On a wild and stormy night, five students, Claudia, Colin, Ralph, Pixie and Robbo, are sent ahead on a school trip to Old Harwick Hall. Instead of taking the school bus with Miss O'Dell and their other friends, they have to ride on a minibus with Mr. Plumley, one of their accompanying teachers, to their destination. After arriving, they explore the building and find an old, hexagonal tower room with five beds in it. In the dark of the night, with no electricity due to the raging storm, Colin spots a door which leads to an old, abandoned room where they discover a diary of a young boy by the name of Richard Clayton Harwick. Prior to reading the diary, they wonder why they are put together in the minibus. They achieved the answer after eavesdropping on Miss O'Dell and Mr. Plumley's conversation - on Miss O'Dell's list, their names had ticks which indicate that they each had two different addresses on their permission slips, one for their mother's home and one for their father's home. Each child comes from a divorced family. Pixie reads Richard's diary out loud for the other children to hear.
Richard Clayton Harwick's father is ill and this worries everyone in Harwick Hall. Before his death, he tells Richard to take care of his mother and sister, Lilith and Charlotte Harwick. After that, Richard not only feels sad for his father's death, but also because his father had only thought of his mother and sister instead of him until the end of his life. Later in the story, Lilith marries Reverend Coldstone, an anglican priest (he is not Catholic because he is not addressed Father, and he marries Lilith, Richard's Mother. Roman Catholic Priests cannot marry) who is cruel towards Richard but is very nice towards Charlotte. Richard is then sent to a boarding school called Mordanger School, where he is treated like a prisoner. He then decides to run away and sail all over the world. He comes back twice to Harwick Hall but never bothers to enter it or meet his mother and sister. He finally returns home after reading a print which states that solicitors have something to his advantage back home, discovering from a letter Charlotte had written before her death, that his family had been searching for him until the end of their lives and how Reverend Coldstone had turned out to be a very bad man. His decision of whether to stay or leave Harwick Hall remains unknown while leaving his green diary back in his tower room.
Chapter 3 - Claudia's Story: Green Pyjamas
Claudia starts telling her story to the other children: Claudia's parents quarrel a lot until her father decides to take his things and move away to his mother's house. One night, there is a flood of phone calls, and for the first time, Claudia hears the name Stella, her dad's new girlfriend. After that night, Claudia's dad dare not visit nor come near the house anymore, but only talks to Claudia over the phone. On D-Day, Claudia meets Stella for the first time and thinks that Stella is a plain and mousy person. After a row with his mother, Claudia's dad then moves into Stella's house. Later, Stella gives Claudia a pair of beautiful green pyjamas as a late Christmas present even though Claudia is always rude and mean to her. One evening, Claudia's dad and Stella holds a dinner party to celebrate his thirty-seventh birthday. During the dinner, Claudia's dad's friends ignores Stella as they think that by doing so they would be loyal to Claudia's mum. Claudia felt sorry and went downstairs to thank her for the green pyjamas and thus making her point to the dinner guests that Stella is a wonderful person.
Chapter 5 - Ralph's Story A Tale of Three Stepmothers
Ralph has two brothers, two half-brothers, one half-sister, three stepbrothers, one stepsister,three stepmothers, one stepfather, two step-grandmothers and a step-grandfather. Living in a big family is no joke. After school on Mondays and Thursdays, he goes directly to Dad’s place. His mum or his step dad,Howard sends him. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he goes straight to his Mum’s place. At times,he will be lost not knowing where to go. The lunchboxes help. M for Mickey Mouse and Mum, D for Dumbo and Dad. If he is lost, he has to look at his lunch box to confirm his destination. Edward and George are his brothers. The boys liked Annabel, stepmother No. 1. The only problem was she never left the boys alone with their dad.Edward and George hated this. Dad and Annabel spent all their time kissing and cuddling. Annabel was always on a diet. She disapproved of coffee. So the boys had to drink Dandelion tea every morning. She loved to read out her star sign forecast in the mornings and again in the evenings. Sometimes, she even tried to look at Edward and George to tell their aura. However, the boys would deny anything she said.Yet, their dad would not feel embarrassed.One day, Brandy, Ralph’s cat was sent over as their Mum was varnishing the hall. The three boys took Brandy in a cage. Edward had made it from a broken milk bottle crate and bits of wire. Annabel was annoyed and blamed them to be cruel as Brandy did not have room to breathe. Dad distracted her by pointing out that they were out of bread. Annabel insisted in baking. The poor boys were starving to death.So, they went to the shops. They boys ate three large loaves and before they came home, they brushed away the crumbs. Dad was praising of how the dough had risen.When Annabel left it on the table, Brandy leapt up on the table and sniffed the dough. Then, Brandy lift edits paw and patted the dough. Next, Brandy curled himself comfortably into the dough. Annabel went mad.Dad tried to stick up for Brandy. The spell between Annabel and Dad was broken. In the end, Annabel ranoff with someone and Dad searched high and low to get the divorce papers signed.The boys did not miss her as she was more of dad’s girlfriend than a real stepmother.Dad then focused his attention on Janet, who was more keen on rules. However, Dad liked it. Edward and George did not mind as they were able to spend ample time with Dad. On the other hand, Janet was busy rushing her children to the doctors, dentist and school.
Janet’s own children, Tom, Joe and Doug and Ann moved in with the three boys.Tom and Ann could get along with Ralph but not Joe and Doug. Mum and Howard though Janet was wonderful. Janet could draw up proper schedule and Mum hardly bothered as she found Janet was easy to deal with. Due to the rules, Ralph knew he could pick up rules in no time if he was ever anywhere. Finally Janet left. She got fed up with Mum and Dad as they were taking advantage of her. Dad kept fixing up work trips on the days the boys were there. He told Janet that she had four children and another three would not make any difference.Mum started sneaking Victor’s romper suit hoping that Janet would come across them and get the stains out before sending them back. So, Janet left. The boys had a wonderful time after that. Unfortunately, it was only for a short period of time. Stepmother Number 3, Flora, came into the picture. Edward met herlying on Dad’s patio with hardly any clothes on. She had the cheek to tell Edward to cover up as she was enjoying the sun. George met Flora when they went shopping. Flora was dumping treats like strawberries,kiwi fruits, waffles, Belgian chocolates into the trolley. Dad was looking into the wallet, gloomily. Ralph went the next day. When he rang the bell, Flora opened and enquired. Ralph introduced himself. Flora blew her top as she did want to be a nanny. She took Ralph out for a Chinese Dinner and to watch a film. Then she met some friends and went to a coffee bar. At that time, Ralph informed his Dad of their whereabouts.Dad was furious and scolded Flora. Flora was cool and told him not to dump the children on her before checking her schedule. Ralph thought she was wonderful although she did all sorts of terrible things to him.Flora was pregnant and she ate only mint sauce sandwiches. Ralph was worried that his half sister or half brother would not be well taken care off by Flora. She did not know how and Ralph decided to help her out.The others usually teased Ralph. Most probably, Flora would settle in with this family.