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Your summer
adventure starts


quest to triumph
over ancient evil


to uncharted

a library full
of ideas

a dangerous


a mysterious

on a mission to
save the world


Whether youre ready to blast off on an
intergalactic expedition or start exploring the
world on a quest for sacred relics, or youre more
comfortable decoding secrets on the Internet, let
these summer reads inspire your next adventure.

Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls
Voyagers: Project Alpha
Knights of the Borrowed Dark
Click Here to Start
The City of Ember

Escape from Mr. Lemoncellos Library

Your adventures await . . .




Hang on to your pith helmets!

Keep reading for3 a sneak peek. . . .

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the
authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright 2016 by Raymond Arroyo
Jacket art copyright 2016 by Jeff Nentrup
Illustrations copyright 2016 by Antonio Javier Caparo
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Crown Books for
Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Childrens Books, a division of
Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Crown and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
Visit us on the Web!
Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Arroyo, Raymond.
The relic of Perilous Falls / Raymond Arroyo. First edition.
pages cm. (Will Wilder ; [1])
Summary: A thrill-seeking twelve-year-old boy with a mysterious family heritage who
discovers ancient objects of rare powerand must protect them from the terrifying demons
who will do anything to possess them Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-553-53959-2 (trade) ISBN 978-0-553-53960-8 (lib. bdg.)
ISBN 978-0-553-53961-5 (ebook)
[1. Adventure and adventurersFiction. 2. RelicsFiction. 3. SupernaturalFiction.
4. FamiliesFiction. 5. PropheciesFiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.A74352Re 2016 [Fic]dc23 2015006124
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition
Random House Childrens Books supports the First Amendment
and celebrates the right to read.


Arro_9780553539592_2p_all_r1.indd 4

7/31/15 10:55 AM


A Ride in the Yard

ll Will Wilder meant to do was ride the donkey at his

eight-year-old brothers backyard birthday party . He
didnt mean to hurt anyone, he didnt mean to unlock his
destiny, and he certainly didnt mean to see the shadows.
But that is exactly what happened . Life often came at Will
while he was focused on something else .
Since Will was twelve and nearly five feet tall, his parents thought he had outgrown riding the donkey they had
rented for his brother Leos birthday .
Arent you a little old for a donkey ride, Will? Its for
the kids . Cmon, Deborah Wilder said, playfully mussing
his spiky black hair in their sweltering backyard . She had
a thin face like Wills, full lips, and blue-purple eyes that
even the hardest of hearts could not resist for long . It was
no wonder her TV show, Supernatural Secrets, had so many


Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

fans. Youre getting so big, the donkey could ride you! Why
dont you and your friends go finish that catapult thing
youve been working on? She gave him a quick one-armed
hug and made her way back toward the party guests.
Mom, please, just one time around the yardor maybe
down the block, Will begged.
No, youll kill it, you big ox! she said over her shoulder
with a smirk. Deborah swept back her straight brown hair and
bent down to fix Wills six-year-old sister Marins pink dress.
So now donkey rides have age restrictions? Will yelled
after her. I didnt know that, Mom! Is there a height limit
too? But Deborah Wilder paid him no attention. She had
already mingled back into the crush of family, children, and
neighbors in the fun part of the yard.
Marin stuck her tiny pink tongue out at Will, both hands
on her hips. Follow the rules, mithter. Follow the rules,
she scolded with a lisp before cartwheeling away.
Sulking in defeat, Will shuffled back toward his three
friends, two boys and a girl, who were watching closely from
the fence at the rear of the yard. Since when am I too big? Will
believed he had at least another year, maybe two, before
he would officially outgrow amusements like donkey rides.
He knew he had to let them go eventually. But not now
especially when money and prestige were on the line.
Strike one, Will-man, Andrew Stout, a massive kid with
blazing red hair, and one of Wills closest friends, bellowed.
Wheres my five dollars?
Im not finished yet, Will said.

A Ride in the Yard


Oh, no . Youre finished . I said you couldnt get on the

donkey, and you aint on the donkey . So pay up . If you want
to try again, itll be double or nothing .
Can we check the law on this? interrupted a rail-thin
boy with eyes that looked like black BBs behind his rectangular glasses . Simon Blabbingdale lightly poked Andrews
side with one of the thick paperbacks he always seemed to
be carrying . Is it legal for Sheriff Stouts adolescent son to
bet on ponies at a birthday party? Simon unleashed a series of high-pitched snorts, which he considered laughter .
Nobody joined him . Simon and Will had been friends since
the first grade . When no one in the cafeteria would sit next
to the scrawny, curly-haired kid with glasses, Will did .
Can it, Simon . Andrew flicked the paperback from his
ribs and focused on Will . We made a deal, Will-man, so pay
up . I need the money for our trip . The big kid extended his
open palm .
The Wilders had invited Andrew and Simon to join them
in Florida at the National Pee-Wee Karate Championships .
Leo, an accomplished brown belt, was to compete at the
tournament in two weeks time . Will and his friends would
tag along for moral support and hit a few amusement parks
between matches .
What if I told you that I just came up with a new way to
get on the donkey? Will mysteriously threw out, his hands
clasped behind his back .
Lets see it . Double or nothing, Andrew said .
Camilla Meriwether, a girl with wide green eyes, a long


Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

chestnut-colored ponytail, and braces, rapped her knuckles

on the fence behind her . Guys . Can we please try to act a
little more mature? I mean, its embarrassing . If Wills parents dont want him riding the donkey, why cant we just
have some cake and enjoy the party?
Andrew and Will eyeballed each other, then in unison
turned to Cami . Uh, no .
Cami was the only girl Will spoke to in his entire class .
She was kind, sort of cute, and always spoke her mind
even if he rarely listened to her . Okay, well, while you little
guys play your cowboy games, Im going to get some punch .
She marched over to one of the refreshment tables .
When Cami was out of earshot, Andrew spoke up . All
right, get onto the donkeys back, Ill give you ten bucks . If
you dont, you have to pay up . Deal?
Will furrowed his brow and got in Andrews face . Deal .
They shook on it and Will started to leave, but a swift tap
on the arm from Simon stopped him .
I was thinking, as long as everybodys making wagers,
Simon said, looking over the top of his glasses, Ill buy you
the first souvenir of our tripno more than five dollarsif
you race the donkey around the yard . You cant just ride it .
Im talking a full gallop . If theres no gallop, you pick up the
souvenir .
Will considered the offer for barely a second . Im going
to be ten dollars richer and score a free souvenir . Youre on
too . He shot the boys a crooked smile, then ran off to appeal the donkey ban to the authority of last resort .

A Ride in the Yard


Dan Wilder, Wills father, with his tortoiseshell glasses

and blue apron, stood at the barbecue pit on the deck methodically tending his perfectly spaced burgers . He laid
them out like houses on a map at one of his city planning
meetings . Dan Wilder was an architect, a city councilman,
and a planner for the town of Perilous Falls . He had a refined sense of order even when it came to grillingpatties
were restricted to the lower grill, veggies on the top .
As dads went, Dan was a handsome one . He had a strong,
square jaw, and aside from three slight scars on the left side
of his face, Dan could have been on the cover of any grocery
checkout aisle magazine . A dad of few words, he usually
kept to himself, attentively watching while others chattered on . Indeed, he had overheard Wills donkey pleas all
day by the time the boy made his approach .
Dad, I was wondering . . .
Without looking up from the smoldering patty at the
end of his spatula, Mr . Wilder announced, The answer . . .
son . . . is no . Then, brightening, he added, Do you want
a burger?
Unless it can ride me around the yard, no thanks . Will
stalked away in a huff to plot his next move .
He climbed onto a picnic table close to his house and
studied the landscape like a general planning an invasion .
How to get on that donkey?
On the opposite side of his yard stood the squinty-eyed,
mustached Heinrich Crinshaw . The Wilders bow-tied
next-door neighbor was chairman of the Perilous Falls City


Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

Council and a constant if disagreeable presence at family events . On the surface Mr . Crinshaw seemed a refined
gentleman, even warm .
Until he opened his mouth .
In a flat drone, he advised the neighborhood kids to stay
on the Wilders side of the fence, worried that they might
leap into his garden and ruin the rare flowers and herbs he
spent thousands of dollars maintaining .
Theres nothing over there for you, he croaked to the
kids when their parents were out of earshot . Then, bending
down to their level, with a smile he added, Though my dog,
Suzy, might like to see you all . She so enjoys children . She
ate two last yearbones and all .
Mr . Crinshaw turned away as a couple of the little girls
immediately burst into tears .
Will spied Aunt Freda, Deborah Wilders blond relative, who had made herself snack guardian . Looking like
an albino elephant caught in a kelly-green bedsheet, Freda
jealously protected the table from approaching guests, gobbling cheese squares and chips as she made her way toward
the cake at the other end of the table .
Across from Aunt Freda, near the drink station, Mayor
Ava Lynch held a circle of parents spellbound . Her red suit
and helmet of hard black hair seemed out of place at a backyard summer party . With the help of some sort of greasy
youth cream, her skeletal face was quite animated that day .
No, no . . . this city has got to move beyond the shackles of
its history or we will never grow, she brayed, as if giving a

A Ride in the Yard


campaign speech . At nearly seventy years old, the mayors

booming voice could still fill a yard, even reaching Will .
Thats why I decided to cancel this years Jacob Wilder Day
celebrations . The world is changing, and it is high time Perilous Falls evolves with it . We cant pretend were in the era
of Jacob Wilder anymore, she said, chuckling .
Will saw his great-aunt Lucille Wilders face flush with
color at the mention of Jacob Wilder . Fireworks were coming . The compact woman with strawberry-blond hair spun
on her heels to face the mayor .
Who are you to cancel a forty-five-year tradition? Aunt
Lucille asked in a sharp voice, her curls trembling as if to
emphasize the point . My father gave his life for this town,
and Ill be stewed if you are going to stamp out his memory . Find another punching bag for your campaign, Ava
preferably someone living . You should all remember, there
would be no Perilous Falls were it not for my father, Jacob
Wilder . Those watching the little woman with fire in her
arresting blue eyes fell silent .
Oh, Lucille . You have to admit that your fathers superstitious tales were wearing thin even when we were children . All that devil stuff . . . Mayor Lynch laughed, trying
to win over the crowd . I know that your father founded the
townand it is wonderful that you run his little museum,
bless your heartbut those antique trinkets and all your
daddys stories wont make a safe and prosperous future
for Perilous Falls . Were in the twenty-first century now,
honey . People no longer believe the things our parents did .


Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

And we just dont have the resources to celebrate old fables,

or even the one who created them .
The red hue of Aunt Lucilles face clashed with the
powder-blue silk pantsuit she wore . Like loose pajamas, the
material swallowed up Lucilles trim framebut not her
hands, which had balled into fists .
Your eyes see nothing, Ava, dear. They never did . My
father was a visionary who had courage and virtues youve
never possessed . If you dont agree with his beliefs, or his
warnings, say so . But dont disparage a man you never
knew . Without my family, you might still be seating customers at Belles Lounge . Lucille stared holes into the
mayor . My grandfather Abe opened his first iron ore mine
here when it was nothing but wilderness . My father tamed
that wilderness with a purpose . He established schools and
churches, and the city hall that you profane . He always said
Perilous Falls was to be the last stronghold against the dark
madness of the world . Our faith and our traditions are what
sustain this town, Ms. Mayor. It is who we are . It is who
we will always be . That is the legacy of Jacob Wilder, and I
will celebrate him with or without mayoral approval . Now,
if youll excuse me . Aunt Lucille turned a withering glance
on the mayor and bolted toward the house .
Poor womans lost her mind, Mayor Lynch whispered
to those nearest her .
Though in her sixty-sixth year, Aunt Lucille looked far
younger as she strode across the yard with the ease and


Order your copy of




from one of the below retailers:

Hang on to your pith helmets!

Keep reading for a sneak peek. . . .

Arro_9780553539592_2p_all_r1.indd 3

7/31/15 10:55 AM

For more online accounts, click here.

D. J. MacHale

Random House

New York



To all the loyal members of The Little Click Club

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the
product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2015 by PC Studios Inc.
Full-color interior art, puzzles, and codes copyright Animal Repair Shop
Voyagers digital and gaming experience by Animal Repair Shop
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by
Random House Childrens Books,
a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of
Penguin Random House LLC.
Visit us on the Web!
Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools,
visit us at
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
MacHale, D. J.
Project Alpha / D.J. MacHale.First edition.
pages cm.(Voyagers ; book 1)
Summary: Eight boys and girls compete for a spot on the space voyage
that will search for a source to solve Earths energy crisis.
ISBN 978-0-385-38658-6 (trade)ISBN 978-0-385-38660-9 (lib. bdg.)
ISBN 978-0-385-38659-3 (ebook)
[1. Interplanetary voyagesFiction. 2. Competition (Psychology)Fiction.
3. Power resourcesFiction. 4. Science fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.M177535Pr 2015 [Fic]dc23 2014031772
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition
Random House Childrens Books supports the
First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.



The kind where you cant tell if youre next to a thousand
other people, standing totally alone . . .
. . . or about to step off a cliff.
We should stay close, Dash Conroy said, his voice echoing in the vast empty space.
Im fine on my own, Anna Turner replied curtly.
Anna wasnt about to show weakness or fear, especially
not in front of Dash. There was too much at stake. This was a
competition she was determined to win.
We can help each other, Dash argued. At least until we
figure out what the real challenge is.
Their assignment was clear: retrieve the golden flag. Whoever got it first would be the winner. Simple, except navigating
their way through the darkness wasnt their only task. Something else would be waiting for them. An obstacle. A puzzle.
A test.
Danger was out there. They both knew it.
They just couldnt see it.


Im gonna shuffle ahead slowly, Dash said. If I hit something, Ill let you know.
If you hit something, Ill hear it, Anna shot back.
Walking into the unknown had Dashs stomach in a knot.
There was no way to know if there was a hundred yards of
nothing between him and the golden flag or if he was inches
away from something sharp waiting to skewer him.
Are you behind me? Dash asked, trying not to let his
voice crack with tension.
Why? You nervous? Anna asked coyly. Maybe you
should sit this one out.
No, Im okay Ow!
Dash pulled his hands back quickly.

What is it? Anna asked anxiously.

I hit something. He tentatively put his hands out to discover a smooth, flat surface. It feels like a tall desk. Theres a
flat top and . . . uh-oh.
What? Anna asked.
I think its a control panel, Dash said with growing excitement. This could be how to turn the lights on.
No! Anna screamed in Dashs ear, making him jump with
Whoa! Why not?
What if its a trap? Those switches could electrify the floor.
Or open up a canyon we cant jump over. Or
Or it could turn on the lights, Dash said calmly. If somethings out there, we have to see it.
Dash put one finger on each of the switches and flipped


Instantly, powerful overhead lights kicked on, illuminating the giant space to reveal they were inside a massive, eightstory-high white tent. Dash was right. Turning on the lights
allowed them to see what was out there.
It was a fifty-foot-tall dinosaur with a long snout filled with
multiple rows of teeth. Sharp teeth.
The two stood looking up at the beast in wide-eyed, stunned
Oh, thats not good, Anna said, dumbfounded.
The monster reared back and let out a chilling bellow that
shook the overhead lighting grid.
Move! Dash yelled, and pushed her behind a pile of
wooden crates next to the control panel.
I told you not to flip those switches, Anna said in a
strained whisper.
Seriously? Dash whispered back. Youd rather we just
walked into that thing?
Its a dinosaur! Why is there a dinosaur?
Dash peered around the edge of the crates to see the
behemoth clawing at the floor with its huge, birdlike feet,
scraping the surface with lethal talons. It stood in the center of
the giant tent, thirty yards away, twisting its head one way
and then the other like a curious dog that just heard a strange
Whats it doing? Anna whispered.
It seems bothered, Dash replied.
Dash raised his hand. Strapped to his wrist was a wide,
flexible band that held a small, flat computer monitor. His fingers moved quickly over the soft touch pad that covered most


of his forearm until an image appeared on the small screen. It

was an exact drawing of the creature.
Thats it! Anna said, staring at the image over Dashs
Its a Raptogon, Dash said, reading the info. It eats
Of course it does.
Its got a superior sense of smell and can run up to thirty
miles an hour, Dash read. But it has poor peripheral vision
and is ultra sensitive to bright light.
The Raptogon let out another bellow. Dash stole a quick
peek to see that the animal was bobbing its head and chuffing

Whats happening? Anna asked.

I think the lights are bothering it.
Perfect, Anna said sarcastically. An angry carnivorous
Dash scanned the rest of the vast space, calculating their
next move. There were random stacks of wooden crates scattered throughout the tent, which could be used to hide behind,
but running from one to the next would leave them exposed to
the predator. On the far side of the huge tent, nearly a hundred
yards away, was a raised platform with the golden flag hanging
from a pole. That was the target. Whichever of them got to it
first would win the challenge.
Theres a locker, Dash said, pointing.
Anna looked to see a coffin-sized container lying flat,
twenty yards to their right.
They must have put something in there to help us, Dash
said. Like a weapon.


Man, that things big, Anna said, staring at the fidgety

They both sat back behind the crates.
We cant outrun it, Dash said. But maybe it can be distracted. Lets work together.
No, Anna said sharply. This is a contest.
Its about getting that flag, Dash shot back. I dont think
either of us can do that alone.
Anna stared straight into Dashs eyes, calculating her next
All right, she said flatly. But I dont take orders from
I wont give you any. I just want to get the flag and not get
eaten in the

A dark shadow slipped over them, blocking out the light.

They both slowly looked up to see the head of the Raptogon
looming above them.
Dash instantly scrambled backward, knocking over the
crates that had been their screen. The wooden boxes tumbled
like dice at the feet of the dinosaur, forcing the beast to dance
out of the way.
Anna was already up and running for the locker. Dash
scrambled to his feet and was right after her. Anna got there
first, threw it open, and peered inside.
Nothing! she exclaimed. No weapons.
Dash arrived and looked inside. No, this is good! he exclaimed.
Inside were two high-powered flashlights with six-inch
Its sensitive to light, he added, breathless. He grabbed


both and handed one to Anna. Well hit its eyes from both
sides. Whichever way it turns, itll be blinded and we can work
our way to the flag.
Anna looked back to the Raptogon. It had regained its balance and was scanning for them.
You sure about this? she said, showing a rare hint of uncertainty.
Yes, Dash replied calmly. It has bad lateral movement,
so keep moving to the side.
The Raptogon zeroed in on the two, shrieked, and charged.
Its massive claws pounded the floor as it stormed toward its
Dash quickly pressed the button on his flashlight and a

powerful beam of white light shot out.

Ill go left; you go right, Dash said, and darted away.
The Raptogon bared its teeth. Somebody was about to get
Dash hit it in the face with the light beam.
The monster immediately stopped and let out a hideous
screech that made the hair on Dashs neck stand up.
Hit it! Dash screamed to Anna.
Anna turned on her flashlight and aimed it at the Raptogons face.
The massive creature snapped its head from side to side as
if trying to shake off the painful light.
Its working! Dash exclaimed. Keep moving to the side.
Dash moved laterally, doing his best to keep the light focused on the Raptogons sensitive eyes.
The beast pounded at the ground in pain and anger, and
charged for Dash.


Stay on it! Dash commanded.

Dash had to run for his life. The Raptogon was fighting
through the pain to get to its tormentor. It shrieked. It snarled.
It shook its head in anguish, but it kept coming.
Help! Dash screamed. Anna! Keep the light on it!
The beast would not be denied. Dash tried desperately to
move out of the charging monsters path, but he was running
out of room. The dinosaur had him cornered. Dash banged
into a stack of crates, knocking them down and then tripping over the tumbling boxes. He couldnt keep the flashlight
steady, and the monster knew it. Again it bared its teeth, sensing the kill.
Dash fell flat on his back. He kicked at the boxes, hoping
they might slow the beast down.
They didnt.
He was trapped.
Anna! Dash yelled in desperation.
The monster screamed, opened its mouth, lunged at
Dash . . .
. . . and vanished.
Dash was left cowering in the corner with his arms over his
head for protection.
A harsh horn sounded, signaling the end of the competition.
The Raptogon was a hologram. It may have seemed authentic, but there was never any real danger.
A cheer went up, followed by applause.
Dash slowly lowered his arms to see a group of kids observing the competition from a catwalk high above the floor. Several
of them cheered and clapped. Others watched silently. Standing


with them was an adult man who was surveying the scene with
his hands on his hips.
We have a winner! he announced, his amplified words
booming through the cavernous space.
Dash wasnt sure what he meant. How could there have
been a winner? They had failed miserably and were nearly
Thats when the truth hit him.
He looked to the platform on the far side of the tent to see
Anna standing on top, waving the golden flag in triumph.
It was a harsh lesson. He had to be careful about who to
trust. It was a mistake he vowed not to make again. That is, as
long as he wasnt knocked out of the competition for having

lost the golden flag.

Not all of them could win the ultimate prize. The odds had
been against Dash from the beginning, but that didnt stop him
from giving it a shot.
Project Alpha meant too much.
To him.
To his family.
And to the future of the entire world.


Order your copy of

Voyagers: Project Alpha


D. J. MacHale

from one of the below retailers:

For more online accounts, click here.

Dave Rudden

Random House

New York

Determine your destiny.

25 a sneak peek. . . .
Keep reading for

To Eilish, because I promised

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents
either are the product of the authors imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright 2016 by Dave Rudden
Jacket logo copyright 2016 by Jason Cook
Jacket art copyright 2016 by Kerem Beyit
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by
Random House Childrens Books, a division of
Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published in
hardcover by Penguin Books Ltd., a division of
Penguin Random House LLC, London, in 2016.
Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of
Penguin Random House LLC.
Visit us on the Web!
Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools,
visit us at
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Rudden, Dave, author.
Title: Knights of the Borrowed Dark / Dave Rudden.
Description: First American edition. | New York : Random House, [2016]
| Summary: A young orphan learns that monsters can grow out of the
shadows in our world, and there is an ancient order of knights who keep
them at bay.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015031377 | ISBN 978-0-553-52297-6 (hardback) |
ISBN 978-0-553-52298-3 (hardcover library binding) |
ISBN 978-0-553-52299-0 (ebook)
Subjects: | CYAC: OrphansFiction. | MonstersFiction. | Knights and
knighthoodFiction. |
Action & Adventure / General. | JUVENILE FICTION / Family / General
(see also headings under Social Issues).
Classification: LCC PZ7.1.R828 Kn 2016 | DDC [Fic]dc23
LC record available at
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First American Edition
Random House Childrens Books supports the
First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


Absentee Aunts
Four months later October 2

i dont Have an aunt.

Denizen Hardwick stared down skeptically at
the note in his hand. That was the way he looked
at most things, and he had a face built for itthin
cheeks, a long nose, eyes the color and sharpness of a
The note, left on his bed in Dormitory E that morning, was the object of a special amount of skepticism,
so much so that he was surprised it hadnt started to
char at the edges.

Your aunt has been in contact. She is taking you

away for a few days. You will be collected at 6 p.m.
Pack a bag.
Director Ackerby


I dont have an aunt, Denizen said again. It didnt

sound any less stupid the second time round.
Well, thats not exactly true, said his best friend,
Simon Hayes, also staring at the note. You just dont
have any aunts youre aware of.
Dormitory E was a long room with a high ceiling
built for spiderwebs. Massive windows invited the
weak October sunlight in to die, their frames rattling
occasionally with the wind.
There were twelve beds, and at this particular
lunchtime ten of them were empty. Most of Crosscapers orphans were outside because sunlight in
October was a rare gift and they hadnt been given a
mysterious note to stare at.
Denizen ran a hand through his shaggy red hair. He
was small for his age, and barring a late growth spurt, he
would be small for every other age as well. The freckles
that swarmed his cheeks and nose in summer had now
faded in winter to lost and lonely things, all but the one
on his lip.
He hadnt been aware you could have a freckle on
your lip. Maybe Denizen was the only person a lip
freckle had ever happened to. Maybe it was a mark
of destiny, singling him out for great things . . . but
he doubted it. Denizen Hardwick wasnt the kind
of person to believe in special circumstancesin



distinguishing freckles or meaningful birthmarks or

fortuitous aunts.
Denizen Hardwick was a skeptic.
I dont have a Look, if I do have an aunt, where
has she been for the last eleven years?
Can you get any clues from the paper? Simon
asked. The new library had a collection of detective
novels, and Simon was very interested in what one
could learn from the smallest details.
Gamely, Denizen inspected the note. Unfortunately, all he could see was that it was on yellow paper,
which meant it had come straight from the directors
desk and was therefore not to be argued with, in the
same way you didnt argue with gravity. Apart from
that, it was inconsiderately devoid of clues.
No, he said. Sorry.
Simons and Denizens beds were beside each other
and had been since they were both three years old
in Dormitory A downstairs. That had started their
friendship. Furtive book trades at night, an inquisitive
nature in common, and a shared dislike of sports had
continued it.
There were a lot of things Denizen liked about
Simon, but first and foremost was how he radiated
calm the way the sun radiated heat. It was impossible to be annoyed at Simon. It was impossible to be



annoyed around Simon. A conversation with Simon

had the soothing effect of the cool side of the pillow.
Through either blind luck or best-friend osmosis, Simon had snagged all the height Denizen lacked.
His giant winter coat did little to bulk out his slender
frame, and splayed as he was across his bed, he looked
like a crow in a scarf.
But why now? Denizen said. Why is she getting
in contact now?
Maybe it took her ages to find you, Simon said.
Or she was waiting for you to be older? He thought
for a moment. Maybe she travels a lot and you have to
be old enough to travel with her. Or to be left on your
own in her giant house.
Giant house?
You never know.
I doubt she has a giant house.
Its not impossible. She could be a super-rich spy.
It would explain where shes been all this time. Or
maybe shes a chocolatier.
Denizen rolled his eyes.
A spy-chocolatier, Simon insisted, grinning. Solving international crises through the subtle application
of nougat.
Part of Denizen knew that he should probably be
more excited. A relative appearing out of nowhere to



take him away? Most of the other children and teenagers in Crosscaper had spent their entire lives dreaming of something like this.
That was what worried Denizen. Dreams were
tricky things. Hed only ever really had the one, at least
until the past couple of months.
Since the summer, his sleep had been haunted by
Crosscapers dark corridors, a figure in white drifting
down them like a moth made of glass. In the dream, the
figure had lingered, its milk-skinned hands caressing
the door of each dormitory in turn before finding his
and slipping in. . . .
He shook his head. Definitely not a dream he wanted
spilling over into real life.
Maybe Simon was right. Maybe his aunt was a
chocolate-spy. Maybe Denizens life was about to
change. Less skepticism. More weaponized hazelnut
His bed creaked as he sat down heavily on it. Like
everything in Crosscaper, it was falling apart. The
orphans relied on castoffs and donations, and since
neither Simon nor Denizen fell into the realm of
average height, they had the worst of itmore holdme-togethers than hand-me-downs, skewered with a
fortune of safety pins so that when the boys moved,
they clicked like ants.



The creaking of his bed didnt worry Denizen

there were too many books underneath it to let him
One of Simons fictional detectives had commented
that you could tell a lot about a person from the contents of his bookshelf, but an inspection of Denizens
collection would simply tell you he loved words. Love
on the High Seas sat next to The Politics of Renaissance
Italy. (Crosscapers books were all donations, and it had
bothered Denizen for years wondering who donated
books on ancient politics to an orphanage.) And while
some volumes were more well-thumbed than others,
each one had been read until the covers frayed.
My aunt might have books, Denizen thought, and
immediately quashed the idea before it had a chance
to grow.
He was not going to a new family. He was not going
to a new life. He was being brought out so a stranger
could have a look at him. If afterward this mysterious
aunt decided she wanted to meet him again, fine, but
he was not getting his hopes up just to be disappointed.
And the first thing she was going to do was answer
his questions.
Simon hadnt brought it up. He hadnt needed to
he knew Denizen too well. Denizen was one of only a
few children in Crosscaper who didnt know anything
about their parents. Oh, he knew their last name. He


knew that they were . . . Well, he knew he was in an

orphanage for a reason, but he had no idea what that
reason was.
Simon did. His parents had been killed in a car
crash. Mr. Colford, their English teacher, drove Simon
to their grave on the anniversary of their deaths every
year. Michael Flannigan, two beds down from Simon
on the left, had lost his parents in a fire. Samantha
Hastingss mum had died of . . . Well, she wouldnt say,
and the unspoken rule of Crosscaper was that if you
didnt want to share, nobody had a right to pry.
But Denizen simply didnt know.
It was the only other dream hed ever had. A
womansmall like him, though it was hard to tell
because he was looking up at her. Her arms were
around him. She smelled of strawberries. Her song . . .
something about the dark . . .
Denizen didnt remember his father at all.
Simon flashed him a faint, sympathetic smile. He
knew exactly where Denizens thoughts were.
Listen, he said as the bell announced the end of
lunch, I should get down to class. Ill tell Ms. Hynes
you cant make it because you have to pack.
Thatll take like ten minutes. I dont need to
Youre right, Simon said. Ill tell her youll be along
shortly. Maybe you could ask for some extra homework to take with you.


Ah, Denizen said, grinning. Cool.

They stared at each other awkwardly.
Its just a day or two, Denizen said. Ill probably
be home tomorrow.
Sure, Simon said. Yeah. Look. Enjoy yourself,
all right? Have a chat with her. Try not to overthink
things. Let her spoil you if she feels guilty about not
being around. See what you can findyeah? Best of
Denizen loved words, but that didnt mean he could
always find the ones he needed. Instead, he wrapped
his arms round Simon in a tight, quick hug.
And then he was alone, note crumpled in his hand.
Outside, the courtyard quieted. Denizen sighed. As
nice as it was to take a few hours off classhe wouldnt
have been able to concentrate anyway, the words
absentee aunt bouncing round his skull like a bee in a
jarhe wouldnt have minded some company. Now he
was alone with his thoughts, and he couldnt help turning them over and over in his head.
Denizen Hardwick had an aunt. So where had she
been all this time?
Maybe she hadnt known he existed. Families fell
out all the timethat had been the main theme in
both Love on the High Seas and The Politics of Renaissance
Italyso maybe she was only tracking him down now.



Was she his mothers sister or his fathers? What had

happened that had made them lose touch?
His stomach knotted. There was so much he wanted
to ask her. Would she cry? He wasnt going to crythat
would be terrible. But she might. Were there going to
be hugs? Would that be weird?
Denizen tried to imagine what it would be like. The
woman would be . . . small, he supposed, maybe with
his eyes and hair. His imagination had very little to
go on. A hazy image formed in his mind of a chubby
woman with red hair, her features a strange mix of
his and those of Crosscapers cook, Mrs. Mollinsthe
most auntish woman he knew.
In his imagination, the hybrid Mollins-aunt fell
to her knees and started sobbing when she saw him.
Denizen squirmed. That image just made him uncomfortable. Then again, if awkward aunt-hugging led to
answers about his past . . .
As far as Denizen was concerned, six p.m. couldnt
come quick enough.



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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the
authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright 2016 by Denis Markell
Jacket art and interior illustrations copyright 2016 by Octavi Navarro
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random
House Childrens Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of
Penguin Random House LLC.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Markell, Denis.
Click here to start (a novel) / Denis Markell. First edition.
pages cm
Summary: When Ted inherits his uncles apartment and all the treasure within, he realizes
the apartment is set up like a real-life video game and must solve the puzzles with his friends
to discover the treasure.
ISBN 978-1-101- 93187- 5 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-101- 93189- 9 (glb)
ISBN 978-1-101- 93188-2 (ebook)
[1. Buried treasureFiction. 2. Video gamesFiction. 3. FriendshipFiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.M339453Cl 2016
[Fic] dc23
The text of this book is set in 11- point Amasis MT.
Book design by Stephanie Moss
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition
Random House Childrens Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.





It looks like something from a science-fiction movie, with so
many machines and tubes going into and out of bags hung on
For a moment, it doesnt register that all those tubes and
hoses are connected to a person.
I have no memory of what he looked like when I was little,
and the only photo of Great-Uncle Ted in our house is from
ages and ages ago. It shows a burly man with a crew cut, sitting in a living room in the 1960s. Hes got a cigarette in one
hand and a lighter in the other. I wonder if he hadnt smoked so
many cigarettes maybe he wouldnt be here now. Hes looking
at the camera with a confident grin that says this is not a man
to mess with. The only other place Ive ever seen Asian men
with kick-butt expressions like that is in samurai or martialarts movies.


Not that I watch them all that much.

I mean, its bad enough other people make assumptions
about us Asian kids. No need for me to help out.
But I gotta say, that photo cant be further from the old man
lying in this bed. The grossest thing is the tube going right up
into his nose. It looks horrible, and is attached to a machine
that does who knows what.
I go and stand awkwardly by the window, unsure of what to
do. I wish Mom had come in with me, but she said Great-Uncle
Ted wants to see me alone. Dying mans last wish and all, I
guess. I clear my throat and sort of whisper, Um, hi?
The two veiny sacs of his eyelids slowly open, and when he
sees me, he gestures, beckoning me over with one hand.
I gingerly approach the chair next to his bed, careful not
to disturb any of the wires and tubes snaking around him. Its
hardI have visions of knocking into some hose or other just
as Im supposed to be having a nice visit.
Gghhh. . . Great-Uncle Ted catches my eye and reaches
Without thinking, I flinch. I have a flashback to a movie
I saw where a guy laid out like this had a monster burst out
of his chest and jump on someones face. Im not saying I
expect that to happen here, but hey, it does go through my
Great-Uncle Teds eyes change. He points impatiently to
something on the table.
A pad and paper. There is spidery writing on it.
You want me to. . . give you the pad? I ask.
Now theres a flash of fire in Great-Uncle Teds eyes. I know


when someones ticked off. The message is clearly Yes, you

idiot. Give me the pad.
I hand the pad to my great-uncle, who winces in pain as
he presses a button on the side of his bed that raises him to a
seated position.
Slowly, he writes something and then hands me the pad.
Hurts too much to talk. You Amandas boy, Ted?
I start to write an answer on the pad.
The next thing I know, Great-Uncle Ted yanks the pad out
of my hands. The old dude is surprisingly strong!
Great. Now the heart-rate machine is going a lot faster. That
cant be good.
He scribbles something and hands the pad back to me.
Im not deaf, you little dope. Talk to me.
I laugh in spite of myself. Of course. Duh.
Yes, uh, sir . . . Im Ted. I feel a little weird introducing
myself, since he knows who I am, but since I dont remember
him, it feels like the right thing to do. And Im pretty sure he
seems like a sir.
The old man writes some more. Hes writing with more energy now.
You got big. Do you still like playing games?
What games do you mean, sir? I ask.


Kissing games.
What th?
Uh, no, sir, I begin. I dont enjoy kissing games. That is,
Ive never played them. Maybe I would enjoy them if I did. I
mean, you never know about something until you try it, right?
Im babbling now. Trying to look casual, I lean against something, then realize its a pole holding some fluid going into my
great-uncle (or maybe coming out of him hard to tell). Gross.
I attempt to cross my legs, but I dare anyone to try to do it
while wearing these ICU snot-green-colored clown pants they
made me wear over my jeans to come in here. Its not so simple. So my leg sort of hovers half hoisted.
Meanwhile, Great-Uncle Ted is scribbling away.
I know you like computer games, you little twerp. I just
wanted to see your face.
I laugh, and I see a hint of a smile under all the machinery.
You like the ones where you shoot people?
Im not allowed to play those, I say, which is the truth.
I didnt ask if you were allowed to. I asked if you liked them.
I smile and nod. This guy is pretty sharp. Um. . . yeah, I
play them sometimes.
Great-Uncle Ted looks at me with an expression I cant
make out.


A lot of fun, huh?

I guess. I shrug.
I hope thats the only way you ever have to shoot and kill a
man. The other way is a lot less fun.
Youve killed a man? I try to ask casually, but it kind of
comes out in a squeak. Not my most macho moment, but give
me a break, I wasnt ready for this.
Quite a few, yes.
What did Uncle Ted do before he retired? I wonder what
sort of professions call for killing men. Or more precisely,
quite a few men. Was he a soldier? A hit man?
Lets talk about something else. Why do you like these games
so much?
Im happy to move on. I dont think the shooting games are
all that and thats the truth. Its more something to do with
my friends when we hang out. What I really like is what are
called escape-the-room games.
Tell me about them.
Sure, why not? Theyre kind of puzzles, where youre stuck
in a room and have to figure a way out.
Great-Uncle Teds eyes survey the space around him.


Theres only one way to escape this room.

Well, I dont agree, I say eagerly, standing up to look
around. There are all sorts of exits, if you look carefully. Not
just the door. Theres that window. You could tie your sheets
together and climb down there, or maybe theres an airconditioning duct
My brilliant analysis is interrupted by the sound of my greatuncles pencil tapping loudly on the pad to get my attention.
I was actually referring to dying, Ted. Try to keep up.
I sit down, deflated. I guess I didnt think of that, I say
honestly, because you seem so alive.
Great-Uncle Ted does his best to roll his eyes.
Dont bother sucking up to a dying man, Ted. You any good
at these room games?
Never seen a game I couldnt solve or beat. Im always the
top scorerthat means Ive solved them quicker than anyone
else. I guess that makes me the best, I say, before realizing
how obnoxious it sounds. That sounds like bragging. Sorry.
You ever heard of Dizzy Dean?
Okay, thats a little random. But old people do that sometimes. The name does sound kind of familiar, but I cant place
it. I shake my head.


One of the best pitchers in the history of baseball.

When you go home, look up what he said about bragging.
Great-Uncle Ted settles back onto his pillow. Hes clearly
I stare out the window, watching the headlights of the traffic below making patterns on the ceiling. Yeah. Thats about
the one thing I am good at, I say softly, almost to myself. I
hear scratching, and hes up and writing more.
Dont ever sell yourself short, Ted. Your mother says youre
very smart.
I nod my head and laugh. Yeah, I know, I just dont apply
myself. Shes always saying that. Lilas the smart one.
Lila is my big sister, the bane of my existence. Lila the
straight-A student, Lila the president of the student body. Lila,
who got the highest Board scores in La Purisma Highs history.
Lila, who gave the most beautifully written senior address at
her graduation, currently crushing it in her freshman year at
Harvard. I mean, seriously. Why even try to compete with
Your mother told me youre smarter than your sister. You just
dont know it.
Oh, snap! I hope theres a burn unit at Harvard, because
Lila just got smoked. Big-time!
Im starting to like Great-Uncle Ted. But I feel bad. Weve
been talking about me the whole time Ive been here. Well,


except for the part about him killing a lot of people. Im pretty
sure I dont want to hear more about that.
So I guess you knew my mom when she was a little kid, I
begin. What was she like?
Amanda was a pain in the a
He stops and his eye drifts up to my face and back down
to his pad.
Amanda was a pain in the a behind, if youll excuse my
I cant believe I thought this was going to be boring. This
is great! Seriously? How so? It takes all the self-control I can
muster to get this out without cracking up.
He writes for a long time, then hands the pad to me.
When she was nine, she had this thing where no matter what
you would ask her shed say, Thats for me to know and you
to find out.
Like youd ask her, What flavor ice cream do you want?
Thats for me to know and you to find out.
What movie do you want to see?
Thats for me to know and you to find out!
Do I have lung cancer?
Thats for me to know and you to find out!
I choke at that last one.
Great-Uncle Ted waves his hand wearily.


I made that last one up. But she did say it all the time. She
thought it was cute. It stopped being cute after the first day.
Then it was annoying as heck.
Great-Uncle Ted pauses.
But she was always smart. And Im very proud of her.
Great-Uncle Ted was the one who paid for Mom to come to
California from Hawaii and go to nursing school. Shes been
working here at La Purisma General Hospital for as long as I
can remember.
Great-Uncle Ted looks up from the paper, and his wise, halflidded eyes meet mine. He scrawls on the page and holds up
the pad.
Please tell me about the games you play. How you solve
these puzzles.
Wait. Is a real, live adult person actually asking me details
about the games I play? This is unheard of.
So I go on and on, explaining how the games work, how at
first nothing seems to make sense. But then, as I put my mind
to it, a little click goes off in my head and the pieces begin to
fit. Its an awesome feeling when it all comes together and you
get it right.
Great-Uncle Ted seems genuinely interested, especially
when I tell him about a particularly tricky puzzle, where if you
look carefully at what appears to be a bunch of random drinking glasses on a tray, you realize they actually resemble the


hands of a clock set to a particular time. Which is one of the

main clues to solving that game.
You know, maybe if they let me, I can come back tomorrow with my laptop and show you some, Im saying, when I
see that his head has fallen back onto the bed and his eyes are
closed. Great-Uncle Ted! Are you all right? I gasp. Should I
get Mom?
He wearily reaches for the pad and writes carefully.
Im just tired. But Im happy to see you again, Ted.
IIm so glad I could talk to you too, sir, I say, feeling my
breathing slow down again.
I feel so much better about everything now. You are ready.
Huh? What does that mean?
Thats good, sir.
The old man looks up at me. The energy is clearly draining
out of him.
You must promise me one thing.
I know, sir. I promise Ill work harder in school, and Ill
never tell Mom you thought she was a pain in the behind
I think hell laugh at this, but instead, he gathers his strength
and writes furiously across the pad.
No! Listen to me! You must promise me
Hes writing slower now, forcing the words out of the pen.


Yes, sir?
Great-Uncle Ted falls back and throws the pad at me.
With great effort, he tugs on my sleeve. I lean toward him.
He pulls me down until my ear is close to his face. I can just
make out the word he is saying.
Promise! the old man croaks. He releases my sleeve. He
looks peaceful now, like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.
As my great-uncle falls asleep, I hear my own voice, sounding far away, whispering, I promise.



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Book 1


Jeanne DuPrau


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If the book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher
as unsold or destroyed and neither the author nor the publisher
may have received payment for it.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright 2003 by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover art copyright 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Logo art copyright 2016 by Jacey
Map by Chris Riely
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Yearling, an imprint of Random House
Childrens Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published in
hardcover in the United States by Random House Childrens Books, New York, in 2003.
Yearling and the jumping horse design are registered trademarks
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition of this work as follows:
DuPrau, Jeanne.
The city of Ember / by Jeanne DuPrau.
p. cm.
Summary: In the year 241, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day
to be a messenger, to run to new places in her beloved but decaying city,
perhaps even to glimpse Unknown Regions.
ISBN 978-0-375-82273-5 (trade) ISBN 978-0-375-92274-9 (lib. bdg.)
ISBN 978-0-375-89080-2 (ebook)
[1. Fantasy.] I. Title.
PZ7.D927 Ci 2003 [Fic]dc21 2002010239
ISBN 978-0-375-82274-2 (pbk.)
Printed in the United States of America
72 71 70 69 68 67 66 65 64 63 62 61 60 59 58
2016 Yearling Edition
Random House Childrens Books supports the First Amendment
and celebrates the right to read.


The Instructions

When the city of Ember was just built and not yet
inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder,
both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.
They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years, said the chief builder. Or perhaps two
hundred and twenty.
Is that long enough? asked his assistant.
It should be. We cant know for sure.
And when the time comes, said the assistant,
how will they know what to do?
Well provide them with instructions, of course,
the chief builder replied.
But who will keep the instructions? Who can we
trust to keep them safe and secret all that time?
The mayor of the city will keep the instructions,
said the chief builder. Well put them in a box with a
timed lock, set to open on the proper date.


And will we tell the mayor whats in the box? the

assistant asked.
No, just that its information they wont need and
must not see until the box opens of its own accord.
So the first mayor will pass the box to the next
mayor, and that one to the next, and so on down
through the years, all of them keeping it secret, all that
What else can we do? asked the chief builder.
Nothing about this endeavor is certain. There may be
no one left in the city by then or no safe place for them
to come back to.
So the first mayor of Ember was given the box,
told to guard it carefully, and solemnly sworn to
secrecy. When she grew old, and her time as mayor was
up, she explained about the box to her successor, who
also kept the secret carefully, as did the next mayor.
Things went as planned for many years. But the seventh mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones
whod come before him, and more desperate. He was
illhe had the coughing sickness that was common in
the city thenand he thought the box might hold a
secret that would save his life. He took it from its hiding place in the basement of the Gathering Hall and
brought it home with him, where he attacked it with a
But his strength was failing by then. All he managed to do was dent the lid a little. And before he could


return the box to its official hiding place or tell his successor about it, he died. The box ended up at the back
of a closet, shoved behind some old bags and bundles.
There it sat, unnoticed, year after year, until its time
arrived, and the lock quietly clicked open.



Assignment Day

In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only
light came from great flood lamps mounted on the
buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the
larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw
long shadows that shortened and then stretched out
again. When the lights were off, as they were between
nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so
dark that people might as well have been wearing
Sometimes darkness fell in the middle of the day.
The city of Ember was old, and everything in it,
including the power lines, was in need of repair. So
now and then the lights would flicker and go out.
These were terrible moments for the people of Ember.
As they came to a halt in the middle of the street or
stood stock-still in their houses, afraid to move in the


utter blackness, they were reminded of something they

preferred not to think about: that someday the lights
of the city might go out and never come back on.
But most of the time life proceeded as it always
had. Grown people did their work, and younger people, until they reached the age of twelve, went to
school. On the last day of their final year, which was
called Assignment Day, they were given jobs to do.
The graduating students occupied Room 8 of the
Ember School. On Assignment Day of the year 241,
this classroom, usually noisy first thing in the
morning, was completely silent. All twenty-four
students sat upright and still at the desks they had
grown too big for. They were waiting.
The desks were arranged in four rows of six, one
behind the other. In the last row sat a slender girl
named Lina Mayfleet. She was winding a strand of her
long, dark hair around her finger, winding and
unwinding it again and again. Sometimes she plucked
at a thread on her ragged cape or bent over to pull on
her socks, which were loose and tended to slide down
around her ankles. One of her feet tapped the floor
In the second row was a boy named Doon
Harrow. He sat with his shoulders hunched, his eyes
squeezed shut in concentration, and his hands clasped
tightly together. His hair looked rumpled, as if he
hadnt combed it for a while. He had dark, thick


eyebrows, which made him look serious at the best of

times and, when he was anxious or angry, came
together to form a straight line across his forehead. His
brown corduroy jacket was so old that its ridges had
flattened out.
Both the girl and the boy were making urgent
wishes. Doons wish was very specific. He repeated it
over and over again, his lips moving slightly, as if he
could make it come true by saying it a thousand times.
Lina was making her wish in pictures rather than in
words. In her minds eye, she saw herself running
through the streets of the city in a red jacket. She made
this picture as bright and real as she could.
Lina looked up and gazed around the schoolroom.
She said a silent goodbye to everything that had been
familiar for so long. Goodbye to the map of the city of
Ember in its scarred wooden frame and the cabinet
whose shelves held The Book of Numbers, The Book of
Letters, and The Book of the City of Ember. Goodbye
to the cabinet drawers labeled New Paper and Old
Paper. Goodbye to the three electric lights in the
ceiling that seemed always, no matter where you sat,
to cast the shadow of your head over the page you
were writing on. And goodbye to their teacher, Miss
Thorn, who had finished her Last Day of School
speech, wishing them luck in the lives they were
about to begin. Now, having run out of things to say,
she was standing at her desk with her frayed shawl


clasped around her shoulders. And still the mayor,

the guest of honor, had not arrived.
Someones foot scraped back and forth on the
floor. Miss Thorn sighed. Then the door rattled open,
and the mayor walked in. He looked annoyed, as
though they were the ones who were late.
Welcome, Mayor Cole, said Miss Thorn. She
held out her hand to him.
The mayor made his mouth into a smile. Miss
Thorn, he said, enfolding her hand. Greetings.
Another year. The mayor was a vast, heavy man, so big
in the middle that his arms looked small and dangling.
In one hand he held a little cloth bag.
He lumbered to the front of the room and faced
the students. His gray, drooping face appeared to be
made of something stiffer than ordinary skin; it rarely
moved except for making the smile that was on it now.
Young people of the Highest Class, the mayor
began. He stopped and scanned the room for several
moments; his eyes seemed to look out from far
back inside his head. He nodded slowly. Assignment
Day now, isnt it? Yes. First we get our education.
Then we serve our city. Again his eyes moved back
and forth along the rows of students, and again he
nodded, as if someone had confirmed what hed
said. He put the little bag on Miss Thorns desk
and rested his hand on it. What will that service
be, eh? Perhaps youre wondering. He did his smile


again, and his heavy cheeks folded like drapes.

Linas hands were cold. She wrapped her cape
around her and pressed her hands between her knees.
Please hurry, Mr. Mayor, she said silently. Please just let
us choose and get it over with. Doon, in his mind, was
saying the same thing, only he didnt say please.
Something to remember, the mayor said, holding up one finger. Job you draw today is for three
years. Then, Evaluation. Are you good at your job?
Fine. You may keep it. Are you unsatisfactory? Is there
a greater need elsewhere? You will be re-assigned. It is
extremely important, he said, jabbing his finger at the
class, for all . . . work . . . of Ember . . . to be done. To
be properly done.
He picked up the bag and pulled open the drawstring. So. Let us begin. Simple procedure. Come up
one at a time. Reach into this bag. Take one slip of
paper. Read it out loud. He smiled and nodded. The
flesh under his chin bulged in and out. Who cares to
be first?
No one moved. Lina stared down at the top of her
desk. There was a long silence. Then Lizzie Bisco, one
of Linas best friends, sprang to her feet. I would like
to be first, she said in her breathless high voice.
Good. Walk forward.
Lizzie went to stand before the mayor. Because of
her orange hair, she looked like a bright spark next to


Now choose. The mayor held out the bag with

one hand and put the other behind his back, as if to
show he would not interfere.
Lizzie reached into the bag and withdrew a tightly
folded square of paper. She unfolded it carefully. Lina
couldnt see the look on Lizzies face, but she could
hear the disappointment in her voice as she read out
loud: Supply Depot clerk.
Very good, said the mayor. A vital job.
Lizzie trudged back to her desk. Lina smiled at her,
but Lizzie made a sour face. Supply Depot clerk wasnt
a bad job, but it was a dull one. The Supply Depot
clerks sat behind a long counter, took orders from the
storekeepers of Ember, and sent the carriers down to
bring up what was wanted from the vast network of
storerooms beneath Embers streets. The storerooms
held supplies of every kindcanned food, clothes,
furniture, blankets, light bulbs, medicine, pots and
pans, reams of paper, soap, more light bulbseverything the people of Ember could possibly need. The
clerks sat at their ledger books all day, recording the
orders that came in and the goods that went out. Lizzie
didnt like to sit still; she would have been better suited to something else, Lina thoughtmessenger,
maybe, the job Lina wanted for herself. Messengers ran
through the city all day, going everywhere, seeing
Next, said the mayor.


This time two people stood up at once, Orly

Gordon and Chet Noam. Orly quickly sat down again,
and Chet approached the mayor.
Choose, young man, the mayor said.
Chet chose. He unfolded his scrap of paper.
Electricians helper, he read, and his wide face broke
into a smile. Lina heard someone take a quick breath.
She looked over to see Doon pressing a hand against
his mouth.
You never knew, each year, exactly which jobs
would be offered. Some years there were several good
jobs, like greenhouse helper, timekeepers assistant, or
messenger, and no bad jobs at all. Other years, jobs like
Pipeworks laborer, trash sifter, and mold scraper were
mixed in. But there would always be at least one or two
jobs for electricians helper. Fixing the electricity was
the most important job in Ember, and more people
worked at it than at anything else.
Orly Gordon was next. She got the job of building
repair assistant, which was a good job for Orly. She was
a strong girl and liked hard work. Vindie Chance was
made a greenhouse helper. She gave Lina a big grin as
she went back to her seat. Shell get to work with Clary,
Lina thought. Lucky. So far no one had picked a really
bad job. Perhaps this time there would be no bad jobs
at all.
The idea gave her courage. Besides, she had
reached the point where the suspense was giving her a


stomach ache. So as Vindie sat downeven before the

mayor could say Nextshe stood up and stepped
The little bag was made of faded green material,
gathered at the top with a black string. Lina hesitated a
moment, then put her hand inside and fingered the
bits of paper. Feeling as if she were stepping off a high
building, she picked one.
She unfolded it. The words were written in
black ink, in small careful printing. PIPEWORKS LABORER,
they said. She stared at them.
Out loud, please, the mayor said.
Pipeworks laborer, Lina said in a choked
Louder, said the mayor.
Pipeworks laborer, Lina said again, her voice
loud and cracked. There was a sigh of sympathy from
the class. Keeping her eyes on the floor, Lina went back
to her desk and sat down.
Pipeworks laborers worked below the storerooms
in the deep labyrinth of tunnels that contained
Embers water and sewer pipes. They spent their days
stopping up leaks and replacing pipe joints. It was wet,
cold work; it could even be dangerous. A swift underground river ran through the Pipeworks, and every
now and then someone fell into it and was lost. People
were lost occasionally in the tunnels, too, if they
strayed too far.


Lina stared miserably down at a letter B someone

had scratched into her desktop long ago. Almost anything would have been better than Pipeworks laborer.
Greenhouse helper had been her second choice.
She imagined with longing the warm air and earthy
smell of the greenhouse, where she could have worked
with Clary, the greenhouse manager, someone shed
known all her life. She would have been content as a
doctors assistant, too, binding up cuts and bones.
Even street-sweeper or cart-puller would have been
better. At least then she could have stayed above
ground, with space and people around her. She
thought going down into the Pipeworks must be like
being buried alive.
One by one, the other students chose their jobs.
None of them got such a wretched job as hers. Finally
the last person rose from his chair and walked forward.
It was Doon. His dark eyebrows were drawn
together in a frown of concentration. His hands, Lina
saw, were clenched into fists at his sides.
Doon reached into the bag and took out the last
scrap of paper. He paused a minute, pressing it tightly
in his hand.
Go on, said the mayor. Read.
Unfolding the paper, Doon read: Messenger. He
scowled, crumpled the paper, and dashed it to the



Lina gasped; the whole class rustled in surprise. Why would anyone be angry to get the job of
Bad behavior! cried the mayor. His eyes bulged
and his face darkened. Go to your seat immediately.
Doon kicked the crumpled paper into a corner.
Then he stalked back to his desk and flung himself
The mayor took a short breath and blinked furiously. Disgraceful, he said, glaring at Doon. A childish display of temper! Students should be glad to work
for their city. Ember will prosper if all . . .
citizens . . . do . . . their . . . best. He held up a stern
finger as he said this and moved his eyes slowly from
one face to the next.
Suddenly Doon spoke up. But Ember is not prospering! he cried. Everything is getting worse and
Silence! cried the mayor.
The blackouts! cried Doon. He jumped from his
seat. The lights go out all the time now! And the
shortages, theres shortages of everything! If no one
does anything about it, something terrible is going to
Lina listened with a pounding heart. What was
wrong with Doon? Why was he so upset? He was
taking things too seriously, as he always did.



Miss Thorn strode to Doon and put a hand on his

shoulder. Sit down now, she said quietly. But Doon
remained standing.
The mayor glared. For a few moments he said
nothing. Then he smiled, showing a neat row of gray
teeth. Miss Thorn, he said. Who might this young
man be?
I am Doon Harrow, said Doon.
I will remember you, said the mayor. He gave
Doon a long look, then turned to the class and smiled
his smile again.
Congratulations to all, he said. Welcome to
Embers work force. Miss Thorn. Class. Thank you.
The mayor shook hands with Miss Thorn and
departed. The students gathered their coats and caps
and filed out of the classroom. Lina walked down the
Wide Hallway with Lizzie, who said, Poor you! I
thought I picked a bad one, but you got the worst. I feel
lucky compared to you. Once they were out the door,
Lizzie said goodbye and scurried away, as if Linas bad
luck were a disease she might catch.
Lina stood on the steps for a moment and gazed
across Harken Square, where people walked briskly,
bundled up cozily in their coats and scarves, or talked
to one another in the pools of light beneath the great
streetlamps. A boy in a red messengers jacket ran
toward the Gathering Hall. On Otterwill Street, a man
pulled a cart filled with sacks of potatoes. And in the


buildings all around the square, rows of lighted windows shone bright yellow and deep gold.
Lina sighed. This was where she wanted to be, up
here where everything happened, not down underground.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder. Startled, she
turned and saw Doon behind her. His thin face looked
pale. Will you trade with me? he asked.
Trade jobs. I dont want to waste my time being a
messenger. I want to help save the city, not run around
carrying gossip.
Lina gaped at him. Youd rather be in the
Electricians helper is what I wanted, Doon said.
But Chet wont trade, of course. Pipeworks is second
But why?
Because the generator is in the Pipeworks, said
Lina knew about the generator, of course. In some
mysterious way, it turned the running of the river into
power for the city. You could feel its deep rumble when
you stood in Plummer Square.
I need to see the generator, Doon said. I
have . . . I have ideas about it. He thrust his hands into
his pockets. So, he said, will you trade?
Yes! cried Lina. Messenger is the job I want


most! And not a useless job at all, in her opinion.

People couldnt be expected to trudge halfway across
the city every time they wanted to communicate with
someone. Messengers connected everyone to everyone
else. Anyway, whether it was important or not, the job
of messenger just happened to be perfect for Lina. She
loved to run. She could run forever. And she loved
exploring every nook and cranny of the city, which was
what a messenger got to do.
All right then, said Doon. He handed her his
crumpled piece of paper, which he must have retrieved
from the floor. Lina reached into her pocket, pulled
out her slip of paper, and handed it to him.
Thank you, he said.
Youre welcome, said Lina. Happiness sprang up
in her, and happiness always made her want to run.
She took the steps three at a time and sped down
Broad Street toward home.




A Message to the Mayor

Lina often took different routes between school and

home. Sometimes, just for variety, shed go all the way
around Sparkswallow Square, or way up by the shoe
repair shops on Liverie Street. But today she took the
shortest route because she was eager to get home and
tell her news.
She ran fast and easily through the streets of
Ember. Every corner, every alley, every building was
familiar to her. She always knew where she was, though
most streets looked more or less the same. All of them
were lined with old two-story stone buildings, the
wood of their window frames and doors long
unpainted. On the street level were shops; above the
shops were the apartments where people lived. Every
building, at the place where the wall met the roof, was
equipped with a row of floodlightsbig cone-shaped
lamps that cast a strong yellow glare.


Stone walls, lighted windows, lumpy, muffled

shapes of peopleLina flew by them. Her slender legs
felt immensely strong, like the wood of a bow that flexes
and springs. She darted around obstaclesbroken
furniture left for the trash heaps or for scavengers,
stoves and refrigerators that were past repair, peddlers
sitting on the pavement with their wares spread out
around them. She leapt over cracks and potholes.
When she came to Hafter Street, she slowed a
little. This street was deep in shadow. Four of its
streetlamps were out and had not been fixed. For a
second, Lina thought of the rumor shed heard about
light bulbs: that some kinds were completely gone.
She was used to shortages of thingseveryone was
but not of light bulbs! If the bulbs for the streetlamps
ran out, the only lights would be inside the buildings.
What would happen then? How could people find
their way through the streets in the dark?
Somewhere inside her, a black worm of dread
stirred. She thought about Doons outburst in class.
Could things really be as bad as he said? She didnt
want to believe it. She pushed the thought away.
As she turned onto Budloe Street, she sped up
again. She passed a line of customers waiting to get
into the vegetable market, their shopping bags draped
over their arms. At the corner of Oliver Street, she
dodged a group of washers trudging along with bags of
laundry, and some movers carrying away a broken


table. She passed a street-sweeper shoving dust around

with his broom. I am so lucky, she thought, to have
the job I want. And because of Doon Harrow, of all
When they were younger, Lina and Doon had been
friends. Together they had explored the back alleys and
dimly lit edges of the city. But in their fourth year of
school, they had begun to grow apart. It started one day
during the hour of free time, when the children in their
class were playing on the front steps of the school. I
can go down three steps at a time, someone would
boast. I can hop down on one foot! someone else
would say. The others would chime in. I can do a handstand against the pillar! I can leapfrog over the trash
can! As soon as one child did something, all the rest
would do it, too, to prove they could.
Lina could do it all, even when the dares got
wilder. She yelled out the wildest one of all: I can
climb the light pole! For a second everyone just stared
at her. But Lina dashed across the street, took off her
shoes and socks, and wrapped herself around the cold
metal of the pole. Pushing with her bare feet, she
inched upward. She didnt get very far before she lost
her grip and fell back down. The children laughed, and
so did she. I didnt say Id climb to the top, she
explained. I just said Id climb it.
The others swarmed forward to try. Lizzie
wouldnt take off her socksher feet were too cold,


she saidso she kept sliding back. Fordy Penn wasnt

strong enough to get more than a foot off the ground.
Next came Doon. He took his shoes and socks off and
placed them neatly at the foot of the pole. Then he
announced, in his serious way, Im going to the top.
He clasped the pole and started upward, pushing with
his feet, his knees sticking out to the sides. He pulled
himself upward, pushed againhe was higher now
than Lina had beenbut suddenly his hands slid and
he came plummeting down. He landed on his bottom
with his legs poking up in the air. Lina laughed. She
shouldnt have; he might have been hurt. But he
looked so funny that she couldnt help it.
He wasnt hurt. He could have jumped up,
grinned, and walked away. But Doon didnt take things
lightly. When he heard Lina and the others laughing,
his face darkened. His temper rose in him like hot
water. Dont you dare laugh at me, he said to Lina. I
did better than you did! That was a stupid idea anyway,
a stupid, stupid idea to climb that pole. . . . And as he
was shouting, red in the face, their teacher, Mrs.
Polster, came out onto the steps and saw him. She took
him by the shirt collar to the school directors office,
where he got a scolding he didnt think he deserved.
After that day, Lina and Doon barely looked at
each other when they passed in the hallway. At first it
was because they were fuming about what had hap-



pened. Doon didnt like being laughed at; Lina didnt

like being shouted at. After a while the memory of the
light-pole incident faded, but by then they had got out
of the habit of friendship. By the time they were
twelve, they knew each other only as classmates. Lina
was friends with Vindie Chance, Orly Gordon, and
most of all, red-haired Lizzie Bisco, who could run
almost as fast as Lina and could talk three times faster.
Now, as Lina sped toward home, she felt immensely
grateful to Doon and hoped hed come to no harm in
the Pipeworks. Maybe theyd be friends again. Shed
like to ask him about the Pipeworks. She was curious
about it.
When she got to Greystone Street, she passed
Clary Laine, who was probably on her way to the
greenhouses. Clary waved to her and called out, What
job? and Lina called back, Messenger! and ran on.
Lina lived in Quillium Square, over the yarn
shop run by her grandmother. When she got to the
shop, she burst in the door and cried, Granny! Im a
Grannys shop had once been a tidy place, where
each ball of yarn and spool of thread had its spot in the
cubbyholes that lined the walls. All the yarn and thread
came from old clothes that had gotten too shabby to be
worn. Granny unraveled sweaters and picked apart



dresses and jackets and pants; she wound the yarn into
balls and the thread onto spools, and people bought
them to use in making new clothes.
These days, the shop was a mess. Long loops and
strands of yarn dangled out of the cubbyholes, and the
browns and grays and purples were mixed in with the
ochres and olive greens and dark blues. Grannys customers often had to spend half an hour unsnarling the
rust-red yarn from the mud-brown, or trying to fish
out the end of a thread from a tangled wad. Granny
wasnt much help. Most days she just dozed behind the
counter in her rocking chair.
Thats where she was when Lina burst in with her
news. Lina saw that Granny had forgotten to knot up
her hair that morningit was standing out from her
head in a wild white frizz.
Granny stood up, looking puzzled. You arent a
messenger, dear, youre a schoolgirl, she said.
But Granny, today was Assignment Day. I got my
job. And Im a messenger!
Grannys eyes lit up, and she slapped her hand
down on the counter. I remember! she cried. Messenger, thats a grand job! Youll be good at it.
Linas little sister toddled out from behind the
counter on unsteady legs. She had a round face and
round brown eyes. At the top of her head was a sprig
of brown hair tied up with a scrap of red yarn. She
grabbed on to Linas knees. Wy-na, Wy-na! she said.


Lina bent over and took the childs hands. Poppy!

Your big sister got a good job! Are you happy, Poppy?
Are you proud of me?
Poppy said something that sounded like,
Hoppyhoppyhoppy! Lina laughed, hoisted her up,
and danced with her around the shop.
Lina loved her little sister so much that it was like
an ache under her ribs. The baby and Granny were all
the family she had now. Two years ago, when the
coughing sickness was raging through the city again,
her father had died. Some months later, her mother,
giving birth to Poppy, had died, too. Lina missed her
parents with an ache that was as strong as what she felt
for Poppy, only it was a hollow feeling instead of a full
When do you start? asked Granny.
Tomorrow, said Lina. I report to the messengers station at eight oclock.
Youll be a famous messenger, said Granny. Fast
and famous.
Taking Poppy with her, Lina went out of the shop
and climbed the stairs to their apartment. It was a
small apartment, only four rooms, but there was
enough stuff in it to fill twenty. There were things
that had belonged to Linas parents, her grandparents,
and even their grandparentsold, broken, cracked,
threadbare things that had been patched and repaired
dozens or hundreds of times. People in Ember rarely


threw anything away. They made the best possible use

of what they had.
In Linas apartment, layers of worn rugs and carpets covered the floor, making it soft but uneven
underfoot. Against one wall squatted a sagging couch
with round wooden balls for legs, and on the couch
were blankets and pillows, so many that you had to
toss some on the floor before you could sit down.
Against the opposite wall stood two wobbly tables that
held a clutter of plates and bottles, cups and bowls,
unmatching forks and spoons, little piles of scrap
paper, bits of string wound up in untidy wads, and a
few stubby pencils. There were four lamps, two tall
ones that stood on the floor and two short ones that
stood on tables. And in uneven lines up near the ceiling were hooks that held coats and shawls and nightgowns and sweaters, shelves that held pots and pans,
jars with unreadable labels, and boxes of buttons and
pins and tacks.
Where there were no shelves, the walls had been
decorated with things of beautya label from a can of
peaches, a few dried yellow squash flowers, a strip of
faded but still pretty purple cloth. There were drawings, too. Lina had done the drawings out of her imagination. They showed a city that looked somewhat like
Ember, except that its buildings were lighter and taller
and had more windows.
One of the drawings had fallen to the floor. Lina


retrieved it and pinned it back up. She stood for a

minute and looked at the pictures. Over and over, shed
drawn the same city. Sometimes she drew it as seen
from afar, sometimes she chose one of its buildings
and drew it in detail. She put in stairways and streetlamps and carts. Sometimes she tried to draw the people who lived in the city, though she wasnt good at
drawing peopletheir heads always came out too
small, and their hands looked like spiders. One picture
showed a scene in which the people of the city greeted
her when she arrivedthe first person they had ever
seen to come from elsewhere. They argued with each
other about who should be the first to invite her home.
Lina could see this city so clearly in her mind she
almost believed it was real. She knew it couldnt be,
though. The Book of the City of Ember, which all children studied in school, taught otherwise. The city of
Ember was made for us long ago by the Builders, the
book said. It is the only light in the dark world.
Beyond Ember, the darkness goes on forever in all
Lina had been to the outer border of Ember. She
had stood at the edge of the trash heaps and gazed into
the darkness beyond the citythe Unknown Regions.
No one had ever gone far into the Unknown
Regionsor at least no one had gone far and returned.
And no one had ever arrived in Ember from the
Unknown Regions, either. As far as anyone knew, the


darkness did go on forever. Still, Lina wanted the other

city to exist. In her imagination, it was so beautiful,
and it seemed so real. Sometimes she longed to go
there and take everyone in Ember with her.
But she wasnt thinking about the other city now.
Today she was happy to be right where she was. She set
Poppy on the couch. Wait there, she said. She went
into the kitchen, where there was an electric stove and
a refrigerator that no longer worked and was used to
store glasses and dishes so Poppy couldnt get at them.
Above the refrigerator were shelves holding more pots
and jars, more spoons and knives, a wind-up clock that
Granny always forgot to wind, and a long row of cans.
Lina tried to keep the cans in alphabetical order so she
could find what she wanted quickly, but Granny always
messed them up. Now, she saw, there were beans at the
end of the row and tomatoes at the beginning. She
picked out a can labeled Baby Drink and a jar of boiled
carrots, opened them, poured the liquid into a cup and
the carrots into a little dish, and took these back to the
baby on the couch.
Poppy dribbled Baby Drink down her chin. She
ate some of her carrots and poked others between the
couch cushions. For the moment, Lina felt almost perfectly happy. There was no need to think about the fate
of the city right now. Tomorrow, shed be a messenger!
She wiped the orange goop off Poppys chin. Dont
worry, she said. Everything will be all right.


The messengers headquarters was on Cloving Street,
not far from the back of the Gathering Hall. When
Lina arrived the next morning, she was greeted by
Messenger Captain Allis Fleery, a bony woman with
pale eyes and hair the color of dust. Our new girl,
said Captain Fleery to the other messengers, a cluster
of nine people who smiled and nodded at Lina. I have
your jacket right here, said the captain. She handed
Lina a red jacket like the one all messengers wore. It
was only a little too large.
From the clock tower of the Gathering Hall came
a deep reverberating bong. Eight oclock! cried
Captain Fleery. She waved a long arm. Take your stations! As the clock sounded seven more times, the
messengers scattered in all directions. The captain
turned to Lina. Your station, she said, is Garn
Lina nodded and started off, but the captain
caught her by the collar. I havent told you the rules,
she said. She held up a knobby finger. One: When a
customer gives you a message, repeat it back to make
sure you have it right. Two: Always wear your red
jacket so people can identify you. Three: Go as fast as
possible. Your customers pay twenty cents for every
message, no matter how far you have to take it.
Lina nodded. I always go fast, she said.
Four, the captain went on. Deliver a message


only to the person its meant for, no one else.

Lina nodded again. She bounced a little on her
toes, eager to get going.
Captain Fleery smiled. Go, she said, and Lina
was off.
She felt strong and speedy and surefooted. She
glanced at her reflection as she ran past the window of
a furniture repair shop. She liked the look of her long
dark hair flying out behind her, her long legs in their
black socks, and her flapping red jacket. Her face,
which had never seemed especially remarkable, looked
almost beautiful, because she looked so happy.
As soon as she came into Garn Square, a voice
cried, Messenger! Her first customer! It was old
Natty Prine, calling to her from the bench where he
always sat. This goes to Ravenet Parsons, 18 Selverton
Square, he said. Bend down.
She bent down so that her ear was close to his
whiskery mouth.
The old man said in a slow, hoarse voice, My
stove is broke, dont come for dinner. Repeat.
Lina repeated the message.
Good, said Natty Prine. He gave Lina twenty
cents, and she ran across the city to Selverton Square.
There she found Ravenet Parsons also sitting on a
bench. She recited the message to him.
Old turniphead, he growled. Lazy old fleaface.
He just doesnt feel like cooking. No reply.


Lina ran back to Garn Square, passing a group of

Believers on the way. They were standing in a circle,
holding hands, singing one of their cheerful songs. It
seemed to Lina there were more Believers than ever
these days. What they believed in she didnt know,
but it must make them happythey were always
Her next customer turned out to be Mrs. Polster,
the teacher of the fourth-year class. In Mrs. Polsters
class, they memorized passages from The Book of the
City of Ember every week. Mrs. Polster had charts on
the walls for everything, with everyones name listed. If
you did something right, she made a green dot by your
name. If you did something wrong, she made a red
dot. What you need to learn, children, she always
said, in her resonant, precise voice, is the difference
between right and wrong in every area of life. And
once you learn the difference Here she would stop
and point to the class, and the class would finish the
sentence: You must always choose the right. In every
situation, Mrs. Polster knew what the right choice was.
Now here was Mrs. Polster again, looming over
Lina and pronouncing her message. To Annisette
Lafrond, 39 Humm Street, as follows, she said. My
confidence in you has been seriously diminished since
I heard about the disreputable activities in which you
engaged on Thursday last. Please repeat.
It took Lina three tries to get this right. Uh-oh, a


red dot for me, she said. Mrs. Polster did not seem to
find this amusing.
Lina had nineteen customers that first morning.
Some of them had ordinary messages: I cant come on
Tuesday. Buy a pound of potatoes on your way
home. Please come and fix my front door. Others
had messages that made no sense to her at all, like Mrs.
Polsters. But it didnt matter. The wonderful part
about being a messenger was not the messages but the
places she got to go. She could go into the houses of
people she didnt know and hidden alleyways and little
rooms in the backs of stores. In just a few hours, she
discovered all kinds of strange and interesting things.
For instance: Mrs. Sample, the mender, had to
sleep on her couch because her entire bedroom, almost
up to the ceiling, was crammed with clothes to be
mended. Dr. Felinia Tower had the skeleton of a
person hanging against her living room wall, its
bones all held in place with black strings. I study it,
she said when she saw Lina staring. I have to know
how people are put together. At a house on Calloo
Street, Lina delivered a message to a worried-looking
man whose living room was completely dark. Im saving on light bulbs, the man said. And when Lina took
a message to the Can Caf, she learned that on certain
days the back room was used as a meeting place for
people who liked to converse about Great Subjects.
Do you think an Invisible Being is watching over us


all the time? she heard someone ask. Perhaps,

answered someone else. There was a long silence. And
then again, perhaps not.
All of it was interesting. She loved finding things
out, and she loved running. And even by the end of the
day, she wasnt tired. Running made her feel strong and
big-hearted, it made her love the places she ran
through and the people whose messages she delivered.
She wished she could bring all of them the good news
they so desperately wanted to hear.
Late in the afternoon, a young man came up to
her, walking with a sort of sideways lurch. He was an
odd-looking personhe had a very long neck with a
bump in the middle and teeth so big they looked as if
they were trying to escape from his mouth. His black,
bushy hair stuck out from his head in untidy tufts. I
have a message for the mayor, at the Gathering Hall,
he said. He paused to let the importance of this be
understood. The mayor, he said. Did you get that?
I got it, said Lina.
All right. Listen carefully. Tell him: Delivery at
eight. From Looper. Repeat it back.
Delivery at eight. From Looper, Lina repeated. It
was an easy message.
All right. No answer required. He handed her
twenty cents, and she sprinted away.
The Gathering Hall occupied one entire side of
Harken Square, which was the citys central plaza. The


square was paved with stone. It had a few benches

bolted to the ground here and there, as well as a
couple of kiosks for notices. Wide steps led up to the
Gathering Hall, and fat columns framed its big door.
The mayors office was in the Gathering Hall. So were
the offices of the clerks who kept track of which buildings had broken windows, what streetlamps needed
repair, and the number of people in the city. There was
the office of the timekeeper, who was in charge of the
town clock. And there were offices for the guards who
enforced the laws of Ember, now and then putting
pickpockets or people who got in fights into the Prison
Room, a small one-story structure with a sloping roof
that jutted out from one side of the building.
Lina ran up the steps and through the door into a
broad hallway. On the left was a desk, and at the desk
sat a guard: Barton Snode, Assistant Guard, said a
badge on his chest. He was a big man, with wide shoulders, brawny arms, and a thick neck. But his head
looked as if it didnt belong to his bodyit was small
and round and topped with a fuzz of extremely short
hair. His lower jaw jutted out and moved a little from
side to side, as if he were chewing on something.
When he saw Lina, his jaw stopped moving for a
moment and his lips curled upward in a very small
smile. Good day, he said. What business brings you
here today?
I have a message for the mayor.


Very good, very good. Barton Snode heaved

himself to his feet. Step this way.
He led Lina down the corridor and opened a door
marked Reception Room.
Wait here, please, he said. The mayor is in his
basement office on private business, but he will be up
Lina went inside.
Ill notify the mayor, said Barton Snode. Please
have a seat. The mayor will be right with you. Or pretty
soon. He left, closing the door behind him. A second
later, the door opened again, and the guards small
fuzzy head re-appeared. What is the message? he
I have to give it to the mayor in person, said
Of course, of course, said the guard. The door
closed again. He doesnt seem very sure about things,
Lina thought. Maybe hes new at his job.
The Reception Room was shabby, but Lina could
tell that it had once been impressive. The walls were
dark red, with brownish patches where the paint was
peeling away. In the right-hand wall was a closed door.
An ugly brown carpet lay on the floor, and on it stood
a large armchair covered in itchy-looking red material,
and several smaller chairs. A small table held a teapot
and some cups, and a larger table in the middle of the
room displayed a copy of The Book of the City of


Ember, lying open as if someone were going to read

from it. Portraits of all the mayors of the city since the
beginning of time hung on the walls, staring solemnly
from behind pieces of old window glass.
Lina sat in the big armchair and waited. No one
came. She got up and wandered around the room.
She bent over The Book of the City of Ember and read a
few sentences: The citizens of Ember may not have
luxuries, but the foresight of the Builders, who filled
the storerooms at the beginning of time, has ensured
that they will always have enough, and enough is all
that a person of wisdom needs.
She flipped a few pages. The Gathering Hall
clock, she read, measures the hours of night and day.
It must never be allowed to run down. Without it, how
would we know when to go to work and when to go
to school? How would the light director know when to
turn the lights on and when to turn them off again? It
is the job of the timekeeper to wind the clock
every week and to place the date sign in Harken Square
every day. The timekeeper must perform these duties
Lina knew that not all timekeepers were as faithful
as they should be. Shed heard of one, some years ago,
who often forgot to change the date sign, so that it
might say, Wednesday, Week 38, Year 227 for several
days in a row. There had even been timekeepers who
forgot to wind the clock, so that it might stand at noon


or at midnight for hours at a time, causing a very long

day or a very long night. The result was that no one
really knew anymore exactly what day of the week it
was, or exactly how many years it had been since the
building of the citythey called this the year 241, but
it might have been 245 or 239 or 250. As long as the
clocks deep boom rang out every hour, and the lights
went on and off more or less regularly, it didnt seem
to matter.
Lina left the book and examined the pictures of
the mayors. The seventh mayor, Podd Morethwart, was
her great-greatshe didnt know how many greats
grandfather. He looked quite dreary, Lina thought. His
cheeks were long and hollow, his mouth turned down
at the corners, and there was a lost look in his eyes. The
picture she liked best was of the fourth mayor, Jane
Larket, who had a serene smile and fuzzy black hair.
Still no one came. She heard no sounds from the
hallway. Maybe theyd forgotten her.
Lina went over to the closed door in the righthand wall. She pulled it open and saw stairs going up.
Maybe, while she waited, shed just see where they
went. She started upward. At the top of the first flight
was a closed door. Carefully, she opened it. She saw
another hallway and more closed doors. She shut the
door and kept going. Her footsteps sounded loud on
the wood, and she was afraid someone would hear her
and come and scold her. No doubt she was not


supposed to be here. But no one came, and she

climbed on, passing another closed door.
The Gathering Hall was the only building in
Ember with three stories. She had always wanted to
stand on its roof and look out at the city. Maybe from
there it would be possible to see beyond the city, into
the Unknown Regions. If the bright city of her drawings really did exist, it would be out there somewhere.
At the top of the stairs, she came to a door marked
Roof, and she pushed it open. Chilly air brushed
against her skin. She was outside. Ahead of her was a
flat gravel surface, and about ten paces away she could
see the high wall of the clock tower.
She went to the edge of the roof. From there she
could see the whole of Ember. Directly below was
Harken Square, where people were moving this way
and that, all of them appearing, from this top-down
view, more round than tall. Beyond Harken Square,
the lighted windows of the buildings made checkered
lines, yellow and black, row after row, in all directions.
She tried to see farther, across the Unknown Regions,
but she couldnt. At the edges of the city, the lights were
so far away that they made a kind of haze. She could
see nothing beyond them but blackness.
She heard a shout from the square below. Look!
came a small but piercing voice. Someone on the
roof ! She saw a few people stop and look up. Who is
it? Whats she doing up there? someone cried. More


people gathered, until a crowd was standing on the

steps of the Gathering Hall. They see me! Lina
thought, and it made her laugh. She waved at the
crowd and did a few steps from the Bugfoot Scurry
Dance, which shed learned on Cloving Square Dance
Day, and they laughed and shouted some more.
Then the door behind her burst open, and a huge
guard with a bushy black beard was suddenly running
toward her. Halt! he shouted, though she wasnt
going anywhere. He grabbed her by the arm. What are
you doing here?
I was just curious, said Lina, in her most innocent voice. I wanted to see the city from the roof. She
read the guards name badge. It said, Redge Stabmark,
Chief Guard.
Curiosity leads to trouble, said Redge Stabmark.
He peered down at the crowd. You have caused a
commotion. He pulled her toward the door and
hustled her down all three flights of stairs. When they
came out into the waiting room, Barton Snode was
standing there looking flustered, his jaw twitching
from side to side. Next to him was the mayor.
A child causing trouble, Mayor Cole, said the
chief guard.
The mayor glared at her. I recall your face. From
Assignment Day. Shame! Disgracing yourself in your
new job.
I didnt mean to cause trouble, said Lina. I was


looking for you so I could deliver a message.

Shall we put her in the Prison Room for a day or
two? asked the chief guard.
The mayor frowned. He pondered a moment.
What is the message? he said. He bent down so that
Lina could speak into his ear. She noticed that he
smelled a little like overcooked turnips.
Delivery at eight, Lina whispered. From
The mayor smiled a tight little smile. He turned to
the guard. Just a childs antics, he said. We will let it
go this time. From now on, he said to Lina, behave
Yes, Mr. Mayor, said Lina.
And you, said the mayor, turning to the assistant
guard and shaking a thick finger at him, watch
visitors much . . . more . . . carefully.
Barton Snode blinked and nodded.
Lina ran for the door. Outside, the small crowd
was still standing by the steps. A few of them cheered
as Lina came out. Others frowned at her and muttered
words like mischief and silliness and show-off.
Lina felt embarrassed suddenly. She hadnt meant to
show off. She hurried past, out into Otterwill Street,
and started to run.
She didnt see Doon, who was among those watching her. He had been on his way home from his first
day in the Pipeworks when hed come across the


cluster of people gazing up at the roof of the Gathering Hall and laughing. He was tired and chilly. The
bottoms of his pants legs were wet, and mud clung to
his shoes and smeared his hands. When he raised his
eyes and saw the small figure next to the clock tower,
he realized right away that it was Lina. He saw her raise
her arm and wave and hop about, and for a second he
wondered what it would be like to be up there, looking
out over the whole city, laughing and waving. When
Lina came down, he wanted to speak to her. But he
knew he was filthy-looking and that she would ask him
questions he didnt want to answer. So he turned away.
Walking fast, he headed for home.



Order your copy of


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A satisfying mystery,
a breathtaking escape over rooftops
in darkness, a harrowing journey into
the unknown, and cryptic messages for
readers to decipher.
Kirkus Reviews, starred

DuPraus book leaves Doon and Lina on

the verge of the undiscovered country
and readers wanting more.
USA Today

An electric debut.
Publishers Weekly, starred

Readers will be eagerly deciphering.

The Horn Book Magazine


The Books of Ember by New York Times
bestselling author Jeanne DuPrau

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Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If the book is coverless,
it may have been reported to the publisher as unsold or destroyed and neither the author
nor the publisher may have received payment for it.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright 2013 by Chris Grabenstein
Cover art copyright 2013 by Gilbert Ford
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Yearling, an imprint of
Random House Childrens Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Originally published in hardcover in the United States by
Random House Childrens Books, New York, in 2013.
Yearling and the jumping horse design are
registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content
of the forthcoming edition.
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition of this work as follows:
Grabenstein, Chris.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncellos library / Chris Grabenstein. 1st ed.
pages cm.
Summary: Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library,
designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students
but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.
Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-375-87089-7 (trade) ISBN 978-0-375-97089-4 (lib. bdg.)
ISBN 978-0-307-97496-9 (ebook)
[1. LibrariesFiction. 2. Books and readingFiction. 3. GamesFiction.]
I. Title. II. Title: Escape from Mister Lemoncellos library.
PZ7.G7487Es 2013 [Fic]dc23 2012048122
ISBN 978-0-307-93147-4 (pbk.)
Printed in the United States of America
10 9
First Yearling Edition 2014
Random House Childrens Books supports
the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


This is how Kyle Keeley got grounded for a week.
First he took a shortcut through his mothers favorite
Yes, the thorns hurt, but having crashed through the
brambles and trampled a few petunias, he had a fivesecond jump on his oldest brother, Mike.
Both Kyle and his big brother knew exactly where to
find what they needed to win the game: inside the house!
Kyle had already found the pinecone to complete his
outdoors round. And he was pretty sure Mike had
snagged his yellow flower. Hey, it was June. Dandelions
were everywhere.
Give it up, Kyle! shouted Mike as the brothers dashed
up the driveway. You dont stand a chance.
Mike zoomed past Kyle and headed for the front door,
wiping out Kyles temporary lead.

Of course he did.
Seventeen-year-old Mike Keeley was a total jock, a
high school superstar. Football, basketball, baseball. If it
had a ball, Mike Keeley was good at it.
Kyle, who was twelve, wasnt the star of anything.
Kyles other brother, Curtis, who was fifteen, was still
trapped over in the neighbors yard, dealing with their dog.
Curtis was the smartest Keeley. But for his outdoors
round, he had pulled the always unfortunate Your Neighbors Dogs Toy card. Any dog card was basically the
same as a Lose a Turn.
As for why the three Keeley brothers were running
around their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon like
crazed lunatics, grabbing all sorts of wacky stuff, well, it
was their mothers fault.
She was the one who had suggested, If you boys are
bored, play a board game!
So Kyle had gone down into the basement and dug
up one of his all-time favorites: Mr. Lemoncellos IndoorOutdoor Scavenger Hunt. It had been a huge hit for Mr.
Lemoncello, the master game maker. Kyle and his brothers had played it so much when they were younger, Mrs.
Keeley wrote to Mr. Lemoncellos company for a refresher
pack of clue cards. The new cards listed all sorts of different bizarro stuff you needed to find, like an adults
droopy underpants, one dirty dish, and a rotten
banana peel.


(At the end of the game, the losers had to put everything back exactly where the items had been found. It was
an official rule, printed inside the top of the box, and made
winning the game that much more important!)
While Curtis was stranded next door, trying to talk the
neighbors Doberman, Twinky, out of his favorite tug toy,
Kyle and Mike were both searching for the same two items,
because for the final round, all the players were given the
same Riddle Card.
That days riddle, even though it was a card Kyle had
never seen before, had been extra easy.
find two coins from 1982 that add up to thirty
cents and one of them cannot be a nickel.
Duh. The answer was a quarter and a nickel because
the riddle said only one of them couldnt be a nickel.
So to win, Kyle had to find a 1982 quarter and a 1982
Also easy.
Their dad kept an apple cider jug filled with loose
change down in his basement workshop.
Thats why Kyle and Mike were racing to get there first.
Mike bolted through the front door.
Kyle grinned.
He loved playing games against his big brothers. As the
youngest, it was just about the only chance he ever got to
beat them fair and square. Board games leveled the playing
field. You needed a good roll of the dice, a lucky draw of


the cards, and some smarts, but if things went your way
and you gave it your all, anyone could win.
Especially today, since Mike had blown his lead by
choosing the standard route down to the basement. Hed
go through the front door, tear to the back of the house,
bound down the steps, and then run to their dads workshop.
Kyle, on the other hand, would take a shortcut.
He hopped over a couple of boxy shrubs and kicked
open the low-to-the-ground casement window. He heard
something crackle when his tennis shoe hit the windowpane, but he couldnt worry about it. He had to beat his
big brother.
He crawled through the narrow opening, dropped to
the floor, and scrabbled over to the workbench, where he
found the jug, dumped out the coins, and started sifting
through the sea of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.
Kyle quickly uncovered a 1982 nickel. He tucked it into
his shirt pocket and sent pennies, nickels, and dimes skidding across the floor as he concentrated on quarters. 2010.
2003. 1986.
Come on, come on, he muttered.
The workshop door swung open.
What the . . . ? Mike was surprised to see that Kyle
had beaten him to the coin jar.
Mike fell to his knees and started searching for his own


coins just as Kyle shouted, Got it! and plucked a 1982

quarter out of the pile.
What about the nickel? demanded Mike.
Kyle pulled it out of his shirt pocket.
You went through the window? said a voice from
It was Curtis. Kneeling in the flower beds.
Yeah, said Kyle.
I was going to do that. The shortest distance between
two points is a straight line.
I cant believe you won! moaned Mike, who wasnt
used to losing anything.
Well, said Kyle, standing up and strutting a little,
believe it, brother. Because now you two losers have to
put all the junk back.
I am not taking this back to Twinky! said Curtis. He
held up a very slimy, knotted rope.
Oh, yes you are, said Kyle. Because you lost. Oh
sure, you thought about using the window. . . .
Um, Kyle? mumbled Curtis. You might want to
shut up. . . .
What? Cmon, Curtis. Dont be such a sore loser. Just
because I was the one who took the shortcut and kicked
open the window and
You did this, Kyle?
A new face appeared in the window.
Their dads.


Heh, heh, heh, chuckled Mike behind Kyle.

You broke the glass? Their father sounded ticked
off. Well, guess whos going to pay to have this window
Thats why Kyle Keeley had fifty cents deducted from
his allowance for the rest of the year.
And got grounded for a week.


Halfway across town, Dr. Yanina Zinchenko, the worldfamous librarian, was walking briskly through the cavernous building that was only days away from its gala grand
Alexandriavilles new public library had been under
construction for five years. All work had been done with
the utmost secrecy under the tightest possible security. One
crew did the exterior renovations on what had once been
the small Ohio citys most magnificent building, the Gold
Leaf Bank. Other crews carpenters, masons, electricians,
and plumbersworked on the interior.
No single construction crew stayed on the job longer
than six weeks.
No crew knew what any of the other crews had done
(or would be doing).
And when all those crews were finished, several

super-secret covert crews (highly paid workers who would

deny ever having been near the library, Alexandriaville, or
the state of Ohio) stealthily applied the final touches.
Dr. Zinchenko had supervised the construction project
for her employera very eccentric (some would say loony)
billionaire. Only she knew all the marvels and wonders
the incredible new library would hold (and hide) within its
Dr. Zinchenko was a tall woman with blazing-red hair.
She wore an expensive, custom-tailored business suit, jazzy
high-heeled shoes, a Bluetooth earpiece, and glasses with
thick red frames.
Heels clicking on the marble floor, fingers tapping
on the glass of her very advanced tablet computer, Dr.
Zinchenko strode past the control centers red door, under
an arch, and into the breathtakingly large circular reading
room beneath the librarys three-story-tall rotunda.
The bank building, which provided the shell for the
new library, had been built in 1931. With towering Corinthian columns, an arched entryway, lots of fancy trim, and
a mammoth shimmering gold dome, the building looked
like it belonged next door to the triumphant memorials in
Washington, D.C.not on this small Ohio towns quaint
Dr. Zinchenko paused to stare up at the librarys most
stunning visual effect: the Wonder Dome. Ten wedgeshaped, high-definition video screens as brilliant as those
in Times Squarelined the underbelly of the dome like

so many orange slices. Each screen could operate independently or as part of a spectacular whole. The Wonder Dome
could become the constellations of the night sky; a flight
through the clouds that made viewers below sense that the
whole building had somehow lifted off the ground; or, in
Dewey decimal mode, ten sections depicting vibrant and
constantly changing images associated with each category
in the library cataloging system.
I have the final numbers for the fourth sector of the
Wonder Dome in Dewey mode, Dr. Zinchenko said into
her Bluetooth earpiece. 364 point 1092. She carefully
over-enunciated each word to make certain the video artist knew what specific numbers should occasionally drift
across the fourth wedge amid the swirling social-sciences
montage featuring a floating judges gavel, a tumbling
teachers apple, and a gentle snowfall of holiday icons.
The numbers, however, should not appear until eleven
a.m. Sunday. Is that clear?
Yes, Dr. Zinchenko, replied the tinny voice in
her ear.
Next Dr. Zinchenko studied the holographic statues
projected into black crepe-lined recesses cut into the massive stone piers that supported the arched windows from
which the Wonder Dome rose.
Why are Shakespeare and Dickens still here? Theyre
not on the list for opening night.
Sorry, replied the librarys director of holographic
imagery, who was also on the conference call. Ill fix it.

Thank you.
Exiting the rotunda, the librarian entered the Childrens Room.
It was dim, with only a few work lights glowing, but
Dr. Zinchenko had memorized the layout of the miniature tables and was able to march, without bumping her
shins, to the Story Corner for a final check on her recently
installed geese.
The flock of six audio-animatronic goslings fluffy
robots with ping-pongish eyeballs (created for the new
library by imagineers who used to work at Disney World)
stood perched atop an angled bookcase in the corner.
Mother Goose, in her bonnet and granny glasses, was
frozen in the center.
This is librarian One, said Dr. Zinchenko, loud
enough for the microphones hidden in the ceiling to pick
up her voice. Initiate story-time sequence.
The geese sprang to mechanical life.
Nursery rhyme.
The geese honked out Baa-Baa Black Sheep in sixpart harmony.
Treasure Island?
The birds yo-ho-hoed their way through Fifteen Men
on a Dead Mans Chest.
Dr. Zinchenko clapped her hands. The rollicking geese
stopped singing and swaying.
One more, she said. Squinting, she saw a book sitting on a nearby table. Walter the Farting Dog.

The six geese spun around and farted, their tail feathers flipping up in sync with the noisy blasts.
Excellent. End story time.
The geese slumped back into their sleep mode. Dr.
Zinchenko made one more tick on her computer tablet.
Her final punch list was growing shorter and shorter,
which was a very good thing. The librarys grand opening
was set for Friday night. Dr. Z and her army of associates
had only a few days left to smooth out any kinks in the
librarys complex operating system.
Suddenly, Dr. Zinchenko heard a low, rumbling growl.
Turning around, she was eyeball to icy-blue eyeball
with a very rare white tiger.
Dr. Zinchenko sighed and touched her Bluetooth earpiece.
Ms. G? This is Dr. Z. What is our white Bengal tiger
doing in the childrens department? . . . I see. Apparently,
there was a slight misunderstanding. We do not want him
permanently positioned near The Jungle Book. Check the
call number. 599 point 757. . . . Right. He should be in
Zoology. . . . Yes, please. Right away. Thank you, Ms. G.
And like a vanishing mirage, the tiger disappeared.


Of course, even though he was grounded, Kyle Keeley still
had to go to school.
Mike, Curtis, Kyle, time to wake up! his mother
called from down in the kitchen.
Kyle plopped his feet on the floor, rubbed his eyes, and
sleepily looked around his room.
The computer handed down from his brother Curtis
was sitting on the desk that used to belong to his other
brother, Mike. The rug on the floor, with its Cincinnati
Reds logo, had also been Mikes when he was twelve years
old. The books lined up in his bookcase had been lined up
on Mikes and Curtiss shelves, except for the ones Kyle got
each year for Christmas from his grandmother. He still
hadnt read last years addition.
Kyle wasnt big on books.


Unless they were the instruction manual or hint guide

to a video game. He had a Sony PlayStation set up in the
family room. It wasnt the high-def, Blu-ray PS3. It was
the one Santa had brought Mike maybe four years earlier.
(Mike kept the brand-new Blu-ray model locked up in his
But still, clunker that it was, the four-year-old gaming
console in the family room worked.
Except this week.
Well, it worked, but Kyles dad had taken away his TV
and computer privileges, so unless he just wanted to hear
the hard drive hum, there was really no point in firing up the
PlayStation until the next Sunday, when his sentence ended.
When youre grounded in this house, his father had
said, youre grounded.
If Kyle needed a computer for homework during this
last week of school, he could use his moms, the one in the
His mom had no games on her computer.
Okay, she had Diner Dash, but that didnt really count.
Being grounded in the Keeley household meant you
couldnt do anything except, as his dad put it, think about
what you did that caused you to be grounded.
Kyle knew what he had done: Hed broken a window.
But hey I also beat my big brothers!
* * *


Good morning, Kyle, his mom said when he hit the

kitchen. She was sitting at her computer desk, sipping coffee and tapping keys. Grab a Toaster Tart for breakfast.
Curtis and Mike were already in the kitchen, chowing
down on the last of the good Toaster Tartsthe frosted
cupcake swirls. Theyd left Kyle the unfrosted brown sugar
cinnamon. The ones that tasted like the box they came in.
New library opens Friday, just in time for summer
vacation, Kyles mom mumbled, reading her computer
screen. Been twelve years since they tore down the old
one. Listen to this, boys: Dr. Yanina Zinchenko, the new
public librarys head librarian, promises that patrons will
be surprised by what they find inside.
Really? said Kyle, who always liked a good surprise.
I wonder what theyll have in there.
Um, books maybe? said Mike. Its a library, Kyle.
Still, said Curtis, I cant wait to get my new library
Because youre a nerd, said Mike.
I prefer the term geek, said Curtis.
Well, I gotta go, said Kyle, grabbing his backpack.
Dont want to miss the bus.
He hurried out the door. What Kyle really didnt want
to miss were his friends. A lot of them had Sony PSPs and
Nintendo 3DSs.
Loaded with lots and lots of games!
* * *

Kyle fist-bumped and knuckle-knocked his way up the bus

aisle to his usual seat. Almost everybody wanted to say
Hey to him, except, of course, Sierra Russell.
Like always, Sierra, who was also a seventh grader, was
sitting in the back of the bus, her nose buried in a book
probably one of those about girls who lived in tiny homes
on the prairie or something.
Ever since her parents divorced and her dad moved out
of town, Sierra Russell had been incredibly quiet and spent
all her free time reading.
Nice shirt, said Akimi Hughes as Kyle slid into the
seat beside her.
Thanks. It used to be Mikes.
Doesnt matter. Its still cool.
Akimis mother was Asian, her dad Irish. She had
very long jet-black hair, extremely blue eyes, and a ton
of freckles.
Whatre you playing? Kyle asked, because Akimi
was frantically working the controls on her PSP 3000.
Squirrel Squad, said Akimi.
One of Mr. Lemoncellos best, said Kyle, who had
the same game on his PlayStation.
The one he couldnt play with for a week.
You need a hand?
Watch out for the beehives. . . .
I know about the beehives, Kyle.
Im just saying . . .

I cleared level six! Finally.
Awesome. Kyle did not mention that he was up to
level twenty-seven. Akimi was his best friend. Friends
dont gloat to friends.
When I shot the squirrels at the falcons, said Akimi,
the pilots parachuted. If a squirrel bit the pilot in the butt,
I got a fifty-point bonus.
Yes, in Mr. Lemoncellos catapulting critters game,
there were all sorts of wacky jokes. The falcons werent
birds; they were F-16 Falcon Fighter Jets. And the squirrels? They were nuts. Totally bonkers. With swirly whirlpool eyes. They flew through the air jabbering gibberish.
They bit butts.
This was one of the main reasons why Kyle thought
everything that came out of Mr. Lemoncellos Imagination
Factoryboard games, puzzles, video gameswas amazingly awesome. For Mr. Lemoncello, a game just wasnt a
game if it wasnt a little goofy around the edges.
So, did you pick up the bonus code? asked Kyle.
In the freeze-frame there.
Akimi studied the screen.
Turn it over.
Akimi did.
See that number tucked into the corner? Type that in
the next time the home screen asks you for your password.

Why? What happens?

Youll see.
Akimi slugged him in the arm. What?
Well, dont be surprised if you start flinging flaming
squirrels on level seven.
Get. Out!
Try it. Youll see.
I will. This afternoon. So, did you write your extracredit essay?
Huh? What essay?
Um, the one thats due today. About the new public
Refresh my memory.
Akimi sighed. Because the old library was torn down
twelve years ago, the twelve twelve-year-olds who write
the best essays on Why Im Excited About the New Public
Library will get to go to the library lock-in this Friday
The winners will spend the night in the new library
before anybody else even gets to see the place!
Is this like that movie Night at the Museum? Will the
books come alive and chase people around and junk?
No. But there will probably be free movies, and food,
and prizes, and games.
All of a sudden, Kyle was interested.


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