From the Publisher
"Family secrets, an unsolved bank robbery, summer on a lake, a treasure island and a first romance are the ingredients for this inviting middle-grade mystery. . . . A promising fiction debut."
"Bullard has a good sense of family and community dynamic and articulates complex conflict and resolution with honesty and humor. . . . With a warm narrative, careful plotting, actual danger, and the beginnings of romance, this adventure has something for everyone."
"Through strong character development, Bullard is able to explore family dynamics in a way that is both relatable and informative. Fans of books like Sheila Turnage's Three Times Lucky are sure to enjoy this suspenseful and heartwarming novel."
—School Library Journal
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—When 13-year-old Travis set off from his stepfather's home in California to find out the truth about his dad, he never realized that he'd be embarking on a wild treasure hunt. He arrives in Minnesota only to learn that the dad he never knew is a local legend who robbed a bank and was never heard from again. Everyone in town has spent more than a decade trying to discover where the money was hidden, and no sooner has Trav arrived than he is enlisted by neighbors Iz and Kenny to help discover the missing loot. However, things get complicated when he begins to suspect that his grandmother might be in on the cover-up, while others think Travis, himself, is guilty. Along the way, this mystery not only sheds light on Trav's past, but also involves friendships, first loves, and finding a place to belong. Through strong character development, Bullard is able to explore family dynamics in a way that is both relatable and informative. Fans of books like Shelia Turnage's Three Times Lucky (Dial, 2012) are sure to enjoy this suspenseful and heartwarming novel.—Kerry Roeder, Professional Children's School, New York City
Family secrets, an unsolved bank robbery, summer on a lake, a treasure island and a first romance are the ingredients for this inviting middle-grade mystery. Unhappy with his new life and new stepfather in Southern California, 13-year-old Trav runs away to the small town in Minnesota where his dad grew up and his grandmother lives. He quickly learns why his mother won't talk about his father, who died before he was born. Suspected of having robbed a local bank, the man disappeared in a storm, his boat washed up on an island in the lake. Everyone figures Trav knows where the money is, a theory confirmed when some of the burgled money turns up in local stores after his arrival. Trav manages to convince neighbor kid Kenny and his hot cousin Iz of his innocence, and together, they try to figure out where the loot might have been stashed and who has sent Trav a threatening note. Careful plotting and end-of-chapter cliffhangers add to the suspense. The first-person narration suggests that Trav's imagination has been fed by too much television, but the imagined threats become frighteningly real as the story progresses. Trav's voice is believable, Bullard's Minnesota setting full of convincing detail, and the boy's hesitant romantic efforts add a pleasant embellishment. A promising fiction debut. (Mystery. 9-12)
Children's Literature - Remy Dou
Three things happened before Trav was born that changed the outcome of his life dramatically: his dad robbed a bank, hid the loot, and died. At the age of thirteen, Trav decides he has had enough of his mom’s relationship with her new husband and runs away to the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, his dad’s mom, Gram, lives in rural Minnesota. There, Trav joins new friends, Kenny and Iz, on an adventure, tracking his father’s footsteps in search of the hidden loot. Before Trav finds the cash, he makes an important discovery: a very dangerous villain is looking for it, too. Bullard lays out an emotional adventure full of the painful realities of life and the uplifting powers of hope and kindness. She adeptly immerses readers in Trav’s world where they will experience his teenage angst, his first romance, and his discovery of the truth about his father. Bullard’s youthful banter will keep readers smiling with the turn of every page. Readers who connect with the characters and are patient through their growth will be pulled to the end and find a treasure worth more than money. Reviewer: Remy Dou; Ages 10 to 16.
Read an Excerpt
There were so many dead bodies stuffed into Gram’s freezer chest that it was kind of like wandering through a cryonics lab. You know, one of those places where they turn rich old guys into Popsicles? Gram had been hearing odd noises from her cellar for a while now, and she was convinced it was this dying freezer she kept there. So my punishment for the day was to clean it out and stuff everything into these jack-o’-lantern leaf bags that Gram had been saving since who knows how many Halloweens ago.
In grandma land, even the contents of the freezer were way different than what I was used to. Agreeing on what a freezer should hold seemed to be the only thing my new stepfather and I had in common. But here, instead of meeting up with my best buds Ben and Jerry, I was finding nemo and his friends, wrapped up in white packages with writing on the outside so you could clue into whichever member of the magical forest had taken a hit and when.
I stuffed “Duck” and then “Venison” and “Walleye” into another one of the pumpkin bags. Man, those packages had been waiting to be set free longer than I had. Maybe the noises Gram had been hearing weren’t from the freezer. Maybe they were from the ghosts of all these dead things, plotting up some serious revenge.
By the time I reached the bottom of the frozen graveyard, Gram’s cellar was feeling a lot like one of those the-killer-is-in-the-basement places, where the stupid kid always ends up kicking it in slasher movies. only one big ice-covered box was left. I bent over the side of the freezer chest and tugged at the corner of the box. Not enough leverage—the thing was iced in place as if it had been gorilla-glued.
I hoisted my upper half deep into the chest and yanked again. No go. I leaned way over, hanging on to the edge of the freezer with one hand while I grabbed the box with the other. Then I got my Hulk on and gave one last mighty pull.
That’s when nemo and his friends finally took their revenge. Turned out the stupid box was heavier than I’d realized. I leaned too far and pulled too hard, and then the box broke free and I over-ended into the appliance of death.
As I was falling in, something rolled out of the box into the bottom of the freezer. the last thought I had before I landed on it was that maybe I had some mutant form of jet lag or something. Because I could have sworn it looked exactly like a head.
A frozen human head.