Category Archives: Fiction

Read This Excerpt of ‘Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas’


Looking for an exciting, adventurous new read? Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes may be the book for you. It’s the first book in a new series that promises laugh-out-loud moments and nonstop action. What’s it about?

addison-cooke-cover12-year-old Addison Cooke just wishes something exciting would happen to him. His aunt and uncle, both world-famous researchers, travel to the ends of the Earth searching for hidden treasure, dodging dangerous robbers along the way, while Addison is stuck in school all day.

Luckily for Addison, adventure has a way of finding the Cookes. After his uncle unearths the first ancient Incan clue needed to find a vast trove of lost treasure, he is kidnapped by members of a shadowy organization intent on stealing the riches. Addison’s uncle is the bandits’ key to deciphering the ancient clues and looting the treasure . . . unless Addison and his friends can outsmart the kidnappers and crack the code first. So it’s off to South America, where the excitement, danger, gold, booby traps, and car chases are never-ending!

Read an Excerpt from the Book

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We recently had the chance to ask Stokes about his new book. Here’s what he had to say:

What can you tell us about Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas?

charactersAddison Cooke is a fast-talking sixth grader who lives in New York with his little sister, Molly. When their aunt and uncle – famous archaeologists – are kidnapped by fortune hunters, Addison and Molly must embark on a globe-trotting adventure to locate a hidden Incan treasure and rescue their aunt and uncle. Joining them on their perilous journey are Addison’s two best friends, Raj and Eddie, who help almost as much as they hurt. Along the way, the team faces constant dangers from treacherous treasure hunters racing to uncover the Incan treasure.

How did you come up with the idea?

As a sixth grader, my friends and I spent most of our time exploring in the woods, sneaking into abandoned houses, planning secret missions, building gadgets, and setting elaborate booby traps. Addison shares all of these interests. But he’s much smarter than I was, and more resourceful. So whereas my secret missions might take me all the way to the hayloft of a neighbor’s barn, Addison’s missions take him all the way to the Amazon Rainforest.

While a lot of current middle-grade books dive into fantasy and/or science fiction, this book is more of a throwback to the history and adventure of stories like Indiana Jones. Was that an intentional decision?

Yes! Just this year, a man in England discovered an 1,800-year-old Roman palace buried in his backyard. A few days earlier, a family in France discovered a 135 million dollar Caravaggio painting that had been hidden in their attic for centuries. History is buried a few inches below your feet, or secreted away behind the walls of your attic. It is all around us for those who wish to explore. This is the world I want to write about.

There’s a Boy Scouting reference in the book. What inspired that? Were you a Scout?

Sadly, I was never a boy scout. But I went to YMCA summer camps growing up where our only shower was the lake and our only bathroom was the woods. We had to learn to build fires, put out said fires, and not starve to death, so I mined those survival skills for the book.

You got your start writing movie screenplays. What drew you to writing books for kids?

I originally pitched Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas as a movie screenplay for actor Ben Stiller’s production company. It was rejected. So I then pitched Addison as a movie for actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and their kids Jaden and Willow. It was rejected again. So finally I just decided to write the book. It didn’t get rejected! And now I’ve discovered I love writing for kids.

Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I play upright bass and musical saw in the bluegrass band, “Everly Snodgrass.” I’m also a competitive ballroom dancer. When I’m too wiped out to write, play music, or dance, I read a disturbing amount of books and enjoy editing Wikipedia.

BL Fiction: ‘Home of the Brave’ by Eric A. Kimmel

Rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air … Young Adam is witness to one of the most important moments in our country’s history.


Illustrations by Greg Newbold

Smoke stung my eyes. My nose and throat burned. I felt a blow to my chest like a prizefighter’s punch every time one of the big guns went off. Rockets screamed overhead. I clung to our little sloop’s rigging the way a drowning man clings to a lifeline, trying to hold the telescope steady.

“Can you see the flag, Adam?” Mr. Key called from the deck. I could hardly hear him over the battle’s noise. All I could see were rocket trails, exploding bombs, cannons flashing and thick smoke that blanketed everything, turning the night even darker.

“No, sir!” I called down. I saw no flag. Was there a flag to be seen? Did we still have a country?

How did I get here? I was no soldier or sailor. Hadn’t I just turned 14 this past spring, when I came to Washington to begin working for Mr. Francis Scott Key? Mr. Key was one of the best lawyers in the city. I was honored to be his law clerk.

Everyone knew the war with England was not going well, but I never suspected it might come to me. In the summer of 1814 the British fleet sailed into Chesapeake Bay. They burned Washington. The President’s Mansion, the Capitol and so many other buildings were left smoking ruins.

Mr. Key and I barely escaped into Maryland. We had hardly returned home when we were off again. The British had arrested a prominent Maryland patriot, Dr. William Beanes. They were holding him prisoner aboard their warships. His friends hoped that a famous lawyer like Mr. Key could negotiate his release.

“I will do my best,” Mr. Key promised. He asked me to go with him as his assistant.

The British were now sailing north to Baltimore, to do what they had done to Washington.

We sailed out to the British fleet in a small sloop, the Minden. I felt like a minnow among sharks. The British warships towered above us, bristling with cannon. Sailors and soldiers filled their decks.


How could our young country prevail against such power? Mr. Key and I both feared that Baltimore was doomed. And then? What would be left of the United States when the British sailed home?

But luck was with us. After some grumbling, Mr. Key persuaded the British commanders to release Dr. Beanes. However, we would remain their “guests” until they had captured Fort McHenry, the main fort protecting Baltimore’s harbor.

“It won’t be easy, Adam,” Mr. Key remarked to me. He pointed to the huge U.S. flag flying over Fort McHenry. “The men in that fort mean to fight.”

I hoped he was right. If Fort McHenry fell, nothing stood between the British and Baltimore.

We dined with the British officers that night aboard the HMS Surprize. Their carousing kept us awake most of the night. One song went on forever.

To Anacreon in heaven where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition …

Endless verses followed. I fell asleep before the end.

And well that I did. Over the next two days, I got no sleep at all.

The siege of Fort McHenry began. Two-hundred-pound bombs exploded in midair, showering the fort with shrapnel. The British tried a new weapon: Congreve rockets. They fired dozens at a time. Their fiery tails whooshed across the sky. We felt the shock as they exploded above and inside the fort.

“How can anyone survive?” I wondered.

Mr. Key handed me a pocket telescope. “Go aloft, Adam. Tell us what you see.”

I climbed into the rigging. Clouds of thick smoke covered the fort. A breeze came up. I briefly saw the flag.

“It still waves,” I shouted. A huge blast nearly knocked me from the rigging. A British bomb blew up one of the fort’s cannons. British sailors cheered. How much longer could Fort McHenry hold out?

The bombardment continued all night. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of the flag, illuminated by the red glare of the rockets and the yellow flashes of the bombs. I peered through the telescope until my eyes burned.

“Can you see the flag?” Mr. Key asked.

“Yes. It still flies,” I answered, hoping it was so.

Suddenly, the bombardment ceased. We saw British soldiers climbing into barges.

“They’ll attack the fort from the rear,” Mr. Key explained.

“Will they succeed?” I asked. Would we still have a flag? A country?

We would know in the next few hours.

Deafening booms ended all conversation. Fiery flashes lit up Fort McHenry’s walls, followed by more flashes on the land side. It went on and on.

The firing ceased. Dead silence followed.

“What does this mean?” I asked Mr. Key.

“Either the British have taken the fort.” He paused. “Or their attack failed, and Baltimore is saved.” The first light of dawn appeared over the horizon.

“The flag?”

I searched for the faintest glimpse of star or stripe. Then I saw it — our flag. Torn, tattered, but still flying!

“The star-spangled banner still waves,” I shouted. I started cheering. But not Mr. Key. I noticed him scribbling something on an envelope.


“To celebrate the occasion,” he said. He read the first verse to me.

O, say can you see
By the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming …

“That’s good!” I exclaimed. “Your words fit that song we heard aboard the Surprize.”

Mr. Key nodded. “Anacreon’s tune deserves better words.”

Stirring words they are. Mr. Key published his poem after we returned to Washington. People sing it every day. It is one of the few good things to come out of this dreadful war.

I expect that Americans will be singing Mr. Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” for years to come.

And the star-spangled banner
in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the
home of the brave!

May it be so forever!

New BL Fiction: Kori and the Troll by Lou Anders


Fiction by Lou Anders | Illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo

Kori thrust his sword at the dragon. Confronted by the mighty warrior, the monster hesitated before the magic blade.

“Take that, foul worm!” Kori yelled.

The serpent roared, spitting fire from its lips.

Truthfully, it chittered. And spit fragments of acorn shell.

Kori sighed, lowering the wooden stick.

“You could at least pretend to be afraid,” he said to the squirrel. It sat on a branch, fussing at him for daring to wave a twig at it.

Kori tossed the stick aside and resumed walking along the forest trail. Excursions into the woods near the family farm usually cheered him up, but today he felt more angry than adventuresome.

He’d been fighting with his brother, Ori. Father had ordered them to spread manure on the homefield, but Ori had tricked Kori into doing his share. It wasn’t the first time. Although they were twins, their resemblance was only skin-deep. Kori was athletic and adventurous. He always spoke his mind. Ori, on the other hand, was clever, humorous and sarcastic. But Ori was also lazy. He always seemed to get away with doing less than his half of the chores.

It didn’t help that Father didn’t seem to mind. Kori had been born minutes before Ori, which meant he would inherit the farm. More was expected of Kori than of his younger brother. But running the farm was a distant promise. Worse, Father was always stuffing Kori full of proverbs, saying things like No lamb for the lazy wolf and Fear is the mother of defeat.

Sometimes Kori felt so full of wisdom, he might burst. What use were proverbs, anyway, if all he ever did was spread manure on the homefield?


Kori swung his pack around to hang before his belly. If the woods couldn’t cheer him up, perhaps a snack would. He reached inside for the smoked halibut and ball of cheese his mother had made for him. Kori bit into the fish, enjoying the salty taste on his tongue.

Then the world darkened.

Kori spun around to see what was blocking the sunlight.

The troll was enormous.

It stood 8 feet tall. Its warty gray skin looked as tough as stone. Its yellowed teeth were filed to wicked points. And it brandished a crude ax made from a boulder lashed to a tree trunk.

“What a bit of luck,” the troll said. “I was just wondering what to eat today, and along you come.”

Kori made to run, but the troll lowered its ax, blocking the boy’s escape.

Kori wished that he had his father’s sword. Or any weapon at all.

Then his father’s unappreciated advice came to him: Better is a stout heart than a sharp sword. Fear is the mother of defeat. Bravery is half the victory.

But how could bravery help when he was about to be a troll’s breakfast? Kori wished his father were here. He even wished his brother had come along. Ori was the clever one.

Kori tried to be brave like his father and to think like his brother. Trolls were powerful and dangerous, but no one would call them smart. Maybe he could trick the troll the way Ori was always tricking him.



“It is good luck that we meet,” said Kori. “But my luck, not yours.”

“What do you mean?” the troll asked, frowning. “Maybe you think it lucky to be eaten?”

“Not at all,” said Kori. His heart hammered, but he kept his voice steady. “It’s my luck, because I’m going to eat you.

The troll’s laugh was like the sound of thunder booming.

You eat me?” it said. “You’re joking.”

“I promise you I’m not,” said Kori, hoping bravery really was half the victory. Now for the other half. “I am Korlundr Kolason. I come from a line of great warriors. Why, I am so strong I can squeeze water from a stone.”

The troll blinked.

“No one can squeeze water from a rock,” it said.

“Watch me,” said Kori. He held up the cheese his mother had packed for him. The round lump didn’t look unlike a stone.

Kori gripped it in his fist, gritting his teeth to appear as though he was applying effort. Moisture ran through his fingers and fell to the earth. The troll’s eyes went wide.

“Let me see that,” it said, reaching out.

Kori popped the cheese in his mouth and munched it hastily.

“No,” he said. “The stone was my meal. But I’m still hungry.”

“You eat rocks?” The troll scratched its knotty head.

“Don’t you?” Kori asked. “Or aren’t you strong enough to chew them?”

“Of course I am!” protested the troll.

“Prove it,” said Kori. “I challenge you to a rock-eating contest. Whoever eats the most rocks wins and gets to eat the other.”

“I like the sound of that,” said the troll. “An eating contest it is!”


Kori selected a small stone from the ground. The troll grabbed a stone of the same size.

“Oh, no,” said Kori. “You can’t pick a small one.”

“Small?” said the troll. “I picked the same size you did.”

“You did not,” said Kori. “My stone is the same size as my fist, but yours is tiny in your hand. You must pick one that fills your fist like mine.”

“Uh … that makes sense,” said the troll, obviously confused. It picked a bigger rock.

Kori brought his stone to his mouth. While pretending to eat, he dropped the stone into his pack, which still hung before his stomach.

The troll blinked in surprise, but it bit into the large rock. It winced as it chipped a tooth.

“If your teeth are too soft to chew the rocks,” said Kori, “you can swallow them whole.”

The troll growled, but it swallowed the rock with a big gulp.

“Next one,” said Kori, taking another stone and employing the same sleight of hand as before.

Grumbling, the troll choked down another rock.

Kori continued to drop small stones into his backpack. And the foolish troll continued to gulp down large rocks. After it had swallowed 20 or so, it whimpered and placed a hand on its belly.

“You can give up if you’re too full,” said Kori.

“Oh, no,” replied the troll.

“Good.” Kori handed it a rock as big as a loaf of bread.

The troll looked uncertain, but it stretched its lips wide and swallowed it. The troll’s stomach bulged and it sank to the ground. Its gray skin looked distinctly green.

By now, Kori’s pack was as full as the monster’s belly.

“We’re out of rocks,” the troll said.

“I’ll find us more,” said Kori, stepping away.

“No, wait!” The troll struggled to rise, but the weight of the rocks in its belly was too much. Its feet wobbled, and it fell.

“Oh, dear,” said Kori. “Is there a problem?”

“No problem,” said the troll, struggling. “But I can’t move!”

“Well, you’re in luck,” said Kori.

“Why is that?” asked the troll miserably.

“Because I’m full,” laughed the boy and ran from the glen.

Kori’s steps felt lighter as he hurried home. He was oddly grateful to his brother. And he’d never begrudge Father his advice again. Sometimes a stout heart was better than a sharp sword.



51jCwfFHUIL._OU01_AC_UL320_SR212,320_Lou Anders is the author of Frostborn, the first book in the Thrones & Bones series, and its sequel, Nightborn.

Visit and to learn more.


Boys’ Life Fiction: ‘Punch Buggy Blue’ by Megan McDonald


Illustrations by Bruce MacPherson


Ralph Waldo climbed over his older brother and plopped down in the middle of the back seat.

“Move over, Squirt,” said Henry in his self-important-sounding 12-year-old voice.

“No way. There’s cooties on that seat … from when I … you know.”

Henry made gagging noises and pulled a puke face. R.W. couldn’t even say that “p” word. He couldn’t think about getting carsick. Not with a long road trip ahead.

“I need my personal space,” said Henry. But R.W. had already buckled himself in. It was going to be a loooong week. Especially without a phone. No videogames. No movies. No texting friends.

Dad had some loony-tunes idea to drive halfway across Ohio to see a dead president’s house. What a way to spend spring break. Then Mom
up and decided that the trip would be more fun without screens and stuff. Nothing with an on/off switch.

So they could spend time together as a family. PLEASE.

“Hey, um, don’t we need the phone for the GPS?” Henry asked the front seat. “How will we know where we’re going?”

Mom passed back a paper map with green dots all over it. It was like college-level origami just to fold the thing.

Yep. It was going to be a long trip. And they hadn’t even left the driveway.

R.W. paged through his Infinity Book of Amazing Facts. “Did you know the first roads were made by elephants? And King Tut might have
died because he got bit by a hippo?”

“Bitten,” said Mom.traffic_icons

“Where are we going again?”

R.W. asked for the 13th time. Henry wished his little brother had an on/ off switch. Then they could have left him at home. Ha-ha. He laughed at his own joke.

“What’s so funny?” R.W. asked.

“Never mind. We’re going to a dead president’s house. Warren G. Harding.”

“It’ll be educational,” said Mom.

“And they show old silent movies on weekends,” said Dad.

Henry slumped in his seat. Parents made no sense. They weren’t allowed to watch DVDs in the car, but they were driving a bazillion miles to watch some old movie? Go figure.

“Warren G. Harding was like the worst president ever,” said R.W.

“Why do you say that?” asked Dad.

“My book says it.” R.W. stabbed the page that said 10 Worst Presidents.

“He played poker while his friends stole stuff. A giant teapot or something.”

“The Teapot Dome Scandal,” said Mom. “I’ll bet every president has done things they’re not proud of.”

“How about we keep an open mind,” said Dad. “Besides, the trip is half the fun.”

Henry studied the map. Three inches to go. One inch on a map was like tons of miles.

“Punch buggy blue!” called R.W. when he saw a blue VW Beetle.

“Punch buggy red!” called Henry, punching R.W. in the arm.


“Punch buggy green!” Henry shouted. “Punch buggy red again.” Punch, punch.

“Ouch! Henry’s punching me!”

traffic_icons“You started it,” said Henry. He grabbed the pillow and thumped his brother over the head.

“Pillow fight!” R.W. bopped him back.

“Boys!” said Mom. “No hitting!

No pillow-fighting. Think of a no-contact car game, please.”

They played seven games of Tic-Tac-Toe, three games of Hangman and a game of I Spy, until R.W. started to cry.

“Henry won’t let me win,” he moaned.

“I won fair and square,” said Henry.

Little brothers sure were a pain. He studied the map some more.

“So, what are these green dots on the map?” asked Henry.

“Places of interest,” said Dad.

“More dead presidents?”

“Henry David!” Mom scolded.

“Sorry.” He sank back and tried to figure out the green dots.

R.W. yelled, “Giant ice-cream cone!”

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Henry saw it, too. A building in the shape of a giant swirling, twirling icecream cone! Before you could say “banana split,” Henry and R.W. were licking the melting ice cream running down their arms.

“Guess what,” said R.W. “Dad says we can stop and see a real castle. Do you think it has a moat?”

“They have castles in Ohio?” Henry searched the map. “Who knew?”

“Not me,” said Dad.

After a tour of the stone castle with a real dungeon, Henry asked if they could visit a cemetery next.
“We’ll never make it to the Harding home,” Mom pointed out, “if we keep taking so many detours.”

“Just one more?” Henry pleaded. Before you could say “mad scientist,” Henry and Ralph Waldo were standing in front of a spooky grave. A grave that read FRANKENSTEIN. The real Dr. Frankenstein’s grave!traffic_icons

“It’s aliiiive,” said Henry, spooking his brother. R.W. screamed and hid behind Mom.
“We used to come here as kids,” said Dad. “Every Halloween. We’d dare each other to see who could stand on Frankenstein’s gravestone
the longest.”

“Did you win?” asked R.W.

“We never lasted more than a few seconds,” Dad chuckled.

Henry and R.W. stood next to the gravestone. “Take our picture!” said Henry.

They piled back into the car. In what felt like about 20 more hours, they finally, eventually, at last, pulled up in front of the President
Warren G. Harding house.

Mom and Dad stared. Henry glared. R.W.’s mouth hung open.
They could not believe their eyes.

C L O S E D!

The sign said “Closed for Repairs.”

“So we came all this way for nothing?” R.W. blurted.

Henry elbowed him. “What do you mean? We saw a real-live castle, ate Twistees from a giant ice-cream cone and stood on Frankenstein’s grave.”

“Whoa. I’m brave,” said R.W.

“Sure are. I timed us, too. You lasted three whole seconds longer than me.”

“I win!?”

“You win.” Mom and Dad smiled at Henry.

“Can we stay in the haunted hotel tonight?” asked Henry. “It’s not far, and it’ll be way cool! The rooms are named for presidents, and a girl
ghost haunts the halls.”

“Can we? Can we?” asked R.W.

“I don’t see why not,” said Mom.

“If you’re up for it, we are,” said Dad.

R.W. twisted the end of his T-shirt into a knot. Suddenly, he wasn’t feeling so brave. “But what if I hear noises? And get spooked? And can’t get to sleep?”

traffic_icons“Don’t sweat it!” said Henry. “I’ll be right there with you. And I have a flashlight, so you won’t be scared of the dark. I’ll even read you to sleep.”

He flipped to the page about presidents.

“We can learn all about President Warren G. Harding.”

“For real?”

“For real. Did you know he was the first president to visit Alaska? And he played the cornet. And get this: He had a dog named Laddie
Boy, who had his own chair at big important meetings.”

“Cool,” said R.W. “Tomorrow, maybe we can go to that town that has a white squirrel.”

“And that weird museum of all the stuff people have swallowed, like buttons and bobby pins and bones.”

“And don’t forget the flying-saucer house. …”


1200x630bfMegan McDonald is the creator of the popular award-winning Stink and Judy Moody series, as well as many other books for young readers.


Read Chapter One Of the New Graphic Novel ‘Caveboy Dave’

Click the image to feast your eyes on a larger version of the never-before-seen cover for Caveboy Dave.

Caveboy Dave is a hilarious new graphic novel series about a primitive kid named Dave Unga-Bunga, struggling through the pains of growing up in a world in which he doesn’t fit in. Imagine a prehistoric version of Wimpy Kid meets Captain Underpants.

What’s so tough about Dave’s life? For starters, his grandfather invented fire and his dad invented the wheel — so how is he supposed to live up to that sort of family reputation? You’ll have to read it find out to find out.

The bad news? Caveboy Dave: More Scrawny Than Brawny won’t hit bookstores until November. The good news? We’ve got a sneak peek of first chapter for you to read today! Scroll down for our exclusive excerpt! ________________________________________________________________________________________


Caveboy Dave: More Scrawny Than Brawny

Chapter One

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Top 5 Adventure Books for Guys


As long as there have been books to read, there have been epic stories of adventure and the great outdoors. Here are five of our favorites:

The Call of the Wild by Jack London


The Call of the Wild is usually considered to be the best book written by legendary author Jack London. It’s the gripping tale of a heroic dog that is thrust into the brutal life of the Alaska Gold Rush, ultimately facing a choice between living in man’s world and returning to nature.


The Lord of the Flies by William Golding


This compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island is modern classic. At first, all seems normal and fun for the group of guys, but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them — the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories — and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Campbell_Q Road2

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present—and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent’s divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair—it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.


Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson


Set in the eighteenth century, Treasure Island spins a heady tale of piracy, a mysterious treasure map, and a host of sinister characters charged with diabolical intentions. Seen through the eyes of Jim Hawkins, the cabin boy of the Hispaniola, the action-packed adventure tells of a perilous sea journey across the Spanish Main, a mutiny  led by the infamous Long John Silver, and a lethal scramble for buried treasure on an exotic isle.


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.


Celebrate Halloween With ‘Monster Jamboree’ by Brandon Mull


Illustrations by Heath McKenzie & Kevin Hurley

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]bandoned buildings sagged on either side of the dirt road as we rolled into Larill, Arizona, in the dead of night, our headlights flashing across broken windows and peeling paint. No other lights hinted at life in the area. Our troop of 14 Scouts and three leaders caravanned in two SUVs and an old minivan.

The three vehicles stopped in the town’s main square. Our leaders killed the engines, and we got out. When I slammed my door, the echo bounced four or five times. A warm breeze sighed across the desert, carrying dry dust and the smell of sage. Off in the parched wasteland beyond the town, a coyote gave a lonely howl. With my arm fully extended, my hand couldn’t quite cover the pale hugeness of the bright moon.

“Did you check the date?” I asked.

“Midnight is a weird hour for opening ceremonies,” I said.

Our Scoutmaster, a lanky man with a mustache, held up his clipboard and clicked on a flashlight. “The Monster Jamboree is scheduled to begin here tonight at midnight. We’re right on time. Maybe a minute or two early.”

“Midnight is a weird hour for opening ceremonies,” I said.

“I checked when I called,” our Scoutmaster insisted. “The tradition dates back many years.”

I shrugged. “I don’t see anyone.”

Our Scoutmaster huffed. “They promised this would be very well attended.”

A ragged cloud drifted across the moon, dimming the night. Some of the younger guys in the troop crowded together, eyes wide.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] haven’t introduced myself. I’m Chase Davis, senior patrol leader of Troop 6526 out of Highland, Utah. I’m a Life Scout just two badges and a project short of Eagle.

Last year, our Scoutmaster really wanted to take us to the national jamboree in West Virginia, but he couldn’t arrange it. While in a cemetery this past Memorial Day, he found a flyer for the Monster Jamboree held in Larill, just over six hours by car from our hometown.monster_jam_main_patch

Determined not to miss this one, we raised the funds, packed up our gear and hit the road. We would have arrived earlier in the day, but a stretch of Highway 89 was closed and we got lost trying to find an alternate route.

“This is a ghost town,” I said, shining my flashlight at a skinny possum on a windowsill.

Our Scoutmaster shook his head. “My map and GPS agree that this is the right …”

He was cut off by the gong of a church bell. It seemed as loud as a cannon, and we all jumped. The bell clanged a second time, and a third.

From shadowy alleys and derelict buildings, Scouts began to pour into the square. They marched in orderly lines. Some carried torches, using them to light bonfires.

“This is more like it,” our Scoutmaster said.

I instructed my fellow Scouts to form up into orderly ranks. As another troop positioned themselves beside us, I dug out some patches I had brought for trading. I had lots of Utah National Parks Council patches, but wasn’t sure if we were far enough from home for them to generate much interest.

I approached a Scout in the neighboring troop. He was pale with dark eyes. “Have any patches to trade?” I whispered.MonsterJambo2_FINAL_KO

“Maybe.” When I showed him one of my patches with Delicate Arch and a dinosaur, his expression brightened. “I’ve never seen that one!”

He accepted mine and gave me a patch from the Transylvanian Council. “Is this from Europe?” I asked.

“You sound surprised,” he said. “This is an international jamboree.”

Encouraged by the good trade and noticing many Scouts still coming to the square, I wandered over to another troop. They wore shabby uniforms and smelled like they desperately needed showers. A Scout with a crooked back limped over to me, eyes on my patches. One of his arms hung useless at his side. I tried not to stare.

“Trade?” he asked.

I showed him my patch. He sniffed it, then gave me one from the Necropolis Council. I hit a couple other nearby troops and got patches from the Bermuda Triangle Council, the Lost Mines Council and the Stonehenge Council. One of the troops wore weird shoes. In the bad lighting, their feet almost looked like hooves.

Monster Council Patches


The other troops had mostly found their positions by the time I returned to mine. Some of the troops on the far side of the square looked like they were wearing costumes under their uniforms. One whole troop was dressed as skeletons. Our Scoutmaster had never mentioned that possibility.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] figure in a hooded robe shuffled to the center of the square. “Welcome to the 75th Annual Monster Jamboree,” said a slithery voice that reached my ears as if whispered from close by. “We have Monster Scouts from 19 countries in attendance tonight. Troop 23 from the Barbary Coast will serve as color guard, after which Troop 888 from beneath the sands of Cairo will lead us in the Scout Law.”

An orderly group of Scouts in perfect formation brought out a flag and raised it with dignity. Instead of the familiar stars and stripes, this flag depicted a skull and crossbones on a field of black.

“I thought the ‘Monster’ in ‘Monster Jamboree’ referred to the size of the event,” I murmured to our Scoutmaster.

“With or without a monster theme,” he muttered, “this seems disrespectful.”

A group of Scouts wrapped in bandages marched to the center of the square. One Scout stepped forward. “Please join us in the Scout Law.”

I started saying the familiar words, but stopped when I realized everyone else was reciting different ones. “A Scout is Bloodthirsty, Tricky, Harmful, Deadly, Ominous, Fierce, Obscure, Vengeful, Sneaky, Grave, Mean and Irreverent.” At the end, scattered voices added, “And Hungry!”

I knew something was wrong. The monster theme was going too far.

The kid who had given me the Transylvania patch stood nearby. I sidled over to him.

“Have you come to this before?” I asked.

“First time,” he replied. “But I’ve been a Monster Scout since I was little. I earned my Arrow of Darkness, and I’m on the path to Dragon.”

“Dragon? What rank are you?”

“I’m a Death Scout. I just need my Lifetaking merit badge and a few others. Seems like just yesterday I was a Tenderthroat.”

The scraggly cloud moved away from the moon. Several troops instantly morphed into wolf shapes. A winged flock of uniformed gargoyles landed not far away.

“You’re not Boy Scouts,” I groaned.

He grinned, revealing fangs. “Some of us were, before we got bitten.”

I backed away. Several voices started crying out, “Humans!”

“Time to go,” I told my troop. Breaking ranks, we raced toward our cars.

As the kid who had given me the Necropolis Council patch staggered toward me, his arm dropped off. “Gross!” I shouted.

“Brains,” he croaked.

With dozens of Monster Scouts trailing behind me, I was last into the minivan. We yanked the doors shut and locked them as bodies pounded against the windows, teeth bared. Our Scoutmaster floored it, and monsters dove out of the way. Dust sprayed behind us as we whooshed out of town.

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ow you might think some of this sounds too crazy to be true. An alternate Scouting program full of werewolves, vampires, zombies, mummies and gargoyles might seem like a lot to swallow.

You could argue that we dreamed it. And I might have to agree, if I didn’t have some truly unusual patches in my collection!

Brandon_Mull_Mug_ShotAbout the author: Brandon Mull is an Eagle Scout and has authored many novels, including the Fablehaven, Spirit Animals and Beyonders series. His newest series is Five Kingdoms.

Boys’ Life Fiction: ‘Ollie’s Owl’ by Yona Zeldis McDonough

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Fiction by Yona Zeldis McDonough


Oliver doesn’t know exactly what makes him sit up in his sleeping bag — but he’s so glad he does. Perched on a low-hanging branch a few yards away sits a great gray owl!

Trying to remain still, Oliver stares. Great grays are rare; he might never see one again. The owl looks bigger than it is; Oliver knows its inflated size has to do with lush feathers covering a rather small body. But it is the owl’s face that is so arresting: flat and round, with a pattern of concentric gray and black feathers that frame the lemon eyes and amber beak.

Then, without a sound, the owl opens its massive wings and takes off into the night.

6Oliver is still staring when he realizes his dad is sitting up too. “Did you see that?”

His father nods, a look of wonder on his face. “A great gray owl … I never thought I’d actually see one.”

“Too bad we didn’t get a picture,” says Oliver. “But I can still record it.”

Oliver has been a birder since he was 10. He knows how special that owl is and reaches into his backpack for his journal, so he can note the sighting.

Later, as he is drifting off to sleep, Oliver thinks about the owl. What is it doing here, nearly two hours away from the Sierra Nevada mountains where it’s reported to live? Is it on its way somewhere else, or has it made its home nearby?

In the morning, he has an answer. While his dad makes pancakes and bacon, Oliver wanders around the campsite with his binoculars. Mourning doves coo in the trees, and he sees a finch and a brown-headed cowbird. Then he sees a big nest in an Oregon ash. Great grays don’t build their own nests but use those of other large birds. Could this nest be a home for the great gray he saw last night?

Without telling his dad, he climbs up the tree and peers inside. There are four smooth white ovals, each about 2 inches long. He has seen pictures of the great gray’s eggs, and these look just like them! He fishes out the old digital camera he and his dad use on their trips, takes a bunch of pictures and shimmies down again.

Back at the campsite, he shows his father the photos. His dad agrees: owl eggs.

The next day, Monday, Oliver’s dad is off to work. It’s June, and school has just let out. Oliver has a late breakfast with his mom. She’s reading the newspaper, then stops and hands it to him. “Look at this.”

7Oliver reads the headline: “New Shopping Mall Under Discussion.” The new mall will have a cineplex, a sporting goods store and one of Oliver’s favorite places to buy jeans. Sweet.

But when he reads where they want to put it, his smile fades.

“That’s right’s where Dad and I go camping.”

“I know,” says his mom.

“They can’t do that!” Oliver says. “We saw a great gray owl there. Do you know how amazing that is?”

“Is that a rare bird?” asks his mom.

“Rare and endangered, at least in this area,” says Oliver. “Its wingspan can reach 60 inches, Mom. It’s got the longest tail of any known owl, and it’s one of the most skillful hunters.”

“Sounds like you know a lot about these guys.”

“I do. That’s why I don’t think they should build that mall.” He looks down at the article again. “There’s a town council meeting on Tuesday. Can I go?”

“That’s an excellent idea,” says his mother.

But when Oliver bikes over to the meeting, it’s clear no one takes him seriously.

“That’s nice that you’re interested in birds, son,” says the town council president. “Why don’t you write a paper for your science class?”

Oliver blushes; he’s 14 but the town council president is treating him like he’s 5.

“I have pictures of a nest,” he persists. “With eggs in it. Owls are breeding in that area.”

6The president glances at the pictures. “The date stamp on these says 2000; that’s 15 years ago!”

“How could that be? I just took them!” says Oliver. But he knows the camera is old. Maybe there was a malfunction with the mechanism.

“I have no idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting to conduct.”

Oliver leaves the meeting room and goes outside. As he unlocks his bike, the door opens and out steps one of the men from the meeting.

“I’m Ben Hadley, and I wanted to say that what you did in there was great. Not many guys your age would have the courage to speak out like that.”

“But he won’t listen,” Oliver says.

“You’ve got a smartphone, right?” asks Ben. Oliver nods. “Make another trip. Use it to take the pictures that will prove your point.”

That night, Oliver tells his dad about the meeting and the new pictures he needs to take. “Can we go again?”

“Not until next month,” says his father. “I’m flying to Dallas this weekend and Aspen next.”

“Next month is too late,” Oliver says. “The town council is going to vote really soon.”

“I’m sorry I can’t help you, Ollie,” says his dad.

After dinner, Oliver pedals over to see his best friend, Dylan, and tells him the story. “I want to go again, but my dad can’t drive me.”

4“Maybe Jake could take us.” Jake is Dylan’s older brother.

“Really?” Oliver brightens.

“I’ll ask.”


On the way home, Oliver’s mind is busy developing a plan. The geotagging and date/time-stamping features on his cellphone’s camera will prove where and when the pictures were taken. And the GPS coordinates will be included, so he can easily lead the council members to the tree. Now if only Jake will say “yes”!

Two days later, Dylan, Jake and Oliver are driving toward the campsite. The sky is gray and filled with clouds.

“Looks like rain,” says Dylan.

“Hope not,” says Oliver. But he has his phone and a rain poncho. He’ll get those pictures no matter what. Only, when they get to the campsite, Oliver can’t find the Oregon ash that holds the nest.

“It was right here,” he says. They walk round and round, getting nowhere. A light drizzle starts to fall. “You guys head back to the car.”

“No way, dude,” says Dylan. “You know you have to have a buddy.”

Jake goes back to the car to wait while Dylan follows Oliver. Fortunately, he’s got a poncho too.

Oliver remembers the tree had a long branch extending in one direction, like a finger pointing. He’ll find it. And after about 10 minutes, he does. He snaps a picture of the tree. Now it’s raining harder and the wind is blowing. As Oliver nears the tree, a branch smacks him in the face. Ouch!

Dylan waits on the ground as Oliver starts to climb — up, up, up. When Oliver reaches the nest, he sees it’s tilted perilously; on the ground below are three shattered eggs. Only one egg is left. He snaps pictures, puts the phone away and shimmies down.

6But on the way, his poncho gets caught in a branch and tears. Now he’s being pelted by the rain, shirt soaking up the water like a sponge. He lets go too soon and falls with a thud to the ground. When he tries to get up, he can’t — he’s twisted his ankle.

“Are you OK?” Dylan rushes to his side.

“It’s just my ankle,” moans Oliver.

“Call Jake,” Dylan says. “I left my phone in the car.”

Trying to ignore the shooting pain, Oliver pulls out his phone and frantically taps. The battery is now dead! Now what? Can he crawl to the car?

Then he hears his name, and there’s Jake! The boys hoist Oliver up and get him home.

Three days later, Oliver shows up at the town council meeting on crutches. He shows the photos to the members, and even the president has to admit that they are convincing. And using the GPS coordinates contained in the photo files, Ben is able to drive the members to see the nest. Oliver goes along.

“There’s only one egg left,” he says when they arrive. “But inside, there’s a great gray owl ready to hatch.”

“I move that we consider several other sites for the mall,” says Ben.

While the other members are seconding the motion, Oliver looks down where the crushed eggshells are scattered and sees a sleek, gray feather. He picks it up.

It’s from a great gray owl, possibly the one that was nesting in this tree. It’s illegal to keep a feather from an endangered bird, so he sets it down again. But even the sight of it is special, like a gift meant just for him.

Click here for more books by Yona Zeldis McDonough.

Read an Excerpt From the Upcoming Minecraft Novel ‘Quest for Justice’


coverIn 2014, 16-year-old Eagle Scout Sean Fay Wolfe self-published Quest for Justice, book 1 of an epic Minecraft adventure series called the Elementia Chronicles. It quickly became one of the hottest Minecraft books on Amazon, racking up dozens of glowing reviews from readers.

That’s not all. The book also go the attention of big-time publisher HarperCollins who approached Wolfe with an offer to buy and re-publish the book in print. This new version of Quest for Justice hits bookstores July 28. The second book in the trilogy will publish October 27, 2015, with the third to follow on January 26, 2016.

In Quest for Justice, dark forces are at work on the Elementia server, and when new players Stan, Kat and Charlie arrive on the scene, they quickly find themselves in peril. Targeted by more experienced players, the noobs must band together against the king, battle the natural forces of the game, and unravel the mysteries of Elementia in the name of justice.


Read an Excerpt From Quest For Justice

The rain had died down, so they could talk in normal voices again. There was dust in the air now from the explosion, just like the Creeper explosion in the mine on the way to the Adorian Village. But this explosion was much larger, and it had blown a huge fissure in the middle of the road. They were cut off from the other side.

block4“The woods, then?” Stan said in an unnaturally high voice.

They looked at each other. They remembered what Sally had said. The Griefers avoid the main road in case they come across well-armed travelers. Straying off the road would lead them directly into enemy territory.

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous we don’t—” started Charlie, but he was cut off by Kat.

“Don’t kid yourself, Charlie. Stan’s right.” They could tell from her trembling lip that Kat was making a determined effort to keep her cool. “Come on,” she said, and she started into the woods, Rex at her heels, growling in a low tone.

Charlie made a high-pitched squeal, but he forced himself to follow Stan into the forest.

It was dark. Stan could barely make out the neon orange of Kat’s shirt. Every now and then, there was another flash of lightning, and Stan could make out a Spider web, a tree trunk, a Zombie lumbering in the distance.

Suddenly, there was a rustling to Stan’s right. There was something in the underbrush , and it was running straight toward him. “Run!” he yelled, and he started running, hacking branches out of the way with his axe. Kat and Charlie looked confused for a second, but when they heard the rustling they followed suit.

block7Stan burst out of the forest and into the light, now on the other side of the giant crater. Kat burst out right after him, closely followed by Rex and Charlie. Stan whipped out his axe and raised it above his head, Kat drew her sword and dropped in a fighting stance, and Charlie held his pickaxe in trembling hands. Then, the thing that had been chasing them burst into the clearing.

“Are you kidding me? You were scared of this little guy?” laughed Kat as she walked up to the pig and stroked it behind the ears, which it seemed to like. Rex came up to the pig and started sniffing it.

“Honestly, Stan, don’t do that!” said Charlie, his eyes wide, holding his chest. “You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“I’m sorry, all right?” said Stan, but he was smiling. It was a cute little pig. “Kat, get Rex away from that pig. I could use some meat.” At Kat’s command Rex left the pig alone and sat at her feet. “Bye-bye, little guy,” said Stan, and he raised his axe and brought it down on the pig, just as lightning struck.

His axe was countered by a golden sword.

block-2Kat’s jaw dropped, Charlie gave a yelp, and Stan nearly fell back, eyes wide, as he saw the monster that the pig had transformed into upon being struck by lightning.

It was like a player in form, and it had the general color of a pig, but the flesh was rotting off all over its body, and part of its skull was showing through the side of its head. Its ribs stuck out of its stomach. It wore a brown loincloth, and in its hand was a golden sword that was locked against the steel of Stan’s axe. It appeared to Stan to be some king of pig-Zombie hybrid. And it looked mad.

The Pig-Zombie pressed the attack. It swung its sword in complicated patterns and drove Stan backward. Stan tried to counter with his axe, but the attempts were futile. The Pig-Zombie’s golden blade dodged an axe blow and severed the axe’s blade from the handle. Stan’s weapon was destroyed.

Stan danced backward, trying to avoid the sword slices, when a pickaxe flew through the air and embedded itself in the Pig-Zombie’s exposed skull. The attack did no damage whatsoever, but it had the intended effect. The Pig-Zombie turned his attention from Stan and now set its sights on Charlie.

Charlie might have thought through the desperate attack a little better, though. The Pig-Zombie was faster than he anticipated, and Stan watched in horror as the undead warrior rushed in and slashed Charlie’s leg and forehead.

Charlie yelled out in pain, falling to the ground and grabbing his damaged limb and temple. The golden sword rose for the deathblow, but before the inevitable strike, a white blur connected with the Pig-Zombie and it was knocked to the ground.

block5Rex, at Kat’s command, had tackled the Pig-Zombie. There was a moment when the two animals wrestled with each other, attempting to tear out the other’s throat, until Rex was finally overpowered. The dog was thrown to the edge of the crater, where he lay whimpering, unable to get up.

Upon seeing Charlie and her dog in such pain, Kat’s eyes blazed with fury, and she rushed the Pig-Zombie. The iron and golden blades clashed , and the two warriors began to fight. Kat’s skill was incredible, but was matched equally by the Pig-Zombie. And Kat was at an obvious disadvantage. She managed to slash the Pig-Zombie across the stomach once, but all that did was make some of its flesh fall off, not slowing it down in the least.

Stan felt hopeless. His axe was broken, Charlie was on the verge of death, and Kat was beginning to wear out as she fought the Pig-Zombie. It was clear that it would take an incredibly powerful attack to finish off the Pig-Zombie, like an explosion of some sorts, like …


Purchase Quest For Justice on July 28.

Get a Sneak Peek at ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School’


The upcoming Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School won’t be in bookstores until Nov. 3, but we’ve got a sneak peek at the 10th book in Jeff Kinney’s bestselling series today.

What’s it all about? Here’s the synopsis:

Life was better in the old days. Or was it? That’s the question Greg Heffley is asking as his town voluntarily unplugs and goes electronics-free. But modern life has its conveniences, and Greg isn’t cut out for an old-fashioned world.

With tension building inside and outside the Heffley home, will Greg find a way to survive? Or is going “old school” just too hard for a kid like Greg?

Read an Excerpt from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School

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Find out how to order the book here.