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With Dog at his side, everything seems to be going as planned…until an unexpected opponent challenges Homer’s spot. They are tasked with a dangerous quest, and only the one who solves the clues and reaches the treasure first will be given membership. Their hunt for treasure takes them on an unforgettable journey full of hazards, mysteries, and surprises!
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Smells Like Pirates
A Sneak Peek of The Sasquatch Escape
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Once again, let me assure you that this is a happy dog story. At no point in this story will a dog die. I hate stories about dogs that die, and so I will never, ever write that kind of story. That is my solemn promise.
In fact, I believe there should be some sort of punishment for people who write stories about dogs that die. Maybe they should be forced to peel gum off the bottoms of movie-theater seats, or file old people's toenails, or clean the shark tank at the zoo. That's what they deserve after bringing such terrible unhappiness into our lives.
Because who wants to break into tears while reading a book? Not I. The pages get all soggy and people turn and stare and ask, "Why are you reading that book and crying?"
"Because the dog just died," you blubber, wiping snot from your nose. And then you ask, "Why? Why did the dog have to die? Why not the cat? Huh? Why is it always the dog?"
Who wants to go through that?
So find a nice cozy place, get yourself something yummy to snack on (I prefer chocolate-covered pretzels, but popcorn is also good), and don't worry about anything because the dog in this story will be just fine. He might face some dangers and he might run amuck, but he will most assuredly be alive on the very last page.
There are two types of people in this world—people who sit by their mailboxes and wait for a delivery from the Map of the Month Club and people who don't.
You might be asking yourself, What kind of person would sit by his mailbox and wait for a map? An image might pop into your head of a nerdy sort of person with messy hair and pants that are too short. A soft sort of person who'd rather sit in his room and dream about treasure than climb a tree or ride a bike. A smart sort of person because map reading uses 2.5 million more brain cells than watching television.
Did you know that the person you've just imagined is Homer Winslow Pudding? And that's what he was doing one Saturday morning in June—sitting at the end of his driveway, right next to his mailbox, waiting.
The grass blade he'd been chewing had turned to mush, so he picked another blade and slid it between his teeth. Then he tilted his head, listening for the rumble of the mail truck's engine. To Homer's right, Grinning Goat Road disappeared into a horizon of green, goat-dappled hills. To his left, the road wound past the neighbor's farm and disappeared around a bend as it made its way to the town of Milkydale. Tall birch trees lined the road, the ends of their slender branches swaying in the morning breeze. Except for a pair of chattering blue jays that perched on a nearby fence post and the occasional bleat of the goats, all was quiet. Homer checked his Quality Solar-Powered Subatomic Watch—an extremely rare apparatus. Only two exist in the entire world.
"She's late," Homer said. "The mail lady's late."
"Urrrr." The dog who lay at Homer's feet moaned.
Homer reached out and scratched Dog's belly—a rather round belly for a dog of such short stature. Dog's back leg kicked rhythmically, as if he'd gotten a sudden urge to chase a rabbit. Homer knew the exact spot on Dog's white belly that triggered this little dance. He knew many things about the dog who'd come to live with him three months before. Such as, when Dog stuck his nose into Homer's sleeve, Dog was feeling afraid. When he howled, he was feeling lonely. And when he started sniffing the ground and digging—well, that meant he was about to uncover something amazing.
Dog's leg froze mid-kick. Then he rolled onto his paws as a rumbling sound sent the blue jays flying. Homer narrowed his eyes and focused on the horizon. Come on, come on, he thought, imagining the long cardboard tube with its gold Map of the Month Club sticker. Please be the mail truck.
Sure enough, the blue mail truck chugged around the bend and stopped at the Puddings' mailbox. "Howdy, Homer," said Twyla, the mail lady.
"Hi," Homer said, pushing his curly bangs from his eyes. Excitement lifted him onto his toes, and he peered through the open window as Twyla rummaged through a box. Then she handed Homer a stack of bills, a farm equipment catalog, and the latest copy of Goat World, with its big headline: WHAT TO DO IF YOUR GOAT EATS A SHOE.
"I still can't get over those ears," she said, looking down at Dog. "They're like a pair of wet towels."
Dog's tail thwapped expectantly against Homer's leg.
"I know what you want," Twyla said. She reached into her coat pocket, then tossed out a bone-shaped dog treat, which Dog practically inhaled. "Are you going to the opening day of the fair?"
"Yep." Every year of his twelve years, Homer had gone to the opening day of the Milkydale County Fair. Aside from his birthday, opening day was his favorite day of the year because it marked the end of school. Good-bye, English composition. Good-bye, Victorian literature. Hello, summer vacation.
"Wish I could go. I've never been on opening day. I'm always working." Twyla strummed her fingers on the steering wheel. "Well, I'd better—"
"Wait," Homer said. "Don't you have my map?"
"Your map?" Twyla frowned.
"It's the first Saturday of the month." How could she have forgotten? She'd been delivering his maps since last Christmas. The Map of the Month Club had been a Christmas present from his late uncle Drake.
"Gosh, Homer, I don't see it."
"Could you look again?" He didn't want to insult her, but Twyla did have a wandering eye, and because of this wandering eye she sometimes delivered the wrong mail to the wrong address. She crashed the mail truck into quite a few trees, too.
She looked again. "I don't see a map. Oh, but lookey here." She held out a small white envelope. "It's for you. Special airmail delivery. I wonder how it got into my truck."
The envelope was addressed to Homer W. Pudding at Pudding Goat Farm, Milkydale. Since there was no return address in the upper left-hand corner, Homer turned the envelope over. A golden glob of wax sealed the flap. Four letters had been pressed into the middle of the glob: L.O.S.T.
This was way better than a map from the Map of the Month Club. "Thanks," he said, stepping away from the truck.
"Have fun at the fair," Twyla called as the mail truck resumed its swerving course up Grinning Goat Road.
Homer stared at the four letters—L.O.S.T. The secret Society of Legends, Objects, Secrets, and Treasures had sent him a letter. It had never before sent him a letter. Until three months ago, he hadn't even known the Society existed. Until three months ago, he hadn't known that Dog existed, either.
Both L.O.S.T. and Dog had been secrets kept by Homer's treasure-hunting uncle, Drake Pudding. Just before his tragic demise, Uncle Drake had decided that one person—his favorite nephew, Homer—would inherit the secrets. And that is why Uncle Drake had hidden a L.O.S.T. membership coin on Dog's collar, and why he had bequeathed Dog to Homer. It was the mysterious coin that had sent Homer on a wild adventure three months ago to discover the meaning of the initials and to learn the truth about Dog. And what, you might ask, was this truth?
That Dog could only smell one thing—treasure!
"Do you think…?" Homer looked down at Dog. "Do you think L.O.S.T. is inviting me to become a member?"
There was only one way to answer that question. Homer tucked the rest of the mail under his arm, then reached into his pocket and grabbed his Swiss army knife. But just as he was about to slide the blade under the wax seal, a red truck chugged around the bend. Homer closed the knife, then stuffed it, along with his letter, into his pocket. L.O.S.T. was a secret, and he intended to keep it that way.
The red truck turned into the Pudding driveway, then stopped. The front window rolled down. "Did the mail come?" Mr. Pudding asked, leaning his thick forearm on the window's ledge.
"Here it is," Homer said loudly over the truck's sputtering. He held out the pile.
Mr. Pudding took the mail and set it on the seat. "I don't see a map tube. Aren't you supposed to get your new map today?" In his younger years, Mr. Pudding had wanted to become a cartographer. Though his goat farming duties had pushed that dream aside, he still enjoyed reading maps and would occasionally sit with Homer and study the latest delivery. But he wasn't keen on treasure-hunting maps. "Give me a good solid map that's real," Mr. Pudding often said. "Not a map that's one-half dreams, one-half bunk."
"Twyla didn't have it," Homer explained. Under normal circumstances, not receiving the Map of the Month Club map would have been a huge disappointment. But something else—maybe something better—had been delivered. He stuck his hand in his pocket. The golden wax seal was cold against his skin. "The map must have gotten lost."
"Twyla sure knows how to lose packages," Mr. Pudding said as he rubbed his chin. "Did you finish your chores?"
"Yes. All of them." He'd fed last night's dinner scraps to the chickens, collected their eggs, put fresh straw in their nesting boxes, filled the goats' trough with water, milked their largest goat, carried the milk to the kitchen, and swept the front porch. Please don't give me more chores, he thought, eager to run straight to his room and read the letter.
"What do you think of the dogs?" Mr. Pudding asked. "The groomer did a right fine job." Max and Lulu, border collies both, hung over the side of the truck bed, their black-and-white coats shiny and tangle free. "I want them to look their best."
On most days, Mr. Pudding didn't care if his farm dogs had mud on their paws or twigs stuck to their tails, but this wasn't most days. That very afternoon Max and Lulu were scheduled to compete in the dog agility trials at the Milkydale County Fair. The border collies were Mr. Pudding's pride and joy—hence the sign that hung next to the mailbox.
PUDDING GOAT FARM
Home of the Champion Pudding Border Collies,
Winners of Four County Fair Blue Ribbons.
Homer reached up and patted Max's silky black head. "They look good."
Gus, the farm's other border collie, barked from the nearby pasture, where he was guarding the goat herd. Too old to compete, Gus had won his share of ribbons in his prime.
Mr. Pudding stuck his head out the window, his gaze dropping to Homer's feet. "What's he eating?" he asked with a scowl.
"Oops." Homer reached down and pulled a stick from Dog's mouth. One of Homer's main chores was to make sure Dog didn't eat things he wasn't supposed to eat. Since Dog had been born without a sense of smell, anything could be mistaken for food. He'd been known to eat flowers, slugs, cardboard, whitewash, magazines, boots, and toothpaste.
Dog looked up at Mr. Pudding, his red-rimmed eyes sinking into folds of skin, his ears hanging to the ground as if they were filled with sand. "That's one droopy dog," Mr. Pudding said with a shake of his head. "Too bad he can't herd. Too bad he's not like the rest of the dogs." Then he put the truck into gear and drove up the driveway.
Dog wasn't one bit like the rest of the dogs. The Puddings' border collies were specimens of perfect breeding, elegant in form. While they had legs made for running, Dog, a basset hound, had legs made for waddling. While they had coats of shiny hair that rippled in the wind, Dog's short hair didn't do anything but fall out and get stuck in the carpet. While the border collies had noble names, Dog's name was plain old Dog. Compared to the rest of the dogs, Dog stood out like a raisin cookie on a platter of frosted cupcakes.
Homer knelt and patted Dog's head. "Don't you feel bad. You wouldn't like going to the groomer. She cleans everything. And those dog agility trials are real boring. All they do is run around and jump over things. You wouldn't want to do that even if Dad had invited you." Not that Dog could do those sorts of things. It's difficult to jump when you're shaped like an overstuffed sausage.
But if Mr. Pudding knew that Dog could smell treasure, he'd treat him like a king.
"Come on," Homer said, hurrying up the driveway. "Let's go read this letter."
The Pudding driveway was steep and long, and both Homer and Dog were out of breath by the time they reached the top. The driveway ended at a pretty front yard. A little path led to a house built from river rocks. A white picket fence surrounded the vegetable garden, and just beyond were the cherry orchard, the old red barn, and the hills where goats grazed on grass, clover, and wildflowers.
Just inside the kitchen window, Mrs. Pudding stirred something. Homer knew that if he tried to sneak past her to get to his room, she'd probably give him another chore. So, after looking around to make sure the coast was clear, he sat on the corner of the porch. A quick slice with the Swiss army knife and the seal came loose. His hands trembled.
Imagine a secret group of people whose lives were dedicated to the very thing that Homer dreamed about. Imagine the kinds of stories they could tell of the places they'd visited, the wonders they'd seen. His uncle had been a member of L.O.S.T., and Homer had met two other members, Ajitabh and Zelda, friends of his uncle's. They'd told Homer that it was his right to take his uncle's place. It was only a matter of when.
Not only did Homer desire this membership, but he also needed it. He'd promised his late uncle Drake that he'd continue the quest for the most famous pirate treasure of all time—the lost treasure of Rumpold Smeller. But Homer was twelve years old, so he'd need help organizing and funding such a grand quest. That help could come from L.O.S.T.—but only if Homer was granted membership.
"Whatcha looking at?" A little boy popped his head around the corner of the house. The boy was Squeak, Homer's little brother. He clutched the handle of a red wagon. A baby goat lay in the wagon, nestled on Squeak's favorite blanket. Since most farms in Milkydale were goat farms, baby goats had been popping out all month like weeds in a carrot patch.
"It's a letter for me," Homer told him.
"I like letters," Squeak said. "I'm naming this goat Butter, 'cause she looks like butter." He leaned over and rubbed his freckled face against the goat's back. "She smells like butter, too."
"That's nice," Homer said, only half listening as he pulled out a single sheet of plain white paper.
A bolt of excitement darted up his back.
"What's it say?" Squeak asked.
Four words that meant everything to Homer. Four words that would be the beginning of his destiny.
Your time has come.
Destinies come in many shapes and sizes. For a boy who lived long before Homer, destiny was a birthright.
Far away from the Pudding Farm lies the country of Estonia—a luscious, forested land covered with lakes and rivers. There, in a white castle with red-roofed towers, lived a boy named Rumpold Smeller. His father was a duke, which is why the family lived in a castle. Now this was very long ago, in the days before fast-food restaurants, or automobiles, or even steam-powered ships. These were the days when peasants worked the land and rich men owned the land. The daughters of these rich men were not allowed to go to school, so they sat around and made needlepoint pillows and tapestries and went crazy from boredom. Most people ate the same food every day because there were no grocery stores, and it was common to identify relatives by the size of their carbuncles—unpleasant, pus-filled pimples. And if your country was at peace, well, it was only a matter of time before someone invaded and set everything on fire.
Rumpold was a well-behaved boy. He listened to his tutor and completed all his assigned studies, such as Latin, geography, and chivalry. He obeyed his parents by not running through the palace like a wild thing and by going to bed when he was supposed to. He was a semiskilled equestrian, which meant that he could ride a horse without falling off. And, like all the sons of dukes, he was trained in the art of fighting with a sword.
Problem was, Rumpold hated fighting. Aggression went against his gentle nature. Instead of working on impaling and thrusting, he used the tip of his sword to draw pictures in the dirt. Instead of knocking out his opponent with the sword's handle, he decorated the handle with paintings of birds and swirls.
The Duke of Estonia worried about his son's lack of interest in weaponry. He worried, too, about his inclination to spend long hours perched in the uppermost branch of a tree, daydreaming. The faraway look was a permanent fixture on Rumpold's face. The duchess said, "Worry not. He is a boy. All things will change in him when he becomes a man."
One of the benefits of being a duke's son was that Rumpold could have most anything that he desired. If he wanted cake in the middle of the night, then all he had to do was ring a little bell. If he wanted a new kitten, he had to only ask. If he didn't feel like buttering his bread, someone else did it for him. Such a life would turn most children into spoiled brats. But Rumpold remained polite and never said an unkind word about anyone or to anyone.
"He's too polite," the duke fretted. "It's not natural for a boy to be so polite."
"Worry not," the duchess said. "All things will change in him when he becomes a man."
But what the Duchess of Estonia didn't know, as she smiled at her vegetable-eating, homework-doing, authority-minding child, was that all things would change, but not in the way she expected.
For Rumpold Smeller would become known as the most fearsome pirate to sail the seven seas.
Homer bolted up the porch steps.
"Where are you going?" Squeak asked.
"I gotta do something. Come on, Dog." With Dog at his heels, Homer charged through the warm kitchen. The scent of baking cherry pies swirled in the air. "I need to wash up before the fair," he announced, hoping this would keep his mother from assigning more chores.
"Don't run in the house," Mrs. Pudding called as she peered into the oven to check her pies' progress.
If there was anything Dog hated, it was being left behind. If left behind, whether on purpose or by accident, he'd voice his discontent with the loudest howl anyone had ever heard. It was extra likely he'd get left behind if a staircase was involved. It took forever for him to haul his long body up a staircase. And carrying him was a Herculean feat. Homer had learned that if he needed to speed Dog's progress, it was best to push Dog's rump. So up the squeaky farmhouse stairs Homer pushed.
Once they'd stumbled into Homer's bedroom, Homer shut the door. A boy with as many secrets as Homer Pudding should have kept a padlock on his bedroom door. Since that was not allowed in the Pudding household, he slid a chair under the knob, securing the door as best he could.
Maps covered every square inch of the bedroom's walls and ceiling. All those colors and lines might have induced dizziness in someone not skilled in the art of map-reading. But Homer wished he had room for more.
Panting, Dog collapsed onto the carpet, his chin landing on a dirty sock. Homer settled next to him and reopened the letter. The paper was white and plain, with only those four words.
Your time has come.
The letter's author had purposely kept the message vague. No details about where or when, who or how. Homer understood that this was necessary in case someone other than he had opened the letter. He'd have to interpret the message on his own. It could mean only one thing—that he was going to be given the chance to take his uncle's place. And once he became an official member of L.O.S.T., he'd be a professional treasure hunter. But when, exactly, would this happen? In a few minutes? Tomorrow? Next week?
"My time has come," he said. He wanted to stick his head out the window and shout those words to everyone. But he especially wanted to tell one person—his uncle Drake. His beloved uncle, with his scruffy mustache and can-do attitude, had understood Homer like no one else ever had.
"Treasure hunting's in your blood," Uncle Drake had often told him. "It's in my blood, too." But now he was gone, eaten by a mutant carnivorous tortoise, and it was Homer's duty and honor to finish what his uncle had started—to find Rumpold Smeller's treasure.
Homer reached under his bed, found the loose floorboard, and pried it off. Then he stuck his hand into the hole and pulled out a book. Dog raised his head and sniffed the air, his tail wagging. Dog had been the one to find the book—he'd been the one to smell the treasure hidden within.
The book, Rare Reptiles I Caught and Stuffed, was a rather tedious, scientific account of odd reptilian creatures from all over the world. Very few people would want to read such a book. That's why Uncle Drake had hidden something very important within its pages.
Before his death, Drake Horatio Pudding had found the treasure map of Rumpold Smeller the pirate. He'd cut the map into precise pieces and had pasted those pieces throughout the reptile book. Homer was eager to assemble the pieces. But that would be dangerous because then it wouldn't look like a boring old book, but a true treasure map—the most coveted map in the treasure-hunting community.
So for now, it remained hidden.
"HOMER!" Mr. Pudding hollered from the driveway. "Where are you?"
Homer shot to his knees and pushed open his bedroom window. "I'm right here," he called, dreading what would follow because it would probably contain the word chore.
"It's time to go."
Already? Homer glanced at his Quality Solar-Powered Subatomic Watch. Noon in Milkydale. The Milkydale County Fair officially opened at one o'clock. Corn dogs, raspberry lemonade, and soft-serve ice cream in every imaginable flavor waited inside the fairgrounds fence. But what if, while he was at the fair, someone from L.O.S.T. came looking for him or sent another letter with instructions?
"Um, I think I'll stay home," he said. He'd never said that before. Mr. Pudding's mouth fell open.
"Stay home? Have you lost your mind? No son of mine's gonna miss the dog agility trials."
"But, Dad, I've got some things to figure out."
Mr. Pudding slid his cap onto his head. "You can figure them out later. It's a family tradition to go to the fair."
Homer knew there'd be no arguing with his father. When Mr. Pudding set his mind to something, there was usually no changing it.
Homer closed the reptile book and returned it to its hiding place beneath the bed. He didn't want anyone to see his letter, so he stuck that under the floorboard, too. "Come on, Dog," he called as he slid the chair away from the door.
Downstairs, Mrs. Pudding was putting her cherry pies into boxes. She wiped her hands on her apron and cast Homer a concerned glance. "Is that what you're wearing to the fair?"
Homer shrugged. "I guess so."
"Those jeans are getting too short. We'll have to make a trip to Walker's Department Store." She kissed Homer's forehead. "Now, please go and find your sister. Tell her we're ready to leave."
"Where is she?" he asked.
"In her laboratory."
Homer frowned. As a soon-to-be professional treasure hunter, he knew he'd end up trekking through his fair share of unpleasant places—a cave full of vampire bats, a swamp full of leeches, an underground sewer full of rats. But his sister's laboratory was one place he wished he'd never have to go.
"Do I have to?"
"Yes, you do."
"But it's disgusting out there."
"Homer Winslow Pudding, go get your sister."
Gwendolyn Maybel Pudding was Homer's fifteen-year-old sister, which made her the eldest Pudding child. While Homer, the middle child, loved to read maps, and Squeak, the youngest child, loved to help around the farm, Gwendolyn was crazy for taxidermy. She'd mastered the art of preserving dead animals when she took a summer correspondence course at age nine. Her dream was to become a Royal Taxidermist for the Museum of Natural History.
Taxidermy is not for the squeamish. After an animal dies, it begins to deteriorate, which causes a horrid stench. In order to preserve the creature, all its innards must be removed. The inside is cleaned, and the creature is stuffed. Its teeth, tongue, and nails are painted with lacquer. Its eyeballs are replaced with glass eyeballs. It's a wonder anyone wants to do it.
A few years back, after Mr. Pudding opened the door to Gwendolyn's bedroom and stepped in a pile of raccoon guts, he declared that she was forbidden to perform her artistic endeavors in the house. So she moved her tools and chemicals to the old shed and filled the shelves with her work. All of her subjects—field mice, squirrels, foxes, weasels, sparrows, and crows—had been caught by the barn cats or the farm dogs or had died from natural causes. Gwendolyn wasn't a murderer—just a preserver.
GWENDOLYN'S LABORATORY: KEEP OUT OR BE STUFFED! the sign on the door read. Homer knocked and called her name. Maybe he wouldn't have to go in. He knocked again. And again. Then, with a steadying breath, he opened the door.
- * "A funny, suspenseful adventure that stretches the borders of readers' imaginations. A heartwarming and quirky cast of characters adds to the fun...Homer and Dog are a strange, silly, and lovable duo."—School Library Journal, starred review
- "[A] droll, satisfying sequel...There is plenty of rip-roaring fun here; fans will applaud Homer and Dog's return."—Kirkus Reviews
- "[Filled with] quirky side characters and over-the-top humor."—Booklist
- "[A] satisfying sequel...Fans will love Homer and Dog's return."—VOYA
- On Sale
- Apr 10, 2012
- Page Count
- 432 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers