Authors: Maria V. Snyder
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, or events is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT© 2013 by Maria V. Snyder
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Leap Books except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
Maria V. Snyder
pgs. 186-7, 195-6, 198, 203, 206,
218-9; all other graphics by Leap Books
First Leap Edition 2013
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013950448
Published in the United States of America
New York Times
Author Maria V. Snyder’s
“Best selling author Maria V. Snyder’s debut novel for young readers, STORM WATCHER, is a thrilling, heart-warming canine caper. Thirteen-year-old Luke loves dogs and is fascinated with weather data—but storms terrify him. With lightning-quick action, humor, and lots of dogs, STORM WATCHER will delight young readers. Also the scientific and math insights into weather will appeal to educators and inspire readers to create their own weather science projects. Highly recommended!”
Linda Joy Singleton
, author of THE SEER
and DEAD GIRL series
“Snyder’s lightning strikes again with STORM WATCH-ER’s tale of ordinary people fighting to become heroes in the face of things they fear most. Luke’s story is by turns funny, touching, and achingly real, as Snyder harnesses a lifetime of expertise about meteorology, dogs, and life in small towns.”
, author of the DARKBEAST series
“STORM WATCHER is a brilliant and beautiful tale of how the simple, honest love of a dog can help a lonely boy find his way out of the darkness. Subtle, powerful and highly recommended.”
, New York Times Bestselling author of FIRE & ASH and ROT & RUIN
Also by Maria V. Snyder
Touch of Power
Scent of Magic
Taste of Darkness
Where to start? I guess I should go way back and thank the lady who hired me to work in her kennel a long time ago during the summer between graduating college and working as a meteorologist. Is it terrible that I can’t remember her name, but I can remember all the dogs’ names? I love dogs and working with more than fifty of them was the
job, aside from writing, that I ever had. Plus the experience eventually led to this book.
I also want to thank my writing critique group that helped me with this story. Without the guidance and encouragement from the York Muse and Schmooze critique group when I was a member, I wouldn’t be a published author today. Thanks so much, Shawn, Laurie, Julie, Lisa, Anne, Steve, Maggie, Lori, Kim, Jackie, Mike, and Nancy. I miss you guys!
Special thanks to Kat O’Shea for all her hard work (and then some) in getting this story in tip-top shape! And thanks to Ahyoung Moon for the perfect cover.
A big thank you goes to my family. To my husband, Rodney for all the support and for bragging about me to everyone he meets. Thanks to my daughter, Jenna, for her feedback on teen speak and inspiration – Sumo Kitty is for you. And a huge thank you to my Luke. His humor and wit not only make me laugh, but inspire me to add humor to my stories.
This one is for Luke, my goofy son who is not the Luke in the story because my Luke likes cats (I blame his father) and is proud to be the annoying older brother.
In memory of Julie Good, a talented writer and exceptional woman, who was instrumental in my success. Thank you for everything, Julie. You won’t be forgotten.
Mutant Fur Ball
Everything changed the day Luke’s mom died. No surprise, right? Of course things changed. He’d be stupid to expect anything else. But what surprised him the most was what
Luke hovered on the edge of the American Kennel Club’s tracking event, invisible to all but a few. People and dogs milled about, waiting for their turn to run the course and follow scent trails laid in a large grassy field. Barks, yips, and growls mixed with the buzz of voices and the louder calls of handlers encouraging their pets to stay on the trail and earn their tracking certificates.
Luke had been to dozens of these events, and nothing was different about today’s show. Actually since school ended five days ago, he should be ecstatic. But the familiar noise of the AKC event drummed in his hollow chest. He wanted to scream at everyone. To tell them to stop and realize a person was missing. A woman who had embarrassed him with her loud cheering, unwanted advice, and sideline coaching as if she knew more than the dog’s handlers – she didn’t.
Instead, he listened to his older twin brothers act all big and bad – another thing that hadn’t changed.
“What’s that white speck?” Jacob asked Scott, pointing at a group of handlers and dogs.
“Mutant fur ball come to life. Coughed up by our very own Hounddog. Isn’t that right, Hounddog?” Scott leaned over and rubbed the long ears of the bloodhound panting at his feet. “You stay away from that little fur ball, Hounddog. That’s no squeaky toy.”
Luke sighed. His brothers acted so cool, but their non-stop chatter meant they were nervous. This was the first time their dogs, Hounddog and Moondoggie, would run an official AKC course.
“Hey, isn’t that one of those papillons?” Scott asked Luke.
Squinting into the bright sunlight, Luke studied the mutant fur ball in question. Small with white long hair, black ears, and black patches around her eyes, she stood out amid the beefy German shepherds, bloodhounds, and retrievers, who waited for their turn to sniff the trail.
“Yeah,” Luke said. “Except it’s pronounced
.” He didn’t add the name meant
in French. It’d result in instant teasing from the twins.
the dog you want for your birthday?” Jacob asked with a laugh. “It’d be either squished or eaten by one of our bloods as soon as you brought it home.”
“Papillons are good trackers,” Luke said in the dog’s defense.
“No way Dad will agree,” Scott added. “You’d better stick to a bloodhound.”
But the thought of owning a bloodhound failed to excite Luke. They already owned three. And when Luke and Mom had researched the various dog breeds last year, they’d discovered the petite papillon.
The breed had all the qualities of a bloodhound, but in a small, powerful package. And the idea of owning one appealed to him. Maybe because a papillon looked like the exact opposite of a bloodhound. Maybe because his brothers had accused him of being a copycat since…forever. Maybe because his Mom had loved the idea.
“This dog is just what you’re looking for.” Mom had tapped the computer screen with excitement. “Papillons are friendly, intelligent, tough, and have a strong instinct to protect. Just like you.”
“Yes, you. Remember when you were four and Alicia Weber was picking on Scott and you jumped between them and chased her off?” Mom laughed.
Luke didn’t, but this was one of Mom’s favorite stories.
“You were half her size, but, boy, she was scared of you. The papillon might be small, but I’d bet she’d stand up to the bloodhounds.”
“It’d be nice to have another female around the house,” Mom joked.
Luke spun a pencil around, both thrilled and nervous about the idea. “Dad wouldn’t like it.”