The Strangers: The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 4

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9780142425756: The Strangers: The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 4

In the fourth volume of the New York Times bestselling Books of Elsewhere series, Olive thought she had uncovered all the house's secrets. She was wrong.

It's Halloween night when strangers come to Linden Street . . . and something absolutely vital to Olive goes missing. To what lengths will she go to get it back? Can she trust the strangers? Will she turn to a new and dangerous magic within the paintings of Elsewhere? Or will Olive put her faith in her own worst enemies to save the people and home she loves?

The stakes grow higher, the secrets more dangerous, and mystery and magic abound as Olive, the boys, and the magical cats uncover the true nature of the old stone house on Linden Street.

A must-read fantasy series for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch, Coraline, and Septimus Heap.

"This haunting fantasy thriller brings together the quirkiness of Roald Dahl and darkness of Neil Gaiman." —Austin Family

"The story was well-written, clever, and completely unpredictable...a great summer read that will let your imagination run wild." —TIME for Kids

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

A two-time Pushcart nominee for poetry, Jacqueline West came to writing by way of opera (she studied vocal performance) and acting (she worked as an actress at a dinner theatre while earning her degree). Looking back on it, it's hard for Jacqueline to believe she ever wanted to be an opera singer, but singing, acting, and writing have one thing in common, she says: "They're all about telling a story, about getting inside the mind of someone other than yourself." The Books of Elsewhere series was inspired by a strange old house in Jacqueline's home town--three floors, cracking paint, sagging porches--that was owned by a professor who created all sorts of odd contraptions. Like lots of kids who live mostly in their imaginations, Jacqueline was obsessed with all things mysterious, creepy, and darkly funny, and with stories where magic intersects with everyday life. She was enthralled by Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, John Bellairs, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Calvin and Hobbes, Bunnicula, etc. Jacqueline lives with her husband and their dog, Brom Bones (of Sleepy Hollow fame) in Red Wing, MN. Her first YA novel, tentatively titled All Our Yesterdays, is on our winter 2014 list.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Olive streaked toward the closest exit, a pair of doors that led not to the crowded front corridor, but to one of the school’s inner halls. She smacked through the doors, their heavy panels creaking open to let out the many running feet that came right behind her. Everyone shot out into the dark corridor, the cats racing protectively around Olive’s ankles, Morton reaching up to grab her gloved hand.

They turned a corner into an even darker hall. Beneath their footsteps and her own gasping breath, Olive could hear the gym doors creaking open, releas-ing a blast of screams and laughter before whooshing shut again.

. . . Leaving one more pair of footsteps to follow them into the darkness.

OTHER BOOKS YOU MAY ENJOY

The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 1: The Shadows Jacqueline West

The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 2: Spellbound Jacqueline West

The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 3: The Second Spy Jacqueline West

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

The Ghost’s Grave Peg Kehret

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator Jennifer Allison

Matilda Roald Dahl

Savvy Ingrid Law

The Secret of Platform 13 Eva Ibbotson

DIAL BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

1

HOUSES ARE GOOD at keeping secrets.

They shut out light. They muffle sounds.

Some have musty attics and murky basements. Some have closets stacked with sealed boxes and locked rooms where no one ever goes. A house can stand with its windows curtained and its doors shut for decades—even centuries—without revealing a hint of what is hidden inside.

The old stone house on Linden Street had kept its secrets for a very long time. For more than a hundred years, it had loomed at the crest of the hill, its towering black rooftops piercing a canopy of ancient trees. A pool of shadows surrounded the house, even on the sunniest days. Overgrown hedges enclosed its garden. Its deep-set windows were blurry and dark. Even in the height of summer, its stone walls exhaled a faint, grave-like chill, as though warmth and sunlight could never quite get in, and the darkness inside could never quite get out.

But as this particular summer dwindled into autumn, and the ancient trees dropped their leaves, and the nights grew long and cool and dark, the secrets hidden in the old stone house seemed to rise, at long last, to the surface.

On those lingering autumn evenings, dim red and purple lights began to glow from the house’s upper windows, where the silhouettes of watchful cats sat motionless on the sills. Cobwebs stretched across the porch. Headstones sprouted from the overgrown lawn, jutting up like crooked gray teeth. After sunset, when darkness covered the house, small, fiery faces flickered from the shadows around the front door.

Neighbors walking down Linden Street had always walked a bit faster as they passed the old stone house. Now they ran.

As for the people living inside those chilly stone walls: They were delighted to know that their house looked so frightening.

It was almost Halloween, after all.

· · ·

Inside the old stone house were the three Dunwoodys: Alec Dunwoody, a mathematician; Alice Dunwoody, another mathematician; and their daughter, Olive Dunwoody, who was about as likely to become a mathematician as she was to become a three-toed tree sloth.

Throughout the twelve years of Olive’s life, the Dunwoodys had lived in many different towns, moving from apartment to apartment as Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody moved from one mathematical job to another. When they had settled on Linden Street early that summer, Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody were happy to think that at last they had a real house all to themselves.

But the truth was: They didn’t.

A trio of cats—Horatio, Leopold, and Harvey—had been keeping watch over the old stone house since long before the Dunwoodys arrived. Also hidden in its quiet rooms were a slew of sleepy neighbors, three stonemasons, a bouncy brown dog, several dancing girls in gauzy dresses, a café packed with Parisians, an out-of-practice orchestra, a castle porter, a woman in a bathtub, whole forests of trees, entire flocks of birds, and one small boy in a white nightshirt.

Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody had no idea that they had so many roommates. But Olive knew. Thanks to a pair of spectacles she’d discovered in an upstairs drawer, Olive had learned the truth about the paintings that gleamed from the house’s cold stone walls.

Olive knew that Aldous McMartin, the house’s original owner, had been a very talented—very unusual—artist. Each painting he created was a living, changeless world, full of flowers that never wilted, and moons that never set, and people that could never die.

People like Aldous’s beloved granddaughter, Annabelle.

People like Aldous McMartin himself.

These painted worlds also made the perfect hiding place for everything Aldous wanted to conceal. Family spellbooks. Nosy neighbors. Dangerously curious almost-twelve-year-old girls who moved into your house and started unearthing all of its secrets.

Inside Aldous’s paintings, Olive had been chased by shadows, nearly drowned, and almost buried alive. She had survived each threat so far, but Olive didn’t know how much longer her good luck would hold. She’d already set the living image of Annabelle free, and worse still, she’d let Aldous’s final self-portrait slip through her fingers straight into his granddaughter’s cold, painted hands. As soon as Annabelle found a way to release him from the canvas, Olive’s luck would take a turn for the much, much worse.

Back in their college days, Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody had invented a card game called 42—a more complicated version of 21—where each player tries to collect 42 points without going over. Sometimes, when Olive was really bored, her parents convinced her to play it with them, even though she never won. In her struggle with the McMartins, Olive felt as if she’d flipped one low card after another. Even if she didn’t exactly understand the mathematical rules of probability, Olive knew that a lucky streak couldn’t go on forever. Each good card brought a bad card closer. At any moment, the face of a chilly, smiling queen, or a stony, sunken-eyed king would stare up at her, and she would lose, yet again.

Compared to this very real fear, Halloween began to seem downright cheery.

So Olive had hung the cobwebs and put up the colored lights. She had cut out the cat silhouettes, modeling them on the house’s real (and much more talkative) cats. She had carved the jack-o’-lanterns with her parents, sitting on the porch in the October twilight. Mr. Dunwoody’s jack-o’-lantern was made up entirely of equilateral triangles. Mrs. Dunwoody’s jack-o’-lantern was made up of three scalene triangles and one complex quadrilateral. Olive’s jack-o’-lantern was made up of a jagged nose, two asymmetrical squinting eyes, and a crooked, snarling mouth, which disturbed her parents and the neighbors for entirely different reasons.

When she was finished decorating, Olive had stood at the curb looking up at her towering, terrifying house, and she’d felt a momentary zing of pride. For once, she might be the one getting to frighten someone else.

But being frightened wasn’t Olive’s real problem. Olive’s real problem was the feeling that—even with the cats and a few human friends, and all the painted people surrounding her—down at the very bottom, where the house’s worst secrets lived, she was completely alone.

Olive was the one who had unearthed the house’s secrets. She was the one who would bear the brunt of the McMartins’ anger, if—or when—they did come back. Sometimes Olive felt as though she were carrying the weight of the entire house, with its massive stone walls and its huge, dim rooms, inside of her worn purple backpack. It would have been nice to let someone else carry it for a while.

Weeks ago, after Annabelle had made off with Aldous’s portrait, Horatio had promised Olive that they might not have to face the McMartins all by themselves. Since then, however, he’d gotten suspiciously secretive about the matter.

“But what did you mean?” Olive demanded for what might have been the hundredth time, when she and the huge orange cat were alone together in the backyard. Olive had been raking leaves and throwing herself into the piles. The leaves crunched around her as she sat up and looked at Horatio, who was seated near the shriveled lilac hedge, his eyes fixed on the empty gray house just beyond. “You said, ‘We may not have to fight alone.’”

“Did I?” said Horatio.

“Yes.” Olive tugged a maple leaf out of her hair. “You did.”

“Then I must have meant what I said,” replied the cat.

Olive flopped back into the pile. “You’re keeping something from me.”

“If I am,” Horatio’s voice murmured through the crackling of the leaves, “you should trust that I am doing so for good reasons.”

Olive tried to believe this. But as the autumn days blew by, and no new help appeared, and Horatio went on refusing to explain, Olive felt more alone than ever.

She was the only student in her art class who couldn’t touch a paintbrush without shivering. She was the only one on the school bus who spent the whole ride peering anxiously out of the windows, sure that she would catch sight of a pair of painted eyes staring back in. She was the only kid in sixth grade who wasn’t excitedly making plans for a Halloween costume, because she knew she wouldn’t be safe outdoors, at night, in the danger-cloaking darkness, without the walls of the old stone house standing solidly all around her.

If anyone had told her that something was about to happen that would make Olive’s current aloneness feel as friendly as a birthday party, she simply wouldn’t have believed it.

So it was probably just as well that no one did.

2

AFTER THE LAST bell had rung on the final school day of October, Olive made a beeline for the bus. The sooner she got out of this twisting brick building, the sooner she would be on her way back to the old stone house. There were cats to confer with, and rooms to check, and painted people to visit, and she didn’t want to waste one extra minute entangled in the halls of the junior high. Olive careened around a corner and smashed straight into a girl headed in the opposite direction, bumping her so hard with her heavy backpack that the girl spun in a circle. The girl’s armload of bright orange papers fluttered through the air, like strangely rectangular autumn leaves.

“Hey!” the girl shouted. “Watch where you’re going!”

“Oh,” Olive mumbled, stumbling backward. “I’m sorry.”

With a huff, the girl bent down to gather the papers. Olive crouched beside her. Even through her lowered eyelashes, she could see that the girl’s hair was sleek and dark, and her green-brown eyes were framed by eyeliner. Olive looked back at the floor.

“I hope I didn’t wreck anything,” she said, straightening up with the papers in one outstretched hand.

“That’s okay,” the girl sighed. “I’ve got about a billion more to give out anyway.” She crammed the pages back into the stack. “Are you coming?”

Olive blinked. “Coming where?”

“To the carnival?” The girl shook the stack of papers, making their edges fan and rustle. “To the Halloween carnival that’s happening tomorrow, that’s all over the flyers you were just holding in your hands?”

“Oh.” Olive’s mind took off like a mouse in a maze, bumping its whiskery nose at each turn. Is this a test? If I say yes, will this girl roll her eyes and say “Oh, great”? If I say no, will she laugh and say “Good”? If I say I don’t know, will she say—

“If you say ‘I don’t know,’ I’ll scream,” said the girl, widening her outlined eyes. “That’s what everybody’s been saying. We did all this work getting everything ready, and I’ve gotten about a million paper cuts from these stupid flyers, and somebody had better show up.

“Oh,” said Olive again. “I—I don’t know.”

The girl didn’t scream. She just sighed again and ran her hand through her long, sleek hair. Olive caught a glimpse of orange fingernails with tiny black pumpkins perfectly placed on each tip. “Is there some other, cooler party happening that I just haven’t heard about?” the girl asked.

If there was another, cooler party, Olive hadn’t heard about it either. “I don’t think so,” she said.

“Are you going trick-or-treating instead of coming to the carnival?” the girl demanded. “Because you can do both, you know.”

“Probably not.”

The girl frowned. “Why not?”

Because two witches made of paint will do terrible things to me if they get the chance. Olive swallowed. “Um . . .”

“You should come. It’ll be fun. Here.” The girl shoved a flyer into Olive’s hands. “Bring your friends.” With a swish of glossy hair, she strode off around the corner.

Olive looked down at the paper in her hands.

HALLOWEEN CARNIVAL!
Costume Contest!! Haunted Mazes!!
Caramel Apples!! Fabulous Prizes!!!

Too many exclamation points!!! thought Olive. But she folded the flyer and tucked it into her pocket anyway.

She was still thinking about the carnival when she and Rutherford Dewey climbed off the school bus at the foot of Linden Street.

“You don’t mind staying home on Halloween, do you?” Olive asked as they crunched their way up the leafy sidewalk.

“I understand your hesitation,” said Rutherford, in his rapid, slightly nasal voice. “You are probably right that leaving the house at night would make you vulnerable. My grandmother’s charms are surrounding the place, so as long as you stay inside, they should keep you safe as well.”

“But—” Olive began.

“But then again, the McMartins have found a way around those protections before.”

Olive glanced at Rutherford out of the corner of her eye. Having a friend who could read her thoughts came in handy sometimes. Other times, it was simply irritating. “That’s just what I was going to say,” she said, under her breath.

They had reached the walkway to Mrs. Dewey’s house, which nestled a short distance away from the street, behind a knot of shady birch trees. Mrs. Dewey herself was bent over in front of the house, tending to a cluster of plants. Her wide, round backside glided back and forth above her tiny feet, like a blimp anchored to a pair of high heels. She looked up as Rutherford and Olive approached.

“Hello, you two!” she called in her flute-like voice. She bent down again, making the blimp waver, before straightening up with a small paper package in one hand. “Olive, as I heard you weren’t going trick-or-treating this year, I made you a sample to bring home. They’re my chocolate gingerbread bars and frosted pumpkin-spice drops,” she said, pressing the bag into Olive’s hands.

“Thank you, Mrs. Dewey,” said Olive.

“In return, you can help me gather some leaves.” Mrs. Dewey gestured to the shrubs beside her. “This Matchstick Mallow is about to go dormant for the winter.”

“What are you using Matchstick Mallow for, Grandma?” asked Rut...

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Book Description Puffin Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the fourth volume of the New York Times bestselling Books of Elsewhere series, Olive thought she had uncovered all the house s secrets. She was wrong. It s Halloween night when strangers come to Linden Street . . . and something absolutely vital to Olive goes missing. To what lengths will she go to get it back? Can she trust the strangers? Will she turn to a new and dangerous magic within the paintings of Elsewhere? Or will Olive put her faith in her own worst enemies to save the people and home she loves? The stakes grow higher, the secrets more dangerous, and mystery and magic abound as Olive, the boys, and the magical cats uncover the true nature of the old stone house on Linden Street. A must-read fantasy series for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch, Coraline, and Septimus Heap. This haunting fantasy thriller brings together the quirkiness of Roald Dahl and darkness of Neil Gaiman. --Austin Family The story was well-written, clever, and completely unpredictable.a great summer read that will let your imagination run wild. --TIME for Kids. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780142425756

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