By Michael Fry
Read by Nate Begle
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 7, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
It was the last day of class before summer break at Junior Super Academy and I was saying my good-byes to my junior super friend (who happens to be a girl) Octavia Sparkle and my junior super roommate (who happens to be super weird) Javy Garcia.
It had been an eventful year. Octavia and Javy helped me save the world for the second time. Octavia’s superpower is shooting out tiny annoying shiny specks that stick to everything.
Javy reads minds.
Sort of. He has dyslexia.
“You’re really doing this Library Sleepaway Camp thing?” asked Octavia. “While the rest of us are at Junior Super Summer Camp kicking butt and taking names?”
“I’m taking the name Basil. But just for the summer,” said Javy.
“Yup. Can’t wait,” I said.
Javy put his hands on my head.
“I’m telling the truth,” I said.
“Hey,” said Octavia, “you be you, but… a librarian?”
I said, “I love books. I like to read. I like to know stuff. Stuff that matters.”
“Wait. Being a super doesn’t matter?” said Octavia.
“I like being a super,” interrupted Javy, “though I’d trade mind reading for shooting lightning bolts out of my butt.”
Octavia and I stared at Javy.
He explained, “Lightning-bolt-shooting eyes and fingers have been taken. But butts are wide open.”
“Supers matter,” I said. “Sort of. For entertainment purposes only.”
“But you’re a super and you saved the world,” said Octavia.
“Twice,” added Javy.
“I know. It’s just not something I want to get in the habit of,” I said.
Octavia said, “You don’t want to get in the habit of helping people?”
“No. I just want to help in a different way,” I said. “A safer way. A more orderly way. A less… you know… silly way?”
“Silly? Seriously?” said Octavia. “Your superpower is tickling.”
“What was that?” said Octavia.
“Nothing,” I said.
“That wasn’t tickling,” said Javy. “That was exploding.”
“You haven’t hurt anyone, have you?” said Octavia.
“No. Of course not. I could never hurt anyone,” I protested.
“Then again, you are the son of supervillains,” said Javy.
Wait. Is that what’s going on? Am I supposed to be dangerous? Am I supposed to lose control?
“I’m worried about you, Victor,” said Octavia.
“I’m worried about him, too,” said a voice behind us.
It was Niles. Niles used to be the Mean Kid on Campus. We used to hate each other. Mostly because he was a jerk.
But then I saved his life once. That’s when he decided I was okay.
Niles said, “If you blow yourself up, then I’ll never get a chance to save your life and get even.”
Octavia said, “Niles, this isn’t about you.”
Niles looked confused. “I don’t understand. It’s always about me.”
Octavia rolled her eyes.
“Victor’s going to Library Sleepaway Camp instead of super camp with us,” said Javy.
“That’s really, really stupid. Wait. No. My bad. Until I save your life, I can’t tell you you’re being a complete butt-head.”
Remind me never to let Niles save my life.
We all stood there for a few long, awkward seconds, then…
Meet my supervillain parents: Rupert and Olivia Spoil, a.k.a. the Spoil Sports. Today, I’m watching them fake-battle Big Hands and Politeness Man. Big Hands is the one with the big hands.
“I’m okay,” said Dad. “You know, except for this burn on my belly.”
He was really hurt! Really, really hurt! I hurt my dad!
Mom freaked. “What’s the matter with you?”
I said. “I don’t know! I just…”
“You’re a tickler, not an exploder!” said Dad.
“You hurt your dad and you almost took Big Hands’ hands off,” said Mom.
Big Hands waved. “I’m good!”
“Are you feeling okay?” asked Mom as she checked me for a fever.
Of course, I wasn’t okay. It happened again. And this time I hurt someone. Maybe Javy was right. Maybe being a supervillain is catching up to me.
Dad shook his head. “You’ve got to get your head in the game, son!”
“You’re right, I said. “It really is just a game.”
Mom said, “It’s not a game to us.” She pointed to the sparse crowd. “It’s not a game to them.”
“Reality is in the eye of the beholder,” said a voice behind me.
I turned around. It was my old buddy the Smear.
The Smear was my first super teacher. He and I saved the world together. Twice. I know. He doesn’t look like much, but with the help of his ninja mice platoon he gets the job done.
I pointed to Big Hands. “None of this is real.”
Big Hands frowned. “I’m just as God and the bite of a radioactive squirrel made me.”
“No,” I said. “That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?” asked the Smear.
I don’t know what I meant. It’s fine if some supers want to pretend. But I was tired of pretending to be a supervillain. And now I’m not even pretending. Now I might be on the verge of hurting someone.
But all I said was, “Nothing.”
“We understand this whole super life may not be for you,” said Dad. “That’s why you’re going to try this librarian thing. To find out for yourself.”
“When does Library Sleepaway Camp start?” asked the Smear.
“Tomorrow,” I said.
“So soon?” said Mom. “Are you packed?”
“Ick,” said Mom. “Couldn’t you be a bit messier?”
“Ironed underwear is never a good look for a supervillain,” said Dad.
I smiled, “But it’s a great look for a librarian.”
“Let’s get the car,” said Dad.
Mom and Dad left as the Smear and I looked on.
The Smear said, “It’s hard for supervillain parents to show it, but they really do love you.”
“I know, they just don’t understand that I need to figure this out for myself.”
“They’re letting you do this. And you will figure it out. But promise me you’ll be careful.”
“It’s a library!”
“And the Boston Common, where you saved the world the first time, was just a park. And Monument Valley, where you saved it a second time, was just a pile of rocks.”
“Do you know something I don’t know?” I asked.
“I know lots of things you don’t know. For instance, I know how to do this…”
I frowned. “You know what I mean. Is there some sort of danger? Are the librarians some sort of zombies that feed off well-read brains?”
The Smear said, “No. They’re vampires. They’ll suck the super right out of you.”
I smiled. “You don’t want me to do this.”
“Victor, your parents and I, we just want you to be happy. Safe and happy. But just remember, who you are has a way of catching up to you.”
Who I am? Does he mean, a supervillain?
Before I could ask, the Smear was walking away.
“I’m rooting for you, Victor,” said the Smear. “No matter where you are or what’s going on, you always do the right thing.”
And he was gone.
Mom and Dad dropped me off at Library Sleepaway Camp.
He never saw the butt laser coming.
Dad stared. “It’s awfully quiet in there.”
“It’s supposed to be quiet,” I said. “It’s a library.”
“Too quiet,” said Mom, looking worried.
I shook my head. “What do you think is going to happen? Death by paper cut?”
“Death by boredom,” said Dad.
I sighed. “I’m doing this. It’s what I want.”
“Like you wanted to be a pharmacist,” said Mom.
I glared at them. “I was four. It was a phase. This is serious.”
“He was so cute in his white lab coat, counting pills,” said Dad.
“Always so particular about everything,” said Mom.
Dad said, “Everything in its place. Everything just so. Victor always has to have order.”
Mom frowned, “Never chaos.”
“You should try it sometime,” said Dad. “Chaos is fun!”
“Enough!” I snapped.
Mom smiled. “There’s our little supervillain.”
“He’s in there,” said Dad. “Hiding.”
“I’m going,” I said.
I headed for the front door of the library.
“You forgot something!” yelled Mom.
I stopped. “What?”
I turned and looked back. It’s true. They did love me. And I loved them.
It’s just that at that particular moment I didn’t like them very much.
I opened the door to the library. And it hit me.
You probably think I think books smell like sunshine. Or puppies. Or rainbows. Or unicorns (that poop rainbows).
No. Books smell like mystery. Books smell like an old donut in the back of the refrigerator. It might be good. It might not. What’s inside? Is it fun? Is it scary? Is it boring? Will it kill me? Will it save me? Will it take me where I never knew I wanted to go?
“I think they smell like pudding,” said a woman’s voice.
“I think they smell like warm socks right out of the dryer,” said another woman.
“I think they smell like the last leaf of autumn,” said a third woman. “The one that falls to your feet and crumbles into a thousand pieces of possibility.”
I turned to see three women.
“You must be Victor,” said the woman in the center. “I’m the head librarian, Mrs. Wibble.”
Mrs. Wibble looked like a librarian. Sweet, patient, with just a glint of steel in her eye. Or was that library paste?
“Hello,” I said.
Mrs. Wibble gestured to the other women. “This is Ms. Orion and this is Mrs. Rotel.”
“Charmed to make your acquaintance,” said Ms. Orion.
“He doesn’t look like a supervillain,” said Mrs. Rotel.
“I’m not!” I said a little too loud.
“No,” said Mrs. Wibble. “No, today you’re a junior librarian.”
“With a lot to learn,” said Ms. Orion.
I looked around. The library was huge. Sunlight streamed through floor-to-ceiling windows illuminating endless rows of books. Tiny dust motes danced in the sunbeams as though they were excited to be there. Because, apparently, no one else was.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
There was a pause as the three librarians shared a look.
“Slow day,” said Mrs. Wibble.
“Mondays are always slow,” said Ms. Orion.
Mrs. Rotel added, “And Tuesdays. And Wednesdays. And…”
Mrs. Wibble snapped, “Enough.”
Mrs. Rotel mimed zipping her lips shut.
“Not everyone likes to read,” I said.
“We’ve noticed,” said Mrs. Wibble.
“And we’re working on it,” said Ms. Orion, with a tone that suggested it was not only true, but certain.
There was a beat of silence. Then…
“Would you like to help us shelve some books?” said Mrs. Wibble.
“Would I!” I piped.
I know. I shouldn’t pipe. It’s unbecoming. But I don’t care. I like books. I like reading them. I like holding them. I like shelving them. In their proper place, according to the Dewey Decimal System.
Mrs. Wibble handed me a book. “Go for it.”
It was a book on owls.
Mortimer had known a lot of owls.
“Okay,” I said out loud, “This is a work of nonfiction. And it’s about animals. So that means it should be in the 500s, for science. Then the 590s, for animals. Then 598 for birds.”
“Wow,” said Ms. Orion. “He didn’t even have to look at the spine.”
“I spend a lot of time in libraries,” I said.
“Obviously,” said Mrs. Wibble.
I headed toward the proper stack. The bird books were on the top shelf. I rolled a ladder over and started to climb. I stopped halfway up. There was another book that caught my eye. It was mis-shelved; it didn’t belong in the science section. I pulled it out.
I smiled. No need for that now.
“Uh-oh,” said Mrs. Wibble.
Wait. I’m in a library. This shouldn’t be happening in a library.
Yet it is happening.
Wait. What exactly is happening?
What did I say before? Something about a nice quiet summer shelving books? Something about air-conditioning. Something about no super stuff!
- On Sale
- May 7, 2019
- Hachette Audio