About the Author
Jason Edwards is an educator, storyteller, and producer of educational enrichment programs with over 30 years of experience developing innovative ways to entertain, instruct, and inspire children. Even his Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency book series is designed to be slyly educational, providing progressively challenging reading levels, and topics that confront many difficult and timely issues in a non-threatening manner. Jason’s books have been honored with the Mom’s Choice Award for Family Friendly Media, and his Monster Hunt Library Skills-building Adventure and Destination: INSPIRATION InterACTIVE StoryCrafting Workshops have earned accolades at over 100 schools and libraries across the nation.
Jason lives in New York with his wife, daughters, and a rabbit named Bunniford who never comes when he is called. Find out more about Jason on his MonsterAuthor website.
Jeffrey Friedman ia an artist and educator whose work has appeared in everything from children's books to billboards. The Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency series represents his first published works.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1 - Provocations
Okay, no matter who tells you otherwise, and this means you Timmy Newsome, I am a cheerful, optimistic kind of guy. Not that I dot my i's with hearts or draw little smiley faces when I sign my name like my best friend, Jeannine Fitsimmons, but I do try to look at the bright side of life. On the other hand, there have been times lately when that bright side has been hard to see, like when the feelers of a giant squid wrapped themselves around my head and were smothering me to death. So, try though I might to paint a happy picture, let's face it - even if you have a disposition that's sunnier than Miami in June, performing a job like mine is not a barrel of laughs. The work is nasty, the hours are tough, the pay stinks, and on top of it all, the kids you help are sometimes one step up from being a horse's butt. And not a very big step up, either. But that's life when you run a monster detective agency.
Mind you, Jeannine loves it. Now don't get me wrong: she's a great friend and a straight-A student like me, not to mention a fine monster detective herself, but sometimes I wonder about that girl. Just last week, she limped home from a case with her clothes in tatters, her mouth bleeding, and covered in scrapes and monster slime, and yet she was smiling like she had spent all night at an amusement park. In fact, lately she seems to enjoy everything she does - even homework. If I could bottle whatever happy juice she's drinking, I'd make a fortune.
“Oh, Will,” she gushed as we sat together in the musty old broom closet that doubles as our school's computer lab, “we are just the luckiest two people in the world!” As she spoke, Jeannine's fingers danced up and down the keyboard, moving lightly because they were not weighed down by her usual assortment of gothic skull rings. In a flash, the words, “The Case of the Egregious Elephant,” appeared across the top of the title page. She leaned in close to the screen to review the other pages she had written, and then uploaded the file to our 'Monster Detective Agency - Solved Cases' folder.
“Lucky? How do you figure?” I asked.
“Why, we have it all, don't we?” she said.
I looked up from the math homework that I was supposed to have done two days earlier. Very little of what I saw beside me was typical of the Jeannine I've come to know: no black leather jacket, not a single item of clothing that was hand painted, hand trimmed, or tie-dyed, no paper clips on her ears, and most notably, no combat boots on her feet (for which my toes, which she frequently stomps on, were thankful). With her layered tank top covered by an oversized white shirt, ankle-length stretch pants, and hair pinned up by a huge black bow, she looked like a fashion model - from the 1980s. In spite of my grateful toes, I scowled at her. But in a cheerful kind of way.
“Have it all? Define 'having it all,' if you please.”
Jeannine squinted, and made a sour face at me just like Timmy Newsome's harpy had done when I shined my magical RevealeR flashlight in its eyes.
“Well for starters, ever since the new term began we've got lots of new friends...”
As if on cue, a pair of squeaky-voiced girls called out, “Hey, Jee-Jee!” from the hallway. Both wore pink satin jackets that covered outfits identical to Jeannine's. She waved at them as they passed.
“See?” she continued. “And we both have nice homes, happy families, and good food to eat.”
“You call what my mom makes food? Have you ever tried her Ox-tail Stew?” But Jeannine would not let me sidetrack her.
“We have our own rooms,” she went on. “Our own computers and televisions, and now I've even got an iPhone. And we get to fight monsters! What else is there?”
I don't know about you, but my nose twitched from the smell of faulty reasoning. Or maybe it was from the odor of the tofu and roasted pepper sandwich coming from my lunch bag, I'm not quite sure.
“Who are you kidding?” I grumbled. “Maybe lots of people act nice to you now that you're a big movie star…”
“I am not a movie star,” Jeannine shot back reflexively, though a sheepish smile slipped out as she spoke. “One role in a hit movie doesn't make you a star. I wasn't even the lead.”
“…But just because people say hello to you in the hallway,” I continued as if she hadn't spoken, “it doesn't mean that they're your friends. Not one of your ‘new friends' actually hangs out with us. And you may have your own television, but with all the rehearsals for your new play, plus the private lessons and learning centers your mom sends you to, you never get to watch. You're even so busy that you never showed up last Saturday to help fight Tasha Plitnick's monster! I called your mom to ask where you were, and she said you were ‘otherwise engaged'.”
Jeannine shrugged, and then sighed, “Well I was. Anyway, it's not like you weren't able to handle it on your own.”
“You know that fighting girls' monsters is tricky for me. You said you would help!”
Jeannine didn't answer. Instead, she inspected me up and down, scanning my sneakers, trousers, and Chicago Cubs sweatshirt as though she was searching for some hidden thorn jabbing at me.
“My, aren't we in a snit today?” She said loftily. “Just so you know, whoever told you that you look cute when you're cranky was lying.”
“I am not cranky!” I shouted.
“Right, not cranky,” Jeannine said calmly. “But in case you hadn't noticed, you just crumpled up your math homework.”
I looked down at my hands. Both were balled into fists that held crushed bits of the paper I had been writing on.
“Hand cramps,” I said. “Doesn't prove anything.”
“Really? Well, your cheeks are turning red, like they always do when you get angry.”
“Too much sun,” I replied.
Jeannine rolled her eyes at me. Let me tell you, if she was looking for something to make me act cranky, that would certainly do the trick. She then reached down and gently pulled one of the paper scraps from my hand, smoothed the crumples, and pointed at the writing. It was filled with doodles of screaming faces, ghastly grimaces, gnashing fangs, and decapitated heads.
“That...” I mumbled. “That's just...um...”
Okay, she had me.
“All right, fine! I'm cranky!” I admitted. “I'm in a bad mood, okay?”
“So then tell me why,” Jeannine coaxed. “Maybe we can do something about it.”
“There's nothing you can do,” I said. “I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something.”
“No, that's not it,” she stated firmly. “You haven't been yourself for days. Something must have happened to set you off like this.”
She was right, of course. In our time working together, Jeannine has proven herself to be a really good detective. And I'm not saying that just because she kept me from getting eaten alive by that harpy at Timmy Newsome's house.
“Well,” I bit my lip, and began stomping at some dust bunnies under the table. “I…I guess maybe I'm just tired of being an underground success. I mean, I know that some kids might be embarrassed about having to hire us to save them from a monster in their closet, but that's no excuse for how they treat us after. None of our clients even want to be seen with us once we solve their cases. We put ourselves in danger and get bruised and bloodied to help them, but then they act like they don't even know us.”
“That's not true,” Jeannine countered. “Why, Glenda Olivieri talks to me in Social Studies all the time now, and she always picks me to be on her team for dodgeball. And Timmy Newsome has had me over to his house lots of times. And Martha Curran…”
“Wait - ” I sputtered. “What? Say that again?”
“Glenda Olivieri always…”
“NO, not that. The part about you and Timmy?”
“We hang out at his house all the time.”
“You do?” I gagged, and shook my head like I had been smacked with a brick. “Is it…I mean, are you two dating now?”
Jeannine's face turned bright red.
“Well, actually, I'm tutoring him in English,” she said coyly. “At least, that's what his mother is paying me for.”
“Well, maybe I should have tutored him in math, instead of just pretending to do that so his mom wouldn't know what we were really up to. Then he might still have some use for me, too.”
“Oh, please,” Jeannine scoffed. “It's not like you have much use for him either.”
“But it's not just Timmy, it's all of them. Jamaal. Amy. Gerald…”
“Oh, now there's a big loss,” Jeannine said, her nose twitching as if she smelled my mom's asparagus dumplings. “It's not like you'd want him fawning all over you like he used to do to me.”
“And then there's Erwin Newley,” I continued. “Remember him?”
“The Case of the Sinister Scorpion?”
“Um, yeah, I suppose you could call it that. Is that the name you gave the file?”
“It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?”
“I guess so. Anyway, after my RevealeR shrank his monster down to thimble-size and I locked it in his terrarium, Erwin decided he wasn’t going to pay me!”
“Yeah, and he was pretty smug about getting away with it, too, until I told him I would make it grow gigantic again, and throw in a monster tarantula too.”
“Oh, Will, you didn't!”
“I can't, but Erwin didn't know that. He paid up in a flash, but now he avoids me when we pass in the hallways.”
Jeannine frowned, and began chewing on one of the purple strands of her hair. Some people think that's gross, but I actually like it, because dying a purple streak in her hair and chewing on it is one of the few truly Jeannine-like things she still does.
“Well, it's not like we do it for the money, anyway,” she said.
“I know that!” I growled. But I didn't say, so what do we do it for? Instead, I finished by complaining, “But it would be nice to be appreciated a little.”
“Well, I appreciate what you do.”
“You have to,” I answered. “You're my partner.”
“That's true,” she agreed. “Oh! That reminds me Will: don't forget that you're due at Rhonda Peevely's house at...”
“Six o'clock,” I finished. “And I know it goes against nature, but would you mind not being such a nag?”
“Don't you dare call me that!” Jeannine shrieked. “I am not a nag!”
“Who are you kidding? You nag me all the time!”
“I don't nag,” she huffed indignantly, “I remind.”
“That's not what you call it when your mom does it to you.”
“Really? How, exactly?”
“It's not nagging when I do it to you because you need it.”
Jeannine is my best friend. When I get older, I'm getting myself a dog.
At 5:30pm, the murky atmosphere blanketing our town was already darkened. I was at home in my room, munching on some week-old popcorn while staring blankly out the window at some blood-red streaks splattered across the dreary mists floating overhead. As the sun crept behind the mountains to the west, a sudden chirp from the alarm on my watch drew my mind back from the clouds.
“Let's get on with it,” I announced to the Albert Einstein poster hanging loosely from my bright blue walls. I had rushed through my dinner in order to have time to prepare for my date with…well, whatever it was that awaited me in Rhonda Peevely's room, so I began getting ready by throwing on the bowler hat and beaten-up old trench coat that serve as my monster detective uniform. The proud silver badge on the jacket gleamed brightly as I polished it. I then filled my pockets, as I usually do, with my special, monster-spying magnifying glass, the MonsterScope, and my truth-revealing, monster-shrinking flashlight, the RevealeR. Those two tools, plus my wits and bravery, are all I've ever needed to solve a case, but this time I reached for one extra item anyway. I grabbed my camera from the shelf and tucked it into an inner pocket of my coat.
At that very moment, the hackles arose on my neck and my back stiffened. I can't explain it, but ever since I became a monster detective I've developed a kind of sixth sense, and I knew without a doubt that I was no longer alone in my room. A monster was present. Instinctively, I reached for my RevealeR, but it was already too late.
“Don't bother,” a harsh voice whispered. “That can't help you.”
Table of Contents
- False Impressions
- Battle Cries
A Brief Author Interview with Jason Edwards
How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve always liked to write, but for much of my life, I wrote only for self-expression and my own amusement. It was kind of like singing in the shower, minus having to shake water out of your ears. Then, when my daughter was born, I made up stories to amuse her. I didn’t actually set out to be an author until I was inspired by – atoilet.
Allow me to explain. At the age of 4, my eldest daughter developed a powerful anxiety when she was traumatized by the roar of a loud, automatic toilet that flushed repeatedly while she was sitting on it. I wanted to help her develop the ability to confront her fears, so I created a world in which the characters learn to do that.
In general, how does an idea for a book come to you ~ does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?
A little of both. The main ideas, themes, and key points for a book usually strike like a bolt of lightning, but then it takes time to percolate and develop them into a coherent piece of work.
Give us an idea of the plot of your books without giving too much away.
Will Allen and the Great Monster Detectiveis the story of a boy beset by fears that have literally come to life and how, with some very special help from the Great Monster Detective, he learns to conquer them. Its sequel,Will Allen and the Ring of Terror, picks up where the first book leaves off, with Will becoming a monster detective himself and working to solve his first case. But he quickly discovers that he still has a lot to learn, and needs plenty of help from his best friend and partner, Jeannine Fitsimmons, to solve the case and defeat the monster.
What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from this book?
Face your fears, or they will take over your life. And wash behind your ears (well, that one isn’t actually in the book, but I just thought I’d throw it in there anyway)
What was the most difficult scene to write, and why?
The most difficult scene for me to write was the one in which Will confronts his hidden beast (his secret, buried fear), which turns out to be his father. Will’s anguish, caused by the fear that his father’s emotionally distant behavior indicated that he did not care for Will anymore, was emotionally brutal for me. I guess that was so because I have some unresolved family issues myself.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
The same one. It has a poignancy that still pierces me deeply as an adult, and yet young children can relate to it and be touched by it as well.
Which character do you identify with the most in your book?
Will Allen, mostly because he is very much an idealized version of myself as a boy.
How much of yourself did you put into these characters and did you realize you showed up in the book?
A whole lot of myself, right down to the marrow. I tried to make every character real to me, so in order to relate to them as individuals I ended up making them represent different aspects of my own personality (yes, even the girl with the rainbow-striped hair). Creating dialog then became easy, since I’m semi-schizophrenic, and the characters began to talk to each other in my head.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this book that you may not have expected?
That I’m a sentimental sap who cries watching Mary Poppins…no, wait, I knew that already. Mostly I learned that I love to create. It’s like the joy of becoming a daddy all over again, minus getting a sippy cup tossed at my head.
Who are your favorite authors and who influenced your writing?
Some of my favorite authors are Michael Crichton, J. K. Rowling, and Kenneth C. Davis. My writing has been influenced by Bill Watterson, Rod Serling, MAD magazine, and Marvel comics.
Can you offer a glimpse into your “real life” and share with us a bit of your personal lifeOutside of writing, what’s important to you?
Thisismy real life. But over and above this and everything else, I am a devoted father and husband. I’ve also always loved baseball. I spent 14 years at the famed Ted Williams Base Camp as a player and coach, and I still play ball and coach to this day. It was actually working at the camp as a coach that led me to realize that I enjoy working with kids, which led to my first career: teaching.
Tell us an interesting/crazy thing about you.
I had asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia as a child, but I overcame those shortcomings to become an accomplished athlete. I ran two NYC Marathons, won a gold medal in track at the NYS Empire State games, and once won the not-so-coveted ‘Most Hustle’ Award at the famed Ted Williams Baseball Camp.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always loved baseball, and I also play basketball, and I do a lot of running and weight training to stay in shape for sports. I enjoy movies, especially science fiction and fantasy (go figure), and books including theTwilightseries, thePercy Jackson and the Olympiansseries,Harry Potter, andUltimate Spiderman. Additionally, I can often be found with a newspaper or science magazines in my hands. Finally, I love writing, illustrating, and cooking (though my family prefers to call my endeavors in the kitchenexperimenting).
Family, Political/Social Issues, the Sciences, sports.
Tell us something surprising about you and/or something very few people know about you.
I hate running. That alone is not shocking, but the reason people are surprised by this is because I have completed two New York City Marathons, and won a gold medal in track at the New York Empire State Games.
Don’t ask me to explain it: I’m a writer, not a psychiatrist.
What has been one of your biggest struggles and/or successes (professional/personal) and what have you learned from it?
Biggest struggle? Getting published.
Strangely, almost all of my struggles and successes alike have taught me the same thing: to achieve anything I set out to accomplish, it is necessary to go above and beyond my original expectations of what is required. There is not one mere singular event that confirms this - It has always been true, whether I was struggling to find a job, find a date, find a publisher, or even find my socks.
Have you ever had a nickname? Tell us about it.
Lots of them. As a kid I was Pee Wee, because I played ball with my older brother and his friends, and was one of the smallest kids in the games. In college I was Silent Stan, mostly due to my lack of social skills. One of my softball buddies dubbed me Digger, because I carried a shovel to games, and on another team I was called Honey, because my girlfriend (now my wife) would always yell out ‘way to go, honey!’
Who is your biggest fan?
I have one?
Seriously though, I believe that my biggest fans are the kids from the Cherry Hill School in River Edge, NJ. I did my Monster Hunts and StoryPlays for the students there, and for some reason, they seemed to become especially enthusiastic about the programs, and about me. Must be something in the water there.
What was the best advice you’ve ever receiveddo you follow it?
I’ve received lots of great advice over the years including ‘don’t pick at your pimples’ and ‘come in out of the rain’. I’ve never followed any of it.
What is your favorite literary turn-of-phrase / quote?
Offhand, I can think of two:
“For every complex problem there is a simple solution…and it’s wrong.”
“A ship in the harbor is safe…but that is not what ships are built for.”
What’s next for you ~ Anything else you’d like to offer?
I’m currently writing and producing more books in the Monster Detective Agency series. You see, Will Allen and the Monster Detective Agency crew have taken on a life of their own. Now I just need to get one myself.
Best and worst part of being a writer?
The best part: It’s like being a proud parent, knowing that you have brought something good and beautiful into the world (and did it right for a change).
The worst part: It’s a very solitary, isolating endeavor - plus sitting in a chair for hours on end turns my back into spaghetti.
How do readers get in touch with you? Website Address? Email?
E-mail is usually best. I have always answered every single letter I receive, and hope to always be able to do so. My e-mail address,Jason@RogueBearPress.com, is listed in every book, on the MonsterDetectiveAgency.com and RogueBearPress.com websites, my Facebook page, and my personal website.