John William and the Bandits of Basswood by Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows
John William Drake was born an explorer; just like many, many Drakes before him. His adventure really began with the discovery of an old book hidden in the ceiling of the Drake home, followed by the mysterious disappearance of his father. He lived everyday in misery until his twelfth birthday. A new friend gave him an invitation he could not turn down… follow me and change your destiny. He never imagined being captured by bandits and taken to a ship riddled with river rats was part of his fate. Not just any bandits – the Bandits of Basswood; known to be a ruthless and wild crew of thieves. Trying to escape would be a ridiculous idea. No one has ever escaped and lived to tell about it. Uncovering traces of his missing father gave him hope and upped the stakes. John William was determined to get off the ship alive and search for the missing pieces of the puzzle. The chase out of Basswood was on. He took a chance to change his destiny and ended up on a wild ride to solve the most important mystery of his life.
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Praise for the Book “The imaginative world created by the author is especially fun. Some animals can talk (with attitude!), magic is in the air and emu-like creatures provide fast transportation. Yes, I realize this series is for children- and they can certainly read it. Just as soon as I'm finished.” “A simple walk into the world of furry and fairy alike. Enjoyed the character building, as the young boy finds himself in a world with furry pirates, and a feisty fairy princess.” “Love this book! Great kids book!”
Excerpt :Walking the Plank
“Stand up!” A bandit marched down the steps into the cabin. “You two are coming with me.” He dragged both of them up to the top. “Just stay quiet. Let me handle this,”
Ferdinand whispered. John William nodded. He was too frightened to speak. The deck crawled with river pirates and bandits wearing sour, drunken scowls on their faces.
“Toss them overboard! We have no use for them now!” The bandits cheered as they pushed John William and Ferdinand onto a thick plank of wood sticking out over the side of the boat.
“Wait!” One of the river pirates stepped forward with his chest out. “That boy is the princess’s friend. He could be worth something, Victor,” he bellowed with an extra deep voice. He certainly looked tough enough – with a chiseled face, broad frame, and big muscles. Even his slicked back, pony-tailed hair looked strong to John William. He began to feel a glimmer of hope.
“Nonsense!” The stout, vicious looking badger pressed a blade into John William’s back. “Move, boy!” He let out a malicious laugh and glared at Ferdinand. “I love to cook hoppers. They make a tasty stew.” He moved the blade over to Ferdinand’s plump belly and rubbed the nub at the end of his wrist where a hand used to be along his whiskers. “Be careful. You don’t want to fall into this blade; it would make a terrible mess.”
John William inched forward, watching the rushing water beneath him.
“This is the princess’s betrothed! They are to be married when they are old enough,” Ferdinand blurted. He squeezed his eyes shut as if he expected to be boiled in a fat river pirate’s stew at any moment.
The Door in the Ceiling John William huffed and dragged his feet over to the ladder.
“I don’t like climbing this old thing.”
“You’ll be fine. I will be right behind you with the lantern.” His father gave him a nudge.
“Fine…” John William clutched his hands around the rails.
“Relax, son.” He rubbed John William’s white knuckled hands. “This is just another walk in the park. You can do it.”
“Okay, let’s get this over with.” John William took one step, then another; then he closed his eyes and climbed until his head hit the ceiling. He pounded the hatch with his fist repeatedly with no results. His father climbed up behind him. Thud! He gave the ceiling one good hit. John William ducked his head and the hatch flew open.
“Here, take the lantern.” John William looked at his father’s excited smile. He swallowed the lump in his throat and grabbed the lantern. A chill hit his arm the instant it moved across the threshold. He used his elbows to boost his body through before he could talk himself out of it.
“It is tight up here. My head hits the top; and the smell… it reminds me of Uncle Andrew’s old tree fort. “Yes, yes… but do you see anything?” His father huffed.
John William moved the lantern around every part of the opening.
“Aside from some scratch marks in the wood, it is completely empty – not a single trace of anything.” “Maybe I should come up.” His father took another step up the ladder.
“Those scratch marks – they are from a rodent, right? Like a cute little mouse?”
“Yes, John William; don’t worry.”
John William crawled deeper in. Something in the wall caught his eye. He narrowed his eyes. “I, I think I see something. No, it can’t be.”
“What is it?” His father blurted. Thump!
“Did you hear that?” John William gasped. He jolted the lantern around. “I’m not alone up here.” A dark shadow darted across the wall, accompanied by more thumping. “Look out! I’m coming down!” John William stumbled through the hatch in a frantic fit, barely getting one arm around the ladder to secure himself.
The lantern hit the ground; glass shattered everywhere. “Fire!” His father slid down the ladder and covered the wreckage with his coat, followed by a vase full of water and flowers, extinguishing the flames. John William perched at the top of the ladder, watching his disappointed father catch his breath. “I’m sorry.” He closed the hatch and stepped lightly down to the floor.
“It’s okay; I was never really fond of that coat anyways.” He paused and smiled at John William. “You did well; I’m proud of you.”
John William felt his dad’s reassuring hand ruffling his curls. “Now can I go to bed?”
“Of course, we have an early start tomorrow… rest well.”
“Thanks, you too.” John William glanced up at the ceiling, and shuffled out of the study.
“John William… you are certain you did not see anything?” He paused before turning the corner.
“Yes. I just heard something. Maybe it was a rat?”
“Most likely; goodnight, son.”
John William waved and continued on. He did see something; at least he thought he did. What he saw was so peculiar it must have been his eyes playing tricks on him. It was a small red door with a well-used brass knob set in the wall on the other end of the space where there was enough shadow to keep it out of sight… but there was no way he was going back up there tonight. His father would have to find out another time.
Hawkeye John William approached the table and stared the possum down.
“Who’s there?” The possum squinted through his good eye. He put his paw out, grabbing at the air.
“Over here.” John William waved his arm awkwardly.
“Oh, there you are – care to try your luck?” The possum slid three nut shells around on the table.
“What? No, that bag hanging on your chair is mine. I want it back,” John William said. “Sorry, finders, keepers; I won it fair and square. You can wager for it if you want.”
The possum raised his eye patch. “What have you got?”
“Um, I have this pet hopper.” John William pulled Ferdinand out of his pocket.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait just one minute – I am no one’s pet!”
“Ooh, he’s feisty; I like him! Okay, all you have to do is guess which shell the nuts are under.” The possum lifted the shells to show the nuts, then quickly swirled them around with his hands. “They call me Hawkeye; how about you, fella?”
“Um – J-Jammer, yah – Jammer,” John William stammered, dizzy from watching the swirling shells. “That one.” He pointed to the shell in the middle. The possum lifted the shell, exposing the nuts underneath.
“Nope! Sorry, Jam-Jam; nothing there,” Hawkeye declared, sitting back with a satisfied grin.
“Yes there was! I saw the nuts.” John William scowled.
“I saw nothing!” Hawkeye snapped.
“Oh, this is nonsense!” Ferdinand jumped out of John William’s pocket and yanked the bag off the seat while they argued. “Jammer, let’s go!”
“Yes, okay! Thanks, Hawkeye.” John William perked up and followed Ferdinand out the door with his bag stuffed in his coat. “Hey – I want my hopper pet!”
Hawkeye stood up and tapped his cane out the door behind them. “Come back here!”
“Keep walking. Possums have terrible eyesight. We will lose him easily,” Ferdinand ordered.
“Hawkeye!” John William turned and watched an oafish bandit stomp over to the possum, clutching a matted feather. “You told me this empyrean feather would give me magical powers! It doesn’t work. You sold me a broken feather; now I’m going to have to shove it in your good eye!”
Hawkeye placed his hands over his heart and shut his eye. “It’s happening!” He fell flat on his back and threw his legs in the air. “I’m moving toward the light!” His paw twitched. He opened one eye, glanced around, and then shut it again. “Goodbye, Azra’s Pith.” He let out one last pitiful groan.
“Pathetic display,” Ferdinand muttered. “There is no way anyone would believe that… not even a big, dumb bandit.” The bandit nudged the possum with his boot. Then, with a defeated shrug of his shoulders, he thumped his way into The Garbage Pail to join the scuffle.
Author Elizabeth Bellows Um, let's see... when I was eight, I had a pet turkey. I used to take it with me on my very short lived paper route. Needless to say, I was terrible at delivering the paper. No one wanted a "Dollar Saver" with turkey poop splattered across the front page. Apparently that's where the best coupons are. Books... well, "Treasure Island" is a fantastic pirate tale. I love just about anything by Roald Dahl. I would also like to thank C.S Lewis for sending me on an unrelenting childhood quest for portals to amazing worlds (even in the most unpleasant locations, e.g... the older brother's closet, etc...) I love to write... these days sneaking away just to use the bathroom is hard enough. Finding a quiet moment alone with my laptop is impossible. I've developed a talent for making airplane noises out the side of my mouth for my son while squeezing in a paragraph or two. I write fantasy stories for children. Yep - I am a HUGE fantasy geek. I can't help myself! It's too darn awesome to escape to another realm with sorcerers and wizards. The underlying theme in my stories is empowerment, self love, and living purposefully. When football is on I turn into a different person. I may even use a curse word or two... or three. I enjoy running; which is a good thing because I need to do it in order to fit into my jeans. I love to cook and really, really love to eat. I have a theory that avocados actually contain super powers and have the amazing ability to make any snack epic. I also love garlic... which, according to my loved ones, also has an unfortunate super power ... the pungent breath-inator... or something of that nature. Few things make me smile more than chocolate, cheese, and a good bottle of vino... AND, if the Chargers would make it to the Super Bowl again - just once:)
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