With My Knife

Andrew Lansdown

Omnibus Books, an imprint of Scholastic Australia
(paperback, 138 pages)

First published 1992
Reprinted 1992, 1994, 1996
ISBN 1-86291-120-7

Second edition first published 2006
Reprinted 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009
ISBN 1-86291-674-8

New/current ISBN 978-1-86291-674-6


Back cover blurb

It is the best knife Colyn has ever seen. He finds it by chance, buried in the potato paddock where he is working with his father, and immediately he knows that he has wanted a knife of his own for a long time. It is special. It is his knife.

But is it really chance that has led him to its discovery? Colyn soon learns that there is not only beauty in the knife, but magic, too; and with the magic come power and danger. For, with his knife, Colyn opens a doorway into a mysterious otherworld, and here he becomes involved in an adventure more exciting and more perilous than he could ever have imagined.


Honours for With My Knife


With My Knife was shortlisted in 1994 for both the National Children’s Book Award and the Western Australian Young Readers’ Book Award.

The first edition of With My Knife had four print runs — 1992 (2x), 1994 and 1996. The second edition had another five print runs — 2006 (2x), 2007, 2008 and 2009.

With My Knife was also published (print run, 42,000) by Scholastic in the United States in 1993 under the title Beyond The Open Door.



With My Knife now available in a trilogy edition


With My Knife is the first novel in a trilogy, The Chronicles of Klarin. The other two novels are Dragonfox and The Red Dragon.

After being out of print for several years, all three novels were republished by Rhiza Press in October 2018 in a single, trilogy volume titled The Chronicles of Klarin.

The Chronicles of Klarin can be purchased through this website or though the publisher’s website, or ordered though your local bookshop.




Letters from Children

These quotes are taken from letters that children have sent to Andrew at various times.

“I think that your book With My Knife is one of my favourite books I’ve every read. Every line puts me under more suspense even if its not meant to. … Mrs V. read it to our class but before she got a quarter of the way through I read my brothers copy because the suspense was just too much.” – Jamie, Year 7


“I thought it was pretty exciting because you didn’t know what was going to happen next. It was pretty gruesome and cool.” – Aimee, Year 5


“You are the best Auther in the world. The book ‘With my knife’ is the best as well. How did you think of the weird names in it? and how many books have you sold? Please write back if your not dead.” – Andrew, aged 10



Letters from NZ Children (2016)

All these letters were sent to Andrew in an email from New Zealand school teacher in the second half of 2016.
Andrew’s replies to the children are recorded in blue italics:


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

I am a teacher in a small rural school on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. There are 22 students in my class aged 8 and 9.

This term I have been reading your trilogy of fantasy novels The Klarin Chronicles, to my class. They are totally captured by them and asked to write to you when they found your website. They want to show you the cardboard box portal we made. It is a very popular quiet place for reading and writing in class time. I have attached a photo. The children all wanted to write too so I have copied their letters below.

Thank you for your inspiration and imagination.

Best wishes

Margaret Gibson (Teacher Room 4 Whenuakite School)


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Your books are so interesting. The dragonfox is scary but the red dragon looks cool. We made a cardboard box with a triangle opening. Is the circle an opening too?

Yours sincerely Courtney. I am a girl.


Dear Courtney,

You are very clever to wonder about the circle on the handle of Colyn’s knife. I have some thoughts about what will happen if/when Colyn cuts a circle. Maybe it will open another world … and maybe not!

Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Mr Lansdown,

I loved your story With my Knife but The Red Dragon is even better. I like the way Yasni is bossy to Colyn.

From Riley


Dear Riley,

Yes, Yasni is pretty bossy, isn’t she? But she is also very nice, in her own way!

Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

When Mrs Gibson our teacher read the first book With My Knife I was impressed. I didn’t like it when story time was over because your books seemed so mysterious. The whole class made a box with a triangular door. We drew dragons and coloured them with pastels.

From Claire


Dear Claire,

I’m glad you feel my books seem “mysterious”. That’s sort of how I feel about them, too. Mrs Gibson sent me photographs of the box with the triangular door. I think the whole class did a splendid job on it!

God bless, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew,

I love your stories. I think they are the best. I hope you are able to write way more stories about Colyn, Yasni and the dragons. My favourite book is The dragonfox. If there was a competition in the Olympics for the best story writer you would by far win a gold medal. What time of the day do you write your stories? I bet it is when your kids are in bed.

From Bella aged 9


Dear Bella,

I am glad you love my stories, and I hope that you could be the judge of them if there is ever an Olympics for books. And yes, I do do a lot of my writing when my kids are in bed—or at least, I used to, when they were little.

God bless, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew,

Your books are amazing. They are the best. I hope you are going to write a book number 4. We made a portal to Klarin. I helped make it. We drew dragons and lots of the main stuff in the books. It looks really cool. Do your children give you some ideas? You are the best book writer ever.

Love from Mila aged 8 nearly 9.


Dear Mila,

It is very kind of you to say that I am “the best book writer ever”. I wish it were true! Did you draw one of the dragons on the portal?

Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Mr Lansdown,

I really enjoyed The Chronicles of Klarin. My favourite one was Book 2, Dragonfox. My favourite character is Wayth because in Book 3 he gets married to Insay and Yasni gets a tear on her face. I feel really happy for Wayth. I hope you make a 4th book. I also love writing about and reading  all sorts of books, like the Troll Attack and The Chest of Mysteries. We made Klarin with a freezer box like Colyn did. You are my favourite author.

From Lliam aged 9


Dear Lliam,

I am glad you like Wayth. I think he is great, too. It pleases me immensely to think that I am your favourite author! You say you love reading all sorts of books. Have you read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the other 6 books of the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis? They are splendid!

All the best, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Mr Lansdown,

Do you write a book then send it around the world? Or does someone else do that for you? I really liked your stories.

From Lily


Dear Lily,

I don’t send my books around the world, but my publishers do. My job is to write them and the publisher’s job is to print them and sell them.

God bless, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Your books are fantastic. We read the first two books and are almost finished the 3rd one. I enjoyed listening to Mrs Gibson them to us. How did you come up with all the ideas?

From Ava


Dear Ava,

I am glad Mrs Gibson read my novels to you and I am glad you like listening to her read them. And, just between you and me, I think she must be an excellent teacher to choose such excellent books!

Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Did you know that we’ve read all your books. Maybe could you write a fourth one please? Your books describe ever so well.

From Kizzy


Dear Kizzy,

Thank you for loving my books and thank you for telling me so. I would like to write a fourth book, but right now I don’t really have the time or the ideas to write it.

All the best, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

I love all of your books. Mrs Gibson is reading them all to us. We are making the world of Klarin. I love the killing of the dragons.

From Declan


Dear Declan,

I kind of like the killing of the dragons, too. And I reckon they deserve it.

Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

I live in Hahei. It is in New Zealand. It is really nice here in the summer. There are more than one thousand people living here. I love all your books. Mrs Gibson is reading them to us. They are in our school library. Have a good time reading our letters. Are you going to write a fourth book? If you can, please send us a letter.

Thanks Mateo


Dear Mateo,

You live in Hahei, New Zealand and I live in Perth, Western Australia. I reckon we are both pretty blessed. If I do write a fourth book to go with the other three in the Chronicles of Klarin, I will try to remember to write to Mrs Gibson to let her know about it.

God bless, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Your books are all so interesting and exciting because you never know what’s going to happen next. My favourite part in book 2 is about the dragon fox. We even made a box like Colyn’s but we decorated it with dragons, knives, bolas unicorns and bow and arrows.

From Mia


Dear Mia,

You say that my books are “interesting and exciting because you never know what’s going to happen next.” Thank you. You might like to know that sometimes I didn’t know what was going to happen next myself, and I only found out when I began writing it.

God bless, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

I go to Whenuakite School on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.

You should keep us going with a fourth book. I really love all the gruesome bits and Kinzar is awesome.

From Odin


Dear Odin,

If I write another novel, I will try to put some more gruesome bits in it. And I agree, Kinzar is awesome! Do you have a dog?

Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Your stories are the best. I love your books more than my games. Is there a 4th book?

From Brynn G.


Dear Brynn G.,

I am getting quite a fat head from all the kind things you and your classmates are saying about my books! If it gets any fatter, it will probably burst and then I will never be able to write a fourth book!

Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Your books are awesome. I like how the knife is magical.

From Maatai


Dear Maatai,

I like how Colyn’s knife is magical, too. In fact, it was thinking about the knife being magical that gave me the idea for the first book, With My Knife.

All the best, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Your books are amazing. I love the action. Do you stay up most nights writing? My favourite character is Colyn

From Brynn R.


Dear Brynn R.,

Yes, I do stay up most night writing. And Colyn is my favourite character, too. Best wishes, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

Mrs G read the series of With My Knife. Your books are fantastic. Where do you do your writing? My favourite part is when Colyn found the Kinrye at the very beginning.

From Jack


Dear Jack,

Thank you for your kind words about my books. I do my writing mostly at home, in my study or on my back veranda. Sometimes I sit in a café to write. And sometimes I go away to a farm to write.

All the best, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

I like the part in the books when Colyn and Yasni were in the mountain Lairs. It was scary. Mrs Gibson does not like the dragon roaches. Thanks for writing the books I really love them.

From Pippa


Dear Pippa,

I don’t know why Mrs Gibson doesn’t like the dragonroaches. She must be a scaredy-cat! One of the parts I like best when Colyn and Yasni are in the mountain lairs is the hatching of the baby red dragon (the same dragon that causes so much trouble in the next book).

God bless, Andrew Lansdown


Dear Andrew Lansdown,

When Mrs Gibson was reading With My Knife I was dying for her to read Dragon Fox. When she did I loved it.

From Asher age 8


Dear Asher,

I am glad you loved Dragonfox. And I am glad you didn’t die while you were waiting for Mrs Gibson to read it when she was reading With My Knife!

God bless, Andrew Lansdown



Goodreads.com Reviews of With My Knife



Jamie JonasSep 26, 2019 Jamie Jonas rated it it was amazing
Another book inherited from my daughter–I expected a “cheap read,” and discovered instead a true stand-out. This story would make an ideal study for a writer who wants to learn the technique of keeping it relatively simple (YA level) while still turning in a tour-de-force of a fantasy story. Needless to say, this is another author I’ll be following.
Hardy MohamadJul 11, 2019 Hardy Mohamad rated it really liked it
It feels a little fast but it was a good read. I can’t wait to read the next one.




JAshley Capesan 10, 2017  Ashley Capes rated it really liked it

I first read this in the early 90s as a young lad and loved it quite a bit.

But sometime over the next 20-odd years I lost the book, which really bugged me. I’d searched for it on and off during the last 6 years, since in my memory the story became mythologically-good 😀

When I finally came across it I was thrilled AND relieved – since With My Knife is still fun and imaginative, after all – potatoes are made into something pretty clever and powerful!

Great for a younger audience and a great spin down memory lane for me today.


RebeccaJun 14, 2016  Rebecca rated it it was amazing

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars. Then I imagined I was a child reading this book (which is the intended audience) and I settled on 4. Then I sat down to describe what I liked about the book and realized that as simply as it was written, I actually loved it and had to change it to a 5 star rating. 

It’s a coming of age story. Colyn is a young boy who is not yet a man, but still needs to step up and be one anyway. His facing war, loss, sacrifice and even pointless death while still remaining a boy, free to cry and cuddle his father without shame is uncommon in children’s literature. I love the strong female characters, though only lightly featured. Additionally, the premise and how the knife’s abilities manifest are unique. The simple setting and origins of Colyn as a potato farmers son is an added charm.

I wish I could have read this as a 10 year old. It would have made me cry and would have changed a great many things about how I see the world. I look forward to reading the sequels with my own 10 year old son.


Jeanette SchaecheNov 09, 2014  Jeanette Schaeche rated it really liked it

Still maintains its four star rating for me.

I forgotten how fast-paced and exciting this book is. Then again, it’s is only a short story and meant for younger (MUCH younger) readers, so it has to be pretty quick with the whole beginning/middle/conflict/resolution/end line of story telling.

I loved it when I was ten and I love it now. More than likely a book I’ll be reading to my own children, and a book my own children will read one day. “With My Knife” is a lovely piece of children’s fantasy.


KKylie Westawayylie Westaway rated it it was amazing
Feb 24, 2018


Anne HamiltonNov 19, 2009  Anne Hamilton rated it it was amazing

The day before his birthday, Colyn finds a knife in a potato patch. The blade is black and the handle has a design of a circle with a tapering triangle inside. His dad remembers losing it when he was a boy. But it looks as if it has been regularly polished. And the cutting edge—well, there’s something mysterious about it. Why do potatoes turn to stone as Colyn finishes peeling them? And did the piece of wood he whittled really bark when he threw his failed carving of a dog into the fire?

Colyn idly cuts a triangle into a potato and creates a windowstone. He discovers that, when he places his finger into the window, it doesn’t come through the other side.

He looks in—and sees a terrifying yellow eye.

Later, when making a jigsaw with his dad, he recognises it as a dragon’s eye.

So Colyn is introduced to the Otherworld of Klarin and before long his curiosity leads him to create a doorway into the borderland between worlds: a white wrapping mist where dragons roam.

But a doorway in is a doorway out. Through it a dragon comes hunting.

Making five smooth stones from potatoes — reminding us perhaps of David about to confront Goliath — Colyn faces the dragon.

With My Knife is a spare and beautiful story like the harsh landscape which forms its backdrop — wasting nothing, hiding secrets, only revealing its treasures when you peer closely.

Colyn blinked in disbelief. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘There you are. You’re alive.’ The dog looked up at him, his head cocked to one side, one ear pricked, the other bent.

His father reached the shed. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘Where’d the mutt come from?’’

Colyn knelt to pat the kelpie. ‘I made him,’ he said. ‘With my knife.’’

With My Knife is the first book in the trilogy, The Chronicles of Klarin. Parts of it are strongly reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, though Lansdown’s work was published a year or two earlier and exposits a very different worldview.

A gripping book, highly recommended.


Graham OkelyMar 23, 2012 Graham Okely rated it really liked it
I have read this book for the second time in 2012 and found it an easy read. It is written for the younger age ranges. I would recommend it to parents and grandparents to read to their children.

Andrew develops the story well. Sometimes fictional stories have too many names for places, people and things but in this story Andrew gets a better balance I feel.

GeorgiaApr 17, 2015 Georgia rated it it was amazing
My teacher read this to me when I was in grade 5 or 6. The story has always stuck with me, but I only recently remembered the title. This is a great book to read to your kids and I fully intend to do so with my children one day. Absolutely loved it.


Jun 16, 2010 Dee-Ann rated it it was amazing
My son and I really liked this book. Simple fantastical story which keeps you hooked until the end.

Jack George Tony Healy

Apr 14, 2014 Jack George Tony Healy rated it really liked it
good cool and imaginative story

Ashley Cogill

Jul 28, 2010 Ashley Cogill added it
i loved this book so much it amazing book !


Aug 11, 2011 Alicia rated it it was amazing

I read this when I was younger and forgot what it was called. I have thought about it over the years and never got around to searching for it. I loved it!




Other Reviews of With My Knife


Andrew Lansdown’s With My Knife

by Stella Lees, Associate Editor, Viewpoint magazine


Andrew Lansdown is an established WA poet. Although he has written poetry and short stories for young readers, this is his first novel, and if you are still looking for a book to intrigue Year 7s who like adventure or fantasy, you should consider With My Knife (Omnibus, 1992 ISBN 1-86291-120-7 $8.95).

       Colyn digs up a knife when he is working with his father on their potato farm. It is a fine knife, with a ‘richly brown’ handle and a ‘long, thin and slightly crescent-shaped’ blade. After a moment of hesitation, his father allows him to keep it. The knife will do much more than cut potatoes or whittle, and Colyn soon discovers that it provides an entry into a world under threat from dragons. Simple beginnings, like a slice cut from a potato, a dog carved out of wood, an old jigsaw puzzle or a triangle cut in an empty freezer carton, lead on to momentous events which in turn affect Colyn’s everyday world. To say more would reveal too much. This is a tightly constructed novel, full of meaning and undercurrent, and the fine cover by Vivienne Goodman provides some clues. There are traces of William Mayne’s A Game of Dark (Hamilton, 1971) summoned up through the worm-like monsters which Colyn must fight, and Ursula Le Guin’s four Earthsea books, with the suggestions of a greater destiny for this artless boy, but With My Knife is no derivation. It is a captivating fantasy in its own right.

       Colyn is a quiet, hard-working ten-year-old, loved and loving; his father is affectionate, strong and thoughtful. Without any sentimentality or fulsome language, Lansdown draws a man touched by a deep sadness and a boy with courage and curiosity. The farm where they live has an earthy warmth and simplicity far removed from the noble tasks which Colyn faces, but the juxtaposition is telling. Klarin, the world which Colyn passes into, is one of vast plains, grand waterfalls and brave warriors—male and female. In the women archers Lansdown has combined resourcefulness with an appealing tenderness, although in some respects, such as its social organisation and its place in time and space, Klarin lacks strong definition.

       The prose is deceptively simple, almost austere. He picked up the potato and cut a slice from it. He cut a triangle in the centre of the slice, then peeled it. It turned to stone—a flat circular stone with a triangle window in it. He held the window to his eye and looked through it at a large rock on the far bank. The rock was not there. As Colyn moves into Klarin, and the pace changes, the language develops greater complexity. In their sadness, Colyn and the Kinroan watched the brown cloud draw nearer. Horses and their riders appeared in the dust, at first flickeringly, then solidly. Kinzar ran out to meet them, barking across the shimmering plain.

       Landown’ s remarkable ability to convey depth of emotion and breadth of landscape clearly reveals a poet at work. I hope that the promise that further trials may confront Colyn and his marvellous knife is soon fulfilled, because this one is so enjoyable and thought-provoking.


This review by Stella Lees was published in Viewpoint (on books for young adults), Vol. 1, No. 4, Summer 1993.



Excerpts from a 2012 review

by Momo

This is a slim book that packs a punch. There are books where dragons are the good guys and books where dragons are the face of pure evil. With my Knife falls into this latter category. …

If you love battles and dragons and you long to demonstrate your courage and compassion as Colyn our hero does then you must read With my Knife. …

With my knife is a book I have been recommending to my students for many years so I was happy to discover, when I re-read it this week, that it is such a powerful story. …

This review was published on the blogsite Momo celebrating time to read on 29 February 2012

Momo‘s self-description: “I have worked as a Primary School Teacher-Librarian since 1985. I am passionate about matching young readers with books.”


YARA Older Readers Website Review

by Anna

Colyn finds a magic knife while digging in a field of potatoes. By peeling a potato, Colyn can turn it into stone but his dad does not believe him. By cutting a triangle in a potato with the magic knife he stares into a mysterious dragon’s eye. It is after his magic knife has created a live dog from a wooden carving that life becomes dangerous. The knife leads them to the otherworld and allows dragons into their world. By entering that magic world Colyn comes to understand what really happened to his mother.

     When you start reading you do not think this is a book about magic and mystery, but as you get further into the book you realise it is the complete opposite. The book is full of magic and mystery and you only understand it when you finish reading it. The characters are very well done and have a big impact on the story. Colyn is a boy who believes in what he sees and never stops trying to convince his dad of what he sees. Colyn is a strong character who never gives up.

     This fantasy novel would be suitable for 10 to 15 year olds. I enjoyed reading it and would give it an 8 out of 10 rating.


Anna, aged 13, Canberra, Australia

from the YARA Older Readers Website (goldcreek.act.edu.au/yara/)

“The YARA Older Readers website is devoted to teenage/young adult readers and features reviews of novels written by Australian and overseas authors.”



Amazon.com reviews of USA edition, Beyond the Open Door


4.0 out of 5 stars  it is a great book!, April 20, 2000
by A Customer

This book is very scary. Colyn cut a piece of cardboard that let to another world. It may have to do with the strange knife he used to cut it. When he starts seeing the dragons coming he was to think of a wise plan. Andrew Lansdown did a great job with this book. BUY IT!


5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Book, December 20, 2004
A Kid’s Review

Focusing on the loneliness and seclusion of a boy and his father, Beyond the Open Door emphasizs the imagination as a Colyn, a farm boy, carves peices of wood that seem to change…
When I read this book for the first time in 7th grade, I stopped reading books altogether. It wasn’t because the book was bad, it was because it was so good. I wanted a sequel, and they just never had it; thus, I never read for fun again until senior year, when I rediscovered the book.


4.0 out of 5 stars  Favourite Childhood Book, February 15, 2013

by Whitney Allen

Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Great shape. Quick and easy shipment. This was one of my favorite books when I was younger and it got lost in transit when my parents moved. So glad to find it again.


With My Knife – Chapter One


I    The Knife


Colyn was digging potatoes with his father when he found the knife. It was buried quite deep and a large potato had grown around the blade, as if someone had stabbed the knife right through it.

He ran to his father, who was digging several rows nearer the river. ‘Look!’ he shouted. ‘Look what I’ve found!’

His father took the knife. ‘Well, I’ll be,’ he said, holding it by the blade to test its balance. ‘Do you know what, son? This was my knife once.’

‘Yours!’ cried Colyn, surprised and disappointed.

‘Yep. When I was a boy … How old are you now?’

‘You know, Dad! It’s my birthday tomorrow.’

‘That’s right.’ His father was remembering. ‘It was the day before my tenth birthday, too. I found it wedged in some rocks on the other side of the river. My father let me keep it. But on my birthday, I chopped the edge of the kitchen table while I was waiting for Mum to put tea out. So Dad took it off me. He never gave it back.’

‘How do you know this is the one?’ Colyn asked. But he knew the answer. The handle was wood, richly brown, like jarrah, and had a circle etched on one side and a tapering triangle on the other. The blade was long, thin and slightly crescent-shaped. No one could forget a knife like that.

‘See how the blade looks like stone?’ said his father.

The blade was almost black and had a dull sheen. There was not a spot of rust on it. And the handle was clean and smooth, as if it had been polished by constant use rather than lying lost in the soil for years.

‘I s’pose you’ll keep it now,’ said Colyn.

‘Well, I’m not going to chuck it away,’ his father said, putting the knife into one of the deep pockets of his overalls.

Although he did not know it until that moment, Colyn had been wanting a knife of his own for a long time.

‘What will you do with it?’ he asked, trying not to sound sooky or mean.

His father had begun digging again. He glanced up at Colyn and suddenly he realised what his son was feeling. He thrust the shovel into the dark loam and propped his right foot on it.

‘The trouble with a bloke rearing a son on his own,’ he said, ‘is he forgets that a boy is only little, and sort of tender. Now your mother, she was tender. And she would’ve kept an eye on me, to make sure I didn’t forget.’

Colyn could not remember his mother. She had died when he was barely three. He would be ten tomorrow, and he could not remember. Sometimes when his father spoke about her, his eyes would go distant and glassy, as if he were not behind them any more. But this time he blinked a bit and smiled at Colyn. He took the knife from his pocket and flicked the blade with his thumb.

‘Finders keepers,’ he said.

Colyn’s eyes widened. ‘I can keep it?’

‘Provided you don’t do anything silly like chopping the table.’

‘Oh, I promise!’

His father laughed and slapped him on the back. ‘Here you are then,’ he said. ‘Mind you,’ he added, ‘it doesn’t mean you can have a bludge. Still plenty of spuds in the ground.’


That night, as he sat in the lounge room by the fire with his father, Colyn began to carve a piece of wood. He had no idea what he wanted to make. He just started whittling. The knife was sharp and shaved the wood easily.

‘You’re making a mess,’ his father growled.

Colyn did not look up. ‘I’ll sweep it after,’ he said.

Before long, he realised that the wood had begun to take on a shape. But what? He stared at it intently, turning it around in his hands. It looked a bit like a dog. ‘Just what I’ve always wanted,’ he murmured. And he began to try, with all his might, to carve a dog. But the harder he tried, the less like a dog the piece of wood became.


His father looked up from the book he was reading. ‘What’s the matter?’

Colyn passed him the carving. ‘I want to make a dog,’ he said. ‘But it keeps going wrong.’

‘It’s not easy to carve something.’ His father looked at the work carefully. ‘You have to be patient. Practice and patience, that’s how most things are learnt.’ He handed it back. ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘it’s time for bed now, so you’ll have to put it away.’

‘No,’ said Colyn. ‘I’ll start a new one tomorrow.’

He threw the carving into the fire. As it landed on the coals, he thought he heard a dog bark way off in the distance.


When Colyn woke, it was his birthday. But the first thing he thought of was his knife. He reached under his pillow and there it was, just as he had left it last night, just as he had dreamt.

His father came into his room with two presents and sat on his bed. ‘Be careful with that knife. It’s sharp.’

‘It’s not sharp for me,’ said Colyn, ‘only everything else.’

‘Well, why don’t you put it down for a minute and have a look at what I’ve got you?’

Colyn unwrapped his presents. One was a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle; the other a leather football.

‘One for your brain and one for your body,’ his father said with a laugh.

Because it was his birthday, Colyn did not have to work. After breakfast he kicked his football along the gravel road in front of the potato paddock. But he had no one to kick it back to him so he soon grew tired of it. He thought of his friends at school and wished, briefly, that the term holidays were ending rather than beginning. He left the ball by the road and wandered across the paddock. The loam was dry and soft, and little puffs of dust burst from beneath his boots as he walked.

There was a place along the river where a tree had fallen into the water. It was Colyn’s special place. He climbed onto the trunk and walked out to where it sank beneath the surface. He sat down and stared at the water eddying past. In the backwater of the log a swarm of water beetles swirled crazily about each other. A blue dragonfly hovered over them.

Colyn jabbed his knife into the trunk absentmindedly, prised off a lump of bark, and flicked it into the water. While watching the bark bob away on the current, he decided to carve his name.

He spent nearly an hour carving his name carefully and deeply. He felt so pleased with it when he had finished that he thought to carve his father’s name too. But after finishing the first letter he said out loud, as if talking to someone, ‘It’s not working. He should have carved his own name when he owned it. But it’s my knife now.’

After a while he felt lonely, so he wandered over to see his father.

‘How’s it going, son?’

Colyn shrugged. ‘Nothing to do,’ he said.

‘Plenty of spuds to dig and bag.’

‘But it’s my birthday,’ Colyn protested, sitting down beside the sack his father was filling with newly-dug potatoes.

He took a small potato from the sack and began to peel it. He had never peeled one with a knife before and he was surprised at how well he could do it. The potato seemed to shed its skin as the knife touched it. As the last patch of skin fell off, leaving it perfectly white, the potato seemed to change. He weighed it in his hand. It felt heavier. He bit it. It was hard, like a stone!

‘Look at this potato, Dad.’

His father took the stone from him. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘it does look like a potato, a peeled one.’

‘It is a potato,’ said Colyn. ‘I peeled it with my knife and it turned into a stone.’

‘Go on, you scallywag!’ his father laughed, ruffling his hair.

‘But it’s true!’ Colyn insisted. ‘I’ll show you.’

He took another potato and began to peel it while his father looked on. But this time the peel did not come away easily. When he had finished, he held it in his open palm, staring at it, but it did not change into a stone.

‘I suppose you’ll be telling me that you can turn stones into potatoes next,’ smiled his father. ‘Think of all the stones in the riverbed. All we’d have to do is wait till summer when the river dries and then pick them up!’

His father unearthed several large potatoes. Colyn took one and walked back towards the river.

He sat on the fallen tree beside his carved name and set to work with his knife. As the last bit of peel fell away, the potato became heavy and hard in his hand. He bit it and it hurt his teeth. He banged the log and it bruised the wood.

‘See, I wasn’t imagining!’ he said.


Copyright © Andrew Lansdown, 1992, 2006

With My Knife
Andrew Lansdown
Omnibus Books,
an imprint of Scholastic Australia.
1992; rpt 1992, 1994, 1996, 2006 (2x), 2007, 2008.
ISBN 978-1-86291-674-6


Click here to open a downloadable pdf of the first chapter of With My Knife.



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