Oddkins: A Fable for All Agesby Dean Koontz, Phil Parks
Blockbuster author Dean Koontz’s first novel for young readers, a beautifully illustrated and visually stunning story about a magical band of living toys who learn to overcome the fears we all face in the dark [Description]Toymaker Isaac Bodkins created the Oddkins, a group of living toys, for very special children who face difficulties in life and need/b>… See more details below
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Blockbuster author Dean Koontz’s first novel for young readers, a beautifully illustrated and visually stunning story about a magical band of living toys who learn to overcome the fears we all face in the dark [Description]Toymaker Isaac Bodkins created the Oddkins, a group of living toys, for very special children who face difficulties in life and need true friends. There’s Amos, the brave stuffed bear; Skippy, the rabbit who dreams of being a superstar; Butterscotch, the gentle, floppy-eared pup; Burl the elephant; the wise and scholarly Gibbons; and Patch the cat. The Oddkins are given to children to inspire, support, and love them, especially during times of adversity. Only now, the toys themselves are the ones who need help. Before he dies, Mr. Bodkins delivers a dire warning to Amos the bear: Watch out for an evil toymaker and his dangerous creations! Locked up in the dark sub-basement, another group of toys is climbing out of boxes and crates and coming to life as well. These bad toys—like Rex and Lizzie, the puppets with no strings; Gear, the vicious robot; and Stinger, the horrid buzzing bumblebee with his knife-sharp stinger—were made to hurt children, not help them. Leering, laughing, and deadly, they are let loose into the world by a terrifying force. Frightening as it may be, the Oddkins must go on a journey to find Colleen Shannon, Mr. Bodkins’s chosen successor as a life-giving toymaker and the only person who can save them. The stormy night is perilous and the Oddkins face a danger that threatens not only their magic . . . but the magic in us all.
Dean Koontz is the author of fifty-six New York Times bestsellers, including Odd Thomas, From the Corner of His Eye, and Watchers. His books are published in thirty-six languages and his worldwide sales top 450 million copies. With Oddkins, his first book for young readers, Koontz introduces a magical and dazzling world of toys and terror, good versus evil. Oddkins is a fable for our time, a deeply moving story for all ages. Phil Parks is a freelance artist who also illustrated Koontz’s Twilight Eyes and Santa’s Twin.
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Read an Excerpt
A Fable for All Ages
By Dean Koontz, Phil Parks
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1988 Nkui, Inc., Airtight Graphics, and The Land of Enchantment
All rights reserved.
A Very Dark Day
Amos the bear was standing on the toymaker's bench, looking through the casement window at the purple-black storm clouds rolling in from the east. He was filled with great sadness—and fear.
This is a dark day, he thought, and he shivered.
Stripped of leaves, the November trees were stark, like many-armed black skeletons. The red light of the setting sun was fading fast. Soon night would fall, and it would be very dark. The oncoming storm would blot out the moon and stars.
To Amos, it seemed as if dawn might never come again, as if the world would forever turn in deep gloom.
The day was grim not merely because of the weather but because Mr. Isaac Bodkins, the toymaker, was dead. To his creations, the magical stuffed-toy animals that he had called Oddkins, he was "Uncle Isaac," and they were deeply saddened and frightened by his passing.
For many weeks the old man had known that he was dying. But the end had come quicker than he had expected. This morning, feeling tired, he had decided to lie down on the couch in one corner of his workshop, just to rest for half an hour before lunch. He had passed away peacefully in his sleep.
Sam Jenkins, who owned a toy shop and sold Isaac Bodkins's creations, had come to pick up some merchandise and had discovered that the old man's sleep was deeper than it should have been. While all the stuffed toys sat on shelves and workbenches, pretending not to be alive, Mr. Jenkins called the doctor. The doctor came, carrying a bag filled with instruments and medicines. Seeing the physician, the Oddkins had felt a surge of hope. But eventually Uncle Isaac's body had been taken away.
Now the stuffed animals were alone in the rambling old house that had been Mr. Bodkins's workplace and home. It was still the home of Leben Toys, the beloved old man's small company. Grief was so heavy in the air that Amos the bear felt it pressing on him, making his shoulders sag.
He would have wept if he could have formed tears. With his great skill and magic Mr. Bodkins had given life to the toys he made. But Amos was still only a teddy bear, after all. He could not produce tears, no matter how much he ached to shed them.
Behind Amos, in the workshop, the others sobbed. Like him, they were unable to weep, but they could make the soft sounds of grief.
Amos would not permit himself one sob. He must be strong, for Uncle Isaac had chosen him to lead the others in this terrible time.
Last week, Isaac Bodkins had taken Amos into the book-lined study at the front of the house, where they could have a private conversation. The toymaker had sat behind his richly carved desk while Amos had sat on top of it, basking in the red-yellow-blue-green light from a stained-glass lamp. The old man had talked about Amos's destiny and had revealed certain secrets....
Leaning back in his big leather chair, Uncle Isaac folded his aged but still strong hands on his round belly. Peering at Amos over the tops of his tortoiseshell glasses, he said, "You know the reason you were made, of course, the reason I've made all of you Oddkins ..."
Amos sat up straight and proud. "Oh, yes, sir! One day I'll be put on display in a toy shop. I'll be sold as a gift for a very special child who'll desperately need a secret friend."
"That's correct." Mr. Bodkins smiled and nodded approval. "It will be a little girl or boy who, if he grows up whole and happy, will contribute something of importance to the world. A special child, as you have said. But this will be a child who has to face enormous problems or who must live through a terrible sorrow. Perhaps it will be a child whose parents mistreat him—"
"Or maybe one who'll fall ill and need tremendous courage to pull through," Amos said solemnly. "Or a child whose mom or dad dies ... or who loses a sister."
"Yes. But whatever the child's problems, you will be there to offer comfort, counsel, and love. You must help the child to grow up confident and loving, regardless of what cruelties the world inflicts on him. Because, you see, this special little girl or boy of yours will perhaps become a doctor who saves lives, or a diplomat who negotiates peace, or a teacher ... if only he can grow up whole and happy. But if he's broken by the tragedies he must endure, then he will never have a chance to make this world a better place."
Sitting on the desk in the multicolored light of the stained-glass lamp, his furry legs straight out in front of him, leaning back on his forepaws, Amos sighed heavily. "Gosh, it sure is a big responsibility."
"Enormous," Mr. Bodkins agreed. "And you must always remember that you and the other Oddkins have to conceal your missions from everyone—except, of course, from each other and from your special children. In the privacy of that boy's or girl's room, you'll be alive, but to the rest of the world you must pretend to be only a stuffed animal."
"I'm good at that," Amos said happily. He went stiff, and his eyes were suddenly as blank as painted buttons.
"Very good," Isaac Bodkins said. "Excellent!"
Amos grinned, and his eyes became expressive and warm again.
"If you let another child or any adult see your magical life, you won't remain effective as a secret friend to your assigned child."
"Yes, sir," Amos said. "I understand."
It was also understood that, once his assigned child's crises had passed, when a secret friend was no longer needed, the magical life would drain out of Amos, as it went out of every Oddkin sooner or later. Then he would be only a teddy bear, just like any other. In time, his special child would forget that Amos had once really been alive. Their secret conversations and adventures would seem to have been fantasies, mere games that the child had played in more innocent days before growing into the no-nonsense world of adults.
This fading-away of his life was a difficult thing for Amos to accept. But he understood that true magic was strictly for children and would only confuse and upset most adults. Many people had been guided by one Oddkin or another in their troubled youth, but none of them remembered the truth after they grew up.
Amos rose and walked around the stained-glass lamp, stepping over the cord, frowning at the gleaming oak desktop. "Something I've been wondering about," he said in a gruff voice which should have seemed too deep for his small body but which strangely fitted him. "What happens when the life goes out of me, Uncle Isaac? Do I have a spirit? Does my spirit go to Heaven or someplace? What happens to me? Is that one of the secrets you've brought me here to tell me about?"
Isaac Bodkins shook his head. His fine white hair gleamed like moonlit snow. "No, I can't tell you that, dear Amos. What comes after life must remain a mystery to you, just as it is a mystery to human beings ... including me."
Even then Amos had known that Uncle Isaac was dying. The old toymaker had not hidden his illness from his creations. In fact he had encouraged them to get used to the idea of his passing. A new magic toymaker must be chosen during the next few weeks. And when Isaac Bodkins died, those Oddkins who were still in the shop would have to help the newcomer settle into his job.
A few days ago, when Uncle Isaac told them that he, their maker, would soon trade this world for another, the Oddkins had pretended to be strong and stouthearted. They pretended to accept his approaching death with regret and sadness but also with grace and courage.
In reality they were sick with grief—and scared. Very scared.
"Death," Uncle Isaac had told them, "is not an end. It is only a station between two places. There's a new beginning beyond death. Don't be afraid for me. I'm merely going on to a new life of some kind that I can't imagine but that I know will be even better than the life I've had here."
"But we'll miss you," Butterscotch the dog had told him, unable entirely to conceal her misery.
"And I'll miss you," he said. "But I will never forget you. In memory we'll always be together."
"Memory?" Skippy the rabbit had said scornfully, brash as usual. He had cocked his head in the direction of his floppy ear, as if it were pulling him over on his side—the other ear was straight—and he had squinted at the toymaker. "Memory's not good enough. Memory fades—"
"Mine doesn't," said Burl the elephant.
"Well, Mr. Hose Nose, everyone else's memory fades."
"Too bad everyone isn't an elephant," Burl said.
"Heaven forbid!" Skippy declared. "If elephants were the only creatures in the world, they'd have eaten everything down to bare rock and would've died out long ago. Walking stomachs, that's what elephants are. And can you imagine the din of all that trumpeting, the thunderous pounding of all those billions of big feet?" Before Burl could respond, Skippy had looked at Uncle Isaac again and said, "No, sir, having you in memory isn't good enough by half."
"I'm afraid it will have to be good enough," Mr. Bodkins had said quietly but firmly.
And now, in his study, he was equally quiet and firm with Amos. "Worry about this life, Amos. Worry about doing well in this world. The next world, whatever it is, will take care of itself."
Though he was only a stuffed-toy bear, Amos had a good, solid bearish personality. He was slow to become excited, and he was patient, and he tended to think about all the possibilities before acting. So he stared at Uncle Isaac for a while, finally nodded, sat down on the desk blotter, and said, "Okeydoke," which was his way of saying, "All right, okay, I'm agreeable to that."
Leaning forward in his chair, closer to the lamp, Isaac Bodkins said, "But I will tell you the meaning of the symbol on your sweater."
Amos's eyes widened. "You will?" Ever since he had come alive on the old man's workbench a couple of months ago, Amos had wondered about the mysterious symbol on his blue sweater. "Will you really tell me?"
"Alpha and Omega," Uncle Isaac said.
"That means 'the first and the last.'"
Frowning, Amos said, "The first and last what?"
Uncle Isaac leaned even closer, until his kind face was like a moon hanging low over Amos's world. "After I have passed away, there may be a time during which the new toymaker is not fully in charge. After all, it takes a while to accept the mantle of magic and to feel comfortable with it. During that time, when the new toymaker is not totally in control, there may be ... trouble, danger...."
"What kind of trouble? What danger?" Amos asked, his pleasant furry face settling into a bruin's scowl.
Isaac Bodkins hesitated. Then he sighed. "You'll know it when it comes. And then you'll be first among all the Oddkins, the leader of them in any time of crisis."
"Me? Leader? Hmmmmm. I'm not sure—"
"Yes, you can lead them, Amos. I made you a leader."
Pride surged through Amos, and he sat up straighter, puffed out his chest. He considered what Uncle Isaac had said, then nodded. "All right. I'll lead them. You can count on me."
"You will be the first to confront trouble."
"Yes, Uncle Isaac, I will," Amos said, though he had no idea what sort of trouble he might have to confront.
"And you will be the last to turn away from it."
Amos stood, squared his shoulders, and nodded.
The wire rims of the old toymaker's glasses glinted with orange light from the stained-glass lamp. Spots of blue and green and red were reflected in one lens. In spite of this cheerful coloration, Uncle Isaac was somber, not like himself at all. "In bad times, you will be the first to give heart to your friends—and the very last to be dejected. You'll be first in courage and the last to be afraid."
"Me?" Amos said, blinking. "Afraid? Not me. I'm not afraid of anything. No, sir. Not me."
"But there are things in this world that you should be afraid of, Amos."
"I should?" Amos asked uneasily.
"And if you encounter them—when you encounter them—you'll feel the cold grip of fear."
"But you must be the last to give in to it."
"I promise," Amos said.
That had been less than a week ago. Now as Amos the bear stood on the age-worn workbench and stared out at the oncoming storm and at the descending twilight, he felt gripped not only by grief but by that cold fear. Uncle Isaac Bodkins was dead. The old man had thought he had a few weeks of life left. But now he was gone, and things that should have been done before his passing—such as the choosing of the new magic toymaker—remained unfinished.
Lightning flickered along the edges of the clouds. The fiery red sky in the west had turned purple-red and would soon be dark.
Amos turned from the diamond-paned casement window and surveyed the big workroom. Ordinarily, in spite of its size, the shop looked warm and cozy. The walls were cream-colored, hand-textured plaster. The floor and the beamed ceiling were of lustrous dark oak. The many tool and supply cabinets were also of oak, to which Mr. Bodkins had added beautifully hand-carved decorative vines and leaves and birds. But today, a damp chill reached into every corner of the room.
The other Oddkins grew quiet when Amos turned from the window and faced them. Fifty-one of their magic kind were gathered in the workshop, the only ones who had not been sent off to toy shops before Isaac Bodkins's death. There were teddy bears, though none like Amos, for each Oddkin was different from any other. There were dogs—a Dalmatian, a spaniel, a golden retriever, a Scotty, and more. Two velvet penguins. A lion with a mane of yarn. A duck. Three cats.
They stood in small groups on the floor below Amos, or huddled singly in corners. Some perched on the tops of supply cabinets, looking down at Amos, while others sat in stunned silence on the sofa where Uncle Isaac had passed away in his sleep only hours ago.
"I dropped the 'B' from 'Bodkins,' added another 'd' after the 'o,' and called you 'Oddkins,'" Uncle Isaac had explained to Amos, "because you are my kin in a way, my only children. And let's face it, you're all a bit odd, aren't you, my furry little friend? Odd kin. You are my wonderfully odd children. I love you all."
Amos swallowed a moan of grief and jumped down from the workbench to the stool on which Uncle Isaac had sat when stitching together his wondrous creations. From this slightly lower perch, he addressed the assembled toys: "We have a difficult and dangerous mission to perform, and we must act tonight."
Two floors below, in the toy factory's secret subcellar under the known cellar, all was dark and still and musty as it had been for many decades.
Then light appeared. No one had turned it on. It just came on of its own accord, or as if a ghost entered the chamber and flicked a switch.
At first, it was not much of a light, dim, like the pale glow of a winter moon reflected in snow and frost. Most of the deep, deep cellar was still cloaked in thick gloom. Nothing could be seen except a small section of cobblestone floor and stacks of old wooden crates.
CHARON TOYS was imprinted on every crate, for that was the name of the company that had occupied the toy factory before Isaac Bodkins had founded Leben Toys. These boxes of various sizes were festooned with cobwebs. Their lids were hidden by inch-thick blankets of dust.
Suddenly a shiny blade poked through the crack between the lid and the side of one of the crates. Something within the box was prying its way out. Wood splintered with a dry sound. An old nail began to pull loose with a series of sharp squeaks.
A disturbed spider scuttled down a trembling web and vanished into the darkness.
The gleaming blade moved along the crack inch by inch, prying at the lid, and one by one the nails pulled loose. Then the lid was thrown back, and Rex emerged from the crate that for decades had been his coffin.
Excerpted from Oddkins by Dean Koontz, Phil Parks. Copyright © 1988 Nkui, Inc., Airtight Graphics, and The Land of Enchantment. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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