About the Author
Linda Ellerbee is herself a girl reporter extraordinaire. She is the producer and host of Nick News, the Emmy award-winning children's TV series on Nickelodeon. About Casey Linda says, "A haunted cemetery? Monsters? Zombies? Or an 11-year-old Casey determined to find the truth? Who's the scariest? Casey, of course. That's why I like her." Ms. Ellerbee's production company, Lucky Ducky Productions, has earned a reputation as a supplier of outstanding children's programming for network, syndication, cable, and public television. Originally from Texas, Ms. Ellerbee now divides her time between New York City and western Massachusetts.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
My name is Casey Smith, and I am living in a bad dream.
Just look at my street.
Tombstones were on every front lawn. Giant webs with black spiders in them were on every front porch. And then there was my weird neighbor, who talks to her cats. She had two ghoul-faced zombies sitting on her patio furniture. Were they having zombie tea and a zombie chat? Possibly the topic was skin care, since their faces were rotting off their skulls.
Halloween weirdness was definitely here. Every house was a haunted house. I already thought my dinky town, Abbington, was totally dead. But this was ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong. I love Halloween. What a bummer that I'm too old to justify a night of trick-or-treating. I guess you've got to turn eleven and go to middle school and start acting old at some point. But I was going to miss traipsing through Creepsville after dark. All that free chocolate, just for wearing a costume made to look bloody with splats of ketchup. It had always been one night of the year when the town felt different. Spooky different.
That is, if you can feel spooky covered in French-fry dipping sauce.
But Halloween hadn't arrived yet. It was more than a week away. And today was Thursday. That meant two whole days until the weekend. Two whole days of school. In fact, I was on my way to school, feeling sort of bored with everything.
So I hunkered down on my bike and imagined that girl-eating ghouls were chasing me down the street. I pedaled faster on my bike, a metallic blue Illusion 2000 with eight gears, mud tires and a flat-repair kit strapped under the seat. A girl's got to be able to fix her own tire in an emergency.
I reached up to scratch under my helmet, which always plasters my hair against my head. Not that it really mattered. I've resigned myself to the fact that I have boring brown hair. Boring brown eyes. Boring brown freckles whenever I get caught in the sun. Is it any wonder that I was spending my morning pretending to be a monster snack?
I sped around a corner, jumping the curb the way I'd seen this extreme biker do on TV. It helped wake me up.
At seven a.m., I felt a little undead myself.
Then I saw one of the living walking down the street ahead of me.
Ringo? I called out as I got closer. No mistake. Only my bud Ringo wears purple socks and Birkenstocks. It's his trademark. It sort of warns anyone who doesn't know him that you're about to meet a guy who stood in a different line when they were handing out normal brains.
Hey, Casey! he said, turning to watch my killer skid-stop. You could write your name in the street doing that.
I couldn't take my eyes off his hair. It was purple. Like pass-me-the-purple-crayon purple. Or I could write messages to aliens, I said, raising an eyebrow. Aliens from Planet Purple Hair.
Ringo touched his hair as if he hadn't looked in the mirror this morning.
Usually it's an unremarkable brown. At least his eyes were still gray. And the Ringo grin was still intact. You like it? I was trying it out for my costume.
That depends, I said. Are you going for Barney--or a human eggplant?
Ringo tilted his head. What came first, the chicken or the eggplant?
Ringo'purple hair? Explain, I ordered. You have to keep Ringo focused.
Otherwise, he'll go off on a riff about anything from toe jam to cheerleading moves.
He stopped at a cluster of pumpkins huddled on the stone fence of one house and lifted the lid off a jack-o'-lantern. No candle in this one. Guess it's just a jack-o. Minus the lantern.
I urged him on, and he replaced the pumpkin lid. Ringo--your hair?
Melody said it was supposed to wash out, he said.
Melody is from England. She moved here in the middle of the semester. She and Ringo have this artist thing going.
I think you'll have to wash your head in industrial-strength acid to get that out, I said, spotting the bike racks in front of the school. Come with me to lock this baby up.
After we secured my bike, we headed to the Real News office for a before-school meeting. Real News is Trumbull Middle School's newspaper, which is a newly restarted thing as of this year.
A few years ago, the students just stopped publishing it. Did they lose their minds or what?
See, I have a nose for news. Really. My nose actually tingles when I get near a story. But more on that later. Last month, I decided to put Real News back in circulation. And I did, with some help from a few other sixth graders. Like my friend Ringo, who draws a weekly cartoon about a dude named Simon.
Why do you even need a costume, anyway? I asked as we cruised toward the storage room that we use as our office. Kids our age don't go trick-or-treating.
The Trumbull Halloween party that Megan is organizing, Ringo reminded me. It's a yearbook fund-raiser.
I let out a moan. The party was all our Real News editor-in-chief, Megan O'Connor, had talked about for days. Of course, she was the key organizer.
She's the key organizer to everything yippy skippy at school.
And the thing is, there's a prize for best costume, Ringo went on. I love prizes. Did you ever eat through a box of cereal just to get the dumb plastic toy inside?
Did I mention that Ringo loses focus? What's the big prize? I asked.
Ringo's eyes lit up. Winner gets a free yearbook.
Whoopee! I yelled. How could I forget something as amazing as that?