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Aussie Bites : Hester the Jester : Aussie Bites Readers - Margaret Clark

Aussie Bites : Hester the Jester

Aussie Bites Readers

By: Margaret Clark, Terry Denton (Illustrator)

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Hester has always wanted to be a court jester, but it's always been a man's job, so she knows she has little chance of achieving her dream.

She'd be much better off trying to be a lady-in-waiting like her mother.

Hester's best friend, Calvin, is the current jester, but after slipping on goose grease and banging his head, Calvin has a problem. His short-term memory is terrible. He gets his jokes mixed up, and he can't remember punch-lines.

To add to his woes, his muscles are starting to stiffen up, making it difficult for him to caper and do acrobatic tricks. When he worries about how he can cope at the king's special All Fools dinner, Hester assures him that she can help.

She'll hide under the table and hold flash cards for him so he can get his jokes right.

But things don't go as planned, and the special powder Hester puts down Calvin's tunic to help him caper has him knocking himself out.

Now it's up to Hester. Can she impress the king enough to become the new court jester?

About the Author

Margaret Clark is the author of more than a hundred books of fiction for children and young adults. She has won numerous local and international awards. She has worked as a school-teacher, a lecturer and a counsellor, and has recently completed a doctorate in education at Deakin University. She lives in Geelong, near Melbourne.

One

Hester had a problem.

Well, actually she had several problems. Some were bigger than others.

The main problem was that she was a girl. This in itself was not a problem, except that Hester wanted to be a court jester. But in all the history of the kingdom, that job had always been given to a man.

Calvin was the official court jester.

He'd had the job for a long time, which was quite unusual. Jesters often fell out of favour with the king and were sacked. Or even beheaded.

Hester and Calvin were best friends. In fact, Hester was Calvin's only friend, because he was rather shy. But Calvin was smart. He could read and write, and he'd taught Hester to do this, too. As most people in those days never even went to school, Hester was lucky.

Hester loved to watch Calvin at work. Sometimes he did acrobatics and magic tricks. Other times he sang ballads at weddings or funerals. His stories and jokes had to be so funny that the king and his queen of the moment and their guests would laugh till they wet themselves.

The jester was also known as the court fool. He was paid a gold coin once a month and he got free food and lodgings. If he was super-smart and could outsmart the king, this was really good, and he got an extra gold coin.

'I'd just love to be a court jester like Calvin,' Hester said.

She was helping her mother to tidy the queen's wardrobe. Hester's mother was a lady-in-waiting. In other words, a personal stylist. She read up on the latest fashions in broadsheets from overseas so she was as up-to-date as she could be. (If she'd had broadband instead of broadsheets it would have been quicker, but broadband hadn't been invented yet.) She was fantastic with hairstyles, clothes and make-up, so whenever a new queen came along, her job was secure. It was a lot more secure than being queen of the moment, although the current queen was in no danger of leaving soon. The king would never be game to give her the chop because he knew she'd tell him off.

'You can't possibly be a court jester. You're a girl,' said Hester's mother. 'Anyway, being a court jester isn't all it's cracked up to be.'

She frowned as she shook out creases from the queen's favourite gown. Hester's mother preferred plain, elegant dresses. This gown was royal purple, and it had green satin bows down the front, and green and silver embroidery on the bodice and hem. Royal purple was the queen's favourite colour. Unfortunately the queen was short and plump, so when she wore this particular gown she looked like a fat Muscatel grape.

'Why isn't a jester's job all it's cracked up to be?' Hester asked. 'The pay and the conditions are really good. And it's a fun job. You tell jokes, do tricks and make people laugh. I think it's the best job in the kingdom.'

'It's not a fun job. If you don't make the king laugh with your jokes and songs, it's off with your head.'

'It wouldn't be a problem for me.

I'm good at singing and I'm good at telling jokes,' said Hester. 'I just made this one up. What did the sausage say to the barbecue?'

'I don't know.'

'You're burning me off.'

Hester's mother didn't laugh. She looked serious. 'Now that Calvin has taught you to read and write, I wish you'd put those talents to good use. Do some poker-work. You know, burn a nice thought onto a nice piece of wood to frame. Or sit quietly and embroider a cushion. I Love the King would be a very good thing to embroider, in purple cross-stitch.'

'Cross-stitch makes me cross,' said Hester. 'And anyway, I don't love the king. He's bad-tempered and miserable. He doesn't have good people skills. He just chops off heads.'

'Especially the heads of jesters.' Hester's mother looked grim. 'Why would you want to put yourself in the firing line?'

'It's more of a chopping line, really.'

'Whatever. It's a dangerous job.'

The king tended to chop off people's heads if they annoyed him. He'd already bumped off three wives, four prime ministers, some uncles, aunts and cousins, and five court jesters, plus heaps of other people who made mistakes. To be fair, he didn't do the chopping himself. He ordered the CEO (Chief Executioner Officer) to do it. And the CEO passed the job down the line to the other choppers, as the executioners were called.

Which chopper you got depended on how important you were. For instance, if you were a queen who was on the way out, you got the CEO. If you were a poacher, you got the apprentice chopper, a lad called Bonus. (It was a bonus if he did the grisly job with one neat chop.)

Fortunately, the king liked Hester's father, who was the head coachman and brilliant with horses. He was in no danger of losing his job, or his head.

Every night, when the day's work was done and Hester was safely tucked up in bed, her mother and father had long discussions about Hester's future.

'It's obvious that she can't be a lady-in-waiting,' said Hester's mother for the umpteenth time. 'No matter how hard I try to teach her, she's hopeless with hair, she's a maniac with make-up and her dress sense is on a level with your horse sense.

In other words, it's good for horses but horrible for humans.'

It was a huge worry. Usually the lady-in-waiting's daughter got the first job offer for junior lady-in-waiting, but there was no way this was going to happen with Hester.

Hester's father sighed. 'There's a rumour going around the stables that Hester wants to be a jester,' he said.

'If it reaches the king's ears, he'll probably chop off our ears.'

'Or our heads,' said Hester's mother, wringing her hands. (Mobile phones hadn't been invented either, otherwise she would have been ringing a friend for advice rather than wringing her hands, which didn't help a bit.) 'I have to confess, dear, that the rumour is true. Our Hester wants to be a jester! What are we going to do?'

ISBN: 9780143302483
ISBN-10: 0143302485
Series: Aussie Bites Ser.
Audience: Children
For Ages: 9 - 12 years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 96
Published: 7th May 2007
Dimensions (cm): 19.800 x 13.3  x 0.600
Weight (kg): 20.1
Edition Number: 1