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David Stanhope is an average twelve-year-old. His two best friends are geeks. Both his older sister and his dodge ball obsessed gym coach seem to despise him. And his parents are dragging him to a broken down old cabin in the woods for summer vacation. But there's a secret lurking in David's attic. It takes David and his sister Amanda to the magical world of Abraxas where a centuries-old Black Magician is bent on destroying them. Will David and Amanda be able to survive and return to their own world? And why is ...
David Stanhope is an average twelve-year-old. His two best friends are geeks. Both his older sister and his dodge ball obsessed gym coach seem to despise him. And his parents are dragging him to a broken down old cabin in the woods for summer vacation. But there's a secret lurking in David's attic. It takes David and his sister Amanda to the magical world of Abraxas where a centuries-old Black Magician is bent on destroying them. Will David and Amanda be able to survive and return to their own world? And why is the dragon afraid of a compass? Can a centaur wear a tool belt? What about the huge talking frogs, hungry vampires, a harpy who cheats at cards and Lucy the Moat Monster? Maybe David isn't so average after all.
David's alarm clock went off with that grating buzz he had grown to hate over the past year. His arm poked from under a pile of covers to turn off the racket. David's eyes were still closed and he was already half asleep again when his sister's voice rang out in the hallway.
"Mom, I'm wearing my new sandals to school today, so could you drive me? I bought the ones with the platform heel, so there's no way I can walk all the way to the bus stop in them."
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that, Amanda, especially since I still have the receipt for those sandals," Mom called back from the kitchen.
David grunted into his pillow, disgusted by his sister's shoe obsession, but then the word "sandals" penetrated his sleepy brain. Sandals meant summer, and summer meant no more school! David bolted upright in bed, the bright June sun assaulting him as he emerged from his blanket.
"Summer vacation!" he sang, leaping out of bed and grabbing some jeans from the dresser. Only one more day of school before total freedom for three months!
David dashed into the bathroom to brush his hair and teeth. While in front of the mirror, he took a moment to study himself, trying to memorize his own features. In a few hours, he, David Stanhope, would officially be a seventh grader, and he wanted to be able to detect any subtle changes that might occur between now and then. Staring back at him was a thin, twelve-year-old boy with light brown hair and too-long bangs that flopped in his bright blue eyes.
"It's no use. I think a radical head transplant is your only option," a sarcastic voice said. Looking over, David saw his sister, Amanda, standing in the doorway, arms crossed over her chest.
"Can't I even get some privacy in the bathroom? Are you so crazed that you have to follow me in here?" David snarled.
"The door was open and I saw someone about your size lurking near the sink. I just wanted to see who it was. I mean, it's pretty clear that you haven't looked in a mirror for a long time, so I never imagined it was you," Amanda explained reasonably.
"Of course I can't get in the bathroom. You're always in here applying gallons of zit cream. Not that it helps," David replied, brushing past Amanda on his way downstairs.
Before following her brother to the kitchen, Amanda considered her own reflection in the mirror. She liked her blue eyes and blond ponytail, but frowned at the blemishes that dotted her forehead and cheeks. On this, her last day as an eighth-grader, Amanda had hoped to look more like a glamorous, confident high school student and less like the survivor of a Chicken Pox epidemic. "Chicken Pox it is," she finally sighed, and headed toward the stairs.
"Good morning!" Dad greeted David from behind his newspaper. David plopped down at the kitchen table and selected a box of cereal from the three in front of him.
"Morning, Dad. I thought you were going to Phoenix today for that conference."
"My flight doesn't leave until noon. And I'm going to Houston," Dad answered, sipping his coffee. "Phoenix was last year's conference."
"Would you like some bacon, David?" asked Mom, hovering near the stove. David nodded vigorously.
The fact Mom was cooking was a sign of how special this day was. Mom and Dad were usually running around frantically trying to get ready for work in the morning, and there was no time for a hot breakfast. But since summer vacation was starting, everything was different. As Head Librarian at David's middle school, Mom's books had already been returned and re-shelved for the year, so she got to stay home.
As for David and Amanda's father, Robert Stanhope taught shop classes at Dryden High School. The high school had finished its school year last week, so today Dad was heading to a teachers' conference. David and Amanda believed the conference's purpose was finding new torture devices to make students' lives miserable-like harder chairs, narrower lockers, and heavier math books.
"Bacon. Yum," Amanda said, hungrily sniffing the air as she entered the kitchen. Dad handed her the comics from his newspaper, and she poured herself some orange juice.
"Coming right up," Mom replied, tossing a few more slices in the pan. Like her daughter, Mom wore a ponytail and shorts, but her hair was reddish-brown, not blond, and her shorts were nowhere near as short as Amanda's. Wiping her glasses on her T-shirt hem, Mom said, "I'm going to the grocery store this morning, so I can drop you off if you want a ride to school. But remember I'm driving Grandma's old car because mine is in the shop. If you're embarrassed to be seen in a '76 Ford Pinto, let me know now. I won't pull over behind bushes and let you sneak out a block away from school again."
"Fine," Amanda agreed, remembering her painful sandals. She sat quietly for a few moments, munching bacon and passing bits to her cats under the table before saying, "Mom, on the way to school could you wear a baseball cap and one of Dad's shirts? That way, if anyone sees you, I can tell them you're my much older boyfriend. It's not embarrassing to have a boyfriend drop you off in a crummy old car."
Dad looked up from his paper and tried to derail Mom's reply by saying, "I'll miss you all when I'm at my conference this week. It's this kind of stimulating conversation I won't get from the other teachers." Dad's bright blue eyes twinkled merrily as he watched his family clean up their breakfast dishes.
Amanda noticed Dad's sandy-colored hair was disheveled and he was still wearing the vertical-striped pajamas that made him look even taller and thinner than he was. "I forgot about the conference. Aren't you supposed to be in Cincinnati?"
Dad mumbled, "Houston." Then he added, "Don't forget it's report card day. I want to see some excellent grades from the two of you when I get home."
David and Amanda groaned.
* * *
Amanda crouched in the front seat as Mom's Pinto came to a gasping, wheezing stop in front of David's school. Kids turned to stare as the car backfired. David climbed out and waved to Mom as she disappeared in a foul-smelling cloud of bluish smoke. From a group of boys standing nearby, someone yelled, "Nice car, Stanhope!" George Tuman, the largest and meanest of the bunch, called, "Another roll of duct tape and that will be one fine machine!" The boys laughed and slapped one other on the back as David stalked past without comment.
David learned years ago not to respond to teasing like that. He knew talking back would only earn him a punch in the stomach and maybe his English book thrown in a puddle.
David found his friends, Schmitty and Steve Bennett, hanging upside down from the playground monkey bars. Normally at this time, the pair would be inside hunched over a computer in the school's student newspaper office. But because this was the last day of school there were no more newspapers to write. Seeing them on the playground, David thought his friends looked out of place.
"Hey, guys!" David said as he swung himself up on the bars next to Schmitty. The other boy's glasses were dangling off his upside-down face and it made him look even more cockeyed than usual.
"David, you've got to settle a bet for us. Steve, here, insists Batman could beat Spiderman in a fight. I, like all sensible people, know Spiderman's superior strength and Spider Sense would prevail. Can you help show my confused brother the error of his ways?" Schmitty asked sincerely.
David stared at his friend for a second. Despite the fact Steve and Schmitty were his best friends and he had gone to school with them since kindergarten, he was still amazed by their geekiness. He was also still amazed they looked, sounded, and acted alike, yet were not twins. They were brothers separated in age by only 10 months, so were in the same grade. Everyone called them "The Twins," though, and people were shocked to learn that these two, with their frizzy hair, thick glasses, and confused expressions, were not identical.
On Schmitty's other side, David heard Steve say, "Yes, please explain to me how the brilliant technology at Batman's fingertips would be useless when confronted by a little sticky webbing."
"Guys, I'm not sure about the Batman versus Spiderman debate, but I do know the newspaper we put out yesterday was our best one ever." David was trying to prevent the argument that threatened to break out. The Twins' disagreements tended to be lengthy affairs filled with snotty comments and sabotage of one another's computer programs.
David breathed a quiet sigh of relief when the bell rang. The boys grabbed the bar they were hanging from and swung their legs over.
"Hey, look, three bats out in the daytime. Maybe you should go hide in a cave so we don't have to see your ugly faces," jeered George Tuman, who had finally stopped mocking Grandma Stanhope's Pinto.
As they marched through the school's double doors, Schmitty muttered, "Yeah, George, and maybe some day a bat will bite you on the ..." He stopped abruptly as the boys' teacher, Ms. Fleischman, popped out of the Teachers' Lounge ahead of them. Her curly red hair and tie-dyed dress were particularly jarring so early in the morning.
"All ready for our final day together, boys?" Ms. Fleischman asked in her spacey voice. David was reminded of brainwashed cult members when he listened to his teacher speak.
"Good morning, Ms. Fleischman," said all three boys in unison. It was difficult for them to call her Ms. Fleischman, instead of the nickname every kid in school used, "Ms. Flowerchild". And she had not earned that nickname in a good "I'm really-cooland- have-a-unique-teaching-style" kind of way, either. Instead, it was based on the bad "I'm-so-confused-I-can-barely-affix-my-hippie-headband" impression she made.
was pale. She wasn't ugly, but she was easy to overlook in a crowd, even a small crowd.
"But don't worry," Dusty continued with a consoling arm around Amanda's shoulders, "next year you'll start high school more fantastic than ever. By then, Kurt Connor will step on his own grandmother to get close to you." Dusty always knew just what to say.
* * *
After a school lunch of something that could have been corn dogs - or maybe fish sticks - David and his friends endured nearly three hours of Ms. Flowerchild's teary farewells. All they could do was look out the window at the beautiful weather while she showed them slides of her past summer vacations and talked about what a wonderful class this one was. Finally, as her time ticked away, she began to distribute report cards.
Generally, David was a good student and well liked by his teachers, but he was not so popular with Mr. Carlson, the gym coach. In fact, David worried about whether he would even pass physical education this year. If he failed, he would have to spend part of his summer making up the class. David wasn't sure he wanted to meet the other kids who couldn't pass gym.
David's problems had started early in the year when he demonstrated an unwillingness to bombard weaker students with dodge balls during gym class. Coach Carlson always yelled disturbing things like, "Throw those balls! Pound them! The other team is your enemy! Cull the herd; pick off the sick and the weak! It's nature's way!" Coach Carlson got a crazy look in his eyes and started spraying spittle when he gave these "motivational speeches", as he called them.
Beyond simply refusing to assault his classmates, David had gone too far one day when he suggested that maybe the class could occasionally play basketball or softball, instead of dodge ball all the time. Coach Carlson had looked seriously at David and said, "Look, son, you could be tough, but you're letting feelings like compassion cloud your killer instinct. P.E. isn't about feeling good or being nice, it's about killing, er, I mean winning ..." Coach paused for a moment and looked confused, then, as if a light bulb went on in his brain, he continued, "I mean it's about developing healthy life attitudes. Yeah, that's it, healthy life attitudes."
Then Coach Carlson had turned back to watching a dodge ball game already in progress. "Get her!" the coach had yelled. "That little girl with the ponytail is down and she's crying! What are you waiting for? An invitation?" After that day, Coach Carlson always looked upon David with suspicion, and the boy knew he would be lucky to escape P.E. with a passing grade.
When Ms. Flowerchild wandered down the rows of desks, she paused next to David. "I noticed last night while I was filling out your report card your middle name is Wilma. Isn't that unusual? I always thought Wilma was a girl's name," the teacher commented, and dropped David's report card on his desk. She started to move away, leaving the boy to hope that no one else in class had heard her ramblings.
But then she said more loudly, "Come to think of it, I should congratulate you, David Wilma Stanhope. What a great way to demonstrate your independence! Don't be afraid to use a girl's name if that expresses who you are!" Ms. Flowerchild smiled vacantly and moved down the row, distributing report cards to students with normal names, unaware that she had just doomed a boy to years of torment by his classmates.
As David's head dropped into his hands, he could hear George Tuman behind him cackling, "Wilma! Oh, Stanhope, that's perfect! I always knew you were really a girl!"
The truth of the matter was that Wilma was a family name. Not only David, but also Amanda and their father bore the same middle name. It was supposed to honor some distant ancestor, according to Dad. Someone who was important or famous or something. Dad did not like to talk about it - the topic seemed to make him uncomfortable - and he changed the subject on the rare occasions that it came up.
The family name meant nothing to David and Amanda, except when used as an insult. They had a habit of calling one another Wilma when one did something the other considered stupid. They called each other Wilma a lot.
Of course, David was not about to tell these details to George Tuman; particularly not the part about sharing a middle name with his sister.
"Hey, Wilma, you're the ugliest girl I've ever seen, WILMA!" George hissed.
David groaned and turned his attention to his sixth grade marks. As expected, he saw good grades in every class, with the exception of physical education. Here he had scraped by with a C minus. David was pleased that he had passed and would not have to attend summer school. Plus, he took comfort in knowing he had not been involved when that one kid got a concussion in gym last month. His conscience was clear.
Ms. Flowerchild finished distributing the report cards and began yet another tearful farewell speech. "I'll be thinking of you as I'm dangling hundreds of feet in the air on a climbing expedition in the Himalayan Mountains this summer," she said.
Right on cue, the bell rang and thirty students dashed for the door, as though pursued by hungry Tibetan tigers.
* * *
Amanda was finally walking out the doors of her junior high school for the last time. No more being a nobody from the junior high. Next fall, she'd be in high school. It sounded so mature.
Excerpted from Stones of Abraxas by K. Osborn Sullivan Copyright © 2006 by K. Osborn Sullivan. Excerpted by permission.
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.
Posted November 17, 2008
Sixth-grader David Stanhope and his eighth-grade sister, Amanda, are reluctantly going to spend summer vacation in a broken down cabin in the woods. They live in a suburb of Chicago, and they would really rather not go to the cabin, but they are resigned to make the best of it. As they search the attic to gather their camping gear, they run across an old trunk that bears investigation. The trunk produces family heirlooms, and among them is a wonderful ruby pendant. The kids' mom, Susan, puts the necklace on, but then when she tries to take it off, it sticks to her forehead; David, Amanda, and Susan are instantly transported to a strange new world inhabited by creatures they have never before seen. <BR/><BR/>They discover that they are in Abraxas, which is a different world that exists parallel to their own earth, or Terra, as the Abraxans call it. It seems that many years ago the two worlds were one, but were split apart. They meet the rulers of Abraxas, and discover that they share mutual ancestors. <BR/><BR/>An evil magician named Adrian the Deceiver needs their ruby to complete the Stones of Abraxas...five gems having magical powers and held together by a golden shield that will give him the power he needs to rule both worlds. He is prepared to employ extreme measures in an attempt to recover the jewel. David and Amanda are the only hope of Abraxas and Terra keeping the ruby from Adrian and his horde of magicians with their evil agenda. <BR/><BR/>K. Osborn Sullivan has invented a medieval-like world in this riveting fantasy that is populated with compelling, fully-developed characters. The centaurs are among my favorites, but all of the characters have personalities that shine through. STONES OF ABRAXAS is a very entertaining story, and you will want to come back to it again and again. It will leave you wanting to read more about this exciting fantasy world. Watch for HEROES OF ABRAXAS, book two in the Abraxas Pentagram, coming soon!
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Posted June 18, 2006
When humans started hunting and killing the magic races and those humans who had magical powers, a spell of separation was performed using five magical gems held together by a golden shield. The spell split one world into two: Terra where non magicals lived and Abraxas where centaurs, gargoyles, elves, frogs (yes frogs) and humans born with magic reside. The Stanhope family is transported from Terra to Abraxas using the magic ruby found in the attic of their home. --- Adrian the Deceiver, a magician who practices the black arts, has in his possession four of the five gems and would kill anyone who gets in his way while he gains control of the last one from the Stanhopes. With all five jewels, he would be able to conquer Abraxas and Terra and it is up the Stanhope children Amanda and David to stop him if they can. --- Young adults as well as older readers who appreciate a good fantasy will thoroughly enjoy the spellbinding tale of the STONES OF ABRAXAS. Although young and playful with a tendency to get into mischief, Amanda and David have a purity about them that allows them to fight the forces of evil. These characters are so easy to like that readers will root for them to defeat the villain, no matter how hopeless it seems. K. Osborn Sullivan has the magical touch when it comes to writing great young adult fantasy. --- Harriet Klausner
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