Hattie Houdini and the Disappearing Trombone

by Helen Addyman. Shortlistee of the Best Chapter Book for 5-8-year-olds competition 2024


Hattie Houdini Hunter has a very unusual best friend: Ben’s a ghost. Together they love to solve mysteries. Today’s the day of the music scholarship auditions and everyone knows that trombone ace Alfie Higginbotham will win. But as the contestants start to arrive, disaster strikes. The lights go out and, under the cover of darkness, Alfie’s instrument completely disappears! Hattie and Ben face a race against time to find the culprit−and the trombone−before the scholarship auditions are over.

Chapter One

My name’s Hattie Houdini Hunter and my best friend is a ghost.

Yes, I know that’s weird but when your parents are a travelling magician−Esmeralda the Astounding, just in case you’ve heard of her−and her ‘glamorous’ assistant (my dad, you won’t have heard of him) then life is generally just a bit weird. I mean, I’m named after a famous old illusionist!

I guess you’re more interested in the ghost, though, right? Okay, give me a sec.

‘Ben, Ben, are you there?’

‘Ta-da! Where else would I be?’ he answers. ‘I can’t be goin’ anywhere without you, can I?’

This is Ben. Can you see him? Most people can’t but he shows himself when he wants to. Usually to give a horrible person a terrible fright−haha! He isn’t stuck in one place like some ghosts but he can only move about by kind of piggybacking on a human −usually me! Don’t worry, though, I can’t even feel it.

‘Are you coming to the Clip-Clap-Clop music scholarship auditions, Ben?’

‘What the crazy daisies is a Clip-Clap-Clop music scholarship?’

‘It’s a competition for gifted, hard-working music pupils. The winner gets money for music lessons and stuff.’

Ben chuckles. ‘With your screechy recorder? You’ll never win!’

‘Don’t be daft, I’m not auditioning. But Mr Quinn, the music teacher, needs help to make them the best ever!’

‘Sounds a bit boring,’ Ben yawns dramatically.

‘Suit yourself. But if you don’t come now you’ll be stuck on the boat all day.’

Oops, sorry, I didn’t mention that, did I? This is home. Lots of people call them barges but it’s a narrowboat really−it’s super narrow so it can travel on little canals. It’s only dinky but big enough for three−mum, dad and me. Oh, sorry Ben, four−ghosts don’t take up much room!  

‘Okay,’ grumbles Ben, ‘I’ll come wiv you. But I bet nuffin’ excitin’ ever happens at auditions.”