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Alligators Overhead by @cleemckenzie is a Trick or Treat Bonanza pick #middlegrade #fantasyadventure
Title: Alligators Overhead, Book One in the Adventures of Pete and Weasel
Author: C. Lee McKenzie
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure
Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town's bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he's up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn't the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete's guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find his aunt and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.
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Pete chewed on what was left of his right thumbnail, stared up at the round-faced clock above Aunt Lizzie’s desk and watched it tick off his last minutes of freedom.
The clapper pulled back and snapped against the brass bell, shaking his morning brain awake, more awake than it wanted to be on the first day of spring break.
His other hand hovered over the chunky, black phone on Aunt Lizzie’s desk. Like everything in the house it was retro, but today it was a bomb set to explode with a call from Principal Pitt, wiping out his spring vacation, wiping out his allowances, probably wiping out the rest of his life.
Before the phone rang a second time, he sprang out of the chair, snatched up the receiver, and, with a shaky hand, held it to his ear, waiting to hear Principal Pitt’s wheezy voice. Instead a woman said, “Today’s the day, Peter Riley.”
The phone went dead. He dropped the receiver. It missed the desk and dangled over the edge, spinning by its cord, humming with a dial tone.
“Breakfast in ten minutes,” Aunt Lizzie called from the kitchen.
He jumped at the sound of his aunt’s voice, and then swallowed so his heart slid back where it belonged. No way could he explain that call to her.
He set the receiver on the cradle, slow and easy.
Was that Pitt’s secretary? How about Lucy Burke’s mom? No. They never called him Peter. The woman’s voice on the phone had sounded hollow, like a recording, not a live person.
One thing was sure. It had jiggled his insides even more than last night’s nightmare. Pete stared at the phone, wondering if he’d really heard what he thought.
Aunt Lizzie called again. “Young man, did you hear me?”
“I heard you.” He righted the chair and tried to ignore the mess of hamsters in his stomach.
“Who was on the phone, Pete?”
But how could that be? The woman knew his name. Today is the day, Peter Riley.”
“The day for what?” His own voice sounded eerie.
Pete had one of those very readable faces, so when he was up to something he shouldn’t be —which was the case most of the time—Aunt Lizzie knew it with only one glance in his direc- tion. He looked into the mirror over the desk. For a change, guilt wasn’t there, not one speck. And that was mostly because there wasn’t any room for it. At that moment, his face read con- fused with nervous-scared elbowing its way through.
The smell of pancakes and eggs found its way out of the kitchen, but he was passing on food, even Aunt Lizzie’s super-sized buttermilk pancakes. He had to get outside, take a few runs up his bike ramp. He had to do something to get rid of that spooky voice. One step away from the desk he stopped. He couldn’t leave the phone unguarded, so he backed up and dialed the number for automated time. He waited until he heard, “At the tone the time is—” That would keep the line busy. He set the receiver on the desk and hurried to the door.
On his way out he called over his shoulder, “I’m going to the lot, Aunt Lizzie. Back in a sec.” Before she could tell him no, he shut the door behind him and grabbed up his bike at the bottom of the steps.
In the vacant lot next door, weeds grew waist high, except where Pete and Weasel had cleared a path. That path lead from the hole they’d cut in Aunt Lizzie’s hedge to their bike jump. As Pete pumped his way through the hedge, the wind picked up and whipped those weeds around something fierce. He pulled up short and looked up at the sky, hoping they weren’t in for another hurricane. Even after living in Hadleyville for over two years, he wasn’t used to wind that sent cows and cars into other counties.
He aimed his bike toward the lot, gripped the handlebars, and was about to push off when the ground rumbled under his tennis shoes like it used to back home.
Not that AND hurricanes.
He waited with his heart doing thud-thud, thud-thud against his ribs and the wind pelting his face.
When the wind stopped, a creepy hush followed. New hamsters joined the couple already chasing each other in his stomach, so, while he faced the weedy lot, a whole rodent family scrab- bled around inside him.
He focused on the bike jump again. Standing on the pedals, he pumped, got up to speed and bore down on the sloped plywood. When the wheels hit the wood, the tires swerved and yanked the handlebars to the right. He rolled to the side and landed with a whump on his back, tires whir- ring next to his head.
Everything spun—a blurry sky, dirt, a house. The earth rumbled underneath him again and settled down to being quiet.
He turned onto his stomach, and, staying with one ear pressed to the ground, he waited for his head to clear. Then he wiggled all ten fingers and stretched out his arms. Those worked. Get- ting to his feet, he stomped a couple of times to see if his legs would hold up under him, then he blotted his bloody elbow on his T-shirt.
As he brushed the dirt off and looked up, he froze. He was in the shadow of something big, a shadow that couldn’t be there. Nothing was on this lot but weeds.
Nothing except–– He rubbed both eyes. Wooden steps. A porch. A... door! The scream stayed inside his head. All he could do was blink because where the vacant lot and his bike ramp used to be, stood a house the size of the Hadleyville library—a house he’d never seen in his life.
Or had he?
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If you could dress up as anything or anyone this Halloween, what or who would it be and why?
I’d choose to be a witch. I love the hats (I have a collection) and my choice of super powers has always been the ability to fly. Besides, witches aren’t terrifying like ghouls or zombies, and while witches often get a bad rap, they’ve been known to do some good for the world. And doing something good for the world is something I believe in.
Explain why your featured book is a treat to read:
Alligators Overhead is a great Halloween story with all the elements that make it just spooky enough to read by flashlight, but not so scary that you can’t dangle a foot over the edge of the bed at night. It’s a swampy one, full of humor, hauntings, quirky characters and a mystery that continues to develop to the very end.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Canada account to win.
Runs October 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on November 1.
C. Lee McKenzie writes in two fiction categories— contemporary/realistic young adult novels and middle-grade fantasy/adventure. The Adventures of Pete and Weasel is her first series, and Alligators Overhead is book one in that series. Her middle-grade books are all about fantasy and the wild adventures she dreamed of when she was a kid.
When she’s not writing she’s walking or hiking or reading someone else’s stories.
Her writing credits: Middle-Grade: Alligators Overhead, The Great Time Lock Disaster, Some Very Messy Medieval Magic. Sign of the Green Dragon.
Young Adult: Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, Sudden Secrets, Not Guilty, Shattered (coming soon).
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