A laugh-out-loud, quirky new middle grade series that looks at bullying in an entirely new and inventive way.
Sawyer's grandfather was part Stegosaurus, so it wasn't a complete surprise when puberty included growing spikes and a tail. But when the kids who bully him at school go missing it's up to Sawyer and his friends, Elliott and Sylvie, to solve the mystery
Despite the Principal's Zero Tolerance Policy, Sawyer becomes a bully magnet, befriended only by Elliot aka "Gigantor" and the weird new girl. When the bullies start disappearing, Sawyer is relieveduntil he discovers a secret about the principal that's more shocking than Dino DNA. The bullies are in for a galactically horrible fate...and it's up to Sawyer and his friends to rescue them.
"With issues like bullying, not fitting in, and heroism, this is a book that kids and adults will share and treasure. It's Wonder with dinosaurs and is sure to touch your heart."P. J. Hoover, author of Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life
"A wild and wacky adventure...with enough twists and turns to rival a roller coaster, DINOSAUR BOY is sure to appeal to wonderfully weird kids of every shape and size."Kelly Milner Halls, award-winning author of Girl Meets Boy
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About the Author
CORY PUTMAN OAKES was born in Switzerland and grew up in California. She graduated from UCLA and Cornell Law. Since then, she's been an associate at a big law firm, taught at Texas State University, and written several books. Cory lives in Austin, Texas, with husband and daughter. Visit Cory's website at corypoakes.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Cory Putman Oakes
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Cory Putman Oakes
All rights reserved.
The Dinosaur Gene
It all started with a bump. A little one. Right on the back of my neck.
It didn't hurt or anything. It was just a bump.
"Did something bite you?" my dad asked when I showed him.
"No," I said.
"Hmmm." My dad scratched his head. "Well, I'm sure it'll go away soon."
But it didn't. And about a week later, a second bump appeared, just a little bit lower on my neck than the first one and slightly to the side. Then another one came.
And another one.
And another one. Until I had two lines of bumps running straight down my back.
That was when my tail started growing.
I wasn't quite as surprised by this as you might think. After all, my grandfather had been part stegosaurus. And everybody knows that dinosaur skips a generation, so I had always been warned that something like this might happen to me.
But I didn't know that it was going to happen so fast.
My family spends every summer in our cabin next to Lake Siesta, outside of Portland. This summer, on the car ride there, I noticed my first bump. By the end of our third week at the lake, I had seventeen bumps and a tail stump that made it very difficult to sit down.
My mother was thrilled. She spent a lot of that summer on the phone with her sister in Wisconsin, bragging that her kid had "the dinosaur gene." None of my cousins had ever been able to boast as much as a single spike. Or even a patch of skin that seemed particularly leathery. When Mom wasn't talking to Aunt Carol, she was busy cutting holes in the back of all of my jeans so that my tail could fit through.
"It's like I always say," she said happily, from behind the sewing machine. "At least it isn't boring. Never a dull moment. Right, Sawyer?"
Easy for her to say.
My dad didn't say much about the whole dinosaur thing. But then, he wasn't a big talker in general. He took me fishing every morning, but the only thing he ever said to me on those trips was to be sure not to tangle the line and to be quiet so that we wouldn't scare the fish away.
I didn't mind not talking about it. Mostly because I wasn't quite as thrilled about the whole thing as my mom was. For one thing, it kind of started to hurt. The bumps on my neck and back grew into triangle- shaped plates that were each about the size of my hand. They were heavy and sore and very uncomfortable. Especially when I accidentally rolled over on them in the middle of the night. And I don't know if you've ever grown a tail or not, but if you haven't, just let me tell you: it's not fun.
One time, when I was in the second grade, I fell off a fence in my backyard and landed right on my tailbone. My butt hurt for the next two days. That's kind of what the tail felt like, except that it took a lot longer than two days to grow. Basically, I felt like I had just fallen off a fence every day for two months.
Sitting made it much worse, so I spent most of that summer standing up. Even at mealtimes. And boy, did I eat a lot. I was hungry from the moment I got up in the morning until the moment I went to bed at night. It didn't matter how much I ate. I was hungry even while I was eating.
At the beginning of the summer, Mom had stocked the cabin with lots of frozen pizza and fried chicken, my two favorites. But I didn't want to eat either of those things anymore. All I wanted were vegetables. Plates and plates of vegetables. Plus salads so big I had to put them in mixing bowls. And so much fruit that we became regulars at several farmers markets around the Portland area.
Pretty soon, not even my biggest clothes could hide what was happening to me. Mom had to cut two long strips down the back of each of my shirts. She also had to enlarge the holes she had already made in the backs of my jeans because my tail had grown thicker.
My tail had also grown so long that I had to be really careful when I turned around suddenly. Especially once four-foot-long, razor-sharp spikes grew out of it. I shredded two rugs and the side of a couch, plus I did untold damage to the wood floor in the entryway before my dad had the idea of skewering a tennis ball onto the end of each spike. After that, I made little bouncy sounds whenever I walked on hard surfaces, but I no longer left a trail of destruction behind me. And everybody got a lot less nervous about accidentally startling me.
The plates eventually stopped being sore all the time. And they turned from an angry red color to a mild, pleasant green. My tail was a slightly darker shade of green. The skin from my neck, down my back, all the way to the tip of my tail became hard, like really thick leather. But that was okay by me, because it made my plates and my tail feel a lot less heavy.
All things considered, I was adjusting pretty well to my new circumstances. Our cocker spaniel, Fantasia (Fanny for short), even stopped barking at me. It wasn't until mid-August, when we were packing the car to go back home, that a very dark thought occurred to me.
I was going to have to go back to school.
Plates, tail, spikes, and all.
Last summer, the one before fourth grade, my best friend Elliot grew five whole inches. And once school started, the other kids in our class teased him like crazy. They gave him nicknames like "Stretch" and "Gigantor" and "the Jolly Green Giant." It didn't really let up until we started our basketball unit in gym, and suddenly everybody wanted Elliot on their team.
Something told me that my plates, my tail, and my spikes were going to be a bigger deal than Elliot's five inches. And I was pretty sure that nobody was going to want me on their basketball team.CHAPTER 2
My mom didn't understand why I would be nervous on my first morning back to school as a part-dinosaur.
"Sweetie," she said, bending down to fold the collar of my polo shirt underneath my top-most plate. I shivered; the holes in the back of my shirt made it a bit drafty. "You have a gift that is extraordinarily rare. You should be proud! Tell me you're proud to be who you are."
"Sure," I said.
My dad gave me slightly different advice.
"Don't let the other kids give you a hard time," he told me. "Hold your head up high; make every kid in your class wish that they had plates and a tail."
Since my dad seemed to be somewhat more aware of the reality of my situation than my mom, I decided to repeat his words to myself as I grabbed my lunch and headed for the front door. My mom ran after me with my jacket, which she had just finished altering to fit over my plates. When I turned so she could help me into it, she drew in a sharp breath.
"Sawyer!" she admonished. "Have you lost a tennis ball?"
I looked over my shoulder. One of my spikes had indeed managed to shake itself loose of its protective covering and was now alarmingly exposed, in all of its razor-sharp glory. Behind me, there was a long gash in the carpet that marked the path I had taken from the kitchen to the hallway.
I tried to think how the tennis ball could have come off. I couldn't recall getting it stuck on anything.
But before I could wrack my brain too hard, Fanny came tearing out of the kitchen. She streaked by my mom and me and ran upstairs, a yellow tennis ball clenched securely in her jaws and an unmistakable gleam of triumph in her large brown eyes.
I sighed. From the beginning, the only flaw in the tennis ball plan had been Fanny's rabid love for them. And ever since we had returned home from the lake, she had been growing increasingly bold in her attempts to steal them off my spikes.
I heard my mom sigh too.
"Sorry," I said guiltily.
Mom looked down at the torn-up carpet and bit her lip.
"No worries, dear. Let's just get it back on and then get you to school. OK?"
* * *
That turned out to be easier said than done. We were out of extra tennis balls, and Fanny was not at all inclined to give hers up. When we were unable to coax her out from underneath my parents' bed, where she had hidden to chew her prize in peace, we had no choice but to stop at a sporting goods store on the way to school to buy a replacement. That made me officially late. By the time I had skewered the new tennis ball onto the exposed spike and walked into my classroom, the bell had rung and everybody else was already in their seats. The door to the classroom was in the back, and all the desks were facing the front. So when the door thumped shut behind me, every single kid in my class turned around in his or her seat.
To stare at me.
I felt my heart start to beat faster. I had kind of expected this, given my new dinosaur-ness, but that didn't make it any easier to handle. I have never been one of those kids who likes attention. If I could have disintegrated into a puddle on the floor and disappeared, I would have.
But I couldn't. Instead, I just had to stand there. With my dinosaurness on full display. So that everybody could get a good, long look.
I tried not to stare back at anyone, but suddenly it seemed like there was nowhere safe for me to rest my eyes.
I was relieved to finally find Elliot in the crowd. He was sitting in the back row with his long legs stretched out into the aisle. And he was smiling at me. Instead of staring with his mouth open like everybody else.
To be fair, Elliot had been receiving email updates (complete with pictures) on my "condition" all summer. And the rest of the class hadn't.
When our eyes met, Elliot gave me a head nod and a wave. As though there was nothing unusual going on that day at all.
I knew I'd be able to count on Elliot.
"Hello," came a voice from the front of the room. "You must be Sawyer. I am Ms. Filch."
I looked up, and at first I had a hard time finding our teacher. That was because she was sitting on the floor at the front of the room beside a large TV, angrily punching buttons on an old-looking DVD player.
She held up one long, bony finger and pointed to an empty seat in the front row.
"Please take your seat. I'll be with you as soon as I get this figured out."
I looked uncertainly at where she had pointed. It was the only unoccupied seat in the room. There were five rows of desks between me and it, with only a narrow aisle between them.
There was no way my dinosaur butt was going to fit through there.
I wasn't sure what to do, so I just stood where I was.
Ms. Filch continued to fight with the DVD player. The TV screen remained blank, and she began to mutter under her breath.
Clearly, she did not appreciate my dilemma.
My classmates didn't seem to get it either. Most of them were throwing me confused stares and exchanging glances that clearly said, What's his problem? Even Elliot looked at me questioningly.
I turned slightly so that he could see the width of my tail.
Elliot nodded in understanding. He pulled his legs out of the aisle and scooted his desk a few inches to the left. Then he threw a meaningful look at Gary Simmons, the second tallest kid in our class, who sat on the other side of the aisle. Gary hurried to copy Elliot and moved his desk a few inches out of the way. So did the kids sitting in the other four rows.
Relieved, I walked carefully up the slightly wider aisle toward my desk. Kids leaned out of the way to avoid my plates. Emma Hecht, who sat directly behind the empty desk I was headed for, gave a tiny shriek as one of my tennis balls bounced off her sparkly pink Converse. Other than that, there was total silence.
Until the whispers started.
"Unreal," I heard someone murmur behind me.
"Gross," I heard someone else say.
"Wow," a third somebody breathed. "Just ... wow."
"Do all dinosaurs have tennis balls?"
That last one had to be Ernie Hobbs. He'd been in my class since kindergarten, and he'd never been very smart.
By then, I had made it to the front row. I felt a tiny surge of pride at my achievement ... which quickly faded when I got a good look at my desk.
It was the kind with a small writing surface that was bolted to the front of a chair. I had sat in just this sort of desk since first grade, but I had never noticed until this morning just how small they were.
All the eyes in the room, except for Ms. Filch's, remained on me. I started to sweat as I formed a plan. All I had to do was get myself into my seat. Then class would start and everybody would forget about me for a little while.
Be smooth, I told myself. Be cool.
I was going to have to go in spikes first, that much was obvious. So I turned slightly to the side and reached down (smoothly, coolly) to grab the end of my tail.
But I missed. My tail whipped to the opposite side, like it was purposely trying to do the least helpful thing that it could. I turned the other way, to try and grab it before it could hit anything, but it was too late. One of my tennis-balled spikes caught the straps of Emma's pink Hello Kitty backpack and flung it halfway across the room, spraying papers and hair clips in all directions.
"Oh no!" I whipped around to apologize to her, which made my tail swing high in the opposite direction. It knocked all the books off the desk to my right.
"Oh! I'm so sorry!" I exclaimed, fighting the urge to turn quickly and face the desk's occupant, Parker Douglas. Remaining absolutely still was the only thing I could think of that would prevent the further destruction of my immediate area.
"Dude, be careful with that thing!" Parker grumbled. I didn't have to look at him to know that he was probably scowling. Parker, the skinniest kid in our entire grade, always had a long face. Partly because his face was literally very long and oval-shaped. And partly because he frowned a lot.
"Chill, Parker." Emma scolded him from behind me. "It's not like he hurt anyone."
She gave me a tiny smile as she jumped out of her seat, and I watched enviously as she zigzagged easily through the desks, picking up her stuff as she went.
"I'm really sorry," I muttered to them both.
Just get in your seat! I ordered myself. This will all be over once you get your butt in your chair!
Gritting my teeth, I turned to the side once more, willing my tail to cooperate. This time, I was able to grab it and thread the spikes through the square-shaped opening in the back of the chair. The tennis balls bounced slightly as my spikes hit the floor, making my tail do a little dance.
There were muffled giggles behind me.
My cheeks felt like they were on fire. They must have been bright red by now, which probably made me look even more ridiculous. The tips of my plates also felt hot, like they were embarrassed too.
I was still only halfway in my chair, so I had no choice but to turn my back on the gigglers and sit down. I sucked in a breath and wedged myself painfully into the narrow space between the desk and the chair. In order for all of my plates to fit, I had to sit with the front of my chest pressed uncomfortably against the edge of the desk. I was crammed in so tightly I couldn't even take a deep breath. And several of my plates were bent at strange angles.
Was I going to have to sit like this for the entire day?
Before I could worry about it too much, there was a loud scraping sound to my right. Parker, having piled his books back onto his desk, was now scooting his chair a few inches away from mine. His too-close-together eyes dared me to say something about it.
I looked away, over toward Mary Bishop, who had the desk on the other side of me for the second year in a row. Mary was staring straight ahead. Her right eye twitched a little, which I think meant she knew that I was looking at her. But she didn't turn to look at me.
Instead, she curled the end of her long, black ponytail lazily around one finger. And, keeping her eyes on the front of the room, she dug her feet into the ground and slid her desk a few inches to the left.
I thought that was kind of unfair. After all, I had never tried to move away from Mary. Not even last year, after she ate three fish tacos and a blueberry banana smoothie for lunch and then threw up all over both of our desks. You'd think that if I could forgive her for a lapful of purple guck with little bits of chewed-up fish floating in it, she could forgive me for being part dinosaur. But I guess not ...
Excerpted from Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putman Oakes. Copyright © 2015 Cory Putman Oakes. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. The Dinosaur Gene,
2. Fitting In,
3. The Dinosaur in Your Classroom,
4. Butt Brain,
5. The Zero Tolerance Policy,
6. Freak Out,
8. Ring Toss,
9. Layups/Standing Up,
10. Do Stegosauruses Like Salsa?,
11. That Stupid T. Rex from Jersey,
12. It Must've Been the Molé,
13. The Obstacle Course,
14. Martians, Martians, Everywhere ...,
15. Breaking In,
16. Red Vines and Victor Hugo,
17. Client J,
18. The Runaround,
19. 12 Percent Dinosaur,
20. Flan (And Other Bribery Techniques),
21. Good Boys (and Girls),
22. One Fried Martian,
23. Nobody Here but Us Hybrids,
24. The Worst Kept Secret On Earth,
About the Author,