Authors: Dave Warner
Dave Warner is the author of six novels and five nonfiction
books for adults. His first book for children,
Charlotte and the Starlet,
was published in 2007. He
originally gained national recognition as a musician
and songwriter, with eight albums to his name, but
more recently music has been secondary to Dave's
career as a writer for television and feature films. His
first feature film,
starred Kylie Minogue and
Molly Ringwald, and his second,
with director Alex Proyas, screened at the
Sundance Film Festival. Dave has also written for a
number of TV dramas. He lives in Sydney with his
wife, two daughters and a son.
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Charlotte and the Starlet 2: A friend in need
ePub ISBN 9781864715576
Kindle ISBN 9781864716696
A Random House book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060
First published by Random House Australia in 2008
Copyright © Dave Warner 2008
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any
person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by
any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the
statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian Copyright Act 1968), recording,
scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior
written permission of Random House Australia.
Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
National Library of Australia
Warner, Dave, 1953–
A friend in need
For primary school age.
978 174166 306 8 (pbk.).
I. Title. (Series: Warner, Dave, 1953– Charlotte and the starlet;
Cover design by saso content & design pty ltd
Typeset by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound by Griffin Press, South Australia
Random House Australia uses papers that are natural, renewable and recyclable
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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Jude and Phil, true friends.
'Charlie, I know this calf is important and all, but your
father said give it an hour and we've already been
three. If there was a good day-spa to soak my hooves
in once we got back, okay, but this outback of yours
makes Death Valley look like Malibu.'
For once Charlotte couldn't accuse Leila of being a
princess. It had been an arduous cattle drive and now,
on the run home, a calf had been discovered missing
from the herd. Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Richards
had been sent by her father, the head stockman, to
find it and bring it back. The last thing she wanted
to do was let him down.
'Just one more place to look. There's a ravine
behind where we camped last night. It could have
Up until now Leila hadn't minded the long,
fruitless trek. It gave Charlotte and her a chance to
talk. On the drive they had been careful to only
converse when away from the other stockmen
because if anybody had seen Leila talking, Charlotte
would have had some serious explaining to do.
Leila was a horse, a gorgeous bay possessed of the
ability to talk, a secret known only to Charlotte. Leila
had no intention of letting anybody else in on her
unique ability. The last thing she wanted was for a
bunch of egghead scientists to stick electrodes up her
butt and place her on a low-fat diet. She'd had all the
chaos she could handle these last few months – being
snatched from the set of her Hollywood movie by
some bungling kidnappers and shipped to the
Thornton Downs Riding Academy in Australia.
Nobody had known who she was. She'd had to endure
the life of a horse, not a star. No huge trailer, no cable
TV, no Hollywood red-carpet parties. She found
herself having to jump hurdles and take orders from
this freckled outback kid, Charlotte. From a rocky
beginning, their friendship had become so strong that
Leila had decided to stay in Australia with Charlotte
rather than return to Hollywood and a life of stardom.
They had spent the last few weeks in Charlotte's
home town of Snake Hills, and Leila had gradually
acclimatised to the scorching heat and impossible
desolation of the place. Despite the lack of a nail spa, a
decent cappuccino or a sushi train, Snake Hills had
got under her skin – she would miss it. Tomorrow
they were heading back for the start of the new term
at Thornton Downs.
A loud rumble interrupted her thoughts.
'Was that my stomach or have we walked so far
we're at an airport?' asked Leila.
'That was thunder. There's a big storm brewing.
Haven't you felt the change in the air?'
'Now that you mention it, I did feel it get cooler but
I thought it was probably just low blood sugar.' Leila
going on about food. She had an appetite
like ... well, a horse. 'I didn't know it ever rained here.'
Charlotte looked at the sky. It was split in two.
Directly above them it was bright, clear blue, but it
changed to a dark, threatening black in the near
'It doesn't rain often but when we get a thunderstorm,
As if to emphasise the point, a jagged spear of
lightning forked out of the distant sky. The thunder
sounded again, louder and closer.
Leila shuddered. 'Whoa! That's better than Dolby
in a movie house. I think we should head back.'
Charlotte knew that thunderstorms could be very
dangerous but she couldn't leave that poor helpless
'You don't want that little calf eaten by dingoes,
Leila shrugged. 'In a few years time it's going to be
eaten by people.'
They turned around the corner of a rocky hill.
There, below in a gorge a kilometre away, was the
Charlotte's heart bounced like a rubber ball.
'Come on. There she is.'
Charlotte called on Leila to gallop and the actress-turned-equestrian
horse did her best to respond on
tired legs. It wasn't long before the slope of the hill
steepened sharply, making it hard for Leila to keep
her footing. They skidded and slid down the flinty
earth until they reached the bottom. The last of the
blue in the sky overhead grew dark and big drops of
rain fell. They were so heavy they stung when they
hit. About two kilometres away the storm was
obviously in full flight. A curtain of rain was pouring
down hard, advancing towards them. Another boom
sounded even closer and the volume of rain doubled.
Charlotte was off Leila in a flash and running over to
the shaking calf. Her clothes were already soaked
through and water was pouring off the brim of her
akubra hat, making a mini-waterfall in front of
'Come on, don't be scared.' She stroked the
'Can we get moving? It's like a car wash here.' Leila
hadn't minded having the dust washed off her but
now the downpour was becoming uncomfortable.
'I'll have to carry her or it will take forever.'
'Oh great. Your weight and some pigmy cow's as
Ignoring Leila's protests, Charlotte hauled the
bleating calf across Leila's withers, then pulled herself
up into the saddle.
'This could seriously compromise my ability to
jump the steeple,' protested Leila.
There was a deafening crack as lightning struck not
more than a hundred metres away. For an instant,
everything turned white. Leila trembled, despite
'Come on, Leila,' yelled Charlotte.
'I can't move. I'm petrified!' replied Leila.
Before Charlotte could reassure her, a very loud
whoosh sounded behind them. Charlotte turned.
What she saw scared her a lot more than the lightning.
'Go, Leila, NOW!'
'I told you, I can't.'
'You don't, we drown.'
Leila saw frothing water beginning to cascade over
the lip of the rocks behind them. She had been to
Disneyland and Universal Studios enough to know
what happened next. A wall of water thundered down
the rocks and spread out. At the studios they had just
enough water to scare you. Here the water would rush
into the valley floor in minutes, swamping anything
in its way.
She charged like she had never charged before.
Charlotte felt Leila lurch forward. The rain was still
tumbling and the earth – hot and dry for so long – was
quickly losing its resistance and becoming sticky clay.
The calf shuddered. Charlotte ventured a look behind
her. The back of the canyon had turned into a
waterfall. Churning muddy water was rolling from
behind and smashing into the earth, then running
forward towards them, gaining with every second.
'How do we get out?' yelled Leila above the noise of
the flood and the rain.
Charlotte was trying to figure out the same thing.
The walls of the ravine were probably too steep to
scale in time. And to make matters worse, they were
turning to mud and sliding down. There would be no
sure footing. They would have to outrun it. Or more
correctly, Leila would have to outrun it. But that was
looking almost impossible. The waters were at Leila's
back hooves. Mud was splashing up at every stride.
Charlotte looked back again. A huge tree was
tumbling over the rocks. Hazards like that could
block their path at any moment. If Leila stumbled,
Just up to the right, about a hundred metres away,
Charlotte spied a rocky ledge. If they could reach that
they might be safe. It was a metre higher than any
steeple Leila had ever jumped but it was their only
'To the right, the ledge.'
Through the torrent Leila saw the rocky platform.
'I can't make that.'
'You have to. You're Tinkerbell, remember. You can fly.'
'Not with you and T-bone on my back.'
Leila felt the water reach the top of her fetlock. She
knew there was no choice. In a minute the water
would be too high for her to run. She splashed
towards the outcrop. She waited for the 'jump' signal
from Charlotte and gave it everything. Climbing, she
started well, but the weight of that dumb calf began
to pull her down. She wasn't going to make it ... Then
suddenly the ledge was there in front of her. She
stretched and OW! A belly flop onto rock. Charlotte
was off her in a flash, hauling her up.
Leila felt her back hooves make solid ground. She
'Attagirl!' Charlotte gave her a big kiss. The calf
was safe too. The sound of the rushing flood was now
louder than any thunder and the level of dirty swirling
water was rising beneath them at alarming speed.
Leila had never seen anything like it. Not even in a
special effects studio. The water began to spill onto
the ledge but miraculously levelled, then gradually
dropped as it found new areas ahead to flood. The
waterfall over the canyon wall began to ease off.
Leila said, 'I suppose you won't mention this to
'He's worried enough about me leaving. It would
make it worse.'
Tomorrow Charlotte would be heading south to
start her new adventure as one of the Junior Olympic
Equestrian Squad, which was known more simply as
'JOES'. Her first trip to Thornton Downs Academy,
where the girl JOES were stationed, had proved
eventful to say the least. Part of her was very excited at
the challenge of becoming the best eventer she could.
But as she watched the churning waters power off into
the distance, the trembling calf at her feet, she knew
that nothing this exciting was likely to happen at
Thornton. She was going to miss Snake Hills but at
least she would have Leila.
Smooth as a licked ice-cream, the dark dome of the
night sky peered down at Charlotte as they rode into
town. It was only eight hours since the thunderstorm
but it was if it had never happened. It was a hot, still
night and any puddles had already evaporated. The
flood water had trapped itself in ravines up in the hills
and would slowly find its way into the main river a
hundred kilometres away.
Charlotte marvelled at the multitude of shimmering
'Look at those stars, Leila. Aren't they gorgeous?'
'Stars? There's only one star here, Charlie, and
'Seriously, Leila, don't you think it's beautiful?'
Leila cocked an eye. It occurred to her that her
lashes must be in serious need of a tint. This outback
stuff was all well and good but a girl needed her little
luxuries. She sucked in the image of the vast sky. She
had to admit that way out here it was pretty cool.
'That sky reminds me of a rhinestone-encrusted
horse coat my producer, Joel Gold, had made for me
for the Golden Globes.' Leila's voice was wistful as she
conjured up her glamorous past. 'What a night. What
an after-party. They had the most delicious minipizzas
you've ever tasted.'
They were moving slowly down the street towards
where a small crowd of people, pretty much Snake
Hills' entire population, was gathering. The men wore
T-shirts and shorts; the women, shorts, or light cotton
'What's the sky like, back where you're from?'
Leila chuckled. 'Sky? Hollywood! Most of the time
the only stars you see, not counting the human kind,
are jumbo-jet tail-lights strong enough to shine
through the smog.'
'Na. Lots of the clubs and restaurants have stars
painted on the ceiling. With good lighting, people can't
tell the difference. And the ones who grew up in
L.A. – well, they've never seen real stars anyway, so
what would they know? Another time I pulled this
other prank. Three mega-actresses at the after-party,
mega-cows, every single one of them.' Mega was one
of Leila's most commonly used adjectives. 'All
nominated against me for best supporting actress. I
made up two signs. One said "I am dumb and selfish",
the other said, "But compared to me you're a genius".
I brushed against them in the dark, and stuck the
signs on their backs. These babes were wandering
around for, like, an hour, wondering why people were
'Didn't anybody tell them?'
'In Hollywood? People love seeing somebody
'If all three were horrible, why didn't you make
Leila cackled. 'Because then I'd be the prime
suspect. But this way, when the others finally found
out, they blamed the third. Held her under the
chocolate fountain. She almost drowned. Even better,
she was squeezing zits for, like, a month. That was
'It sounds pretty juvenile.'
'Of course it's juvenile. We're
' Leila eyed the
crowd up ahead. 'So what's going on? What's this
big surprise you promised? Pizza? I gotta tell you,
no offence, Charlie, but the pizza they have at the
roadhouse – let's put it this way, the box is tastier.'
'The surprise is not pizza. In fact, it's not food at all.'
'So what is it then? Come on, the suspense is
Charlotte smiled. She loved drawing it out because
Leila was so impatient.