Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath


An Excerpt from Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath Newly arrived in London, 12-year-old Hyacinth accidentally unleashes glowing water from her bathroom sink. She mops up most of it, but a single drop escapes. And then things get really weird…

Somebody started knocking loudly on the front door. They called out, “Postman. Sign for a parcel?”

Well, actually, they said, “Possssstman. Sssssign for a parsssssel?” I thought the way they stretched out the Ss was a little weird – but Lady Roslyn seemed to find it much worse.

“The Saltpetre Men!” she cried out.

“They’ve found us already. We’ll have to run.”

There was another loud knock on the door, which made us both jump. “Possssstman. Sssssssign for a parssssssel?”

Lady Roslyn shook her head frantically. I hesitated. Should I listen to her?

But then she said “Where does your mother keep her cleaning supplies?” and when I pointed under the sink, she pulled open the cabinet there and started rummaging through it frantically.

Okay, I thought. Question answered. She’s crazy.

I went to the front door and opened it.

And I immediately wished I hadn’t.

Standing in the hallway was a shambling, stinking monstrosity. It was wearing the red uniform the postman usually wore, but there wasn’t much else human about it. It must have been seven feet tall. It had a perfect red circle running all the way around its bald head, but other than that, its skin was lumpy and pale gray with white drippings that looked like bird poop. In place of eyes, it had two bits of glittering rock, like the mica chips my aunt Rainey had once given me.

The whole thing looked like somebody had dug up the dirt underneath a pigeon-filled tree and poured it into a Royal Mail uniform and brought it to life and aimed it at me.

When the glowing drop of water ran away from me, I’d convinced myself it was just radioactive minnows. But there was no scientific explanation possible for this mushy, smelly monster. It was magic. That meant everything I had believed about how the world worked was wrong.

I stumbled back in horror. The monster took a step forwards and lifted up its arm, which bent in a bunch of places no arm should ever bend. For a moment, I thought it was going to grab me, and I held up my hands to protect myself—

–but it just held out a clipboard. “Ssssssignature, pleasssse,” it burbled.

Since my hands were already up, I took the clipboard. there was an old-fashioned parchment attached to it, with an elegantly calligraphed message:

I, Hyacinth Hayward, do hereby pledge to return the lost drop of water to the nearest Royal Mail office by midnight, on pain of death. (Visit our website to find a Royal Mail office conveniently near you!)

Since the clipboard was the only weapon I had at hand, I threw it at the Saltpetre Man. A corner of it sank into the monster’s forehead and just stayed there. The Saltpetre Man didn’t seem to notice. “Ssssssignature, pleassssse.”

Wait. Was there an echo in the hall? I craned my head to the side, looking past the monster’s bulk.

It was no echo. There were a dozen other Saltpetre Men behind it, all burbling, “Ssssignature, pleassssse.”

Run, I thought, but my legs wouldn’t move… Illustration by Euan Cook.


Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath Series: Hyacinth Series , #1

By Jacob Sager Weinstein

Published by Random House Children’s Books

ISBN-13: 9780399553172

Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

The hilarious first book in a middle-grade fantasy trilogy about the magical rivers that run through the sewers of London and shape history in ways you’d never learn in school.

Magic is real. History is a big, fat lie.

Before Hyacinth Hayward moves from Illinois to London, she reads up on the city’s history. Too bad for her. Because the books are wrong. The truth is, London was built on magical rivers, and all the major events in its past have been about people trying to control the magic.

Hyacinth discovers this when her mom is kidnapped. In the chase to get her back, Hyacinth encounters a giant intelligent pig in a bathing suit, a boy with amnesia, an adorable tosher (whatever that is), a sarcastic old lady, and a very sketchy unicorn. Somehow Hyacinth has to figure out who to trust, so she can save her mom and, oh yeah, not cause a second Great Fire of London.

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Create a Treasure Hunt Through the London Sewers


Jacob Sager Weinstein has written for the New Yorker, McSweeney’s, HBO, and the BBC. He lives in London with his family, close to where the Westbourne flows underground, but he only rarely triggers magical catastrophes that could potentially destroy the city.