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Double Trouble Squared: A Starbuck Twins Mystery, Book One

Double Trouble Squared: A Starbuck Twins Mystery, Book One

by Kathryn Lasky

Paperback(First Edition)

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[shared copy] The Starbuck family is anything but ordinary. There are two sets of Starbuck twins: preteens Liberty and July, and their little sisters Charly and Molly. But even more extraordinary is the fact that all four children have the ability to teleflash—they can talk to each other without saying a word! It's a power that comes in handy whenever these adventurous kids are on the trail of a villian.

When twins Liberty and July accompany their father on a business trip to London, a mysterious voice starts speaking through their teleflashing channels. Who is trying to contact them, and why? Using the detective skills of their hero, Sherlock Holmes, the twins set out to solve a puzzle that takes them on an exciting journey through the streets of London.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780152058784
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 05/01/2008
Series: Starbuck Twins Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.46(d)
Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

KATHRYN LASKY's many books for young people have received such honors as the Parents' Choice Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and a Newbery Honor citation. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt


The House

on Dakota Street

LIBERTY STARBUCK leaned out the window of her bedroom. The third-floor room was round like a castle turret, and a big old tree grew in the front yard, shading half the house. Liberty looked out through the tree’s inky green leaves at the peaceful morning. She could hear the creak of the porch swing, below, pushed by a whisper of wind.

And that whisper—did it echo another whisper somewhere deep in her mind? Liberty ran her hands through her hair.

She had been awake since sunrise, and it felt as if a voice in a dream had been speaking directly inside her brain—not a loud voice, just a whisper. But she could not remember the dream, and now even the whisper seemed to have vanished. Only a dim memory like an echo was left. She listened again, this time more attentively, to the wind pushing the swing.

All of the other houses on this block where the Starbucks lived, in the northwest section of the city of Washington, D.C., were brick and had sharp corners. But the Starbuck house had two identical turrets, one cupola, very few sharp corners, and it was shingle, not brick. Despite the differences, Liberty thought, their home probably seemed as normal as the next. Given your average Martian—

"Average Martian!" J.B. Starbuck burst through the connecting door to his twin sister’s room. "What is an average Martian, Liberty?"

Liberty stared at her brother. His black hair slashed across his brow at the same steep angle as her own, except that his slashed right and hers slashed left. This morning his gray eyes were still foggy with sleep, while hers were clear and alert. She had been up for a half hour already.

"J.B." was short for July Burton, and a lot of people called him by his initials. A select few called him "Jelly Bean." The twins had been born within five minutes of each other, during the first hour after midnight on the Fourth of July; that’s why their parents had named them July and Liberty.

"Martians should not be your concern this morning, Liberty," J.B. said.

"You mean Dad should?"

He nodded.

"I’m tired of Dad being our major concern. It’s getting boring, and"—she paused, her eyes worried—"it’s kind of scary."

July knew what Liberty meant. It was scary. Things weren’t normal anymore, and at first that was fun—having their dad there when they got home from school every afternoon, going grocery shopping with him, having him help with their homework. But then it started getting a little frustrating. Their father had been out of work just a week when he first sat down with his laptop at the dining room table, where they always did their homework, and announced that he had some homework of his own—"world work," he had called it. That’s when he began doing Internet searches for all kinds of statistics about global warming. Indeed, within two days, their father knew so much about global warming that both twins decided to do a report on it for their civics class. They had a fight about that, however, when they realized they both couldn’t do the same thing. So their father obligingly found them a second environmental problem—acid rain—and began downloading information like crazy.

Liberty, however, decided to do her report on the latest findings on twins that had been separated at birth, pairs that had grown up apart yet wound up drinking the same brand of beer, liking the same kinds of books, and wearing the same kinds of clothes. Sometimes when they married, they even gave their children the same names without ever knowing it! Liberty had always been very interested in the science of twins—the biology of twins, the psychology of twins, even the mythology of twins. "Twinology," as she called it, was one of her favorite areas of research.

It was good to have their dad helping them out with all their reports and doing all of this research, but it was unsettling, too. How could they explain to their friends a father who did world work? Everybody else on the street had a father who left the house to go to work. And most of them had a mother who left for work, too.

"He doesn’t exactly seem worried enough about being unemployed, does he?" J.B. said.

"He doesn’t seem worried at all," Liberty replied.

"Mom seems worried."

"Yeah, sort of."

"But he’s so happy doing his world work."

"Well, he’s going to drive us nuts with all his new ideas. If I hear him use the word explore one more time, I’m going to barf." Liberty paused and bit her lip lightly. "What about that London job he was offered?" she asked.

"It’s, like, too good to hope for."

"What do you mean ‘hope’? It’s an offer."

"Yeah, but Mom doesn’t like the idea at all. I heard them kind of arguing about it last night. They were in the kitchen and they didn’t know I was in the pantry. Mom says it’s too complicated and she can’t run a factory from three thousand miles away."

"She could come visit," July said.

"Just once a month. That’s all. I heard her say that, too, last night."

Their mother, Madeline Starbuck, was the largest manufacturer of ballet tutus in the United States. But she made more than tutus. She specialized in recital wear. This meant everything from leotards and tutus to splashy sequin numbers with all the accessories. There were thousands of ballet schools in North America and Madeline Starbuck had a definite corner on the market. A large percentage of these dance schools bought exclusively from the Starbuck "Show Time" catalog for their annual recitals. In fact, Madeline Starbuck essentially choreographed these recitals each year through her cleverly designed costumes. If her suppliers were long on dotted spandex and tulle, Madeline thought "Gumdrops!" and that June, across the country, thousands of four-year-olds waddled out on stages from Trenton to Tacoma to do the Gumdrop Dance in their dotted costumes.

J.B. was right. It was a business that could not be left three thousand miles behind so Madeline Starbuck could follow her husband to London. Putnam had been offered a job, or "post," as they called it, as an undersecretary to the American ambassador to England, or the "Court of St. James’s," as it was called. In the diplomatic world there was a special language, and words for jobs, countries, and everything were made to sound much fancier. Of course it was not simply a question of Madeline going or staying, but also the four Starbuck children—would they go to London or stay at home? And in either case, who would help to take care of them if only one parent was around?

Liberty and J.B. had two younger sisters, Charly and Molly, who were also twins—identical five-year-old girls. In the twins business, Charly and Molly were what was known as "mirror-image identicals." This meant that while one twin was left-handed, the other was right-handed; that while they both had the same spiky red hair, which stuck out all over their heads most of the time, Charly’s cowlicks swirled clockwise, while Molly’s swirled counterclockwise. Molly had a tiny strawberry mark on her right earlobe, and Charly had one on her left. It was as if they were reflections of one another.

Mirror-image twins happen only once for every three hundred fifty sets of identical twins born. And although Liberty and July were not mirror-image, brother-and-sister twins were rarely as physically similar as they were, with their luminous gray eyes and each even having the same dimple that flashed when they smiled. And for one family to have two sets of twins, one pair of mirror-image and one pair so closely resembling each other, was against all odds. The Starbucks in short were a statistically rare family. One might say singular family if it were not for all the doubleness of the twins.

J.B. went back to his own room, in the second turret. It was connected to Liberty’s by a small hallway. On the way, he looked wistfully at the sculpted head of his literary hero Sherlock Holmes that occupied a table opposite his door. As sunlight streamed down through the curved window, the head was crosshatched with glints and gleams, and the dark eyes took on a strange intensity that . . . well . . .

J.B.’s breath locked in his throat. He stepped closer to the head and looked again. No, the eyes had not flickered, but the features seemed to possess something no ordinary art could have sculpted. Yet it was a very ordinary artist who had made this head; J.B.’s mother had bought it at a yard sale for five dollars.

J.B. backed away. Shadows seemed to gather around the eyes again. The head looked quite normal once more. Undoubtedly his imagination had been working overtime. Still, he was left with a slightly uncomfortable feeling.

Those glints and gleams reminded him of something else. What was it? He thought for a moment. If Liberty had still been upstairs, it might have dawned on him quicker . . . but yes, of course! That was it! It had to do with the telepathy that he and his sister shared.

The twins—all four—had always been able to communicate telepathically. The current was the strongest on the two-way circuit within each set. But it was by no means a closed circuit, and sometimes all four of them communicated with one another, even though there was usually a bit of static.

Recently, however, something had changed. It was not as if the quality of the telepathy was worse in any way; if anything, it seemed to have improved. In fact, it was so much better, Liberty and July seemed to be picking up other signals, not actually complete messages or even fragments of messages, but rather dim echoes.

But from where? The echoes, if indeed that was what they were, were not echoes of familiar sounds, but shadows of something strange and unknown.

J.B. knew that Liberty had sensed these echoes, too. He could just tell by the breaks in her telepathic thought. These breaks were completely in sync with his own when they happened. It was as if something else was trying to push in, and they were both straining to hear it together.

But they never spoke of it, either telepathically or out loud. July wasn’t sure why, but there was something vaguely disturbing and invasive about it. He tried not to worry.

Copyright © 2008, 1991 by Kathryn Lasky Knight

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