Table of Contents
GROSSET & DUNLAP
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Text copyright Â© 2009 by Laura Dower. Illustrations copyright Â© 2009 by
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved. Published by Grosset & Dunlap,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York
10014. GROSSET & DUNLAP is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2009022925
eISBN : 978-1-101-16271-2
For Steve: My #1 fan, friend, and twin brother.
To St. Joseph's fourth-grade class,
who never met a fairy-tale writing
assignment they didn't like: NoÃ«l,
Estelle, Alena, Claire, Aidan,
John, & Jack.
I was in the car on the way to my Tuesday night karate class with Mom and all I could think about was this crazy dream I had the night before.
In the dream, I ran up this mountain that looked a lot like Nerve Mountain here in Riddle. Someone was watching me; I could feel it. I ran faster and faster and faster untilâ
!âI tripped and fell into this prickly bush. I picked myself up out of the bush, but just as I was about to make my clean getaway, my left foot got wedged between two rocks! I tried and tried to pull it out, but it wouldn't budge. And then a low, eerie moaning sound filled the air. A giant shadow loomed over me. Quickly, I glanced up and realized (just as quickly) that I was standing eye to eye with . . .
There were at least one thousand oooey, gooey, squishy, squashy, bloodshot eyeballs staring right at me! I jumped up into the air and twisted aroundâready to kick. Unfortunately, before I could scissor my legs, my body got heavier and heavier and eventually I couldn't . . .
“HOLY SMOKES! I CAN'T MOOOOOOOVE!”
All at once, I woke up, gasping for air. My bedroom was so dark, but then I saw the shimmery outline of my stuffed snake collection at the foot of my bed.
I was not dreaming anymore. I was home in the middle of Riddle. Everything was back to normal; or at least
for Riddle, which really wasn't saying much.
Riddle is, after all, home to some pretty weird stuff.
There's the three-legged dog at the library that growls at kids who have overdue books. There's the seriously haunted Petroglyph Mall.
And then there's Oswald Leery, B-Monster movie director, who lives way up on Nerve Mountain in his very own fortress. Leery Castle is this creepy-cool place with turrets and hidden passageways and loads of secrets.
Once upon a time, Leery discovered that when someone watched one of his original B-Monster movie reels, a B-Monster would escape from that scary movie world into the real world. Leery and his associate Walter Block tried to capture escaped B-Monsters, but they just didn't have the muscle or instinct to get the job done on their own. They needed help! So Leery got a brilliant idea: Gather up a team of kids to catch the monsters on the loose. He called it the Monster Squad and handpicked four of us to be in the group: me, Lindsey Gomez, Jesse Ranger, and Damon Molloy. We're all in the fifth grade together at Riddle Elementary. When we're not studying, it's our job to blast, stomp, or vaporize escaped B-Monsters into oblivion.
Of course it made perfect sense that Leery wanted me to be in the Monster Squad. After all, I'm smart and most kids at school already call me Ninja. Plus, I have serious,
connections to the B-Monsters. I've seen all of Leery's B-Monster movies at least twice. I have a collection of
magazines. I'm even
to one of the actresses who appeared in the movies. My Great Aunt San San acted in at least sixty-three of them.
And now I was having dreams about them. The weird thing was, I never even saw a movie with the B-Monster from my dream. I had only seen him once or maybe twiceâin photographs from my mom's photo album.
Mom has all these old photos of my Aunt San San, and I think that monster was in a few of them.
Still, it was so random to have dreamed about a monster I'd never even thought about. I couldn't help but wonder if it was a sign.
Mom floored the gas pedal and I jerked forward. She barely made it through a yellow light and we swerved into the parking lot at Dojo Academy with a loud squeal. Through our car window, I saw the other kids in my class head through the glass doors to the karate school.
“See ya, Mom,” I said, grabbing my stuff, and hopping out of the car.
As I zipped into the building, the woman behind the big, curved oak desk (I fondly call her Front Desk Lady) shot me a look.
“Karateka!” she barked. “Geiko! Go! GEIKO!”
means practice and mine was starting right then so there was no time to waste. Quickly, I dumped my grappling bag on the floor and unpacked my ear guards.
Grappling is way more than just karate kicks and chops. It includes some seriously complicatedâand dangerousâwrestling moves. That's why we wear all the protective equipment. Sensei, the head teacher at Dojo Academy, is a firm believer in safety.
Since I've been taking karate lessons from the time I was four, I've worked my way up the ranks through blue, green, orange, and red belts. Now I'm
to getting my black belt. Sensei says he thinks I'm almost there, but I have to do well at the Dojo Academy Karate Invitational next week. Here's the rule: At Dojo Academy, no one under age thirteen has ever been permitted to get the black belt. I think I may be the very first eleven-year-old to do it. Fingers crossed.
I bared my teeth and furrowed my eyebrows in the mirror. I had to look as tough as possible to succeed in this class.
“Less wolf, more tiger,” Sensei whispered as he passed behind me. “Nice effort.”
I nodded and took a deep breath. Then I threw my arms up.
My hands chopped at the air like a propeller.
“Hey, Min! Not like that!” shouted an annoying but familiar voice.
“Brick! I didn't see you there.”
“Nice helicopter imitation, Min. Can you do seaplanes, too?”
“Sure, laugh at my moves,” I grumbled. “At least I'm practicing. Meanwhile, you're just taking up space.”
Brick laughed. His real name is Sebastian, but everyone has called him Brick since last year. He is the only sixth-grader I've ever met with genuine biceps. (And I only know this because he flexes them at me all the time.) He got the nickname Brick when he unsuccessfully tried to break a block of wood with his head and had to get twenty-three stitches. Everyone started saying he had bricks for brains and, eventually, they just started calling him Brick. He doesn't care, though. He wears that scar like a badge of honor and he's probably just as proud of his nickname.
Brick is always telling the rest of the karate students what to do; me most of all. It can be annoyingâexcept for the fact that he's usually right on.
Sensei clapped and came to the front of the class to get things started.
“Osu,” Sensei calmly said after we'd all lined up.
Everyone bowed back. “Osu,” we all said, except for Brick.
Brick just thinks
is a joke. He doesn't really have respect for karate as an art form. He just does it because he gets to show off.