Friday, September 6, 2013

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Janitors 2: Secrets of New Forest Academy by Tyler Whitesides


ABOUT THE BOOK

Spencer stood up, anxiously scanning the library for movement. Instinctively, his hand reached into his backpack to grip a small Ziploc bag of magical vacuum dust. Spencer turned a slow circle, eyes flicking from bookshelf to bookshelf. The students were showing all the signs—so where were the Toxites?
Now more than ever, Spencer, Daisy, and even Dez must fight to save schools everywhere. Toxites, the small creatures that love to feed on the brain waves of students, are just the beginning of their troubles.
The Bureau of Educational Maintenance (BEM) is after Spencer, and the Rebels hope to sneak him to safety within the walls of an elite private school. But danger follows Spencer and his friends, testing their loyalty and trust as well as their Toxite-fighting skills. Can they hold out long enough to discover the true secret of New Forest Academy and what it means to the future of education?
BOOK TRAILER

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tyler Whitesides worked as a janitor at a middle school to put himself through college. It was there that he discovered the many secrets and mysteries that can be hidden in a dusty school. Tyler graduated from Utah State University with a degree in music. He enjoys spending time in the mountains, cooking on the barbecue, and vacuuming. Tyler lives in Logan, Utah, with his wife, Connie, a third-grade teacher. Janitors is his first novel.

REVIEW

I love middle grade fiction and this book is a good example of why.  I think the thing I especially enjoy about this series is the creative ways that the author uses items that in real life are seen as dull and ordinary, like vacuums, brooms, and electricity.  I mean, the use of a dumpster as a prison. What a great idea. I'm surprised no one ever thought of that before. I think my favorite ordinary thing turned magical was the tool belts that allowed brooms to shrink to a management size with lots of additional storage pockets.  Hmm. I also liked the use of toilet plungers to make heavy objects light enough to move (think SUV and bus). 

In addition, I really like the characters, flaws and all. Spencer, who is obsessed with neatness and cleanliness, is the perfect main character.  His father disappeared two years ago and he recently discovered that his father was also involved with Toxites and battling the BEM.  His best friend, Daisy, is a sweet, but tough girl who tends to be rather gullible but is very loyal and determined. Dez makes an interesting contribution in this book.  He's definitely a bully, but at the same time, there are moments when I almost liked him and I definitely felt bad about his unfortunate home life with a drunken father.

There is enough action and adventure to satisfy even the most demanding middle grade reader.  I can safely promise that I have never read fight scenes quite like these. New villains and unexpected assistance add to the enjoyment of the book. I can heartily recommend this book to middle grade fantasy lovers.

EXCERPT

Dez Rylie belched. It wasn’t a long belch by his standards, but it was certainly enough to get him in trouble again. It would have been nothing new in Mrs. Natcher’s classroom. But this was the library, a sanctuary of research and silence.

Well, usually. Today was different, and not just because it was a Friday.

“That’s enough!”

Spencer blinked the sleepiness out of his eyes and shook his head. Had the librarian just shouted?

“It’s over!” Sure enough, Mr. Fields, the balding librarian, was losing his cool. And rightfully so.

Spencer’s sixth-grade classmates were behaving ridiculously. Several students were slouched hopelessly at the study tables, books abandoned and research topics forgotten. They stared at the librarian, lazily chewing gum like they didn’t care a thing about consequences. Other kids wandered between bookshelves, laughing and smiling, happily distracted from their work. A few students were sound asleep, drooling on expensive library books.

“I’m not going to deal with this behavior anymore. Your teacher’s coming to fetch you! Gather your things.” He shooed the students with the backs of his hands.

Spencer used his knuckles to rub the sleepiness from his eyes. When he opened them again, he noticed that the seat next to him was empty. Where was Daisy? Spencer glanced around the library and spotted the girl a few bookshelves away. Daisy was on her hands and knees in front of the picture books—laughing.

Oh, no. Something was very wrong.

Spencer had fallen asleep during research and Daisy was hopelessly distracted. That could only mean one thing…

Spencer stood up, anxiously scanning the library for movement. Instinctively, his hand reached into his backpack to grip a small Ziploc bag of vacuum dust. Spencer turned a slow circle, eyes flicking from bookshelf to bookshelf. The students were showing all the signs—so where were the Toxites?

The library door opened, and the air seemed to grow old and stuffy with Mrs. Natcher’s arrival. One look at her unruly class sent a new streak of gray through her tightly pinned hair bun.

“Class!” she called in her usual manner. “Class! You will be silent in three, two, one.” Mrs. Natcher clapped her hands, but this usual method did little against the potent breath of the Toxites that pervaded the library.

Spencer yawned big enough to make his eyes water. Then, with blurry vision, he saw a flash of movement. Spencer blinked away the tears to see a pale, slimy creature leap from the History section and land on a nearby table. Half a dozen kids were staring in that direction, but the monster scuttled invisibly across their notebooks.

Spencer snapped the seal on his Ziploc bag and pinched out a bit of vacuum dust. If the creature turned toward him, Spencer would have to stop it, no matter how crazy he might look throwing vac dust at invisible monsters.

Across the table, Dez stood up, his backpack gaping open like a dirty mouth. Before Spencer could move, the yellow, lizard-like creature leapt into the backpack’s dark opening. Dez casually picked up his notebook, the pages discolored and crinkly from an old apple juice spill, and dropped it into his pack. With another belch, he zipped his backpack and turned.

Of all the kids in the class, Dez was probably the least affected by Toxite breath. The rich brain waves that the Toxites enjoyed didn’t often come wafting out of Dez’s head. The creatures mostly left him alone, saving their potent anti-learning breath for other, more sincere students. But, affected or not, Dez was about to unknowingly transport a Grime back to the classroom.

Dez was wandering halfheartedly toward the doorway where Mrs. Natcher stood with her nose turned up at her class. Spencer gritted his teeth and stepped into Dez’s path, eyes locked on the big kid’s backpack.

“What are you staring at, Doofus?” Dez asked. “Never seen a backpack before?”

Spencer glanced sideways at Daisy, but she was too far away and much too distracted to help. The slimy Grimes were toughest on Daisy. Their distracting breath didn’t bother Spencer much at all, but seeing Daisy like that reminded him why he couldn’t let Dez get past. If the backpack made it into Mrs. Natcher’s classroom, then the Toxite would emerge. Spencer and Daisy had worked too hard to keep their classroom Toxite-free. And Dez was about to spoil it by giving this creature a free ride.

“Listen, Dez,” Spencer said, “you’ve got to leave your backpack here.”

“Huh?” Dez pulled a face. Then he narrowed his eyes. “You trying to steal from me? I’ll break your fingers if you touch my Empty 3 Player.”

“Your what?”

“My Empty 3 Player. Don’t you ever listen to music?”

Spencer rolled his eyes. “This isn’t about your mp3, Dez. Just leave your backpack here.”

“Why don’t you make me?” Dez smirked.

Spencer took a deep breath and gripped his vac dust even harder. He was losing time. Mrs. Natcher and the librarian were rounding up the students one by one. It wouldn’t be long before they got to Dez.

Spencer stepped away, letting the bully think he’d won another fight. Dez threw back his head and started laughing. It was an obnoxious, fake laugh, and Dez dragged it out so long that it lost any intimidation effect he might have been hoping for.

Just as Dez stepped forward, Spencer flicked his right hand, releasing the pinch of vacuum dust. With a sound like a suctioning vacuum, the backpack jerked out of Dez’s hands and hit the floor.

“Hey!” Dez swung a fist, but Spencer jumped back and retreated across the library, fighting waves of Toxite fatigue along the way.

Dez stooped to retrieve his backpack. He pulled on the shoulder straps, but the backpack was suctioned tightly to the floor, rattling slightly.

“Huh?” Dez grunted and pulled harder.

A few bookshelves away, Spencer grabbed Daisy by the shoulders and yanked the girl to her feet. “We’ve got trouble, Daisy.”

“Hi, Spencer!” Daisy said, like she was meeting him for the first time. “There’s a really funny piece of carpet right here, did you see it?” She chuckled. “Oh, it makes me laugh.”

“Snap out of it, Daisy! There are Toxites in here. Lots of them! I can’t seem to find them, but they’re affecting everyone.”

Spencer glanced back at Dez. The bully had managed to get the backpack off the floor for a moment, but the suction pulled it down again.

“Dez has one in his backpack,” Spencer said. “If we don’t stop him, he’ll take it back to the classroom!”

Daisy squinted. Spencer could tell she was fighting against the distracting Toxite breath. She glanced over at Dez. The sight of the bully with the backpack managed to break through her distractions.

“The suction won’t last,” Daisy said. “Maybe we could … Hey! What’s that over there?”

Spencer’s shoulders slumped as Daisy trudged away to inspect another patch of carpet. But there was no time to go after her. Mrs. Natcher was making a beeline right for the spot where Dez was thrashing with the backpack.

“Dezmond Rylie! What on earth are you doing to that poor backpack?” the teacher called.

Spencer backed against the wall, a sudden yawn overtaking him. Why not give up? He was out of options anyway. Why not lie down and take a rest? After all, he was exhausted.

Spencer leaned heavily against the wall. He was just sliding down to the comfort of the carpet when a gray lump fell from a bookshelf and landed in a quivering heap at his feet.

It was another Toxite: a Filth this time. This was the most dangerous type of Toxite for Spencer. Being close to the spiky dust gophers always made him sluggish and tired. But this particular Filth was suctioned to the floor, gopher teeth chattering and sharp quills clicking.

The Filth’s breath was instantly stolen away by the puff of vacuum dust holding it down. But who had thrown the blast? The sleepiness vanished, and, with renewed energy, Spencer looked up. Daisy stood a few feet away, a sandwich bag of vac dust in her hand.

“Get up, sleepyhead,” Daisy said. Somehow she had managed to stave off the distracting Grime breath—at least momentarily. “We’ve got to stop Dez.”

Spencer jumped up. Dez and Mrs. Natcher were conversing. At their feet, the backpack lay still. Spencer could tell that the suction had worn off. Any minute now, Dez would pick it up and take it back to infest the classroom.

How could Spencer possibly get Dez to leave his backpack in the library? Spencer leaned against the wall and felt the answer right at his fingertips.

“Careful,” Daisy said. “That’s the fire alarm.”

Spencer nodded grimly. Then, with sweaty hands, he pulled down on the red handle.

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