Milo Moss Is Officially Un-Amazing


By Lauren Allbright

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"A winning new book about losing." —Chris Grabenstein, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Modern Family meets The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl in this humorous and heartfelt story about a boy desperately trying to break a world record and ultimately discovering what winning really means along the way.
Twelve-year-old Milo Moss has been on a mission to achieve his family's lifelong goal: breaking a world record. It's why he and his parents, along with thousands of others, are standing in the middle of a football stadium dressed as human-sized cockroaches.

But when the record attempt doesn't exactly go as planned, Milo and his family are failures once again. Now more than ever, Milo needs support from his best friend, Jesse (who also happens to be his nephew — don't ask, it's complicated). But when Jesse discovers the truth about Milo's record attempt, he pressures him to come clean to the whole school.

Desperate to avoid public humiliation, Milo must team up with an unlikely ally to stop the record madness once and for all. Will Milo be able to leave behind his dream of breaking a record? Or will he learn that sometimes there's more to life than winning?
"Hilarious and bursting with hijinks from beginning to end." —Stacy McAnulty, author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl


My favorite story from the Guinness World Records is about a tiny piece of land in the middle of the ocean. Somewhere close to Great Britain exists Bishop Rock. It’s only the size of about three tennis courts. And it’s known as the SMALLEST ISLAND WITH A BUILDING ON IT.

The story goes like this: A long time ago, ships would be drifting through the waves—open ocean as far as the crow’s-nest guy could see. The crews of the ships would be thinking they were in for smooth sailing as they were swabbing decks, walking planks, carving new wooden legs and whatnot. Then, without warning, BAM! They’d ram into this tiny, nonthreatening, no-big-deal island—and their boat would splinter into toothpicks.

It kept happening again and again until some higher-up, like a queen or king, was like, “We have far too many toothpicks and not enough boats because of that silly island! We must fix this. Go forth and build a lighthouse!”

So they hired some dude to build that lighthouse. For three years, the guy and his crew worked to construct it out in the middle of the endless sea. Sunscreen wasn’t even invented yet. Or porta potties.

Over one thousand days later, the work was done. A 120-foot-tall lighthouse stood on this itty-bitty island in the middle of the great big ocean. But before they could even have a grand-opening celebration, something went wrong. A big wave came up and—whoosh—washed the lighthouse away.

Just like that.



All before they even lit it up.

So the guy gets to work again and designs something better. This time it takes him and his crew years and years to build. He makes sure this one is super waveproof.

Nearly three thousand days later, that lighthouse is finished. This is the one worth noting. This one is called the “King of Lighthouses,” and it gets the island in Guinness.

I love this story so much because I get it. All the stuff that happens “before” is okay because eventually it wins. The lighthouse outlasts the waves. The island gets a record.

This is what gives me hope.

Someday my parents and I will get a record too.

And that day is today.

Which is why we are currently in the car dressed as human-sized cockroaches.

Since it’s September, the newest edition of Guinness has just been released. Thank goodness I have that to read because the view outside the car window is scraggly trees, brown grass, and endless cacti.

I’m halfway through the animal section—the mantis shrimp wins the award for the STRONGEST SELF-POWERED STRIKE BY AN ANIMAL with a kick equal to 340 pounds of force—when Dad says, “Hey, Milo, how about you read some of those records out loud?”

“Or Mom could do it,” I suggest.

“Nope,” Mom says from the front seat. “Mom was up late painting roach wings, and she is currently sleeping. It’s your turn to entertain our driver.”

“Safety laws frown upon reading and driving at the same time,” Dad says. “Come on. At least just read page ninety-six.”

Translation: Dad doesn’t really want me to read from the Book. He’s just wants to talk about the “real” Iron Man, Richard Browning—the guy who invented a flight suit and got into Guinness.

“Whoa, Dad. Did you know the largest yo-yo was almost twelve feet tall?”

Dad ignores my comment. “How fast did Browning fly again?”

“And that yo-yo weighed four thousand six hundred twenty pounds!”

“What was his flight speed again? Can you remember, Milo?”

I flip some more pages. “Can you believe the tallest toothpick sculpture is almost seventeen feet?”

“Milo,” Mom says. “Just tell your father what he wants to know. You’re interrupting my beauty sleep.”

Dad pats her knee. “You don’t need that, honey. You’re already stunning. I bet Richard Browning would think so too.”

“Milo!” Mom says.

There’s no escape. I resign to my fate. “The real Iron Man, Robert Browning, flew eighty-five miles per hour in a body-controlled jet-engine suit.”

“Really?” Dad says like he is shocked. He’s not. Dad knows everything about Browning. “And how did he power that suit?”

“With six kerosene-fueled micro gas turbines,” I quote from memory.

“And I bet it could go even faster than that.” Dad knows it could. “Don’t you think?”

“If only it had a parachute.”

Richard Browning is actually really cool. He worked on the flight suit for years, but he only recently got into Guinness. And now he is Dad’s hero—maybe it’s because they’re both engineers and marathon runners. Or maybe it’s because Browning has done what Dad has always dreamed of: Richard Browning has earned a world record.

Because I am an excellent son, as I flip through the pages of my new Guinness, I also listen to Dad talk about Browning and how there will be a day when flight suits will be as common as cars. I supply the appropriate “uh-huhs” whenever he pauses.

When Dad starts talking about all the flight-suit prototypes, my nose starts to twitch. A tickle builds inside my left nostril. I force it into the loudest, most intense sneeze of my life.

Seriously that could have been a record.

In the front seat, Mom bolts upright.


“Whew.” I scratch my nose. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to disturb you, Mom. It’s just something really irritated me.”

Mom slowly turns to glare. “Something is very irritating to me too.”

“Now that you’re awake though, you should hear what Dad was just saying about how we’ll all have our own flight suits someday. Go on, Dad. Tell her.”

Mom crosses her arms. “Milo’s fortunate that we don’t have a flight suit right now. Or that’s how he’d be getting to Shotwell Stadium.”

Dad sighs. “If only we were so lucky.”

It’s lunchtime when we get to Shotwell Stadium in Abilene, Texas, where we’ll earn a Guinness World Record for the largest crowd of people dressed as insects.

Mom, Dad, and I double-check our costumes. Once our long antennae, slip-on bug bodies, and extra legs are all in place, we grab our sack lunches and trudge through the parking lot. We stop at the check-in table in front of the main entrance.

My heart beats hard inside my homemade thorax. We’re here on time, we made it with no flat tires or car breakdowns, and our costumes are accounted for. Registration is the last step. After this, nothing can stop us.

Just past the gates, the place is already crawling with participants. Mom and Dad finish at the table, and my family gets the okay to join the rest of the crowd.

I let my parents go first, and I pause to absorb the scene—the stadium, the people, the last moments before everything changes.

Inside, Mom stops and studies the map she grabbed when we checked in. “Let’s follow along the backside of the bleachers. When we get to the corner at the end, there’ll be a ramp down to the field.”

“Lead the way,” Dad says.

It gets harder to stay together as the swarm of people-sized bugs gets thicker. We veer around giant butterflies and spiders and somebody in green who I think is a grasshopper. The plastic roach wings on my back make me sweat. I stop to lift them and get a little airflow. This is a mistake. It cools me down, but it also makes me lose sight of my parents.

I wait for Dad to come back for me. “Let’s go, Milo. Keep moving.”

We find the ramp and take it to the field. Mom leads us toward the middle, and we settle onto the grass. As soon as we sit on the blanket we brought from home, my stomach growls. I’m hungry for the first time all day.

I’m halfway through my turkey sandwich when Mom hands me a Coke from our cooler. If Allie, my older sister, were here, she would definitely make some comment about how soda is terrible for me and how unfair it is that I get to drink it when she never did. Mom would shrug and say, “He’s the second kid, and we’re much older now. We pick our battles.”

Allie now uses those same rules she grew up with to parent Jesse, who also happens to be my same age and my best friend—even though technically I’m his uncle because my parents are his grandparents.

On the field, our antennae bend in the breeze. It’s super windy down here, and it brings whiffs of the stadium food: salty barbecue and sweet funnel cakes. But there’s a sour smell too. It makes me glad that we brought our own lunch.

“This is actually going to happen,” I tell my parents.

“Of course it is,” Dad says.

Mom winks at me.

My nervousness produces energy. I can feel it in all six of my (real and fake) arms and legs. The realization of a lifelong dream when we—my mom, my dad, and I, along with two thousand plus of our insect-clad companions—will earn a world record.

I hold my phone above my head and take a picture of the crowd. I send it to Jesse with the hashtags #Guinness #greatness #recordsettingpests #worldrecord #myswarm.

“I’m ready to get this show on the road,” Dad says. He rolls his shoulders. “This exoskeleton is super uncomfortable.”

Mom shrugs. “Well, you didn’t have to wear it during the drive. Plus, you should have made your costume with cardboard like mine. I feel fine.”

“Plastic is definitely the better option. Yours doesn’t have the right amount of sheen. Roach wings need to sparkle a little.”

Our wings may sparkle, but they also lack airflow. I’m about to tell him this, but that’s when it happens: the Smell.

Someone must have really let one rip. The odor is truly impressive… and disgusting. I hold my breath and wait for it to pass. When I venture to use my lungs again, the stink cloud barely lingers.

I’m all antsy and can’t sit still. “I’ll be right back,” I tell my parents as I grab all our trash. The first two garbage cans are full, but I remember seeing one by the ramp. When I find it again, it’s already in use. A dude has his arms draped over the top rim and his head is over the middle. His entire body tenses. I glance away too late and accidentally glimpse the hurlage. I cover my mouth to stop a sympathy gag.

I end up walking around the entire perimeter of the field before I find a trash can that isn’t completely full.

When I rejoin my parents on the forty-yard line, Mom says, “That took you a while. You okay?”

“Yup. Just had to take the long way around.”

Mom shrugs. “Sometimes that’s the best way to get where you’re going.”

The Smell hits me again.

It’s even stronger this time.

And disgusting—like a cross between a fart, skunk spray, and rotten milk.

Then I wonder, Is it me?

I check the bottom of my shoes first. Just dirt, no poop or anything. I do a quick check to make sure nobody’s watching, and I tip my head down to sniff inside my bug body.

Smells fine-ish. As good as a plastic bug body can.

I tilt my head to one side and then the other. Not my armpits either.

Ugh. It’s getting worse.

Mom and Dad have got to smell it too. The air is morphing into solid stinkness.

But my parents are acting normal—normal for them, at least. Dad rubs his hands together like something big and exciting is happening. Mom’s lips pucker like she’s part platypus; it’s her Concentration Face. She’s totally focused on the stage and the guy in the official blue blazer. He’s the adjudicator who will tell us when we’ve broken the record and present the official certificate.

“We’re getting the last folks registered,” the adjudicator says into the sound system. “Once they’re inside the stadium, we’ll make this record thing official!”

We are so close. This is really happening!

As long as we don’t all pass out first.

“Dad, do you smell that?”


I make the official gesture of stink by waving my hand in front of my nose.

Dad sniffs and makes a face. “Nice one, Milo.”

Mom says, “Do you need to use the bathroom?” She glances at her watch. “I think you’ll have time, but you’ll have to hurry.”

“It’s not me.”

From the stage the adjudicator says, “Shouldn’t be long now. And it’s a good thing too. It’s getting ripe in here. Whew!” He tugs at his collar. It’s hard to tell when he’s so far away, but I think he sways.

No, he’s not swaying. It’s all okay, I tell myself. It’s just in my head. Nerves or something.

Still, the Smell grows—faster than my odor-acclimating skills can handle. And from the way people start to move and murmur, I know I’m not the only one who’s noticed. All around me noses wrinkle. A lady just a few feet away dry heaves. I tell my own stomach and sympathy-gag reflex to simmer down.

“Whoa,” the adjudicator says. He puts his palm to his forehead and wobbles. “Excuse me. I think—” But he never finishes his sentence. He puts his fist to his mouth and runs off the stage.

This finally gets Mom’s attention. Her lips retract to their normal position. “What’s going on?”

If she has to ask, something is seriously wrong with her nose.

“The smell.” Dad sniffs the air like a dog tracking a scent.

“Is it a gas leak?” I ask.

He sniffs again. “Maybe. I think it’s sewage related.”

Mom shakes her head. “I barely smell anything.”

Then we hear it: the unmistakable sound of somebody retching. Loudly. It’s coming out of the stadium speakers. The volume is so loud and clear, we can even hear the splatter as it hits the ground.

The murmurs of the crowd die down. More than two thousand people get quiet, listening with heads tilted.

There’s a groan, and it happens again.

“Turn off your mic!” somebody yells, and I start to understand. We’re listening to the adjudicator get sick in surround sound.

We all stand there like we have no idea what to do. Until, in the distance, somebody else pukes.

“Excuse me,” says a lady with butterfly wings. She pushes through the crowd, elbowing people out of the way—I take a hit in the upper arm—as she makes a path to the exit.

A guy in a spider costume runs by. He’s got one hand over his mouth and the other over his backside.

Dad watches him pass. “That seems unpleasant.”

Then the field is like an anthill that somebody stepped on. Total chaos. People run toward the exit ramps. Everybody’s pushing because they can’t get through. Bug costumes are stripped and left behind.

“Where are they going?” Dad asks and frowns.

“I need to be first,” a guy yells. “I’m gonna go in my pants!”

A lady with her arms wrapped around her stomach shakes her head. “Just let it happen. There’s no stopping it.”

“No!” the guy screams. He turns and runs in the opposite direction.

“We were poisoned!” says a shirtless guy with his chest and extra-large stomach painted in yellow and black stripes like a bee. The paint’s rubbed off around his belly button. “It was the food! We’re all going down!”

“Will we break the record if they all leave?” Mom asks.

“Surely,” Dad says. “Let’s just wait this out.”

Mom, Dad, and I stand in the middle of the field with our sack lunch staying firmly in our stomachs.

There is a record set at the stadium in Abilene that day: THE MOST FOOD POISONING VICTIMS ever recorded at a single place—the puking adjudicator verifies it.

Except my family and I are bystanders. We are an audience of three, watching everybody else reach our goal without us.

I wish I’d run to a trash can and taken a bite of somebody’s leftovers. Just a tiny nibble.

We wait for the crowd to clear before we leave the stadium. We stepped in so many unidentified puddles on the way to the car, Mom tells us to peel off our sneakers. She holds them out the window by the laces until we find a place to dump them.

We’re headed back to the hotel when Mom says, “You know, since we finished early, maybe we should skip the hotel and head home.”

“No,” I say too fast. I try to fix it by adding, “We could stop by Redbud Park and see where Cole Patterson set the world record for most consecutive bunny hops on a unicycle.”

“If Cole Patterson were there,” Mom says, “I’d agree with you. But since he’s not, head east, please, sir.” Mom puts our address in the GPS.

I sit back in my seat and cross my arms. “I want to see the park.” I know I sound like I’m whining. But that’s just because I am.

“Milo,” Mom says. “We’re not even wearing shoes.”

“Not a problem.” I lean up between their seats. “We can go buy some.”

The GPS says to turn left. Dad listens and says, “Sorry, Milo. I just do what I’m told.”

We usually take our time driving back from these trips—actually, we usually take too much time. We stop anytime a billboard suggests. We’ve pulled over for the World’s Largest Peanut in Texas, multiple Billy the Kid memorials in New Mexico, and so many wax museums that I don’t know how any supplies are left to make candles.

But, of course, now that I don’t want to be home, we’re barreling down the road.

The thing is, I told everybody at school I’d come back with a win.

Plus, Jesse keeps texting me. He wants a play-by-play of the record breaking.

At first, I ignore his questions, but when he texts: Did you get the record? I almost send: for epic diarrhea. Instead, I text back: A record was most definitely set.

I can already picture what will happen as I walk into school tomorrow:

Jesse will hold out his hand for a high five, but I’ll know I don’t deserve it. I’ll sag my shoulders and shake my head and shuffle to class, hoping nobody notices me.

“There he is,” someone will shout. “The Guinness Guy!”

I’ll try to think of something funny to say so I don’t look like such a loser, but I’ll fail.

They’ll say, “Hey, you don’t look like a guy who just achieved the ultimate goal.”

I’ll say, “I’m not.”

They’ll say, “Whoa. That’s really lame.” Or “embarrassing” or “devastating” or, worse, “expected.” Then the teacher will tell everybody to sit down and stop picking on the nobody.

But I refuse to think about that now.

Tomorrow I’ll confess that my defining moment went terribly wrong.

This morning I hit my snooze button three times and I don’t have time to shower. I lean under the faucet and wet my hair.

When I come downstairs, Mom has a piece of toast in her mouth as she rushes around the kitchen. Dad says he’ll drop me off at school on his way to work.

When he pulls up to the school, he scribbles an absence-excuse note using the console as a table. He hands me the note, and I bail out of the car and run up the steps of the school. My plan is to drop off the note, run to my locker, then hightail it to class. But as soon as I’m through the doors, the last bell rings. Now I need a tardy slip too.

Mr. Amondo, the principal, has already started the morning announcements when I stop by the office. I add my absence excuse to the tray and wait for Mrs. Grady, the lady at the front desk, to write me a tardy slip.

Before she hands it to me though, Mr. Amondo steps away from the microphone during the moment of silence and looks at the note I just put in the tray. “Ah, you’re Mr. Moss. Stay here and we’ll go to my office for a little chat.” Before I can respond, he’s back on the school-wide intercom reminding us about “displaying proper lunchroom behavior.”

“Follow me,” Mr. Amondo says once the announcements are finished.

I follow him through the hallway and into his office. He points to a chair in front of his desk. I sit and put my backpack at my feet.

The principal takes his time straightening the pencil holder, the stapler, and a Principal of the Year plaque from 2016. He clears his throat and adjusts the stapler one more time.

“So,” he finally says, putting his elbows on the desk and leaning forward. “How’s seventh grade so far? I know it can be a lot. You kids go from being the big man on campus to the youngest in the span of a summer. Plus, there’s more responsibility, the stakes are higher, and there’s a lot of new people.”

“I think it’s good so far.”

Mr. Amondo smiles like I’ve answered correctly. I relax a little.

“And do you find that the work, the concepts are more… difficult?”

This question feels like a trick. Like it will end with either tutoring or more work. Playing it safe, I go with “Sometimes.”

Mr. Amondo opens a folder on his desk and slowly drags his finger down the page inside. I wonder if there is anything he’s looking for, or if it is just a prop to make students nervous. If so, it works.

“I wanted to talk to you because your name has recently come across my desk in one of the attendance reports. Are you aware that you’ve already missed six days this year?” He raises his eyebrows. “And we’ve only been back in school for a month.”

I swallow. “Um, yes, sir?”

Mr. Amondo frowns. “Milo, do you know what ‘at risk’ means?”


  • "From Milo's adorably quirky parents to his family's outrageous attempts to break a Guinness world record, I couldn't stop smiling from the first page until the last."—Dusti Bowling, author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
  • "A funny, heartwarming tale about family, friendship and finding your significance. I found Milo Moss to be officially amazing!"—Melissa Savage, author of Lemons
  • "Hilarious, offbeat, and often moving."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "A fun outing with a somewhat ordinary character who may resemble not just people we know, but ourselves -- if we're honest."—School Library Journal
  • "A climax that is 'officially amazing.'"—Booklist

On Sale
Nov 9, 2021
Page Count
272 pages

Lauren Allbright

About the Author

Lauren Allbright is the author of the middle-grade novel, Exit Strategy. When she is not writing (or failing in her attempts at Mom of the Year), she teaches seventh graders who might earn a record for some of the World’s Coolest Kids Ever. She lives in Dallas with her awesome husband and her three epic children.

Learn more about this author