The basque dragon, p.1
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       The Basque Dragon, p.1
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           Adam Gidwitz
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The Basque Dragon


  ALSO BY

  ADAM GIDWITZ:

  A Tale Dark and Grimm

  In a Glass Grimmly

  The Grimm Conclusion

  The Inquisitor’s Tale:

  Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

  The Unicorn Rescue Society:

  The Creature of the Pines

  * * *

  DUTTON CHILDREN’S BOOKS

  Penguin Young Readers Group

  An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

  375 Hudson Street

  New York, NY 10014

  Text & illustrations copyright © 2018 by Unicorn Rescue Society, LLC.

  Penguin supports copyright.

  Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Gidwitz, Adam, author. | Casey, Jesse, author. | Aly, Hatem, illustrator. Title: The Basque dragon / by Adam Gidwitz & Jesse Casey ; illustrated by Hatem Aly. Description: New York, NY : Dutton Children’s Books, [2018] | Series: The Unicorn Rescue Society ; 2 | Summary: “Elliot and Uchenna join Professor Fauna on another adventure—a trip to the Basque country where they have to save a herensuge from the billionaire Schmoke Brothers”—Provided by publisher. | Identifiers: LCCN 2018001395 | ISBN 9780735231733 (hardback) | ISBN 9780735231740 (epub) | Subjects: | CYAC: Animals, Mythical—Fiction. | Animal rescue—Fiction. | Dragons—Fiction. | Friendship—Fiction. | Paâis Vasco (Spain)—Fiction. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Legends, Myths, Fables / General. | JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / Friendship. | JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / General. | Classification: LCC PZ7.G3588 Bas 2018 | DDC [Fic]—dc23 | LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018001395

  Edited by Julie Strauss-Gabel

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Cover illustration by Hatem Aly

  Cover design by Anna Booth

  Version_1

  To Zachary: you’re the Uchenna to my Elliot . . .(either that, or my personal Professor Fauna)

  —A.G.

  To Sarah

  —J.C.

  To my wife, Michelle, who crossed the ocean back and forth for us to be together

  —H.A.

  CONTENTS

  ALSO BY ADAM GIDWITZ

  TITLE PAGE

  COPYRIGHT

  DEDICATION

  OFFICIAL MAP OF THE UNICORN RESCUE SOCIETY

  INTRODUCTION

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  ABOUT THE AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATOR

  UNICORNS ARE REAL.

  At least, I think they are.

  Dragons are definitely real. I have seen them. Chupacabras exist, too. Also Sasquatch. And mermaids—though they are not what you think.

  But back to unicorns. When I, Professor Mito Fauna, was a young man, I lived in the foothills of Peru. One day, there were rumors in my town of a unicorn in danger, far up in the mountains. At that instant I founded the Unicorn Rescue Society—I was the only member—and set off to save the unicorn. When I finally located it, though, I saw that it was not a unicorn, but rather a qarqacha, the legendary two-headed llama of the Andes. I was very slightly disappointed. I rescued it anyway. Of course.

  Now, many years later, there are members of the Unicorn Rescue Society all around the world. We are sworn to protect all the creatures of myth and legend. Including unicorns! If we ever find them! Which I’m sure we will!

  But our enemies are powerful and ruthless, and we are in desperate need of help. Help from someone brave and kind and curious, and brave. (Yes, I said “brave” twice. It’s important.)

  Will you help us? Will you risk your very life to protect the world’s mythical creatures?

  Will you join the Unicorn Rescue Society?

  I hope so. The creatures need you.

  Defende Fabulosa! Protege Mythica!

  Mito Fauna, DVM, PhD, EdD, etc.

  CHAPTER ONE

  Elliot Eisner was lying, facedown, on the pavement in front of his new house, in his new town, in New Jersey.

  The morning was clear and fine. Kids were walking past on their way to school, kicking red and yellow leaves. It smelled of fall.

  Why was Elliot lying facedown on the pavement?

  He wasn’t sure. He had opened his front door, stepped on something, and then gone toppling headfirst down the steps. Elliot pushed himself up and turned around to see what he had tripped on.

  On his front step was a small package, wrapped in brown paper. He got to his feet and walked over to the package. No address. No stamps. Just a name, scrawled in brown ink. Weird. He examined the name on the package.

  It was his name.

  * * *

  Elliot had had a strange day yesterday. It had been his first day at his new school. He’d made a friend, Uchenna Devereaux. She was odd. She kinda dressed like a punk rocker, she made up random songs about nothing at all, and she had a strong desire to put herself, and Elliot, in mortal danger. All that said, she was funny and she was brave and Elliot liked her. They had rescued a young Jersey Devil—which was supposed to be an imaginary creature, but definitely was not imaginary. It seemed to have adopted them. Finally, a terrifying teacher at their school, named Professor Fauna, had invited them to join a secret organization: the Unicorn Rescue Society. Its mission was to save mythical creatures from danger.

  So yeah, it had been a strange day.

  Now Elliot was staring at a mysterious package that had been left on his doorstep.

  For him.

  He tore open the paper. A book stared up at him. The Country of Basque.

  “What?” Elliot said out loud, to no one.

  Why had someone left him a book? On his doorstep? And who had left it? And couldn’t he just have a normal, not-at-all dangerous second day at South Pines Elementary? Please?

  He sighed, tucked the book under his arm, threw his backpack over his shoulder, and started off to school.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Uchenna Devereaux normally lef
t her house with one shoe untied, half her homework still under the bed upstairs, playing air guitar, and singing a song she’d made up that morning in the shower.

  But not today.

  She opened her front door and looked down her street in both directions before slipping out into the cool autumn morning. She put her backpack over her shoulders, pulled the straps tight, and began walking, warily, to school. Yesterday had been a weird day.

  She had made a new friend named Elliot. He wasn’t exactly cool—he got nervous easily, he memorized entire books about things that could kill him, and he was definitely not rock-and-roll. But he was smart and funny, and Uchenna liked him. Also, they’d met a Jersey Devil and been invited by the school’s weirdest teacher to join a secret society. This secret society had very rich and very powerful enemies: the Schmoke brothers, two billionaires who owned businesses all over the world, and half their little town.

  Also, Uchenna and Elliot and that weird teacher may have broken into the Schmoke brothers’ mansion.

  Okay, they definitely did.

  Which was why Uchenna was being so vigilant this morning on her walk to school. As she turned the corner from her block onto the main street, she glanced over her shoulder. A few blocks away lay the wealthiest neighborhood in town—where the Schmoke brothers’ mansion was. Beyond that, in the distance, she could just make out the towering smokestacks of the Schmoke Industries power plant, billowing black plumes into the air. She—FTHUMP!

  Uchenna sat down hard on her rear end. A small, thin boy with curly brown hair was lying on his back on the sidewalk, staring up into space. An open book lay on the sidewalk behind him.

  “Elliot!” Uchenna exclaimed.

  “Ow,” said Elliot.

  “I didn’t see you there!”

  “That’s good. The alternative would have been that you did see me there and ambushed me on purpose.”

  Uchenna laughed and got to her feet. “Come on. Let’s get to school.”

  Elliot lay unmoving on the ground. “I don’t think so. Today’s been pretty messed up already. School’s only going to make it worse.”

  Uchenna grabbed Elliot by the wrist and pulled him to his feet. She scooped up The Country of Basque and handed it to him. “Let’s go. However messed up today’s going to be, it’ll be better if we face it together.”

  As Elliot brushed off his khaki pants, he squinted at Uchenna. “Your positivity disgusts me.”

  Uchenna grinned, threw her arm around Elliot’s shoulders, and dragged him toward school.

  CHAPTER THREE

  Elliot and Uchenna sat at the far end of one of the long tables in the school cafeteria, waiting for the morning bell to ring. Kids were streaming in the double doors, finding their friends, laughing, clowning, discussing whatever they’d seen on television or online the night before.

  Not Elliot and Uchenna, though. Elliot was telling Uchenna about the mysterious book on his doorstep. “I haven’t read much of it yet. Just the first five chapters.”

  “You read the first five chapters between your house and the corner where we knocked into each other? That’s one block!”

  “They’re short chapters. And I read pretty fast.”

  “So, what did you learn?”

  “Well, I learned about the Basque people, the Euskaldunak.”

  “The AY-oo-SKAL-doo-nak?”

  “Yeah. They’re kinda amazing. They’re these fierce mountain people, who’ve lived nestled between Spain and France and the sea, for thousands of years. Pretty much every great empire of Europe has tried to conquer them, but no one could.”

  “They sound awesome.”

  “Definitely.”

  “Any idea why you’re reading this book? Or who gave it to you?”

  “I have two guesses. Both frighten me.”

  Uchenna shrugged. “You are easily frightened.”

  “One possibility is the Schmoke brothers.”

  “Okay,” Uchenna said, “that would frighten me, too. But why would the Schmoke brothers leave you a book?”

  “No idea. A warning? The other person who could have left it for me is—”

  * * *

  At that very moment, the cafeteria doors crashed open, and in strode a tall, wiry man with a black-and-white beard and a shock of hair exploding from his skull. He wore an old tweed suit and shoes that had probably been expensive forty years ago. From under his shaggy eyebrows, his eyes roved the faces of the nearby students—who cowered before him.

  Which was not surprising, because he looked like he might attack someone.

  The man’s name was Professor Mito Fauna.

  “The other possibility,” Elliot continued, subtly gesturing at the man, who was now peering around the cafeteria as if he were looking for his next victim, “is him.”

  CHAPTER FOUR

  Professor Fauna’s eyes landed on Uchenna and Elliot, like a predator finding its prey. He began to weave in and out of the lunch tables, making his way toward them. He moved with a crackling, manic energy that made everyone—teachers and kids alike—jump out of his way.

  He arrived at their table, glancing at the other kids nearby and then running his big brown hands through his wiry hair, making it stand up even straighter.

  “Buenos días, mis amigos,” Professor Fauna said. He was from Peru, and his voice was rich and rocky and slightly accented. He could easily have played a secret agent in an action movie—if the secret agent had been lost in the wilderness for ten years without a change of clothes or a comb. “I hope you have recovered from our adventures of yesterday.”

  Every kid at the table turned to stare, first at the professor, and then at Elliot and Uchenna.

  “Uh, hi, Professor,” said Elliot.

  “Yup,” added Uchenna quickly. “Doing fine.”

  Professor Fauna nodded. Then, he hesitated. He began shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. Clearly, he wanted to say something to Uchenna and Elliot, but felt he could not with all the other kids around. He noticed the book that Elliot had been reading. “Ah!” he said. “You received my package! I am glad it did not fall into the wrong hands!”

  Professor Fauna suddenly seemed to realize how strange that sounded. He looked around. Absolutely every kid within earshot was staring at him. He cleared his throat. “Uh, for example, the, uh, the hands of a clock! Those would be . . . wrong . . . because clocks . . . cannot read!”

  “What?” both Elliot and Uchenna said at once.

  “Never mind!” said the professor quickly. “Anyway, I would like to request your attendance after school for a meeting of the, um, club we spoke of yesterday.”

  One of the kids at the table, a freckly boy named Lucas, asked, “What club, Mr. Fauna? Can I join, too?”

  “It is the, uh, club for . . . ,” Professor Fauna stammered. “For the history, uh, and the philosophy of . . .”

  Elliot and Uchenna could see that the professor was struggling to come up with a believable cover story. They both tried to think of the worst, most terrible idea for a club they could, so that none of the other kids would want to come. Unfortunately, they blurted out their ideas at the same time.

  “Nutrition,” said Uchenna.

  “Worms,” said Elliot.

  “What?” said Lucas.

  “Yes, the Worm-Nutrition Club!” exclaimed Professor Fauna, thrusting a long finger into the air. “We will be discussing how to feed and care for worms.”

  Some of the kids at the table snickered.

  “Mostly, we find that they like poop,” the professor added.

  “Ugh!” someone groaned.

  “Chicken poop, they like. And duck poop, too. Cat poop, on the other hand—”

  “They get the idea, Professor,” said Uchenna.

  Lucas looked positively queasy. “Actually, I have soccer after school.”

 
Professor Fauna beamed at Elliot and Uchenna and then winked. They rolled their eyes. “Come to my office. You know where it is.” He gave them a little salute and then strode away through the cafeteria.

  A girl leaned toward Uchenna. “You’ve seen his office? I heard he has a torture chamber under the school. Is that true?”

  Uchenna looked at Elliot. He shrugged.

  “Something like that,” Uchenna replied.

  CHAPTER FIVE

  Uchenna and Elliot stood at the top of a dark stairwell. The bell had rung, and kids were rushing outside to take advantage of the beautiful fall day. They would be playing kickball or tag or lounging under a maple tree with bright red leaves. Whereas Uchenna and Elliot were gazing down a narrow staircase to the basement, where they’d find another stairway to the sub-basement, where they’d find a small door that led to Professor Fauna’s office.

  “Are you sure you want to do this?” Uchenna asked.

  “Absolutely not,” said Elliot.

  “Do your mom and grandma know you’re here?”

  “I called and told them I was joining the band.”

  “Oh! Cool,” said Uchenna. “What instrument do you play?”

  “None. I’m not really joining the band. I’m here with you.”

  “Right.”

  “Did you tell your parents?”

  “Yeah,” said Uchenna. “I called and told them I was joining the basketball team.”

  “Oh! Cool. What position do you play?”

  “What? I don’t. I’m—”

  Elliot interrupted her. “I was kidding.”

  “Oh.”

  Silence fell. The kids gazed down the long, dark stairwell again.

  “Well?” said Uchenna at last. “Wanna go hang out with some weird dude in a basement?”

 
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