5 Star Wars Books To Read Now That You’ve Seen ‘The Force Awakens’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Star Wars: Before the Awakening


Star Wars: Before the Awakening focuses on the lives of Star Wars: The Force Awakens lead characters Rey, Finn and Poe before the events of the movie. Presented in three sections, each tells the interesting and mysterious origins of the now-beloved characters. Find out how Rey got her staff, why Finn is a Stormtrooper and where Poe learned to fly so well.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


This is the official novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Set years after Return of the Jedi, this stunning new action-packed adventure rockets us back into the world of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker, while introducing a host of exciting new characters.

Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent. Yet the simple belief in good can still empower ordinary individuals to rise and meet the greatest challenges.

 Star Wars: Lost Stars


This thrilling Young Adult novel gives readers a macro view of some of the most important events in the Star Wars universe, from the rise of the Rebellion to the fall of the Empire. Readers will experience these major moments through the eyes of two childhood friends — Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell — who have grown up to become an Imperial officer and a Rebel pilot. Now on opposite sides of the war, will these two old friends reunite, or will duty tear them — and the galaxy — apart?

Star Wars: Lost Stars also includes all-new post-Star Wars: Return of the Jedi content, as well as hints and clues about the Star Wars: The Force Awakens, making this a must-read for all Star Wars fans.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary


The definitive guide to the characters, droids, aliens, and creatures of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Beautiful photography and never-before-read text names and explains all the details of costumes, weapons and accessories.

The book also includes three exclusive, specially commissioned cutaway models produced by Industrial Light & Magic model maker John Goodson.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections


See the vehicles of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in unparalleled detail with this newest addition to the Star Wars Incredible Cross Sections series. Twelve enormous artworks bring the new craft to life, showing all of the weapons, engines, and technology, while engaging text explains each vehicle’s backstory and key features.

Read Chapter 1 of ‘The Extra Yard’ by Mike Lupica


There are few books that accurately capture the grit, realism, competition and overall chaos of youth sports. But bestselling author Mike Lupica’s Home Team series of novels is promising to become one of the best examples of believable and entertaining sports fiction.

The second novel in the series, The Extra Yard, tackles football as we learn more about Teddy as his friendship with Jack, Cassie and Gus continues off the baseball field and onto the football field. Here’s the gist:

the-extra-yard-9781481410007_hrLast spring Teddy’s life changed for the better. He started working out, shaping up, and even earned a spot on the Walton baseball team, and with the team he went all the way to the Little League World Series. But the best things to come out of that season were his friendships with Jack, Cassie, and Gus, and the confidence to finally try out for the sport he really loves—football. So when eighth grade begins, Teddy couldn’t be more psyched.

Until his mom drops a bomb: his father—who left them a long time ago—is back in Walton and back in their lives. And Teddy isn’t happy about it. As a former star football player at the school, Teddy’s dad is thrilled to find out his son is going out for the team, but Teddy begins to wonder if his father only cares about him now because he’s putting on the helmet. Can Teddy find a way to go the extra yard for the team and for himself, or is the distance between him and his father too much to overcome?

Sound good? Scroll down to listen to the audio version of the first chapter from The Extra Yard. Keep scrolling to find the printed excerpt of Chapter 1.


Listen to Chapter 1 of The Extra Yard


The Extra Yard

Chapter 1

Teddy Madden felt better about himself than he ever had before. Even though he was scared out of his mind.

He was starting eighth grade next week, but he wasn’t scared about starting another year in school. He was actually excited about that.

He was scared about football.

In two days he had tryouts for the Walton Wildcats, a new football team for the best kids his age, even though he had never played a game of organized football before.

He kept telling himself he was in the best shape of his life. In the past he’d joked that he had no shape, other than maybe a blob. He had a good attitude about sports for the first time. That was thanks to his friend Jack Callahan.

It was Jack who’d nominated himself last spring to become Teddy’s personal trainer. Jack basically told Teddy he was going to get in shape or else.

Teddy hated the workouts at first. But slowly he came to like them, and then love them. Mostly he loved the way they made him feel good about himself. Before then, he just figured self-esteem was for somebody else’s self. Not anymore. Teddy felt good, and not just about being in this kind of shape. He and Jack weren’t just teammates. They were friends.

They were boys.

Teddy thought of himself as a whole new kid: Teddy Madden 2.0. So maybe it figured he would have new friends, too, like Jack and Gus Morales and Cassie Bennett. Cassie was the star of girls’ sports in Walton the way Jack was for boys’.

Once Teddy started to get himself into shape, a lot of things began to happen, both in sports and in his life. For one thing, he ended up the catcher on the Walton baseball team, the Rays, which had made it all the way to the United States final of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Everybody on the team would always think they would have won the final if Jack had been able to pitch. But the Rays needed him in the semifinal, where he’d pitched a one-hitter in beating a team from Toledo. In the final the Rays fell behind 7–1. They came all the way back to tie, before losing in the bottom of the last inning to a pretty great team from Las Vegas.

Because of the way they had come back, though, they left Williamsport feeling as if they’d won something. Teddy was pretty sure that in Walton, people who’d watched their games on ESPN would always remember the near no-hitter Jack had pitched, and that big comeback against Las Vegas.

“The more you play,” Jack said when they got home, “you find out there’s more than one way to keep score in sports.”

That baseball season had started with the old Teddy, the out-of-shape and overweight Teddy. He was a blob-shaped spectator. But he had ended up in Williamsport, hitting a two-run double to tie Vegas at 7–7. It was the kind of hit you always dreamed about hitting, in the big game, on national television. Teddy Madden had gotten that hit. Even if it wasn’t enough to win that game for his team, he’d still gotten that hit.

By then, nobody was calling him by his old nickname: Teddy Bear.

On the baseball field behind Walton Middle School, one that Jack and Teddy were now using to play football, Jack said to Teddy, “We’re going to need a new nickname for you.”

It was just the two of them on a Thursday morning, the end of the last week before school. They threw Teddy’s new football around on a field that was so close to his house it was almost like an extension of his backyard.

They took a quick break after going at it hard for an hour, sat on the grass, and drank Gatorade out of the bottles they’d brought. Teddy knew their rest period wouldn’t last long. It never did with Jack Callahan.

“The one nickname I had before was more than enough,” Teddy said. “You know how big my mom is on gluten-free food? My plan is to be nickname free.”

Jack acted as if he hadn’t even heard him. “How about Teddy the Tiger?”

“You make me sound like I should be telling you to eat your cereal,” Teddy said. “And really? A tiger on a team called the Wildcats?”

“Excellent point,” Jack said. He thought for a moment, frowning. “How about Terrible Ted?”

“Would I have to carry one of the Steelers’ Terrible Towels?”

“This might turn out to be harder than I thought.”

“You’re not hearing me,” Teddy said. “I don’t want a nickname. And by the way? You seem to be surviving without a nickname, except when Gus calls you Star.”

“Which I hate.”

“The way I hated Teddy Bear!” Teddy said. “It always made me feel like I was the class mascot, not just the class clown.”

“I never thought you were either one,” Jack said. “I always thought there was a warrior waiting to break out.”

“A warrior?” Teddy said. “Are we getting ready to play football games, or video games? What do you think this is, Call of Duty?”

“Little bit,” Jack said.

“Still don’t know why you thought of me that way,” Teddy said “A would-be warrior.”

“I’m very observant,” Jack said.

“So you can probably use those powers of observation to see how nervous I am about the day after tomorrow.”

“You’re going to make the team.”

“You say.”

“I know,” Jack said.

“What if I start dropping passes all over the place?”

“You don’t drop them when I throw them to you here, you’re not going to drop them at Holzman.”

Holzman Field was the field where the Wildcats would play their home games, in a brand-new elite league for their part of the country called All-American Football. The kids who didn’t make the Wildcats would play on Walton’s Pop Warner team.

“I wish I was as confident in me as you are,” Teddy said.

“But even if I don’t make the Wildcats, at least I know I’ll get to play Pop Warner.”

Jack said, “You know that nickname you just said you hated? Let’s not turn back into that guy now.”

He casually reached over with his right fist. Teddy knuckle-bumped him.

“Okay?” Jack said.

“I’m still nervous.”

“There’s a good nervous in sports,” Jack said. “I feel it all the time.”

“You don’t show it.”

Jack laughed. “Clearly you’re not as observant as I am.”

“How do you tell the difference between nerves and choking?”

Jack shrugged. “No clue,” he said. “Choking’s not in my vocab. And it’s not gonna be in yours.”

As good as Jack was in sports, he was even better as a friend.

Teddy didn’t care that Gus and Jack had been friends longer, or that Jack and Cassie were as close as a boy and girl could be without being boyfriend and girlfriend, at least not yet. When it came to Jack, Teddy just knew the most important thing you could know:

He could count on Jack.

And Jack knew he could count on Teddy.

Maybe it was because they’d been through so much together in a year. Teddy had been there for Jack when he’d briefly quit the baseball team, back when Jack was still blaming himself for the death of his older brother, Brad, in a dirt-bike accident, even though it wasn’t Jack’s fault at all.

But even while that was going on, and as much pain as Jack was in, it was Jack who stepped up one day at gym class and told the other guys to stop picking on Teddy because of his weight. Then he hadn’t just helped Teddy to get into really good shape, he’d also helped Teddy find the confidence to face down his fears. And there were a lot of them at the time: fear of sports, fear of making friends, even a fear of heights.

Jack was also the first person Teddy had ever opened up to about his fear of being different from most of the kids he knew because he’d grown up without his dad around. His parents had divorced when Teddy was barely four years old, and his father moved all the way across the country to Oregon. Teddy saw him once a year, if that.

It was why Teddy had always made jokes like some kind of shield. In the process he had also kept other kids from getting close to him. At least until Jack had come along. He hadn’t given Teddy much of a choice. They were going to be boys, Teddy just had to deal with it.

Now here they were, just the two of them, halftime in another one of their workouts. Sometimes Gus would join them. But he couldn’t today: he had a doctor’s appointment for his school physical. Jack and Teddy were planning to meet up with Gus and Cassie later and figure out how they wanted to spend one of their last days of summer vacation.

There was no real plan. They didn’t need one, and that was one of the best parts of summer. It was practically a rule that you had nowhere you really needed to be until the first day of school. Or the first day of football practice.

Provided you made the team, of course.

This year Teddy couldn’t separate the start of school and the start of football in his head. He’d been marking time from the end of baseball—and the parade down Main Street in Walton the mayor had organized for them when they’d gotten home from Williamsport—until football tryouts at Holzman.

Even with his great spring and summer in baseball, from the time he’d started working out with Jack, his dream was to be a football player.

In two days he would officially get his chance.

Football was why he had pushed himself to get into shape. Football was Teddy’s goal. Jack said you needed to set goals for yourself in sports. He was sure Teddy would be the starter for the Wildcats at tight end.

He told him that again now.

“How about I just make the team first?” Teddy said.

“You’re going to make the team, you’re going to start, you’re going to be one of my primary receivers.”

“Have you been out in the sun too long today?” Teddy said. “Are you starting to feel light-headed?”

Jack shrugged. “Make your little jokes,” he said. “My parents just say I’m highly motivated.”

“Or maybe just dehydrated?” Teddy said.

“You want to have that attitude?” Jack said, picking up the ball and jumping to his feet.

“Go long, sucker.”

Teddy tossed his Gatorade bottle aside. “I can do that,” he said.

Running came easily to Teddy now, after all the laps he and Jack had been running on the track. Jack had even gotten Teddy doing his interval training: sprinting, then slowing down to a jog, then sprinting even harder than before.

When they’d finished the first time, Teddy had said to Jack, “I used to think intervals were just the time between snacks.”

But in the late morning, the sun already high in the sky, Teddy ran as hard as he could, from rightfield toward left. He knew it was impossible to outrun Jack Callahan’s right arm. So he just put his head down, trusting Jack would let him know when he should turn back for the ball.

“Now!” he heard Jack yell.

Teddy turned back and looked up at the same time, saw the ball in the air, another perfect spiral. He reached for it, secured it with his big hands—“mitts,” Jack called them—and then pulled the ball tight to his chest.

Teddy kept running with the ball until he reached the fence in the left-field corner. In that moment he just wanted to keep going, run through the fence or try to jump over it. The feeling he had, he wanted that feeling to last, he wanted to imagine the green grass out here stretching out in front of him forever. You always heard the announcers on television talking about receivers “running in space.” That was what Teddy felt then. Like he was the one running in space.

Or just floating through it.

From the across the field Jack shouted, “Are you planning on coming back anytime soon?”

“If I come back,” Teddy shouted back, “I know what you’re going to say.”


“Go long again.”

“Exactly!” Jack said.

When Teddy got back to him, he said to Jack, “You went a lot easier on me when you felt sorry for me.”

“No way,” Jack said. “You didn’t need me to do that, because you were too busy feeling sorry for yourself.”

“Excellent point.”

The truth was, and they both knew it, they were both feeling pretty sorry for themselves when they first became friends, even though they didn’t know that was what they were doing at the time. There was the day when Jack just got tired of the other guys picking on Teddy, how funny the other guys thought it was when Teddy ended up on the floor during a game of dodgeball. Jack went over and helped Teddy up, in more ways than one.

But around the same time, Teddy helped Jack get up too and stop blaming himself for his brother’s accident. Teddy finally helped convince Jack that Brad Callahan, as reckless as he was, with dirt bikes and everything else, was an accident waiting to happen. Jack didn’t need anybody to pick on him, because he was doing way too good a job beating himself up.

“I found out the hard way,” Jack liked to say now. “It’s not about getting knocked down, it’s how you get back up.”

He and Teddy had done that.


Jack threw Teddy another deep ball, telling him to angle toward the infield this time, like he was running a deep post pattern. On this one, Teddy had to slow down a little to catch the ball in stride.

“Arm getting a little tired there,” he said.

“We’ll see how tired I look the next time I knock you over with a short pass,” Jack said.

That was the thing about Jack. As cool a kid as he was, he was cocky, too. He just managed to do a good job hiding it from people. But it was always there.

“I take it back!” Teddy said, laughing. “Please don’t hurt me!”

Teddy knew the drill with Jack Callahan: you were never just throwing the ball around. There was a purpose to everything he did. To him, this was a real practice. So they ran some short slants, the ones Jack was sure would be in their playbook this season. Jack practiced taking a one-step drop after being snapped the ball by an imaginary center, straightening up, hitting Teddy in the gut with passes that sometimes knocked the wind out of him.

They alternated those with quick outs. Then Jack told Teddy to go deep again. When they decided to stop for good, they stretched out on their backs in the outfield grass, both out of breath.

They were silent for a while, feeling the sun on their faces, until Jack said, “How much taller are you than when you started seventh grade?”

“My mom says four inches. Maybe five.”

“You, my friend, are going to be a matchup nightmare. You’re built like a tight end, but you’re as fast as a wide receiver.”

“How about we find out if I can catch like this at the tryouts before you send me to the Hall of Fame in Canton?” Teddy said. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe I’m not ready for this? It’s not like I made the baseball team. I just turned out to be an emergency catcher after Scott Sutter got hurt.”

Jack propped his head up in his hand and looked at him. “Blah, blah, blah,” he said. “When the old Teddy starts talking, I can’t hear a word.”

Teddy nodded. “Old habits.”

“Forget about old habits, or the old Teddy. You can do this. We can do it together.”

“We’re a team now.”

“Just like baseball,” Jack said. “I pitch, you catch.”

Jack said he’d wait while Teddy dropped the ball off at his house, and then they’d call Gus and Cassie and meet them at Cassie’s. Teddy ran the short distance to his house, the ball under his arm again. He smiled as he ran, knowing he should feel tired, but not feeling tired at all.

He just felt happy.

At least he did until he got to his back porch, looked up, and saw his father standing there.

“Hey, champ,” David Madden said.


Read an Excerpt From ‘Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics’


That wacky game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, is back! That’s right, a puzzle-packed sequel to the award-winning New York Times bestseller Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is in stores now.

This time, Mr. Lemoncello has invited teams from all across America to compete in the first ever Library Olympics. But something suspicious is going on . . . books are missing from Mr. Lemoncello’s library. Is someone trying to censor what the kids are reading? In between figuring out mind-boggling challenges, the kids will have to band together to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Can Mr. Lemoncello find the real defenders of books and champions of libraries? Packed with puzzles, clues, and thrilling surprises, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics is one action-packed read.

Read the first chapter from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics

[gview file=”https://boyslifeorg.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/lemoncello-library-olympics_excerpt-for-boys-life.pdf”]

© 2016 by Chris Grabenstein. Published by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

New Trailer For ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

Harry Potter fans rejoice! There’s a brand-new Harry Potter movie coming soon. Well … kind of. J.K. Rowling’s 2001 book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is finally getting a big-screen adaptation. It’s not exactly a ‘Harry Potter’ book, but it takes place in the same universe.

It’s written as if it’s Harry’s textbook from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and includes several notes inside it supposedly handwritten by Harry and his best friend Ron Weasley about things they did in the book.

The movie will be about the book’s writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.And, yes, it’ll feature lots of cool wizards and crazy creatures.

Boys’ Life Fiction: ‘The Chase’ by Todd Strasser


Fiction by Todd Strasser | Illustrations by Michal Lisowski


“Will you look at that,” Daggoo muttered.

“What is it?” Elijah asked.

The big sailor with the dyed yellow hair and flame tattoos rising from his eyebrows didn’t answer. Instead, he quietly crept toward the bow of the chase boat.

Fifty yards away, a creature floated on the blue ocean surface as if napping while it absorbed the sun’s heat through the black hide of its back. The span of its black wings was at least 12 feet.

In the bow, Daggoo silently wrapped a large, rough hand around the grip of the tag pole. “Get us closer,” he hissed.

Elijah had never operated a chase boat. Back on Earth, anything this large was strictly autonomous. Otherwise, there was far too much likelihood of accidents.

“But —” he began to protest.

“Do it!” Daggoo snapped impatiently.

“It’s a terrafin. No one’s ever tagged one before.”

His heart beating its way up into his throat, Elijah stepped uncertainly behind the controls. Back on the ship, he’d heard talk of terrafins, rare and mysterious creatures only recently discovered here on Cretacea.

He placed one hand on the cold steel wheel and the other on the thruster lever. As he gradually nudged the lever forward, a humming sound came from the engine compartment and the boat began to slowly creep ahead.

Daggoo frowned, then nodded sharply, signaling that he wanted to go faster. Elijah pressed the thruster harder. Suddenly, the engine’s hum became an angry whine and the chase boat lurched forward. Daggoo stumbled backward, just managing to catch himself before he fell.

Elijah quickly yanked on the thruster. The chase boat shuddered, and the next thing he knew, they were starting to reverse! He pushed the lever forward again. This time the engine coughed and stalled.

A small cloud of white smoke rose from the engine compartment. The chase boat drifted silently on the ocean’s surface. Daggoo glared at Elijah, and then at the spot where the beast had been. All that remained was a circle of ever-widening ripples.

“Way to go, greenhorn,” the big sailor snarled angrily.

Elijah knew it wasn’t his fault. You couldn’t expect someone who’d never driven anything to know how to operate a chase boat. Nonetheless, he felt bad and wished his parents had never sent him to this planet to begin with.

His father said it would be an exciting vacation with Uncle Ahab, the captain of the Essex, a research vessel studying the migratory habits of large seagoing creatures.

But now Elijah decided that as soon as they got back to the ship, he would tell his uncle that he wanted to go home.

A few moments later, Elijah sat on the bench seat and held tight while Daggoo stood at the controls, steering the chase boat toward the Essex.

The exotic sensation of wind and spray was in Elijah’s face as the boat splashed over the waves. It was a far cry from the protected, quiet world of his domed city back home.

Too bad. Cretacea might have been an infinitely more beautiful and interesting planet than gray, arid, environmentally devastated Earth, but it wasn’t for him.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Elijah thought he saw something leap into the air and splash back into the sea. He turned just in time to see the terrafin’s long rope-thin tail disappear below the surface. Elijah glanced back at Daggoo, but the sailor’s eyes were fixed on the Essex in the distance.

When the beast leapt a second time, Elijah quickly pointed. Daggoo swiveled his head and, an instant later, cut the engine. Riding the ghost of momentum, the chase boat drifted forward.

chb4CeWas Daggoo thinking about trying again? Elijah looked up into the big sailor’s eyes and saw uncertainty, as if he was debating whether another attempt would be a waste of time.

Elijah tried to tell himself that he didn’t care whether they tried for the beast or not. But it didn’t feel right.

His father had always said that quitting was never the answer. Deep inside, he wanted another chance. Not because he felt he needed to prove anything to Daggoo, but because it was the right thing to do.

He stood up and gestured silently for Daggoo to get the tag pole. The big sailor rolled his eyes doubtfully, but proceeded to the bow.

A moment later, Elijah was once more at the controls. A hundred yards away, the terrafin had again settled quietly on the surface. In the bow, Daggoo turned to Elijah and gave him a curious scowl as if wondering what the boy planned to do.

“Hold on,” Elijah warned and pushed the thruster forward.

When the chase boat jumped ahead, Daggoo had to grab a rail to steady himself. It must have seemed to him that Elijah thought he could speed straight up to the beast without spooking it. But just as the big sailor angrily swiveled around to yell at him, Elijah cut the engine and let the boat glide.

An instant later, the chase boat was slipping silently ahead, getting closer and closer to the unsuspecting beast.

Daggoo blinked with astonishment, then again kneeled down in the bow, gripping the tag pole tightly.

They glided nearer. … Suddenly Daggoo heaved the pole forward, harmlessly pinning the positioning and data storage tag to the base of the small dorsal fin near the terrafin’s tail.

With a splash, the startled creature vanished into the deep blue depths, leaving a swirl of froth on the smooth surface of the ocean. But no matter where it went, the marine scientists aboard the Essex would now be able to track it, and learn about its feeding and migratory habits.

Standing in the bow with his hands on his hips, Daggoo turned to Elijah, a smile slowly working its way into his lips. With an approving nod, he said, “Good work. Take us back to the ship, sailor.”

Elijah returned the smile and pressed the thruster lever forward.

“Aye aye, Sir.”


About author Todd Strasser

Todd Strasser is an award-winning author of more than 140 books for tweens and teens. his latest is The Beast of Cretacea, a futuristic reimagining of Moby Dick. Here’s more about The Beast of Cretacea:

BookCoverWhen seventeen-year-old Ishmael wakes up from stasis aboard the Pequod, he is amazed by how different this planet is from the dirty, dying, Shroud-covered Earth he left behind. But Ishmael isn’t on Cretacea to marvel at the fresh air, sunshine, and endless blue ocean. He’s here to work, risking his life to hunt down great ocean-dwelling beasts to harvest and send back to the resource-depleted Earth.

Even though easy prey abounds, time and again the chase boat crews are ordered to ignore it in order to pursue the elusive Great Terrafin. It’s rumored that the ship’s captain, Ahab, lost his leg to the beast years ago, and that he’s now consumed by revenge. But there may be more to Captain Ahab’s obsession. Dark secrets and dangerous exploits swirl around the pursuit of the beast, and Ishmael must do his best to survive—if he can.

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.

Don’t Miss These Seriously Spooky Books


What better way to celebrate the spookiest time of the year than with a few scary books. Here’s a few of the best Halloween books ever written.

51YpY9BT-PL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_The Witches by Roald Dahl

This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches. Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them.

Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories—but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah Howe

515MBTEMKYL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_It all began when the Monroes went to see the movie Dracula. At the theater Toby (the son) found something on his seat: a baby rabbit that he took home and named Bunnicula. Soon though, the family started noticing strange things about the new bunny.
For one, thing he seemed to have fangs. And the odd markings on his back looked a little like a cape. Furthermore, Bunnicula was awake only at night. Was Bunnicula really a vampire? Only Bunnicula knows for sure.

harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-cover-imageHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradburyhalloweentree

A group of eight boys set out to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, only to discover that a ninth friend, Pipkin, has been whisked away on a journey that could determine whether he lives or dies. Through the help of a mysterious character named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, they pursue their friend across time and space through Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, and Roman cultures, Celtic Druidism, Notre Dame Cathedral in Medieval Paris, and The Day of the Dead in Mexico. Along the way, they learn the origins of the holiday that they celebrate, and the role that the fear of death, spooks and the haunts has played in shaping civilization.

51gQrGXfEnL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Coraline by Neil Gaiman

When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own . . . except that it’s different. It’s a marvelous adventure until Coraline discovers that there’s also another mother and another father in the house. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to keep her forever!

Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz51rg-Zr1+AL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm (and Grimm-inspired) fairy tales. An irreverent, witty narrator leads us through encounters with witches, warlocks, dragons, and the devil himself. As the siblings roam a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind the famous tales, as well as how to take charge of their destinies and create their own happily ever after. Because once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.


All About ‘Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular’


Smart siblings — and amateur scientists — Nick and Tesla Holt are back in another STEM-focused adventure. In Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular, you’ll not only solve a tricky mystery, but also get to try a few science projects along the way. By Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Quirk; $12.95 hardcover. All ages.

Learn more here.

Cool Book Alert: Guinness World Records 2016 Edition



To celebrate the release of the Guinness World Records 2016 Edition, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the lesser-known Guinness World Records. Who doesn’t love reading about cool Guinness World Records? From the tallest human to the most expensive car to the fastest roller coaster, Guinness has been collecting epic world records for more than 60 years. So, without further ado, take a look at the twelve oddest, most bizarre world records I could find.

Longest Fingernails on a Single Hand

Most Balls Caught By a Dog in One Minute

Heaviest Weight Lifted With the Tongue

Loudest Purring Cat

Most Walnuts Smashed with a Nunchuks in One Minute

World’s Heaviest Strawberry

Fastest Tortoise

Fastest Time To Pierce Four Coconuts with One Finger

Most Bananas Snapped In One Minute

World’s Tallest Cow

Fastest Time To Type Using the Nose

Most Keys Removed From a Keyring By a Parrot

Bnus: Tallest Staircase Built In One Minute In Minecraft

OK, this one’s not that weird. But it seems like something one of you Minecraft experts might be able to top. Do you think it’s possible to break it? Take a look: