The ticket to achieving these lofty goals? Enrolling in a summer performing arts program, of course. She’s bound for the wilds of Yorkshire Dales — eerily similar to the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights. Tallulah expects new friends, less parental interference, and lots of drama. Acting? Tights? Moors? Check, check, check.
What she doesn’t expect is feeling like a tiny bat’s barging around in her mouth when she has her first snog.
Bestselling author Louise Rennison returns with her trademark wit, a hilarious new cast, and a brand-new cheeky heroine who is poised to discover plenty of opportunities for (mis)adventure!
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By Louise Rennison
HarperTeenCopyright © 2011 Louise Rennison
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOn the showbiz express
Wow. This is it. This is me growing up. On my own, going
to Performing Arts College. This is good-bye, Tallulah,
you long, gangly thing, and helloooooo, Lullah, star of
stage and . . . owwwwooo. Ow and ow.
The train lurched and I've nearly knocked myself out
on the side of the door. I'm bound to get a massive lump.
Oh good, I can start college with two heads. . . .
I've been reading my brochure about the summer
school. It has a picture of a big manor house and underneath
Welcome to Dother Hall. This magnificent center of
the performing and visual arts nestles among the
beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
The staff and friendly local people offer a warm
hand of encouragement to all of our prospective
students. Think Wuthering Heights but with more
acting and dancing and less freezing to death on the
Well, it was either this or going on an Outward Bound
course with my little brother, Connor. The last time I went
camping with him he cooked a dead butterfly and made it
into a sandwich for me. For a laugh. He put tomato sauce
I've been looking over the top of my brochure at the
bloke opposite. He is the grumpiest man in the universe
He's got no hair on his head, but he has loads of red
hair shooting out of his ears. Like there are a couple of
red squirrels nesting in there. Which would be quite good,
actually, as they are an endangered species.
His wife said to him, "Oooh look, Fred, the sun's coming
And he said, "It can please its bloody self."
Is this what Yorkshire folk are like?
I wonder if anyone is missing me at home?
It will be next week before my grandma notices that
my eggcup hasn't been used. I tried to explain to her that
I was going to performing arts college in Yorkshire for the
summer, and she said, "Will you bring a trifle back?"
Maybe she thought I said I was going to Marks and
Spencers for the summer.
Mum didn't comment because as usual she wasn't
there. She's gone to Norway to paint.
Not people's houses. She's doing her art.
When I stayed over with Cousin Georgia last night, I
asked her what sort of painting the Norwegians did and
she said, "It's mostly sledges."
I thought she meant they painted sledges a lot, but
she said, "No, my not-so-little cousy, they paint WITH
She said the official term for that kind of work was
"Sled-werk," and that it was one of the reasons why
Norwegians had such big arms and had therefore become
Vikings (for the rowing). And that if I dropped "Sled-werk"
into a conversation at art college, people would be
Georgia knows a lot of stuff. Not just about painting,
but about life. And boys. She wears a bra. It's a big one.
She showed me her special disco inferno dancing and her
lady bumps were jiggling quite a lot.
I wish I wore a bra. And jiggled.
It's so boring being fourteen and a half.
She's nice to me, but I know she thinks I'm just a kid.
When I left she gave me her "special" comedy
mustache. She's grown out of it and thought it would suit me.
She said, "Always remember, Lullah, if in doubt, get your
I do love Georgia and wish I lived near her. I haven't
got a sister and it's not the same having a brother. Connor
mostly likes to talk about what he's going to kick next.
And that I am like a daddy longlegs in a skirt.
And how he could win a kicking contest with a daddy
Is that normal in a boy?
Well, all will be revealed when I start my new life at
Georgia's also given me a secret note to read on my
first day at college. She says she will write to me. But will
I feel a bit miz.
Usually in the holidays I stay with Grandma. It was
she who filled in the Dother Hall form for me. In the
section about "talents and special interests" she put "Irish
dancing and ball games."
You would have thought that would be a definite "no"
from them, but they accepted me. Perhaps they thought I
was some kind of dancing juggler.
Anyway, it's only for five weeks and then there is an
assessment and you get chosen to stay on or not in the
I will look at the college brochure again to get me in the
Let me see.
Here is a photo of a girl leaping around in the dance
studio. The caption says:
Eliza loses herself in the beauty of modern dance.
As far as dancewear is concerned Eliza has gone for big
As indeed she needs to.
Oh, and here's a photo of a boy.
What on earth is he holding?
The caption says:
Martin has made an instrument. Here he is holding
his own small lute.
Martin has got very bright lips.
Perhaps he is a mouth-breather; that makes your lips
go very red.
Or perhaps it is lipstick.
I suppose anything goes in the crazy world of dance and
theater! Hey nonny no, this is my new world, the world of
But what if the course is full of people who can sing
and dance and everything, and are really confident?
And hate me because of my nobbly kneecaps?
Uh-oh, we are arriving at my station. I must get my bag
down. I'll get up on the seat and try and reach it. . . . Oh
great balls of fire, I've just accidentally kicked Mr. Squirrel
as he was getting up.
What does, "You great big dunderwhelp, use your
bloody gogglers!" mean in English?
I bet it's not nice.
His wife said, "Take no notice, love. If there was a
moaning medal, he'd win it hands down."
I let them get off first.
How come everyone else in my family is the right height
and I have knees that are four feet above the ground?
I swung the train door open and saw the sign:
Home of theWest Riding Otter
There was a little bus to take us into Heckmondwhite. I
didn't know sheep could go on buses, but they can. One
was sitting next to me. Not on its own, I mean. It hadn't
just got on with its bus pass. There was a woman in
Wellingtons holding it.
She said to me, "I'd sit upwind if I were thee, love."
We bundled along on the bus on a road that went up
and down dales. Along the skyline I could see the moorland
dotted with craggy outcrops.
The sheep woman said, "That's Grimbottom Peak;
when a fog comes down you can't see your chin in front of
Heckmondwhite was just like a proper village. It had a
village green, and a pub, and a post office, a church and a
hall and everything.
I found the Dobbinses' house just off the green round
the corner from the village shop, like the directions said.
I'm not allowed to stay at Dother Hall because I was the
last one to apply for the course and there was no room in
And do you know why? It's because I haven't got normal
parents. If I had ordinary parents like everyone else
they would have booked early. But oh no, I had to wait until
Dad could get to the post office in Kathmandu so that we
could phone him and he could pay for the course. Why is
he there anyway? He's probably found the only bearded
ant on the planet. Or the last of the Ice Age big-bottomed
goats. He loves that sort of thing. He is like a cross between
David Bellamy and an excitable Great Dane.
Well, at least the Dobbinses will be normal people, married
and so on. They might turn out to be really cool. I
expect they will be. They must be quite laid-back and
avant-garde to take us "artists" in.
I opened the little gate and walked up the path to
knock on the front door. I wonder if I will be in my own
sort of extension bit? I expect so. Maybe with that "loft
living" sort of furniture. All minimal and shiny surfaces
and a Jacuzzi bath. I hope they've got satellite TV
because . . .
The door opened. And a woman in a Brown Owl uniform
said, "Tallulah! Yoo-hoo!! Aren't you nice and tall!!
Come in, come in. Mind your head on the low Oh dear.
Never mind. Harold is out running the Christian Youth
Table Tennis Club, but the twins will be back from Play
Doh Hour in a minute."
Mrs. Dobbins, or "Call me Dibdobs, everyone does,"
gave me a long hug. She's very pink and enthusiastic. And
covered in badges. One of them said, Knots. Advanced.
She took my bag in her sturdy arms and showed me up
to my room at the top of the house.
My room is mostly wood, with wood extras. It is quite
literally loft living in the sense that it IS a loft.
Dibdobs said, "I'm going to make us a traditional tea
to welcome you. So make yourself at home. You can see for
miles from your window."
She beamed at me through her roundy glasses. She
said, "Oooh, isn't this exciting??"
And gave me another big hug.
I wonder if she has got a "hugging" badge? Probably.
As she went off down the steep wooden steps singing,
the while . . . lalalalala," I looked around my new bijou
It's a sweet room really, you know, good, but I thought
going to performing arts college might be more . . .
I went to the window.
Yep, you could see for miles.
And do you know what you could see for miles? Sheep.
Oh no, there are some pigs.
I put my bag down on the bed. My bed, by the way, is
wooden. It's got wood carvings all over it. Even the bed
head has got furry things carved into it. Squirrels, I think.
Or maybe hairy, long-tailed slugs.
I put my secret letter from Georgia under my pillow.
I unpacked my suitcase and hung my clothes up in the
(wooden) wardrobe. I must start planning what to wear
for my first day at Dother Hall. It will be weird not having
to wear a really crap uniform. I wonder if we are allowed
makeup? At my school, if we had worn makeup we would
have had our heads cut off. And put on the school gates as
a warning to others.
But hahahahaha, I am on my own now.
I am flying solo.
I can cover myself in lipstick from head to foot if I feel
Not that I will, actually, as I have only got one lipstick.
I need to get a lot more.
I wonder where Boots is in the village?
Dibdobs called me down for tea. I had changed into my
jeans and a rib top and my Barely Pink lipstick. Live as you
mean to go on, I say. In fact, I might go the whole hog and
get some blusher.
had a frilly apron over her Brown Owl uniform
form when I went down into the kitchen. She was just
dishing up sausages and she gave me a super-duper smile.
I had no idea that teeth could be so . . . teethy.
She said, "They're local."
Does it matter that the sausages are local? I'm just
going to eat them, not make friends and go to the cinema
But she's only trying to be nice; this is how most people
live. I think. But how would I know?
I smiled at her as I sat down in front of my sausages.
And said, "Oh, goodie."
I've never said "Oh, goodie" in my life.
It feels good.
I may say it a lot and make it something I am notorious
Because when I am famous I will have to have a quirky
I can't just rely on having sticky-out knees.
The door slammed open and a voice shouted, "I've
brought 'em back, I've got most of the worst off, but they'll
need a good soak. Bye."
Dibdobs shouted, "Thanks, Nora."
The door slammed again and two toddlers shuffled
into the kitchen.
Both with bowl haircuts.
Bowl hair with Play-Doh in it.
Dibdobs was busy at the stove and said over her shoulder,
"Hello, boys, this is Tallulah."
They came and looked at me for a bit whilst I was
One said, "Goo-morning, did you hear me clenin' my
Um, it wasn't morning. And he didn't have any teeth
except for one waggly one right at the front. And he didn't
look like he would have that for long.
Mrs. Dobby was beside herself with joy.
"Tallulah, this is Max and Sam. Say hello, boys."
One started picking his nose and the other one, Max
(or Sam), said, "They've gotten out, I've been feelin' for
'em but I can't find 'em."
Mrs. Dobby was getting a bit red in the face and her
roundy glasses were steaming up, but she didn't raise her
voice, she just said, "What is it you were feeling for to find,
Max, who had just been staring at me and waggling his
loose tooth, piped up.
"Snails. Great big sjuuuge ones with sjuuuge shells."
I put my sausage to the side of my plate.
"We put them to seep."
Put them to seep?
They'd better not be seeping anywhere near me.
The boys stared at me all through my jelly and ice cream.
And then, as a bit of light relief, Harold, Mr. Dobby, came
home from his Christian table tennis.
He said, "Hello hello hello! Welcome welcome wel-
come. I'll just pop my table tennis bat in the bat drawer
and I'll be with you."
He's jolly and beamy like Dibdobs and he's obviously
where the twins get their looks from.
He also had a bowl haircut.
Perhaps Dibdobs has got a badge in "bowl cuts." I bet
Despite his haircut, Harold is so happy. When he heard
that the sausages were local he almost had to go and have a
lie down, he was so thrilled. I like the Dobbinses already,
but I don't know what to do with them.
Excerpted from Withering Tights by Louise Rennison Copyright © 2011 by Louise Rennison. Excerpted by permission of HarperTeen. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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