"If you went into a school nowadays and said to the children "What is a gump?" you would probably get some very silly answers."It's a person without a brain, like a chump," a child might say. Or:"It's a camel whose hump has got stuck." Or even:It's a kind of chewing gum."But once this wasn't so. Once every child in the land coud have told you that a gump was a special mound, a grassy bump on the earth, and that in this bump was a hidden door which opened every so often to reveal a tunnel which led to a completely different world.They would have known that every country has its own gump and that in Great Britain the gump was in a place called the Hill of the Cross of Kings not far from the river Thames. And the wise children, the ones that read the old stories and listened to the old tales, would have known more than that. They would have known that this particular gump opened for exactly 9 days every nine years, and not one second longer, and that it was no good changing your mind about coming or going because nothing would open the door once the time was up.But the children forgot -- everyone forgot -- and perhaps you can't blame them, yet the gump is still there. It is under Platform Thirteen of King's Cross Railway Station, and the secret door is behind the wall of the old gentlemen's coakroom with its flappy posters saying "Trains Get You There" and its chipped wooden benches and the dirty ashtrays in which the old gentlemen used to stub out their smelly cigarettes.No one uses the platform now. They have built newer, smarter platforms with rows of shiny luggage trolleys and slot machines that actually work and television screens which show you how late your train is going to be. But Platform Thirteen is different. The clock has stopped; spiders have spun their webs across the cloakroom door. There's a Left-Luggage Office with a notice saying NOT IN USE, and inside it is an umbrella covered in mold which a lady left on the 5:25 from Doncaster the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. The chocolate machines are rusty and lopsided, and if you were foolish enough to put your money in one, it would make a noise like "Harrumph" and swallow it, and you could wait the rest of your life for the chocolate to come out.Yet when the people tried to pull down that part of the station and redevelop it, something always went wrong. An architect who wanted to build shops there suddenly came out in awful boils and went to live in Spain, and when they tried to relay the tracks for electricity, the surveyor said the ground wasn't suitable and muttered something about subsidence and cracks. It was as though people knew something about Platform Thirteen, but they didn't know what.But in every city there are those who have not forgotten the old days or the old stories. The ghosts, for example . . . Ernie Hobbs, the railway porter who'd spent al his life working at King's Cross and still liked to haunt round the trains, he knew -- and so did his friend, the ghost of a cleaning lady called Mrs. Partridge who used to scrub out the parcels' office on her hands and knees. The people who plodged about in the sewers under the city and came up occasionally through the manholes beside the station, they knew. . . and so in their own way did the pigeons.They knew that the gump was still there and they knew where it led: by a long, misty, and mysterious tunnel to a secret cove where a ship waited to take those who wished it to an island so beautiful that it took the breath away..."
For middle schoolers (and bigger-and-older-than-middle-schoolers-ers) who enjoy fun and light-hearted, wildly imaginative fantasy (even includes a sweet lesson), then I'd like to recommend The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. It was a truly delightful initiation into Spring Break, 2012!