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It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same. Then – above the panting of the wolves, the trumpeting of the mammoths, the thundering of the unicorn’s hooves, Beanie’s muttering and the shouting of the explorers behind them – Stella heard a faint, dreadful sound. The quiet, deadly crack of ice breaking.

For my soulmate, Neil Dayus.

‘They slipped


into an intimacy from which they never recovered.’

F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24


Polar Bear Explorers’ Club Rules

Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club Rules

Desert Jackal Explorers’ Club Rules

Jungle Cat Explorers’ Club Rules


About the author and illustrator



Stella Starflake Pearl rubbed frost from the turret window and scowled out at the snow. She ought to be in the most splendid mood – it was her birthday tomorrow, and the only thing Stella loved more than birthdays was unicorns. But it was hard to be cheerful when Felix was still refusing to take her on his expedition. Even though she’d begged, pleaded, cajoled, threatened and stormed – none of it had done any good at all. The thought of being packed off to stay with Aunt Agatha again made Stella feel positively sick. Aunt Agatha didn’t know much about children, and sometimes she got things completely wrong, like the time she gave Stella a cabbage for her packed school lunch. No chocolate dinosaurs, or marshmallow cake, or treats of any kind – just a single, solitary, useless cabbage. Plus, Aunt Agatha had nostril hair. It was almost impossible not to sometimes stare at it.

Stella had wanted to be an explorer ever since she was old enough to know what the word meant. More specifically, she wanted to be a navigator. She never got tired of looking at maps and globes, and as far as she was concerned, a compass was just about the most beautiful thing in the whole entire world. After unicorns, obviously.

And if she wasn’t meant to be an explorer, then why had the fairies given her a middle name? Everyone knew that only explorers had three names. Felix had given her his last name, Pearl, but then hadn’t known what to do about a first name, so he’d asked the fairies to name her instead. This was probably a good thing, because Felix was fond of peculiar names like Mildred and Wilhelmina and Barbaretta. But the fairies had given her not one name, but two: Stella and Starflake. And surely that meant that she was absolutely destined to be an explorer.

Stella scrambled onto the turret window seat and pulled her legs up to rest her chin on her knees. It was getting dark outside, and she knew Felix would be looking for her to give her her twilight present. It was a tradition they had – Stella was always allowed to open one present the night before her birthday. But right now she was too angry and disappointed for presents, so she’d come up to the turret to hide. And if she tucked herself into the window seat then she couldn’t be seen from the end of the corridor.

Unfortunately though, Gruff liked the turret too, and he had come lumbering over almost as soon as Stella had sat down, poking his nose into her pockets in search of biscuits. Mrs Sap, their housekeeper, hadn’t been very happy when Felix brought an orphaned polar bear cub home one day, but the bear would have died otherwise. Not only was he an orphan, he had a misshapen paw as well, and might not have been able to survive in the wild. Stella thought it was the best thing ever to have a polar bear in the house, even if he did almost flatten her sometimes when he wanted to cuddle. Polar bears were quite startlingly huge.

She reached into her pocket for a fish biscuit and held it out to Gruff, who took it from her with extreme gentleness and then crunched it up happily, covering her in crumbs and bear slobber. Stella was used to the bear slobber, so she didn’t mind, but the downside of Gruff coming to see her was that he gave her presence away when Felix came into the corridor a few minutes later.

‘Ah, there you are,’ he said, stopping by the window seat. ‘I’ve been looking high and low for you.’

Stella looked up into his face – her favourite face in the whole world, the first one she could ever remember seeing. Stella had been a snow orphan, just like Gruff. If Felix hadn’t found her when she was a toddler, she would probably have died out there, alone on the ice. Stella had never met anyone with hair as white as hers, or skin as pale, or eyes her particular shade of ice-chip blue. Most people at Stella’s school had pinkish skin, but Stella was white as a pearl from head to toe. It was something that had always bothered her – especially that she didn’t look more like her adopted father.

Felix was Stella’s father in every sense of the word, but she had fallen into the habit of calling him by his first name because that was what everyone else did. He wasn’t particularly handsome or distinguished, and he didn’t sport a moustache, whiskers or side-burns, as was the current fashion. This was in large part because those things required quite a significant time-commitment in terms of grooming and maintenance, and Felix said he had (so far) counted up a total of 134 more interesting ways that he would rather spend his time, including making numbered lists of interesting ways

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