Disappearing Act

Disappearing Act

by Sid Fleischman


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An unseen man they call the Toad is stalking twelve-year-old Kevin and his older sister, Holly. They flee town in Holly's beat-up old car, driving west until they reach the Pacific Ocean. They change their names and attempt to hide in plain sight as street performers in Venice, California. But have they really eluded the Toad? Here is Newbery Medalist Sid Fleischman doing what he does best -- spinning a tale with style.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060519643
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/27/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.26(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Sid Fleischman wrote more than sixty books for children, adults, and magicians. Among his many awards was the Newbery Medal for his novel The Whipping Boy. The author described his wasted youth as a magician and newspaperman in his autobiography The Abracadabra Kid. His other titles include The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, a novel, and three biographies, Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World; The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West; and Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.

Read an Excerpt

Disappearing Act

Chapter One

The Toad

Hear that screaming? That's my sister, Holly. It's not exactly screaming. It's singing. She's practicing to be a world-famous opera singer. She thinks people will actually pay to listen to her.

I have to listen because she's driving. We're heading for California in her old VW with about a million miles on it. The only thing holding it together is the green paint. Holly couldn't find Los Angeles without me, Kevin. She gets lost going around the block. Aside from her sense of direction, she's brilliant.

We have to get out of New Mexico. Some guy is stalking her. Us, I mean. My picture was inside her purse when he burgled it three weeks ago, and now he is beginning to stalk me, too. He was sending drawings of skulls with my name under them.

The minute school was out, we packed a few things, locked up our house, and just walked away from our friends and everything. We couldn't expect the police to station a cop on our front porch day and night.

Holly keeps looking in the rearview mirror to make sure that the stalker's car isn't following. We don't know what the creep drives or looks like. We call him the Horned Toad. The Toad, for short.

By the time we reach Phoenix we begin to relax and she sings into the wind, some bullfight stuff from Carmen. She snaps her fingers like castanets.

I'd help drive, but she won't let me, except when the road is out in the middle of nowhere. I'm twelve, plus, plus. Holly is twenty-one, plus. We both have green eyes and straight brown hair, though mine is longer than hers. She tells me I look like a yak. She's kind of tall for a girl, and I answer back that she looks like a giraffe with earrings.

We may be orphans. Maybe not. I am trying not to think about it.

We reach the Pacific Ocean around eleven at night and park under a streetlight. We splash right in the waves, jeans and all. I've never laid eyes on the ocean in my life, and now it's running down my neck. The thought makes me giggle. Holly, too.

That's the way we stand in the lobby of the motel to register -- soaking wet. And ready to start living all over again with fancy new names. She signs us in as Smiths. Smith! Sometimes I think that Holly has no more imagination than a turnip. I'd have called ourselves the Draculas or Svengalis or something to really confound the Toad. Not that he could have a clue that we have washed up in Venice, California.

We sleep for twenty-four hours or so and then find a room to rent. It's in an old beach house all buttered yellow by the sun. It looks friendly. It isn't home with a room of my own, but it will do.

The patio is walled in with blue Mexican tiles and actually has an avocado tree growing in the middle of it. With actual avocados hanging on it. Red flowers climb over the roof like a prairie fire. If that house could talk, I think it would speak Spanish. It's called Casa de Sueños. Holly, who knows everything, says that means House of Dreams. She's good at languages.

Exactly what we need, I think. Dreams. We've had it with nightmares.

Chapter Two

The Garbage Juggler

I'd made so much noise about calling ourselves Smith that Holly changed our name to Gomez when she paid the rent.

"Gomez," I whispered. "Do we look Mexican? Who do you think that's going to fool? Whom, I mean."

"The Toad," she murmured.

I gave her a quick grin. The stalker would never think to look for a couple of Gomezes. I felt safer already.

We could hear someone upstairs tap dancing. At the foot of the stairs we had to pass a big, sweaty guy with a short red beard. He was practicing juggling apples and bananas, grabbing bites off the flying fruit as fast as he could. It seemed like a messy way to eat lunch.

"Welcome to the House of Broken Dreams," he said, bits of apple shooting out of his mouth. "You come out here to bust into the movies like everyone else? You ready for your close-ups? You got that wannabe look. Where you immigrants from?"

Ever since the Toad had turned up in our lives, Holly had stopped talking to strangers. I figured as long as our name was now Gomez, it didn't matter what I said. So I gave him our new name and said, "We're from Mexico City."

"Never heard of it," he answered. "Either of you wannabes wanna job? My hat man quit."

Hat man? They must speak their own lingo in California. We started up the stairs with our suitcases, but he kept talking, his mouth spraying bits of apple like sawdust. "Hey -- what do you think of the act? I'm the only artiste on the boardwalk who juggles watermelons. Lady Gomez, you want the job?"

We left him standing there snatching his lunch out of midair, and found our room. It had two beds and old movie posters on the walls, one of them of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Wasn't it going to be pleasant at night looking at that creature with the bad teeth bent over my bed? The big, open window looked out on a lot of sand and seagulls. Holly listened for a moment.

"That bird is hitting high C," she said.

"That's a good sign, isn't it?"

"I wonder who its teacher is? I'm going to have to find a new one."

I was glad to see her smiling again. The stalker just about ruined her sense of humor. It didn't do mine any good, either.

We unpacked, which took about twenty seconds. All we had brought along were some extra clothes, my baseball mitt, our mom's dig notebook (she was an archaeologist), and some chit-chatty language tapes. Holly needed to study Italian and French for opera. Books and stuff we left in the car.

Finally she said, "You hungry? Let's eat....

Disappearing Act. Copyright © by Sid Fleischman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Disappearing Act 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
prkcs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After their archaeologist mother fails to return from Mexico and they discover that someone is stalking their Albuquerque house, twelve-year-old Kevin and his opera-singing older sister flee to Venice, California, where they hope that new identities will keep them safe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book had a lot of adventure, but the author could have put more detail into his descriptions of the characters. I enjoyed the plot, it gave great suspense to the reader. The author made a good point of explaining the Toad, though, which I liked a lot. It gave you a mystery of sorts to solve, with clues throughout the book. Overall, this book was a book I would recommend to people for an enjoyable read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has alot adventure,suspense,and fortune telling.Some where at the end Kevin and Holly new who the Toad really is and Holly became a famous oprea singer