Aunt Effie and Mrs Grizzle

I am grateful for the assistance of Creative New Zealand – the Arts Council of New Zealand. Their grant in 2002 helped me complete work on this book as well as its predecessor,
Aunt Effie and the Island that Sank


Title Page



Bit One
This Bit Tells You About the Main Characters in the Story

Bit Two
This Bit Tells You About What Happened at the End of the Last Book, and What Aunt Effie Promised

Chapter I
Where We Hid the Ninety-Nine Chests of Treasure and Gold Dollars, Why We Grinned Knowingly, and How We Made Aunt Effie Say Goodnight Properly

Chapter II
Doing the Bottling, A Little Look at Our Treasure, Why the Bulls Chased Alwyn up the Walnut Tree, and Why We Tore Upstairs

Chapter III
Dying of a Runny Nose, What We Could See Under Aunt Effie’s Enormous Bed, Napoleon’s Head, and Why the Coffin Lid Wouldn’t Close

Chapter IV
The Treaty of Waharoa, How Aunt Effie Beat the Springboks With Her Haka, Why the Dental Nurse Wears a Red Cardie, and You’re Going to School on Monday and That’s That

Chapter V
Why We Licked Dust off the Floor, Caught by Masked Body Snatchers, Shrivelled Brains and Shrunken Heads, and Why Mr Jones Said Aunt Effie’s Great-Nephews and Nieces Were a Delight to Teach

Chapter VI
Saying Pies in Proper Waharoa English; the Bogeyman, the Boggle, and the Boggart; What the Williewaw Did; and Why Aunt Effie Said Not to Let the Eels Drag Us
Into the Ditch

Chapter VII
Silver-Bellies, Yellow-Bellies, and “Tarnation!”; Why We All Felt Maori for Waharoa Day; the Pong Under the Woolshed; What the Moko Man Does; and a Groan From Jazz

Chapter VIII
A Bunch of Cannibals, the Gigantic China Chamber Pot, Why the Painted Ladies Danced in the Nuddy, a Paddockful of Sweet Corn, and Lilliput and Brobdingnag

Chapter IX
What Happened When We Chewed the Corn Seed; Why the Armoured Body Snatcher Sang, “Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home”; and What a Lady Does Not Show in Public

Chapter X
Licking the Spoon and the Bowl, What Our Lovely Tomato Sandwiches Tasted Like, Why Aunt Effie Met Us With the Gig Umbrella, and Why Our Fingertips Went All Wrinkly

Chapter XI
How We All Listened to
The Phantom Drummer
and Wet Our Beds, Aunt Effie Begins the Story of Mrs Grizzle, Why a Caul is a Sign of Good Luck, and How Aunt Effie Was Christened Brunnhilde

Chapter XII
Global Warming and the Great Waharoa Swamp, Crocodiles and Monster Pukekos, the Prime Minister and the School Inspector, and Why Aunt Effie Kept Her Eyes Skinned

Chapter XIII
Why Aunt Effie Shod the Horses Herself, the School Inspector, What My Father Said About Red-Haired Double-Jointed Women, and How the Bugaboo Ate One of the
Little Ones

Chapter XIV
Why Peter Got Up and Made Cocoa, Twenty-Six Short Fat White European Slaves Bearing Breakfast on Their Heads, and Why My Father Warned Me Against Red-Haired Double-Jointed Women

Chapter XV
Why My Mother Kept Her Eyes Wide Open, How a Well-Run Farm Works, Who Aunt Effie Found in Her Mother’s Bed, and Why We Hung Over the Stern of Our Scow

Chapter XVI
How Jared Blew Up, Why Aunt Effie Fired Her Cannon, How My Little Mother Grew Down as I Grew Up, and Why the School Inspector Lassoed Euphemia and Shouted, “Gotcha!”

Chapter XVII
Locked in the Dark Spidery Dunny, the Indian Deathlock and the Octopus Clamp, Kraw-Poocka-Kacko, the Anvil and the Cannon, Whack-a Pukeko, and a Tiny Forlorn Cry

Chapter XVIII
Why Euphemia Stood On Tiptoe, Clutched by the Monster’s Talons, Why the Lewd Boys Laughed, Aunt Effie’s Newest Weapon of Mass Destruction, and Why the Wicked Pook Jeered

Chapter XIX
Flaming Arrows, Gunpowder, and Ingratitude; Staying a Baby for Ever With Elastic in the Legs of Her Bloomers; Scalped by Redskins; and Why Witches Are Good at Multi-Tasking

Chapter XX
The Advantage of Having So Many Nephews and Nieces, Putting Paper on the Dunny Seat, What the Monster Pukekos Called Mrs Grizzle, and the Sort of Language That Brutes Understand

Chapter XXI
Why Australians Look Funny, Why Learning To Read is Like Seeing an Elephant Riding a Bicycle, and What Happened to the Naughty Primer Kids at Matamata Primary School

Chapter XXII
What DNA, AI, and GM Really Mean, the Pookackodiles’
Achilles’ Heel, and Why Bonny Swept Up the Teeth

Chapter XXIII
Cream Collectors and Contumacious Reptiles, What Mrs Grizzle Used to Make a False Red Nose, and Why the Cannibal Krockapook Tasted of Ballpoint Pens and Chalk

Chapter XXIV
Why the Little Ones and the Six Enormous Pig Dogs Wept and Rocked and Held Each Other; Why I Felt Like Giving My Dear Little
Mother a Good Smack; and What Brought the Earthquake

Chapter XXV
What Happened When Aunt Effie Cleaned the Stove, Why She Sounded Like a Kettledrum, Why Her Pinny Was Wet Through, and Why We Hurried to Get Everything Done Before She Came Home

Chapter XXVI
Why We All Nodded and Whacked Our Tails On the Floor, What We Bought for Lunch, Why We Were All Crook, and Why the Little Ones Were Revolting

Chapter XXVII
Why We Started Eating Fish and Chips for Lunch, Teaching Your Grandmother to Suck Eggs, and Why Alwyn Said, “Kst! Kst! Kst!”


A Bit About Me and My Wise Old Dog

Other Aunt Effie titles by Jack Lasenby





To Cathie and Lizzi

This Bit Tells You About the
Main Characters in the Story

Aunt Effie
’s got a secret name, The Name We Dare Not Say. She isn’t sure whether she’s our great-aunt, our great-uncle, or our great-grandmother. She isn’t sure whether we’re Hindu, Chinese, English, Maori, Eskimo, or Red Indian. “You’re a bunch of mongrels,” she tells us, and we love her.

At one time or another, Aunt Effie’s been married to someone from just about every country in the world. She mightn’t be sure what we are, which she is, and which of us is which, but Aunt Effie is all we have.


Captain Flash of the Royal Navy, Chief Rangi, and the Reverend Samuel Missionary
are three of Aunt Effie’s old husbands. They follow Aunt Effie around, trying to call her The Name We Dare Not Say, and crying that they love her.

Captain Flash has a pointed head because of an accident with a speaking trumpet. Chief Rangi is tattooed – all over. And the Reverend Samuel wears a white collar backwards.


Caligula, Nero, Brutus, Kaiser, Genghis, and Boris
are Aunt Effie’s six enormous pig dogs. She calls them all by all their names because it’s easier than remembering which is which.


Us: Daisy, Mabel, Johnny, Flossie, Lynda, Stan, Howard, Marge, Stuart, Peter, Marie, Colleen, Alwyn, Bryce, Jack, Ann, Jazz, Beck, Jane, Isaac, David, Victor, Casey, Lizzie, Jared, and Jessie
: Aunt Effie calls all of us by all our names because she says she can’t be bothered remembering which of us is which – like the dogs.


The Bugaboo
lives under Aunt Effie’s enormous bed and tries to catch us round the ankles with his bony fingers when we’re jumping off.

This Bit Tells You About What Happened at the End of the Last Book, and What Aunt Effie Promised

In the book before this one –
Aunt Effie and the Island That Sank
– we saved the Prime Minister from going to prison for gambling away all the country’s money at the Auckland Casino. In front of everyone in Queen Street, the Prime Minister renamed Rangitoto Island after Aunt Effie and said we were her very dearest friends.

“If ever you want anything, just ask.” She smiled with all her terrible teeth, waved her handbag at us, jumped into her Zeppelin, and flew back to Wellington to give her husband a hiding for letting her gamble.

We caught the Rotorua Express and went home to Aunt Effie’s farm near Hopuruahine. In ninety chests we had Wicked Nancy’s treasure that we brought up after Rangitoto Island sank under its enormous weight. In another nine chests we had the six billion gold dollars that Aunt Effie won off the Auckland Casino, playing double or quits with the manager. What’s more, we’d played the wag from school for over a year. We felt pretty pleased with ourselves.

“All we want now,” said Peter, whom we trusted, “is to get Aunt Effie to tell us the story of Mrs Grizzle.”

Marie nodded. “She’s been promising to tell it to us for ages.”

“I don’t like the sound of Mrs Grizzle,” Daisy said disapprovingly.

“Who’s Mrs Grizzle?” asked the little ones, Lizzie, Jessie, Casey, and Jared.

“You’ll be told when you’ve reached a suitable age,” said Daisy, our oldest cousin, who was very proper.

“It’s not fair!” the little ones wept together. “Nobody tells us anything. Just because we’re the youngest.”

“The rest of us don’t know anything about Mrs Grizzle either,” Peter said in his kind way, “but we’re going to make Aunt Effie tell us her story.” The Rotorua Express blew its whistle and slowed. “Look,” said Peter, “the Hopuruahine station. We’re almost home!”

Where We Hid the Ninety-Nine Chests of Treasure and Gold Dollars, Why We Grinned Knowingly, and How We Made Aunt Effie Say Goodnight Properly

Back home at the farm
, we counted as Caligula, Nero, Brutus, Kaiser, Genghis, and Boris carried the ninety-nine heavy chests of treasure and gold dollars upstairs and hid them under Aunt Effie’s enormous bed. While the dogs had a stretch and a blow, we knelt and counted the chests again.

“Ninety-six!” said Aunt Effie. “Ninety-seven!” said Peter. “Ninety-eight!” said Marie. “Ninety-nine!” said the little ones, Casey, Lizzie, Jared, and Jessie, even though they were too young to know how to count. “Ninety-nine!” said the rest of us. It felt funny, being so rich.

“We want to play with some diamonds,” whined Jessie. And the rest of the little ones whined, “Why can’t we play with some diamonds?”

“Not now,” Aunt Effie told them. “It’s time we had our tea.”

The little ones held their noses and whined, “Aw!” They know that Aunt Effie can’t stand the sound.

“Perhaps you can play with them for a little while before you go to bed,” she said.

“We want to play with them now,” Jessie whined even louder.

Aunt Effie stuck her fingers in her ears, and tried to smile, but the little ones whined even louder. “I’ll tell you what,” Aunt Effie said.

“What?” we all asked.

“What say we have our tea and, afterwards, I’ll tell you the story of Mrs Grizzle?”

We turned and stared at Peter, waiting for him to reply. “That would be nice,” he said in his politest voice. “Thank you, Aunt Effie.”

“Hooray!” The rest of us held our breath and ran downstairs, tripping and elbow-jolting each other. We had Wicked Nancy’s treasure; we had six billion gold dollars; we’d played the wag from school for over a year – and thought we’d got away with it; and at last, Aunt Effie was going to tell us the story of Mrs Grizzle!

We looked around and grinned knowingly at each other. Perhaps we felt just a bit smug, the way our oldest cousin, Daisy, feels most of the time.

“Over a year, I reckon that must be a record!” Jazz said, and the rest of us yelled, “I reckon!”

Only Daisy shook her head and said, “‘Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall.’ Proverbs, Chapter 16, Verse 18.”

“Why do you always have to spoil things?” Casey asked, but Daisy just shook her head as if she knew something and repeated, “‘Pride goeth before destruction.’”

“Destruction before goeth pride,” said Alwyn who always has to spoil things for Daisy.

We had our tea, did the dishes, put them away, turned down our blankets and, suddenly, we were all so tired, we forgot Aunt Effie had promised to tell us the story of Mrs Grizzle. We yawned and got into our pyjamas, helped the little ones into theirs, and climbed up the ladders into our bunks that were built into the walls either side of the enormous fireplace at the other end of Aunt Effie’s kitchen.

Through heavy eyes, we watched Aunt Effie light her candle and count us to make sure we were all there. “… twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six!” she said. “Good night.”

“You’ve got to kiss us and say goodnight properly,” we held our noses and whined. “Or we won’t go to sleep.”

“Goodnight Daisy-Mabel-Johnny-Flossie-Lynda-Stan-Howard-Marge-Stuart-Peter-Marie-Colleen-Alwyn-Bryce-Jack-Ann-Jazz-Beck-Jane-Isaac-David-Victor-Casey-Lizzie-Jared-Jess!”

“And the dogs,” we whined. “You’ve got to kiss them and say goodnight properly.”

“Goodnight, Caligula-Nero-Brutus-Kaiser-Genghis-Boris!”

“Goodnight, Aunt Effie!” The six enormous pig dogs growled and whacked their powerful tails on the floor.

“You’ve forgotten to say, ‘Goodnight, sleep tight!’” whined the little ones.

Aunt Effie sighed, but she chanted:


 Sleep tight.

 Hope the fleas

 Don’t bite!”

“Hope the fleas don’t bite!” we said back to Aunt Effie as she took the candle and galloped up the stairs to her bedroom. Halfway up, she hooted like a morepork, and flapped her arms to make its huge shadow float across the roof and dive towards us. We screamed. She gave one last hoot, we all shrieked, and she disappeared with the candle, the light, and the morepork’s shadow.

“I hope Aunt Effie isn’t going to play with our treasure before she goes to bed,” Jessie murmured.

“We’ll whine till she tells us the story of Mrs Grizzle tomorrow night,” Lizzie whispered and gave a loud yawn.

“Playing the wag for over a year,” Jazz said again. “It must be a record!” And we were all asleep. Or we would have been, but for Daisy singing “
Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall”
to the tune of “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

“If I have to come downstairs to stop that singing, you’ll know about it, the lot of you!” the morepork upstairs roared. Daisy sang “
” in a whisper, and we were all asleep, properly this time.

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