My work-in-progress middle-grade children’s novel takes place in the fictional setting of Gander, a once-idyllic land where something sinister is unfolding. Good stories are disappearing, while the bad stories are proliferating! Every night, when the children of Gander go to sleep, they ask their parents to read them a bedtime story. But the stories they hear are teaching them to delight in the misfortunes of others, among other unsavory things. As a result, all of the children of Gander are rotten!
…Well, almost all of the children are rotten. There are two children who have been insulated from the contaminating influences of the bad stories. One of them is Gavin, the new kid in Gander who moved there after spending his entire life (all 11 years of it) on a remote oceanic island where his father made up his own bedtime stories and his parents studied the world’s only population of the Chatterby Giant Mouse. The second kid is Rennet Maximilian Walter Paxton Stoddellmeyer III (better known as Mousey) whose father Mr. Stoddellmeyer–owner of Stoddellmeyer’s Stinky Cheeses–is too busy to read stories to his son.
Who is behind the disappearance of the stories? And what is their motivation? Will Gavin and Mousey discover the culprit? Will they successfully return the good stories and save the culture of Gander in this story of friendship, adventure, and danger?
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 3: A Bedtime Story
Gavin sat up in bed in his new bedroom. He had never had his own room before. On Chatterby Island, he and his parents lived together in a one-room wall tent full of scientific journals and research supplies, such as flags, spools of colorful tape, compasses, anemometers for measuring wind speed, GPS units, magnifying lenses, binoculars, yardsticks, PVC piping, string, and more. Gavin had used that wall tent mainly for sleep, as well as shelter from the occasional storm.
His new bedroom, however, was clean and clutter-free. He felt like he could spend hours at a time here. It was one benefit, he supposed, to the move that had otherwise upended his life. On the wall near the door hung a framed photo of Gavin and his best friend Pootsy, grinning with his arm and her forepaw around each other. He missed Pootsy so much. She could always make him laugh with her funny antics.
Above his bed he had tacked an Island Rodents of the World poster to the wall. The animal sizes were drawn relative to each other and of course the Chatterby giant mouse, located front and center, took up the most space. Muffin, who had had his likeness painted for the poster, had even “signed” it with a muddy paw print.
There was a rocking chair in the corner, a desk below the window, and next to it a small bookshelf. The bookshelf held Gavin’s yellow field notebooks, the complete twelve volume collection of Captain Chatterby’s journals, and his prized first edition of A Natural Historie of Chatterby Island by Thaddeus Solfetta, the royal naturalist aboard Captain Chatterby’s voyages.
Gavin glanced at his bedside clock. Dr. Green would arrive any moment to tell him a bedtime story. His dad, normally so precise and scientific, sprang to life during story time. His eyes flashed and shone. His voice creaked like an old wooden door or BOOMED like thunder before dropping to the hush of a gentle rain. He would turn away and, when he spun round again, he’d be a nine-foot giant or—in a flash—he’d be fleeing from the scorching breath of a pearly-eyed dragon.
Dr. Green told stories of boys and girls exploring city sewers, of treasure hunts and shipwrecks and jungle adventures. Stories about vengeful wizards with potions that turned people to stone, or about faraway lands where the skies were violet and the lightning came without warning. Stories about creatures so fantastic he’d be stunned, or others so terrifying he’d want to burrow under his covers and not come out until he heard the birds singing in the morning and knew it was safe.
As Gavin listened to his dad’s stories, he learned about courage and cowardice, friendship and betrayal, the choice between the easy path and the right path. The stories didn’t really feel like stories to him, but rather experiences from his own life. Word by word, story by story, sitting up in bed but also worlds away, Gavin felt his inner self… expanding.
A knock came at his door.