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Joshua Dread

Joshua Dread

4.1 11
by Lee Bacon

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The first book in the series! Middle school is tough already—but when your parents are evil supervillains and you’ve just discovered you have powers of your own, life can be a real challenge.  Not only do bullies pick on Joshua, but do you see those supervillains over there trying to flood the world? The ones that everyone, including his


The first book in the series! Middle school is tough already—but when your parents are evil supervillains and you’ve just discovered you have powers of your own, life can be a real challenge.  Not only do bullies pick on Joshua, but do you see those supervillains over there trying to flood the world? The ones that everyone, including his best friend Milton, are rooting for Captain Justice to take down? They're the Dread Duo, and they just happen to be his parents. As if trying to hide his identity wasn't hard enough, Joshua has started leaving a trail of exploding pencils and scorched handprints in his wake, and only Sophie, the new girl in town with a mysterious past, seems unsurprised. When a violent attack at the Vile Fair makes it clear someone is abducting supervillains, and that his parents may very well be next, Joshua must enlist both Sophie and Milton's help to save them.

“Joshua Dread
is funny, action-packed, and a total page-turner. You’ll want to read to the bitter end—unless Joshua’s parents destroy the world first. Which is a distinct possibility.”—Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark & Grimm
"Villainy! Mayhem! Family! From supervillains to killer houseplants, Joshua Dread has it all. I couldn't put it down and I didn't dare, not until I'd devoured every last page!" -C. Alexander London, author of the Accidental Adventure series

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this lively romp from newcomer Bacon, sixth-grader Joshua Dread is contending with the knowledge that his parents are secretly supervillains who periodically try to take over and/or destroy the world, only to inevitably be beaten down by heroes like the telegenic, endorsement-happy Captain Justice. Just as Joshua's own power of spontaneous combustion emerges, he faced with a worse problem: weird smoke creatures are kidnapping supervillains, and his parents are the latest to vanish. Now Joshua must save the worst villains on the planet, and his only allies are his best friend, Milton, and Sophie, a new girl with secrets of her own. Despite predictable moments, Bacon's deadpan narrative hums along with outrageous details, humor, and action and is complemented by Dorman's suitably heroic b&w portraits of the characters. A hero with a double life and a colossal set of parental issues, Joshua handles zombies, killer robots, and teenage girls without losing his cool. Bacon's affectionately playful take on the superhero genre introduces bombastic personalities without reducing the characters to caricatures. Ages 9–12. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
"It's embarrassing to run into your parents when you're with people from school, especially when your parents are about to destroy the planet." Sixth-grader Joshua has always had to contend with his parents' secret identities, The Botanist and Dr. Dread--the Dread Duo. They keep trying to destroy the world, and Captain Justice keeps thwarting them. Now, it looks like Josh might be Gyfted (Genetic Youth Fluctuation, Triggering Extraordinary Development). He's not sure how he feels about that. Does he want to be a supervillain? He certainly doesn't want to shill for every product on the planet like Captain Justice. To make matters worse, when strange creatures attack the Vile Fair, a yearly expo for supervillains, the world's most evil villains begin vanishing. When the Dread Duo fall prey, can Josh solve the mystery and save his parents? Bacon's debut is a fast and often funny entry in the kid-with-superpowers subgenre. Joshua, his normal friend Milton and new friend Sophie all contend with real preteen troubles (bullies and gossip) as well as those particular to the Gyfted. Dorman's occasional black-and-white illustrations of the characters are a nice addition, but there are far too few of them. A twisty, swiftly moving adventure sure to please superhero fans. (Fantasy. 8-12)
Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Joshua's parents are super villains and he has just discovered he has fledgling powers of his own, the Gyft of spontaneous combustion. Embarrassed by both facts he is determined to keep everything a secret. Sophie, the new girl at school, has secrets of her own though; her dad is Captain Justice, the archenemy of super villains everywhere! Mysterious smoke creatures begin terrorizing the town and villains start disappearing, including Joshua's parents. His only hope is to enlist his human friend Milton and Sophie's help to find them. The kids uncover a plot by Phineas Vex, a power hungry inventor who plans to use Captain Justice's quest for increased fame as a front for his own evil purposes. When the time is right he will release all the kidnapped villains and blame it on the soon-to-be dead Captain Justice. Using their smarts and their powers the kids foil his plans, free the villains and save the day. The uneasy truce between the parents leans nicely into a foreshadowing of sequels to come. Filled with humor and tongue-in-cheek comments the series opener serves as a worthy primer for Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and the ilk. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Middle school is tough enough when the only things you have to worry about are getting your homework done and avoiding the sixth-grade bully. But when your parents are Dr. Dread and the Botanist, evil supervillains who try to destroy the world on a regular basis, life can be a real challenge. As the only son of the Dread Duo, Joshua is used to keeping things undercover-from Mom's mutant houseplants to Dad's death lasers-not to mention the leftover zombie in their basement. It doesn't help that his best friend is a fan of Captain Justice, the Duo's archenemy. Until now, Milton has been unaware of his pal's family secret, but then Justice's daughter, Sophie, moves into their class. Furthermore, Joshua is beginning to manifest a super "Gyft" of his own. The ability to generate spontaneous combustion-and cause stuff to explode-is cool, but can be inconvenient when you accidentally incinerate your bedroom. This lighthearted fantasy pokes gentle fun at the conventional superhero meme and takes some sly digs at media-driven celebrity as well. Aside from their fiendish felonies, the Duo are concerned, caring parents. Super Dad Justice, on the other hand, always seems to have one eye on his product endorsements. Joshua's struggles with his sometimes erratic superpower will resonate with readers coping with their own changing bodies and emotions.—Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Joshua Dread Series , #1
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


For most people, the end of the world is a bad thing. For others, it's a career.

Our class got out of sixth period early the day my parents tried to flood the earth. Weather forecasts predicted massive hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, typhoons, monsoons, mud slides, and heavy winds.

"We are asking all students to make an orderly exit," Principal Sloane's voice boomed over the loudspeaker. "Please do not run, push, or form an angry mob on your way out. Buses are waiting outside."

My parents never actually came out and told me they were planning on flooding the world. But they'd dropped plenty of hints over the previous few weeks. Dad had spent every spare minute in the backyard tinkering with his new Weather Alterator machine. And that morning, Mom gave me a sly wink as I was leaving for school. "You might want to take an umbrella with you," she said, smiling as if she knew something I didn't.

Stepping into the hallway now, I joined the mass of other students. I listened to the rain and wind beating against the walls outside, the sound of hundreds of feet moving across the floor inside.

Everyone seemed pretty calm, considering the world was about to end.

The weather was chaotic. Wind lashed in every direction. Massive gray clouds swirled violently overhead. Bolts of lightning flashed across the sky. It looked like it was raining and snowing at the same time.

"Weird weather, huh?"

I turned and saw my best friend, Milton, standing behind me. Well, technically, he was my only friend. I'd known him for two years, ever since my parents and I had moved onto his street. Milton was tall and gangly, with arms and legs like sticks that had been loosely tied together. His sandy blond hair always poked up in the back.

"Did you hear what the weather forecast said this morning?" Milton asked.

"Yeah." I looked up at the churning clouds. "They're predicting that the storms will destroy civilization as we know it."

"And it's perfect timing too! Mrs. Lange was about to give us a quiz when class got dismissed."

We both stopped talking when a bone-rattling crash of thunder echoed across the landscape.

"Come on," I said when the thunder had ended. "Let's get onto the bus before it leaves without us."

Milton and I pushed against the wind until we found our bus and took a seat near the back. The weather outside worsened as we waited. The wind blew a stop sign past my window. The sky exploded with lightning.

Finally the bus rumbled into motion. Looking out the rain-splattered window, I could see trees shaking and power lines snapping loose. We passed an electronics store where the manager was fighting off a group of looters with a vacuum cleaner.

That morning, before the weather had taken a turn for the deadly, it had been a sunny fall day in Sheepsdale, one of the last really warm days of the year. Sheepsdale was a small town in upstate New York, nestled between a river and rolling green hills. Except for the occasional threat of apocalyptic doom, it was a pretty uneventful place to live.

When we reached downtown, the harsh weather suddenly stopped. It was as if we'd passed under an enormous invisible roof. There was no rain or wind. Everything looked absolutely still. A wall of gray clouds swirled around us. An eerie silence hung in the air.

My first thought was that we'd entered the eye of the storm. But then the bus lurched to a halt, and I realized what was going on.

My parents were floating in the intersection. They were holding a press conference.

It's embarrassing to run into your parents when you're with people from school, especially when your parents are about to destroy the planet.

Mom was drifting five feet above the ground on her hover scooter, wearing her usual uniform—a green one-piece armor body shield and black eye mask. Dad was drifting beside her on his own hover scooter. He was dressed in a dark gray jumpsuit, with blood-red gloves and boots. He was wearing a pair of massive silver goggles.

Dozens of reporters surrounded them, spilling out into the street with their cameras and microphones.

Kids crowded to one side of the school bus, pressing their faces against the glass to get a better look.

"I can't hear anything!" someone in the front yelled. "Open a window!"

All at once, twenty windows rattled down.

I ducked low, worried that my parents would notice me. Milton squeezed against my shoulder to get a better look.

"That's the Dread Duo!" His voice was full of fear and amazement.

"Is it?" I asked, trying to sound like I wasn't sure who they were. Like I hadn't just eaten breakfast with the Dread Duo seven hours earlier.

"There's the Botanist." Milton pointed at my mom. "She can control plants with her mind. And next to her is Dr. Dread. He wears those goggles because of his superpowered eyesight. They set a horde of zombies loose in Washington, D.C., last year. They tried to vaporize California with a death laser, but then it got blocked by Captain Justice. I can't believe they're actually here."

Milton went quiet as soon as Dr. Dread—my dad—began speaking to the gathered reporters.

"You may have noticed the sudden change in weather when you reached this intersection." He gestured to the wall of pounding rain and snow that surrounded the calm, clear area of downtown where our bus was stopped. "We have created a Vortex of Silence, which neutralizes the effects of the Weather Alterator within a fifty-foot radius of wherever we go. This Vortex of Silence will keep us safe and dry, even as the weather outside gets worse."

"And we assure you that it will get worse," my mom continued. "Much worse. Unless the government agrees to meet our demands, every continent on earth will be destroyed in"—she checked her watch—"less than four hours."

My parents did this kind of thing sometimes—death lasers, rampaging zombies, floods. I guess it was part of their job description. They were two of the most feared supervillains in the world. But that was only one part of who they were. As far as anyone in town knew, my mom was just an ordinary horticulture professor at the local junior college and my dad was a stay-at-home inventor. They had a regular house in a regular neighborhood on the outskirts of a regular little town. And they had a regular son.

In other words, me.

My name's Joshua Dread. Well, that's one of my names, anyway. I've gone by lots of them. My last name changes every time my parents pick up and move to another new town. Some kids have to make new friends when they move. I have to make up a whole new identity. But I can't tell you the name I go by now. It would be too dangerous—for me, and probably for you too.

The press conference was still going on. Reporters screamed questions to my parents.

"How can you expect the government to meet such an unreasonable demand in such a short amount of time?" yelled one.

"I don't think a private jet filled with hundred-dollar bills is so unreasonable." A wicked smirk passed over my dad's face. "I prefer to think of it as . . . creative."

"What about Captain Justice?" called another reporter. "Aren't you concerned that he'll put a stop to these plans?"

My mom glared at the reporter with a sour expression. Captain Justice was the most famous superhero in the world. He was also my parents' archrival. Just mentioning his name around the house was enough to get me sent to my room.

"Actually," Mom said, "Captain Justice doesn't concern us. It's you who should be worried. All of you. Because soon—"

She was interrupted by a booming voice in the distance.


A flurry of excitement passed over the reporters. One of them pointed to the other side of the intersection, where a figure had appeared from the storm, floating above the rooftops, flying in our direction. I recognized him right away. I'd seen him in countless commercials and on magazine covers. He was wearing a tight silver jumpsuit and a shiny blue cape. His teeth were blindingly bright as he smiled.

Captain Justice had just arrived.


If you're going to get into a deadly fight, make sure you do it on camera.

Milton pressed closer to me, trying to get a better look. For as long as I'd known him, he'd been obsessed with superheroes and supervillains, but he'd been especially obsessed with Captain Justice. Milton had Captain Justice posters on his wall and Captain Justice trading cards. The only cereal he would eat was Frosted Fuel Flakes (sponsored by Captain Justice).

And now Captain Justice was floating just outside the window.

"If it isn't the Botanist and Dr. Dread." Captain Justice's voice echoed across downtown Sheepsdale. "How unpleasant it is to see you again."

My parents glared back at him.

"How did he get here so soon?" Dad muttered to Mom.

My dad's hand dropped down to his waist, his fingers running over a small gray box that was hanging from his belt. The control box for the Weather Alterator. It contained a button that could trigger total meteorological meltdown, destroying the world—or at least everything outside the Vortex of Silence—in a matter of seconds. And nobody, not even Captain Justice, could stop it.

"You are a truly wicked pair," Captain Justice said. "Flooding the earth. Terrorizing a group of journalists. Holding innocent children hostage. Is there any act of treachery that is too evil for the Dread Duo?"

My dad glanced at our school bus as if he hadn't noticed it until now. "We aren't holding any children hostage!"

"Silence! I didn't come here to listen to your pitiful excuses." Captain Justice turned to our bus. "Worry not, dear children! Captain Justice shall rescue you from the clutches of these vile enemies!"

Swooping downward, he gripped the bus roof. A wrenching sound filled the air as he tore the top half of the bus off. Some kids screamed. Milton snapped a photo with his cell phone.

"Be free, children!" Captain Justice said, holding the top half of the bus above his head with one hand as if it weighed nothing at all. "You are trapped in this bus of death no longer!"

My classmates remained in their seats, stunned.

"Go on," Captain Justice urged. "You're all free now."

"Captain Justice?" said a girl a few rows ahead of me.

"What is it, little girl?"

"The bus driver said it wasn't safe for us to go outside the Vortex of Silence on foot. Because of the storm and all."

Captain Justice glanced up at the top half of the bus like he was trying to figure out whether he could reattach it.

"Never fear," he said. "Captain Justice will find a way for you to return to your homes safely."

He shrugged and then tossed the top of the bus over his shoulder like a crumpled piece of paper. The enormous metal object crashed into the post office, destroying the entire front wall.

I watched my dad with a rising sense of fear. He looked panicked, on the verge of pressing the meltdown button. I wished that they'd never gone ahead with this plan in the first place. What were we even supposed to do with a private jet full of hundred-dollar bills? Our driveway was barely big enough for my parents' Volvo.

I thought about calling out to them. Maybe I could convince my parents to give up their scheme and let everyone go. But what if someone realized that I was related to them? What if everyone in school found out that I was the son of the Dread Duo?

On second thought, I was better off taking my chances with world annihilation.

The weather continued to worsen. The tumble of clouds turned from gray to black. Rain lashed the sides of buildings; wind ripped street signs loose. But everything within fifty feet of our bus was perfectly calm and still.

Captain Justice had turned his back on my parents and was now floating ten feet off the ground, posing for photographs. He smiled at the crowd of journalists, flexing his muscles for the cameras.

My dad's finger inched closer to the meltdown button. I ducked even lower in my seat as he glanced at our bus. His eyes lingered on the bus for a split second, and then he shook his head and pulled his hand away from the button. He reached for another part of his utility belt. His plasma gun.

"Hey, Captain Justice," he said, removing the gun from its holster. "How about one more shot?"

He aimed and pulled the trigger. A vivid red beam burst out of the end of the gun.

Captain Justice spun around, yelling, "Engage Shield of Honor!"

A glowing blue shield took form in Captain Justice's hand. It looked both real and unreal, like a hologram had emerged from his wristband. The plasma beam reflected off the Shield of Honor and hit Mom's hover scooter. She crashed to the ground.

Dad flew over to help her just as Captain Justice raised his other hand. "Engage Net of Truth!"

Another blue hologram appeared from his wristband. This time it looked like a net, which flew just over our heads and collided with my father. He and his hover scooter crashed into a bush.

"You see that, kids?" Captain Justice said, drifting closer to our school bus. "This just goes to show that honor and truth always prevail. It reminds me of the time I single-handedly battled Abominator and his army of mutants. They had me surrounded, but I was able to—OOF!"

Captain Justice's speech came to a sudden halt as the branches of a nearby tree circled around his waist. Before he could escape the tree's grip, it whipped forward, flinging him through the air like a superhero-shaped football. He soared over the top of our bus and past the crowd of journalists before crashing into a Chinese food restaurant at the corner.

Now, some people might find it slightly unusual to see plants go on the attack like that. But when your mom can control any kind of vegetation on earth, you get used to it.

Dad untangled himself from the hologram net and launched across the intersection on his hover scooter. At the other end of the street, Captain Justice was lying in a pile of rubble and egg rolls. Dad fired his plasma gun.


Everyone around me gasped, then cheered as Captain Justice dove to the side. The plasma beam flew over his shoulder, igniting a box of fortune cookies behind him.

Meet the Author

LEE BACON grew up in Texas with parents who never once tried to destroy the world (at least, not that he knew of). He is the author of the Joshua Dread series and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Joshua Dread 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a 12 year old girl and loved this book. At first I thought this book was for boys, but I gave this book and chance. I am so glad I did. This book had me laughing out loud and I am looking forward to the second book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book has a lot details and it was interesting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awsome book!!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book. Thx lee bacon
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