The Search for Polly


“Mummy,” said James, “I wish I could have an adventure.”

Outside, the raindrops were falling on the path, splish-splash-splosh. Was this another day to sit inside playing with his lego and train set?

But what was this? Suddenly he noticed a white umbrella with speckles float down from above and land on the lawn.

James was excited! “Daddy, look – what’s that?” he shouted. Daddy helped James on with his shoes, and they rushed outside. Fastened to the umbrella was a heavy tin, the same size as a baked bean can. Carefully, James opened it. Inside was a strange green powder which began to crackle, to click and to whistle.

The sounds were a message. There were no words, but both Daddy and James understood what they heard.  

“This is a message from Polly. I live on Sputnik Planum far out in the solar system. Help! It’s so cold here and we’ve nothing to eat. Please come and rescue me!”

So, Mummy, Daddy and James went to the library and found a book called, ‘How to build a Space Rocket’. James wondered if they could use cardboard boxes, but Mummy said they wouldn’t be strong enough to last in space. Daddy went to a garage and came home with bits of old cars, a steering wheel and a lot of tubes of glue. Mummy went to Oxfam where she bought three comfy chairs, beds, and some curtains with stars on. She made sure she bought three strong umbrellas so they could land the rocket.

The next morning, they set to work. They stood the rocket on a chair in the middle of the lawn. Some children passed by, and said, “Wow, that’s a fine model you’re making! What on earth is it for?” Mummy replied,

“It’s not a model, and it’s not meant to stay on earth!”

By dinner time the rocket had taken shape. Daddy went to buy some fireworks and fixed them under the bottom edge. Then they packed the rocket full of books to read, food for the journey, a telephone and a teddy bear for Polly. Then they locked the house up, climbed into the rocket, and Daddy lit the fireworks, and…Blast off!!


In no time at all, James found himself gazing down on his house, the streets nearby, then the park…then he could see the whole of London…then the sea, and at last, the whole world appearing like a huge ball. The seas were blue, the land was brown, and you could see wisps of white cloud swirling across it.

Mummy and Daddy couldn’t find out where Sputnik Planum was. They decided it mustn’t be on Venus or Mercury because they’re too hot. Was it on Mars, perhaps? So, they journeyed away from the sun. The earth became smaller and smaller until it was just a tiny little spot of light in the sky.

And gradually, a red ball came into view.

Daddy steered the rocket towards it, then they went into orbit, searching for the place where Polly might live. James thought he could see a little town on the edge of a lake. So, they fixed three umbrellas onto the top of the rocket and aimed it down…down and gently down towards the surface.

But oh dear! There was no lake, no town. What they’d thought were houses, were tall rocky cliffs.

And – yes, once upon a time there had been a lake. But now it was empty. You could see where there had been a river, but there was no water. No-one lived on Mars. No Sputnik Planum. No Polly.

Tears began to roll down James’ cheeks.

“Don’t cry, James,” said Mummy, “there are five more planets to explore. I’m sure we’ll find her somewhere.”

So, Daddy fixed some fresh fireworks onto the rocket. And off they blasted once more. Before long, they looked behind them as Mars became a smaller and smaller red dot in the sky. Suddenly Mummy shouted out,

“Daddy! Look where you’re going!” Daddy grabbed the steering wheel and swerved just in time to avoid a large, jagged brown rock that was hurtling towards them very, very fast. They’d just hit the asteroid belt!

Daddy had to drive carefully to miss two more big rocks before James shouted,

“Look straight ahead! I can see a big round light and it’s getting nearer and nearer!”

“We’re coming to Jupiter, James!” said Mummy.


What a wonderful sight met their eyes! They gasped as a huge ball, with all sorts of swirling patterns, drew ever closer.

James thought perhaps that Jupiter had an eye, but Mummy said, “No, it’s just Jupiter’s famous dark spot.” The top and the bottom were a pretty blue colour. James couldn’t wait to land.

Just then, Daddy noticed a dark thing that looked like an enormous rock, hurtling towards the patterns on Jupiter. He looked at Mummy and James, and all three of them gasped in shock as it hit the surface. There was a flash of light, a huge explosion with a giant cloud like a mushroom.

Alas, they could never land on Jupiter. If they tried, the exact same thing would happen to them and their rocket! How lucky they’d been to have a warning!

Mummy took over the steering wheel, and she aimed the rocket towards the next planet, Saturn. The sky was much darker by this time. James and Daddy both felt very tired, so they went to bed and soon settled into a long, deep sleep.


“Wake up, wake up!” cried Mummy. Ahead of them was a bright white ball with rings around it.

“Is it morning?” asked James. “No, silly,” said Mummy, “there’s no such thing as Day and Night out here. But look – here’s Saturn! I wonder if this is Sputnik Planum where Polly lives?

The strange white ball drew nearer and nearer. Would they be able to land, they wondered? Just like Jupiter, Saturn seemed to have swirling patterns all around it. James gasped. “Oooh look, Mummy! Aren’t there lots of pretty patterns down there? Can we go and see what they look like?”

 But as they came closer, Mummy and Daddy began to look worried. Daddy explained that there wouldn’t be anywhere to land. The patterns looked pretty, but they weren’t a proper surface – they were raging storm clouds!

Something very frightening and dangerous was happening inside the white ball. It wasn’t going to be friendly. Whoever landed there would never escape.

Sadly, Daddy steered the rocket away from Saturn. Soon, they passed the point where they could look straight across the rings. James couldn’t believe the rings were so shiny and white.

“That’s because they’re pure ice, James,” said Mummy.

Just then, James gave a little shout. “Look, I can see a tiny moon!” he said. Sure enough, just above the rings, there was a beautiful white ball.

“and look! I can see fountains on the moon’s surface!” James was right!

The more they looked, the more moons they could see. Saturn had other tiny moons hiding in the rings, and others outside the rings.

“Come on, everyone,” said Daddy, “We’ve got more planets to visit.” And he steered the rocket past Saturn and out into the darkness of space.


It took a whole day to reach the next planet, Uranus. By this time the sky was becoming very dark. At last, a pale blue ball came into view. And it didn’t have swirling patterns around it. You could see the surface clearly. They could land! As it got nearer James noticed something else.

“Look, Mummy! It’s got rings around it, just like Saturn, but they’re stood up!” said James.

He was right. And…was this Sputnik Planum? Mummy steered the rocket into orbit so they could look at the surface. Then she and Daddy shook their heads. No, the surface was completely smooth. Nothing happened here. Nothing at all. Uranus was a frozen planet. With a sigh, Mummy steered out of orbit and out into the dark, dark sky…on towards Neptune.


Two days later another ball came into view. But it didn’t seem a nice place. As they came into orbit, they could see violent storms, strong winds that would rip their rocket to pieces.

Mummy and Daddy thought it was time they gave up their search and went home. Mummy was worried that they’d have nothing left to eat. James was upset. They’d come all this way, and he didn’t want to disappoint Polly. In the end, Mummy and Daddy agreed they’d have one last look. They’d go all the way to the end of the Solar System. To Pluto. 

Before leaving Neptune’s orbit, James noticed what looked like another planet. “What’s that, Daddy?” he asked. Daddy looked in his space book.

“Aha!” he said, “it says Neptune has a big moon called Triton.” As they moved away into outer space, James noticed huge fountains coming out from Triton’s surface.


It took three whole days to find Pluto. All they saw at first was a tiny little point of light. As they came closer, they saw a rocky ball with a huge white field of snow on one side.

Mummy and Daddy were excited to see flowing rivers of ice.

Then Mummy looked in the space book and gasped. “Why didn’t we think of it before? The snow bit is called ‘Pluto’s Heart’. I bet Sputnik Planum is its real name. And guess what the mountains are made of? They’re actually rocks made of water!”

Mummy fixed umbrellas onto the rocket and down they went, landing on the snow. James put his hand on the door to open it. “Stop!” cried Mummy, but it nearly was too late. James almost froze stiff before Daddy pulled him quickly back inside.

“Here! You need this special space coat, boots, gloves and helmet before you can go outside!” he said. All three of them dressed up and stepped outside onto the icy snow.

Then they saw strange patterns, as if somebody had knitted the snow into a quilt.

“Look!” cried James, “It’s moving!” Wow, the ice in front of them had started to rise and fall.

And then – out of the snow came what looked like a tiny white finger. Slowly, ever so slowly, rose up a grey ball with a spot in the middle. The spot stopped still and the finger pointed straight at Mummy, Daddy and James. The ball and the finger reminded James of a penguin except with only one eye and one flipper arm.

“Well,” said Mummy, “I think we’ve found Polly at last!”

Continued in Part 2 – Polly’s New Home

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