Should stories have happy endings?

If you think yes, then you’re like half the children I ask when I visit schools and libraries. If you think no, then you’re like the other half. And if you think yes and no, then you’re like most of them when they’ve had a minute to consider.

Happily ever after – what a worrying idea. Take Cinderella: when the slipper fits and the prince whisks her off into the sunset, will the poor dears be forced to spend the rest of their days cheering when they stub a toe, whooping when the bus drives past and hugging the broken dishwasher? There must be more interesting ways to spend their ever after.  How about

Greedily. They take over Macdonalds and supersize every meal.

Rubbishly. They buy a lorry and travel Fairytale Land collecting waste – boiled wolf, sprigs of Jack’s beanstalk with some giant thrown in, Rapunzel’s split ends.

Scarily. They become dental hygienists.

Thank goodness there’s more to life than happily. In fact, without sadly and grumpily and annoyingly and discontentedly, there’d be nothing to compare it with. Then we’d start taking happily for granted, forget to enjoy it and get grumpy, annoyed and discontented.

When Abbie defeated the wicked wobbler Hubris Klench in Dead Hairy, I tried to let her live happily ever after.

But she wouldn’t hear of it.  ‘What about my friend Fernando, the shrunken head?’ she grumbled. ‘You left him at the end of Dead Hairy pining for his shrunken wife who’s lost in the Amazon jungle. The least you can do is let us go and look for her. And while we’re at it, what about my crazy best friend Perdita going to live in a zoo? How will the animals cope?’

So just to keep her quiet, Jungle Tangle will be landing in bookshops next February, complete with a shrunken head hunt, fun and games at the zoo and Amazonian super-baddies.  Whether it ends happily though – well, that’s another story.