Life isn’t easy for Johnny. He is trying to help his mum, he is looking after his little brother and he is going to a new school. Then Liam Clarke starts to bully him and it all begins toget a lot worse. But when Johnny gets some very surprising help from an unexpected source his life takes a dramatic turn.
A magical story about finding your place and having the courage to fly.Chapter One
Liam Clark started it. In Regent’s Park, with the sandwich. There were four of them, all Populars, with the confi- dence and the trainers to match, laughing as they smeared mushed swan droppings on to the slice of bread.
Johnny Emin’s lunch box was lying where they had thrown it in the grass. He took out his sandwich and bit into it. He chewed and swallowed. Then he stopped, sniffed it (like an animal, Liam thought), peeled the slices apart and saw something, dark and mushy like pâté.
‘Miss! Miss! Look what the new kid’s eating!’
Liam, with his blond fringe flopping, was pointing and laughing.
Miss was looking at him, frowning.
No, Liam was mistaken. She wasn’t looking at him.
She was looking over his shoulder, towards the lake. ‘The new kid’s eating swan poo! Actually eating it!’ No one said anything, so Liam repeated, ‘Swan poo!’ Then his smile sank.His mouth stayed open.
His jaw looked as if it were unhinged.There was a second of quiet, maybe more; everyone held their breath, the wind paused, and then there was a grating scream, a splash, and a whoosh of air from behind as an enormous white thing, hissing like a steam train, charged out of the lake.
Its wings were raised into a feathered cape, and its neck and head stuck straight out like the bayonet on a gun.
The teacher was waving her arms and shouting ‘Shoo! Shoo!’, as if the massive, charging bird were a pigeon, but the swan didn’t stop. It headed straight for Liam and pinned him down.
Then everything went so slowly that Johnny, half-eaten sandwich at his feet, and swan poo still in the creices of his molars, had time to enjoy its neck flexing and dipping, its sharp beak stabbing, and its muscular wings beating the boy into submission.
‘Miss!’ Liam was screaming now. ‘Help, Miss! It’s going to kill me!’
But Miss wasn’t helping.
No one was helping.
Then he started sobbing, and, like a whistle had blown, everyone – except for Johnny and Liam – ran at the swan, shouting and waving their arms.
The swan sat back for a moment and shook its wings, dropping one feather like a spent arrow.
Then it climbed off Liam and headed back to the water, squashing Johnny’s sandwich with its big ugly feet as it went.
Johnny waited until it had swum off, then he grabbed the feather and ran.
Author bioNikki Sheehan is the youngest daughter of a rocket scientist. Following a career as a journalist, her first novel Who Framed Klaris Cliff? won the North Herts Book Award for 2015. Her second, Swan Boy is one of the Guardian’s Best New Reads for this year and has already been listed for the St Helens Book Award. She is also a story mentor, taking creative writing into schools in Brighton, UK, where she lives with her family and too many petsNikki Sheehan
Author Who Framed Klaris Cliff? (2014)Swan Boy (May 2016)
Winner of North Herts Book Prize 2015
Shortlisted: Wirral Paperback of the Year, The Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year. Longlisted: The Oxfordshire Book of the Year