Giant Cold

Giant Cold


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Can a child defeat a frozen giant and bring summer back to Apple Island?

It’s the last night of a family’s holiday on a tropical island filled with black beaches, sweetfruit, and red-necked looby birds. Their final adventure is to climb the island’s tallest mountain before they leave in the morning. But when the child—who might be you—wakes up the next morning, the world has become a frozen wasteland and the father has been transformed into ice.
Setting out in search of Giant Cold, a frozen monster no one has ever seen, you—now a tiny elf—meet two giants: white-beard, a scholar; and black-beard, a sailor. You’re forced to live inside a bottle and travel with black-beard—until the looby birds snatch up the bottle. Flying over forests, fields, and seas, you must rescue Apple Island from Giant Cold and his armies of wind, snow, and ice. With only the warmth of your own life—a tiny spark—you take on the powerful giant. Riding the wind up to the mountain peak, your tiny size will become your greatest asset as you make a surprising discovery about yourself.
Giant Cold is a strikingly original, big-hearted fantasy about love, family, and finding your way home.
This ebook features black-and-white illustrations by Alan Cober and an illustrated personal history of Peter Dickinson including rare images from the author’s collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504025164
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 01/05/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 76
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Peter Dickinson was born in Africa but raised and educated in England. From 1952 to 1969 he was on the editorial staff of Punch, and since then has earned his living writing fiction of various kinds for children and adults. His books have been published in several languages throughout the world.

The recipient of many awards, Dickinson has been shortlisted nine times for the prestigious Carnegie Medal for children’s literature and was the first author to win it twice. The author of twenty-one crime and mystery novels for adults, Dickinson was also the first to win the Gold Dagger of the Crime Writers’ Association for two books running: The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest (1968) and The Old English Peepshow (1969).

A collection of Dickinson’s poetry, The Weir, was published in 2007. His latest book, In the Palace of the Khans, was published in 2012 and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal.

Dickinson has served as chairman of the Society of Authors and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2009 for services to literature.

Read an Excerpt

Giant Cold

By Peter Dickinson, Alan E. Cober


Copyright © 1984 Peter Dickinson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2514-0



On a holiday island, somebody falling asleep — it might be you.

"Hush, shush," murmurs the sea....

Voices of parents from the next room.

"It's much too far for a child."

"But it's our last day, tomorrow. We mustn't waste it."

"I don't call it a waste, lying on the beach, soaking up sun."

"I do, when we still haven't climbed the mountain. We promised we would, first day we came."

Yes, it was a promise. ... Cars on the mountain road. At one special corner, their lights shine straight at the window, bright for an instant through the thin curtains, bright even through closed eyelids.

"We don't want to get home dog-tired. It'll be winter soon. Think of it. Sleet, snow, ice, and the wind whipping round the street corners as if it wanted to blow you away. We've got to store up sunlight in ourselves to get us through."

"Haven't we done enough of that? I think we want to store up something special in our minds. It's a terrific mountain. Don't you remember, flying in, how it looked like a gigantic sail coming out of the sea?"

From along the sea-front, a disco, just the drums at this distance, like the beat of a huge heart. Overhead an airliner, full of tourists, flying in to land, drowning all noises with its thunder.

"There's been plenty special enough already. Aren't black beaches special? And the sweetfruitthat doesn't grow anywhere else. And that bird with the stupid name."

"Looby. The red-necked looby."


"Look, it's the mountain that makes everything else special. The beaches are black because it was once a volcano. The sweetfruit has to have volcanic ash to grow in. The loobies come ..."

"Can't we just lie on the beach and look at it?"

"Not the same thing. Not if we're going to make it part of ourselves. Just think. Somewhere at the heart of that mountain, there is still fire!"

"We can't take that home with us."

"Honestly, darling ..."

"No, really ..."

Why do people argue when they have paid so much to be happy? They are arguing about love. They love each other. They love their child. Each wants to give the others the best they possibly can. That's what love means.

Does it? A sort of competition — who can give most, best? Sometimes it seems to become a different competition — who shall have their own way, who is strongest?

"Hush, shush," murmurs the sea.

"This is stupid. We'll spoil the whole holiday if we go on like this. Let's do it your way."

"Oh no, darling, I don't want ..."

Is the night colder? Or is it just thinking about the cold back home? What does it mean, loving someone? How can you get love? How can you keep it? Can you huddle into love, like huddling into your blankets, huddling into your own warmth, clutching it to you, precious, like gold, warm, like gold fire, fire at the heart of the mountain?

At the souvenir stall you can buy a sweetfruit stone in a bottle, just beginning to grow, to put out a root-tip. It will never grow in the cold back home.

What does love mean? What does anything mean? What does the man mean, the man on the island's flag, bearded, naked, waving the branch of a sweetfruit tree? Nobody knows. Perhaps he is calling to the loobies, as they migrate from the cold north.

What does anything mean to somebody falling asleep, huddling into warmth, clutching it to them?

No voices now. Somebody fell asleep. It might be you.



Is it you? You waking on this sort of shelf in the tiny white room, with the harsh straw mattress under you and a fur rug for a blanket?

Yes, it is you, but all changed. Changed house, changed life, changed world. Changed but not strange, because all your life you have slept in this room, curled for warmth under this rug, woken to see the sky and the treetops through this window. The window has no glass in it, but that is not strange either. You are used to it, used to it all.

But something is strange. Something is wrong....

In the night! Yes, lightning and thunder, thunder roaring above the roof, blinks of light bright even through closed eyelids. A summer storm. That was not it. There are storms like that every summer. But ...

In the storm, while it blinked and roared, yes, you saw ...

Or was it a dream? It must have been a dream, because you were flying, floating somehow over the roof, looking down through the thatch and the ceilings, seeing yourself asleep on your shelf, and him lying on his bed in the other room. And then you were closer, just above him, watching a golden spark creep over the white pillow, creep towards his ear....

Did you scream? Did you wake yourself with a yell? Did you hear the storm, hear the door bang below, sit up, then, kneeling at the foot of your shelf, crane from the window? Was that dream too? Or did you really see him striding across the garden, naked in the storm, tall as two men beneath the lightning? And what was the dazzling whiteness round his shoulders? Ah, no, surely that must all have been dream too.

Below you, a sound. The door banging in the wind. He never leaves it unbolted, never.

Twist out from under the blanket, duck beneath the low door-beam, creep to the other room.

Empty, and his clothes still folded on the chair.

Run down the ladder to the room below. The door swings in the wind, with the garden and the summer woods beyond, still dripping from the storm. One pigeon coos. His axe leans by the stove. His boots loll beside it. What is he doing, all naked out in the summer woods? He hasn't even taken his meal, which you packed in the satchel for him last night. Where is he? When is he coming back?

Remember the dream? How you floated above him, gazing down, thinking, Safe, safe. Just us alone, with the enormous woods to guard us. Mine, only mine. Nothing can take him away. But then the gold spark, creeping across the pillow. And then ...

Go to the door. The whole world smells of summer, of warm earth after rain. But what is that whiteness lying on the path? Creep over, heart thudding now, stare at one great footprint, white as snow, far too large for a man, pressed into the path, all five toe-marks clear.

And look! Another at the path's edge, and another beyond it stamped in the tilled soil, crushing down across neat feathery rows of carrot-tops — a line of white footprints, stretching away, the first one impossibly large but the rest even larger and larger still as they go, the paces stretching further and further to where the line smashes the strong fence ...

And all so white!

Bend by the first print to feel what the whiteness is made of. Your hand snatches itself back at the first burning touch. Cold like fire! Cold as a piece of iron left out on a winter night. Hard like iron where the rain froze into the footprint, the ground beside it hard as January. So cold he strode by.

Straighten to sigh and stare around. There, where the line of footprints reaches the trees — no path at that place, but a clear mark which was not there last night, a mark as though somebody had lit a bonfire beneath the branches, letting the flames roar up higher and higher, burning the leaves above until they hang brown and brittle on their twigs, the green of summer withered and scorched, but not with fire. With ice.

Now it is noon, and you sit on a smashed tree-trunk, deep in the forest beside a frozen waterfall. The dam of ice has blocked the stream so that it spreads into a pool. But at last the sun is at work. The icicles of the fall are dripping where they hang. By dusk the water will gush, the pool will be gone, the stream will flow on as though the creature of cold had never walked this way.

But the forest will not be the same, not for a hundred years. The sun hangs overhead, glaring down into the scorched and splintered gash he carved as he came by. So cold he was, so tall, so strong.

The footprints have stopped growing and are all the same size now, huge, thirty of your paces from heel to toe and then sixty to the heel of the next one. And branches have been ripped from the very tops of the trees on either side of the gash. Yes, he came shouldering through the forest like a man walking through tall grass.

And always the line of his march runs straight on, due south-west by the sun, as though he had chosen one particular place to steer for. Where can it be? And, oh, how far?

Go on, or turn back? You brood about it as you sit and eat your meal, his meal he never took. Your legs ache, your mind is weary, your heart sick — it will take you far longer to trudge home than it did to come out when you were fresh with morning. If you do not turn now, you will not get home before night. If you do turn now, perhaps he will be gone, lost forever. Choose. Home, and safety, and the ache of longing? Or trudging on — little food, no money, nothing but weary hope? It is no choice.

Now sunset, and at last the woods have ended. There was a mile of level heathland, a narrow road to cross, some sand dunes, and then you came down to this shore, this sea. The line of his march never changed. The footprints strode directly for the waves, and on. Why, if you had come sooner, you might have followed them, because by his very coldness he made a road for you. Where he walked into the sea he froze it solid, and you might have walked behind him on the ice.

But the summer day has been too long, the sun too warm, the shushing waves too restless. The ice is melting, breaking apart, whole slabs drifting sideways in the currents. Still, under the sunset, you can see how straight it must have lain, a white road across the ocean, going to the single place that called to him. Where is it? Why? How can you follow now?

You can only stare at the broken pathway, mind blank and every muscle aching for rest. Far out across the waves, a ship has driven into one of the ice-bergs. It is tilting sideways under a golden sky. The cries of the sailors come faint across the water like the calling of sea-birds.



Trudge now along the road between the heathland and the dunes, telling yourself it must go somewhere. There are hoofprints on it. Soon it will come to a house, a farm, a village of fishermen. Soon, surely. A door at which you can ask for a drink of water, a bed in the hay-loft. Trudge through the dusk, nothing left to eat, nothing to drink, nowhere to lie down.

The road winds. The woods close in towards the ocean. It is almost dark beneath the trees. Soon, surely.

Out of the dark beneath the branches stalks a black-and-white cat, mewing. You stroke its arched back, feel its smooth fur, plump flanks — somebody looks after this fat cat.

"Where do you live, cat?"


"Take me home, then."

It stares with cold green eyes. Nobody can ever tell how much a cat knows, but suddenly it twists from beneath your hand and stalks away into the trees, along a narrow, secret-looking path that bends once, twice, and then the light of evening glows again. The cat has led you to a clearing in the woods, a neat garden round a dark little cottage, almost like the one where you woke this morning. Only no light in any window, no smoke from the chimney, no sign of welcome, silence. The cat knows. It sits down to wait at the door and mews to be stroked again.

Such a smell, such a sweetness in the soft, dim air! What makes it? Where ...?

Ah, that tree.

Alone in the ankle-deep grass beside the path, one tree stands. Along every branch and twig hang golden fruits, glowing in the dusk as though they had trapped and stored the sunlight. No harm in stepping from the path, to look closer, to breathe in that honey-smelling richness, to reach up, touch ...

What was that? A sound like a drum, like the beat of a huge heart?

Nothing. The woods are silent, the cottage dark. Reach up again, touch, pick.

The whole tree shivers as the stem parts. Each leaf tinkles like a bell, a clear sweet sound that seems to say to you, "Welcome. You have come at last. Taste my fruit."

Such juices — you sense them waiting behind the golden skin where the fruit rests in your palm. The crackling dryness of your lips and mouth becomes strong as a wound which only those juices can heal.

The cat bounces towards you across the grass.

The fruit is like an enormous golden plum. You put it to your lips, bite....

Sudden as a yell of warning, the world alters.

Plunge without falling, rush without moving, yell without sound. Grass rushes up, growing huge as it comes. Leaf and fruit rush away overhead, dwindling far. And the fruit in your hand grows huge, in an instant too heavy to hold. Why doesn't it fall? Look, it is already lying on the ground, the round of it looming above you with your own vast toothmarks scarred across it.

A green arch curves overhead. It is a blade of grass. A thing like a shiny brown dog, six-legged, comes to try the juices of the fallen fruit. It is an ant.

So small you are now, in that instant since the tree tinkled its welcome. Yes, it was waiting for you. Your mouth is still sweet with its juices. Your thirst is healed.

A rustle in the grass jungle, a face filling the sky, green eyes, sharp white teeth, fur white and black. A big something switches the stems aside, thumps at your shoulder, pins you face down. Teeth grip the nape of your jacket to lift and carry you with legs and arms dangling like a dead mouse, high above the grass towards the cottage door.

Before you get there, you hear voices in the night, the clap of a gate, footsteps, voices again, strangely deep and slow in your small ears.

"Well, here we are, my unfortunate friend, and we'll soon have you dry and fed. And here's my poor cat waiting for her supper also. Puss, there has been such a wonder! Oh, puss, what have you got there? Were you so tired of waiting for your supper that you went hunting? Here, puss, here. Puss! Give it to me. You shall have cream with your supper if you give it to me. ... There, I knew that would do the trick — she'll do anything for cream. Good puss!"

The cupped hand spreads hollow below, catching your fall. Great shining discs, rimmed with gold, loom over ... spectacles, of course, and the faint shapes beyond are eyelids and eyes, peering down at you, and the big, pocked, purple hummock between the discs is an old man's nose....

"An elf-child!" wheezes the old voice. "My cat has caught an elf-child! Two wonders in one day!"

"Two wonders in one day!"

The old man says it again and again, though now his voice is muffled with munching as he eats his supper. The table seems wide as a field, and on either side of it white beard and black beard wag as the men eat. Teeth large as tombstones champ the mounds of food they fork into their mouths. You sit on the table between them. Your supper is a crumb of bread and another of cheese, which you gnaw pieces off. For drink, you have one drop of water spilt for you onto the wood. You kneel by the mound of it, plunging your face through its elastic skin to suck. Far, far away loom the walls of the room, dim brown cliffs formed by shelf above shelf of great leather books.

"A giant of ice! And an elf-child!" mumbles white-beard.

"I don't know about your giant," says black-beard. "But then I'm only a sailor, while you're a scholar, sir."

The scholar sniffs.

"I measured the footprints," he says. "Thirty paces from heel to toe, coming in a line from the woods to the water. I measured the thickness of the ice in them. Between one and two inches. I would have measured the thickness of the ice upon the water, but I cannot swim. However I observed that your ship struck an ice-berg. Have you, as a sailor, ever heard of bergs at this latitude, even in winter?"

He sniffs again.

"Can't say as I have, sir," says the sailor. "But your giant I did not see, not like I can see your elf-child here."

He peers at you with stupid great eyes.

"We will look in my books after supper," says the scholar. "Perhaps we will find a record of a giant of ice."

"Ah, now," says the sailor, "if it's in a book ... Might I be trying one of your fruits, sir? I never saw the like of them."

Without waiting for an answer, he reaches. You leap to your feet and scream a warning, but your voice is too thin and high for their great coarse ears to hear, and even as the sailor bites through the golden skin you find yourself half hoping that the same magic will work on him, that he will suddenly shrink to your size, and then they will know that you are no elf-child. The rich smell reeks through the air. Gold juices drip down black beard. Nothing happens. No leaf in the garden rings welcome or warning.

"Never tasted the like, neither!" says the sailor.

"Nor I," says the scholar. "Years ago I found a strange branch drifted to the shore and brought it home to burn on the fire here, but the logs I cut from it sputtered so badly that I burnt it on my bonfire instead. There were some rotted fruits still clinging to it, and I think one of the seeds must have fallen into the ash and taken root."

"Now, if you was to plant yourself an orchard of 'em, you might make yourself a pot of money," says the sailor, his voice eager with longing.

"Many's the time I've tried," says the scholar. "But I've had no luck."

"Luck's a strange thing, always," says the sailor.


Excerpted from Giant Cold by Peter Dickinson, Alan E. Cober. Copyright © 1984 Peter Dickinson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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