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 20, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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When loyal dog Mutt discovers that his owner and best friend Alice is set to board the RMS Titanic without him, he is determined to follow her across the ocean. With the help of King Leon the rat, Mutt sneaks aboard, but it isn’t long before the Captain’s cat, Clara, discovers the stowaway. Reluctantly, Clara agrees to help Mutt find Alice, on the condition that he help her look after a trio of abandoned kittens she found in a lifeboat. But when the unthinkable happens and the so-called unsinkable ship hits an iceberg, Mutt and his new friends have to race against the clock to reunite with their humans–and to survive.
Survival Tails: The Titanic is the first in a series of heart-stopping, action-packed, animal-starring adventure stories that will captivate and educate young readers.
Tuesday, April 9, 1912
The rain fell softly, swirling around the small garden to land on Mutt’s wiry, dull brown fur. It was the kind of rain that seemed barely there at all when you looked out from the dry comfort of indoors—little more than a mist on the wind. But when you had no choice but to be out in it, it was almost as wet as a full-pelt downpour.
Mutt looked around the garden for some kind of shelter. There was a small vegetable patch with sprouting potato plants, carrots, and radishes, and a wooden outhouse that leaned against the back of the house, but the master kept that locked. Mutt sneezed, covering his head with his paws, but the rain continued to drip drip drip into his eyes no matter what he did.
Mutt hated getting wet.
He hated being in trouble even more, though. The master had caught him earlier that day trying to dig up some radishes and, after a loud telling-off, had tied Mutt to the rickety garden fence. The master was a fisherman by trade and knew how to tie an unyielding knot better than anyone.
Mutt tried once more to wriggle his way free from the old, fraying rope, which smelled like seaweed and mackerel, but despite his tugging, and gnawing, and squirming, the knot held fast. Now the sky was darkening, his teeth were sore, and his neck throbbed with a painful heat beneath the rope. The worst part of all was that if the master was angry with Mutt, he would be angry with Alice, too.
Mutt was going nowhere.
His stomach growled and he let out a small whine to get the master’s attention in case he had forgotten that Mutt was there. Inside the house Mutt saw the looming shadow of the master lit by the dim, flickering lamplight, but nobody came to the door. Mutt caught the scent of something rich and delicious, and his stomach growled again. He imagined that they might have lit the fire; the night was cold enough for it, even though it was early April and flowers were sprouting up all over the village.
Finally, the rain eased off, and the back door slammed open suddenly, followed by a booming yell.
Alice ran outside, bright red hair streaking behind her as her bare feet slapped across the wet mud. She threw herself down beside Mutt and buried her face in his fur, not caring that it was filthy and stinking and wet. He nuzzled into her neck, feeling all the warmer for having her close by. There was no better feeling on earth, Mutt thought, than being with his girl. He sniffed and licked at Alice’s hands to see if she’d brought him anything to eat, but they were empty.
“Alice! Get back here now,” the master roared from the doorway.
Mutt froze, his ears flattening against his head and his tail dropping between his legs as he shrank backward. Alice clung to Mutt tighter than the rope around his neck.
“I won’t leave him!” Alice wailed, pulling Mutt closer.
The master gave a loud grunt and yanked on his boots, then sloshed toward them. Mutt chanced a quick glance, but instead of finding the usual wrinkled brow and scowl, he saw that the master seemed almost sad.
“Alice,” the master said again, his gruff voice quieter. “We can’t take him with us.”
“Why not?” Alice asked, the sound muffled by Mutt’s overgrown fur.
“Because we can’t. Dogs aren’t allowed on the big steamers,” the master replied, crouching beside Alice.
Mutt’s ears pricked up. Alice had been out fishing plenty of times on the master’s lugger, but never on a steamer. The steamers were the biggest of all the ships… like entire floating villages. Mutt cocked his head to one side, an uneasy feeling growing in his stomach that had nothing to do with his hunger; humans only went on a steamer when they were going somewhere far, far away.
The master put his large, callused hand on Alice’s shoulder, but she shrugged him off.
“Other people take their dogs on boats!” she cried, wiping the tears across her face with her nightdress’s sleeve. Mutt licked at her tears, but the master gave him a sharp look and he slunk back again.
“Mary Parker told me so,” Alice continued. “Her cousin, Alfie, works down at the shipyard. He’s seen plenty of people take animals onto the big ships. Not just dogs, neither—live chickens, and pigs, and even big colorful birds in wire cages.”
The master rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. “Not people like us, though.”
He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jacket pocket and opened it to show Alice. In the darkness, it was too difficult to read the writing printed on it, but Mutt could just about make out a small design at the top of the paper—a red flag with a white star in the middle.
“We’re in steerage,” the master said. “Third class. We’re lucky they let poor people like us on such a fine ship, let alone an old mutt.” He jerked his head toward Mutt and let out a small huff of a laugh. “Besides, he’s too chickenhearted to set foot on my old lugger, let alone the biggest ship in the world.”
Mutt gave a gruff bark in protest, but the master ignored him.
“It’s not his fault he doesn’t like water,” Alice said, kissing Mutt’s head in sympathy. She glanced at the paper in her father’s hand, curiosity getting the better of her. “Is it really the biggest ship in the world?”
The master nodded. “Just think of it, Alice. It’ll be a new life for us… a new world. And we’ll be traveling there on the most luxurious ship that was ever built.”
Alice leaned forward to get a closer look. “The Titanic,” she whispered.
Mutt whined as she pulled away from him. He yanked at the rope, but it tightened around his throat with each tug. When it became almost too tight to bear, he changed tack, scratching and digging at the sodden ground to loosen the fence post. He wouldn’t let Alice leave without him. He couldn’t.
“Mutt, you’ll hurt yourself!” Alice cried, loosening the rope slightly and stroking his head. She scratched him in his favorite spot beneath his chin and he calmed a little. Of course she wouldn’t let the master leave him behind. She would find a way to persuade her father—she always did. After all, Mutt belonged to Alice. Alice belonged to Mutt. It was the way it had always been.
“He knows something’s wrong,” Alice told her father, her eyes brimming with tears again. “Can’t we at least bring him inside? His fur is soaked through.”
The master glanced at Mutt and paused. “It’s best if he stays out here for now,” he said.
Alice rested her face against Mutt’s and he licked at her cheek again. It tasted like sea salt and blackberries. “But he’s my best friend,” Alice said quietly. “Mam would have let me.”
If the master heard, he made no reply. The three of them sat silently, surrounded by the familiar sounds of distant gulls and the echo of foghorns.
“Your mam would have wanted us to take this opportunity,” the master said finally. “Now, come along inside; you’ll catch a chill.”
“Who will look after Mutt?” Alice asked.
“Peter Craggs is coming by in the morning to collect him,” the master said. “It’s all been arranged.”
“Peter Craggs!” Alice shrieked. “Mutt hates Peter Craggs, and Peter Craggs hates Mutt. He told me so himself.”
Mutt growled in agreement. Peter Craggs smelled worse than fish guts on a hot day. The boy had thrown pebbles at him and Alice last week when they were scavenging along the beach. She and Mutt had chased the boy all the way back to the village green.
The master huffed. “No one else will take him, Alice. He’s not the best-behaved dog.”
“Oh, Papa, please!” Alice begged. “Mutt is family! We could hide him in our trunk… or we could stay here…. I don’t want to go to the New World. Let’s stay here. Please, Papa!”
“They’d throw Mutt overboard if they discovered him, and then they’d send us right back home.” The master shook his head. “The ship leaves tomorrow at noon and we’re going to be on it.”
Alice pulled Mutt closer than ever, crying huge, wrenching sobs that vibrated through Mutt’s entire body.
Mutt yowled, his own lament rising above Alice’s until he couldn’t hear her crying anymore. It grew louder still when the master yelled at him to shut up before old Mrs. Walton came knocking. But Mutt yowled loudest of all when the master pulled Alice away and dragged her inside the house, bolting the door.
Leaving Mutt tied to the rickety fence, alone in the cold, wet garden.
Wednesday, April 10, 1912
Mutt had lived by the sea his whole life—or at least for as long as he could remember. On sunny days he and Alice would scour the beach in Southampton. Mutt made sure not to venture too close to the water as they searched for treasure among the flotsam and jetsam that washed up on the river’s edge, dragged in from the Solent. Mutt himself had been one of Alice’s grander finds: a newborn pup, tangled up among some old fishing nets and huddled beneath the seaweed.
Once, they’d found a rocking chair, surprisingly intact but in need of a good cleanup. Alice had somehow managed to drag it along the shingle beach and all the way home. Her mother reckoned that it came from a wrecked pirate ship and had probably belonged to the pirate captain himself. The master had snorted at that, saying that no pirate worth his salt would be caught dead in a grimy old rocking chair.
But Alice’s mother wanted to keep it, so she helped Alice clean it up and sand it down and give it a bit of a polish. When they’d finished, it looked as good as new. Alice’s mother had spent many a night rocking beside the fire while she spun tales. Then she’d caught the sickness, but sat there still, with the master fussing while Alice sat beside her, and Mutt on top of Mam’s feet. Until one morning, it was just the three of them… and the empty rocking chair.
Mutt woke from his sleep with a start, his tail numb. He thought he’d heard Alice calling, but when he looked over at the house, all was quiet. The sun had only just started to rise—a pale orange smear on the horizon. The master was usually out on his lugger before dawn for the best catch. But he wouldn’t be going out on his lugger today. Nor any day after.
Mutt scratched at the sodden ground, no longer caring about wet paws. He chewed at the rope at the same time, doubling his efforts. His tongue hung from his mouth as he panted, digging harder, faster. He had to get to Alice before she was gone for good. With a final, determined burst of energy, he pulled hard and the rotting post gave way slightly. Encouraged, Mutt pulled harder, the rope burning at his skin, until finally the post tore free from the ground, sending Mutt flying backward into a puddle. He gripped the rope with his teeth, easing the end up and over the wooden post.
He was free!
Mutt pawed at the rope around his neck until it slipped to the ground. With his damp fur warmed by the sun, he shook his body in triumph, sending mud flying everywhere. He trotted over to the house, sniffing at the small gap beneath the back door.
There were no sounds. No smells. No Alice! Mutt’s stomach lurched as he realized they must already have left. The sun was higher now and the master had said that the boat sailed at noon. The boy—Peter—would be coming for Mutt soon. He had to get to the docks.
Mutt raced down to the shore, his claws scrabbling across the loose pebbles as he ran. He’d seen the big ships coming in and out of the big blue enough times to know where they sailed from. All he had to do was follow the shoreline until he found Alice’s steamer. He headed farther inland, glancing across the river to the docks in the distance, then paused. The boats sailed from the opposite side of the water. He’d have to follow the river all the way to the bridge to reach Alice’s ship, which would mean half a day’s journey at least. Or he could take the nearby floating bridge, which meant going over the water.
The floating bridge was like a barge—made from wood and powered by steam. It was linked to heavy chains laid across the riverbed that reeled the bridge back and forth, back and forth, a thousand times a day. It was the only way to get across the water without swimming, and the easiest and quickest way to get to Alice’s ship in time.
As Mutt reached the bridge and crept closer to the water’s edge, his hackles rose. His stomach told him to stay back! Don’t go any closer! but he swallowed his fear and pushed forward, stepping onto the barge with trembling paws.
There was a sudden jolt as the bridge began to move. The rumble of chains vibrated through the wooden planks beneath Mutt’s paws and he dug his claws in, squeezing his eyes shut. He tried to still his shaky legs and calm his racing heart. Most of all, he tried not to think of the sloshing water surrounding the barge, or what might happen if he fell overboard.
After a few agonizing minutes, they reached the opposite bank. As soon as the bridge was close to the shore, Mutt raced to disembark, stumbling because his legs were still wobbly.
Relief flooded through him as he set his paws onto the heavenly solid ground. He had paused for a moment to get his bearings when he noticed a poster pasted on the wall in front of him. At the top was the same design he had seen on the master’s ticket—a red flag with a white star—above a picture of a huge ship. Below that, in bright, bold letters, the words The Ship of Dreams.
Mutt raced to the end of the street, following the ever-increasing noise and the flow of humans, carts, and carriages laden with suitcases and trunks. He turned the next corner and stopped dead. In front of him, taller than any building he’d ever seen and as long as any street, was the ship—the Titanic. Towering high above him, four colossal cream-colored funnels topped with black reached to the sky.
All around, humans bustled: loading the ship with crates and passengers’ belongings; saying goodbyes; admiring the breathtaking sight of the world’s biggest ship. Mutt wove his way through the crowd, around legs and trunks and crates, sniffing the air for Alice’s scent. At one point he thought he saw a flash of her red hair, but it was lost in the throng.
“Third class, this way!” a voice yelled above the commotion.
Mutt’s ears pricked up. The master had told Alice that they were traveling in third class!
He followed the voice to where a line of humans waited at the end of a long walkway. It led from the quayside to an open door at the lower part of the ship. Many of the third-class passengers had only one bag. Others had nothing but the clothes on their back and a piece of paper in their hand—their ticket to a new life. A world away from the vast trunks and packages that the first-class passengers had.
At the front of the line, a man in a black uniform and hat carried out checks of the third-class passengers’ hair, eyes, and teeth. One by one, the humans stepped up to be examined before being allowed on board. It reminded Mutt of the way Alice sometimes checked his fur for fleas, and he wondered if the humans were doing the same thing.
Mutt sneaked alongside the line, glad he couldn’t see the water. He paused, taking a deep breath as he steeled himself to step onto the steamer. Telling himself over and over that he could do it. He could get on the boat. He could go onto the water. He would do it.
He would cross the big blue a thousand times over if it meant he would be with his girl.
Mutt continued on, hiding behind a large lady who had a particularly wide, long skirt that bloomed around her legs like a flower. As she moved, so did Mutt. He darted behind her skirt, keeping low to the ground and as close to the woman as he dared. She reached the front of the line to be checked over and Mutt stayed as still as he could, barely daring to breathe.
“Go ahead,” the man said.
Mutt peeped out from the hem of the skirt at the same time that the man checked his pocket watch, catching Mutt’s eye. He frowned, then held out his arm, stopping the lady in her tracks.
“No dogs allowed,” he grunted, nodding at Mutt.
The woman blinked, then let out an ear-piercing shriek as Mutt peered sheepishly back up at her. She swung her handbag, hitting Mutt full-force in the head before he had a chance to scarper. With a low whine, Mutt turned and ran as fast as he could, back down the walkway, the woman’s high-pitched squeals echoing after him as he hid among the bales, sacks, and barrels on the quayside.
There had to be another way onto the ship. It would be sailing soon, and it couldn’t leave without him. He had to get to Alice. Mutt glanced around desperately, his head throbbing and his body shaking as he took a peek at the walkway again. The uniformed man’s back was turned, and Mutt seized his chance. There was no more time to think, or worry, or plan. He couldn’t give up now, not when he was so close. He bolted between the legs of two humans, swerving around a small boy who tried to grab his tail as he passed, heading full-pelt toward the door.
Almost there, almost made it
- Praise for Survival Tails: The Titanic:
- On Sale
- Mar 20, 2018
- Page Count
- 224 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers