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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Disaster Diaries: Zombies!

Disaster Diaries (Volume 1)

R. McGeddon, illustrated by Jamie Littler





Professor Pamplemousse was a small man by anyone’s standards. Many of the boys in his class, and some of the girls, too, towered several inches above him. This made him nervous, but so did goldfish, corrugated cardboard, and certain colors of paint, so that wasn’t saying much.

Sometimes, though, even the shortest men can have a commanding presence about them, earning respect from everyone they meet without having to say a word. This could be said about Professor Pamplemousse, but it would be a lie. The professor didn’t have a commanding presence; he barely had a presence at all. In fact, he’d often lie awake at night wondering if he even existed. Unfortunately for him, he did.

“Right, s-settle down, everyone,” he called, trying to quiet the rowdy classroom. “Hello? Can anyone actually hear me?”

Maybe the students in Pamplemousse’s science class could hear him. Maybe they couldn’t. If they could, they didn’t let on. Instead, they laughed and chatted and watched the clock as it ticked its way toward the final few minutes of the final day of the final week of the school term. It was almost vacation time, and whatever the professor was up to with Bunsen burners and petri dishes and all that stuff, no one was giving two hoots.

Near the back of the class, Sam Saunders and his best friend, Arty Dorkins, were planning their summer antics. Sam was one of those kids in school who was liked by everyone. Teachers always gave him slightly higher grades than they should. His classmates would offer to carry his bag, and would hardly ever then throw it into the bushes and run away laughing. All the lunch ladies fawned over him, which was one of the reasons why he avoided the school cafeteria at all costs.

Arty, on the other hand, was not particularly popular. He wasn’t athletic like Sam or charming like Sam, and on the good-looking front he was about a three, which was slightly below the average family dog. Despite their differences, the boys were the best of friends, which just goes to show, doesn’t it?

Like most days, the out-of-school activities they were planning involved playing pranks on Arty’s older brother, Jesse. They enjoyed doing this for two reasons. First, Arty’s older brother wasn’t very nice, and second, Arty’s older brother wasn’t very nice. Technically, this is just one reason, but it’s such a good one it’s worth saying twice. And now that it was summer vacation and Sam was staying at Arty’s for the weekend, they could really go all out.

“What about a trip wire or something?” Arty suggested. He was bouncing excitedly in his seat, which made his plump torso wobble like a bowl of rice pudding. “We could trip him up and, if we calculate the trajectory correctly, make him fall right on his big, stupid face.”

Sam nodded slowly. “Not bad, not bad. It’s got potential.”

Arty frowned. “There’s a ‘but’ coming, isn’t there?”

Sam wrinkled his nose. “Bit obvious, isn’t it? I mean, we tripped him up yesterday, didn’t we? After he put that liquid soap in your cola.”

“We did,” said Arty, frowning as he remembered the slimy bubbles frothing out of his nose. “And he fell right on his face.”

“Exactly. And while that was brilliant, I think we need to try something more ambitious. Remember that time we dug the ditch to get revenge on Jesse for filling the contents of your lunch box with sand?”

Arty did remember the ditch, and before that, the crunching sensation of biting into a very sandy sandwich. It had taken them a week of planning and fourteen solid hours of digging to pull off the prank, but the sight of Jesse falling into the hole and landing right on his big, stupid face had made it all worthwhile.

“Okay … okay … How about this?” began Arty. His eyes darted left and right, and Sam could almost hear his friend’s big brain at work. “What about if we set up some kind of rudimentary lasso snare…”

Sam’s chair creaked as he leaned forward. “Go on.”

“We attach it to a tree and tie something to it that he won’t be able to resist. Something that’ll lure him in.”

“A mirror? He’d love that.”

“Right! So he grabs the bait, and the lasso wraps around him and flicks him up into the tree.”

“Brilliant!” Sam grinned.

“Then we feed him to a shark.”

Sam blinked. “Er … what?”

“We feed him to a shark. You know? A great white or something. Some of them have up to three hundred and fifty teeth. Imagine that. It could devour him in seconds.”

“Right,” said Sam. (Arty had a history of odd suggestions.) He cleared his throat. “Interesting. We could go with that plan.… Or we could just hide in the bushes and chuck water balloons at him?”

Arty shrugged. “Or we could do that. Whatever’s easiest.”

“The water balloons, probably,” said Sam.

“Let’s do that, then,” Arty said, but he made a mental note of the shark idea for future reference.

How to Annoy Your Older Brother

One effective way to make your older brother seethe with rage (without resorting to shark attacks) is by spoiling his much-needed beauty sleep. You could stay awake all night to do this, but that sounds a bit tiring to me. Here’s another method.

You will need:

• 1 brother

• 1 alarm clock

• A basic grasp of telling time

Sneak into your brother’s bedroom when he’s not there.

Set the alarm for a random time during the night. Possible random times include 3:14 AM, 2:46 AM, and 4:03 AM.

Hide the alarm clock in an annoying place, like the top shelf of his closet.

Go to bed at your usual time.

Laugh yourself to sleep.

At the front of the class, Professor Pamplemousse was pouring something boring into something dull. “Look, trust me, you’re going to like this,” he said. “It’s green, yes? Now behold as before your very eyes it turns a very slightly different shade of green.”

The professor stared into his test tube, watching the mixture bubble and froth. “Oh, it’s gone purple,” he muttered. “Why has it gone purple? It’s not supposed to go—”

A paper airplane performed an emergency crash landing on the back of Pamplemousse’s head, its nose cone tangling in his wispy white locks. He spun on the spot, the test tube still clutched in his hand, the origami jet still protruding from his hair.

“Children, please,” he said, trying to appeal to their better nature. “I know we’re all excited, but throwing paper airplanes in a science lab is dangerous. It could’ve taken someone’s eye out. Luckily, I was here to make sure you were all unhurt. No, please, don’t thank me. Your safety is my number one concern.”

He had been hoping for some sort of reaction to that last part. A grateful cheer, perhaps, for his selfless heroism. Yet nobody paid him the slightest bit of attention, so he said it again, louder this time.

“I was saying … don’t thank me. Your safety is my number one—”

Right then, the test tube in his hand exploded, spraying fizzing purple goo over Simon Stumble, a boy in the front row. This was just Simon’s luck. Bad things always happened when Simon Stumble was around, and they tended to happen to Simon himself. He was growing too fast, the school nurse said. His brain couldn’t keep up with his lanky limbs and awkwardly huge feet. He was accident-prone with a capital “AAAAAAARGH!”

In the past month alone, Simon had broken three toes, lost a nostril, and accidentally declared war on the Netherlands. So while many people might have considered being covered in fizzing purple goo and broken glass to be a disaster, as far as Simon was concerned, it was a pretty decent result all around.

“Don’t sue me! I have nothing!” shrieked Professor Pamplemousse. He clamped a hand over his mouth, then took a steadying breath. “By which I mean: Here, Simon, let me get you a tissue.”

A few rows back, Sam and Arty reached for their schoolbags. Their eyes were locked on the clock as it ticked and tocked the final few seconds away.

“Ten,” cried Sam. “Nine!”

The rest of the class joined in. “Eight, seven.”

Sam glanced sideways at Simon Stumble. He was dabbing at the purple goo with a tissue. The stuff was smeared all over his face, from forehead to chin. It didn’t look healthy—in fact, it looked positively, noxiously, toe-curlingly infectious. Some of it dangled like a booger from his nose. Some of it fizzed like a dancing caterpillar across his distinctive ginger monobrow.

“Six, five, three,” cried the students, who never paid any attention in math, either. “Two, one!”


Twenty-five sets of chair legs scraped across the floor as twenty-five students leaped to their feet. School was over. Summer had begun. As they rushed for the door, many of the students agreed that life was good and that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Silly, silly students.

“I hope Simon’s okay,” said Sam.

Arty managed a glance back into the classroom. Simon looked back at him, his mouth hanging open. His eyes were wide and bulging, his face was gray, and he slowly lifted his arms out in front of him. Arty felt a shiver travel down his spine. “Erm, yeah,” he said. “I’m not so sure about that.” But before they could turn back, Sam and Arty were being swept helplessly through the door in a tidal wave of vacation-hungry students.

In a cloud of cheers, schoolbags, and happiness, the boys bustled out through the school gates and into the start of the summer. Poor Simon, however, was left to undergo an un-deadly transformation.…

Sam and Arty’s Summer To-Do List (as compiled in a constructive final science lesson of the year)

• Become famous.

• Build a rocket.

• Eat Arty’s body weight in french fries.

• Discover treasure.

• Chase a robber.

• Grow taller.

• Join the army.

• Leave the army.

• Find a new smell.

• Acquire a shark (Arty only).


Text copyright © 2014 by Hothouse Fiction Ltd.

Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jamie Littler