2014 Cybils Award, Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction
When you’re the new kid at school, you know things are going to suck; but when you’re the new kid and a vampire, it bites.
Unlike most kids, Scarlet Small’s problems go far beyond just trying to fit in. She would settle for a normal life, but being a 12-year-old vampire for an entire century is a real pain in the neck. Plus, her appetite for security guards, house pets, and tomato juice is out of control. In order to keep their vampire-secret, Scarlet’s parents resort to yet another move. At her new school, Scarlet not only has a strange skeleton-girl as a classmate, but a smelly werewolf is intent on revealing her secret. When Scarlet meets Granny—who fills her with cookies, goodies, and treats, and seems to understand her more than anyone—she’s sure things will finally be different. But with a fork-stabbing incident, a cherry pie massacre, and a town full of crazy people, Scarlet’s positive she’ll never live to see another undead day.
About the Author
Amie Borst and Bethanie Borst are the mother-daughter writing team behind the Scarily Ever After series, which includes Cinderskella. They live in Northern Virginia. Rachael Caringella is an illustrator and a mixed-media artist. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Read an Excerpt
Little Dead Riding Hood
By Amie Borst, Bethanie Borst, Rachel Caringella
Jolly Fish PressCopyright © 2014 Amie and Bethanie Borst
All rights reserved.
You know things are going to suck when you're the new kid. But when you're the new kid and a vampire ... well, then it totally bites.
From the beginning, I could tell things would be sucktastic. But not in a good, vampire-blood-sucking way.
Mort and I shuffled wordlessly into the car, my bag jam-packed with stuff she thought I'd need for yet another first day adventure. If you could call it that. More like torture if you asked me.
My jeans pinched at my thighs and I wanted nothing more than to rip them off and put on my black lace, high-collared mourning dress. Anything that made me feel more like myself.
Mort drove in silence, the hiss from the engine louder than usual. I waited for her to recite the rules. I could almost hear her.
"Remember the rules, Scarlet. No sneaking out for a midnight snack, no biting the other kids at school, and no showing off with your centuries-old, smarty-pants education."
"Fine, Mort. Of course not, Mort. I'd never do that, Mort. And show off? Who me? Never happen."
Mort's simple little trill of a laugh — the one that tells me she loves me, despite all we've been through — rang in my ears.
I laughed out loud and snapped back into reality. Mort shot me a look like she thought I was crazy. But I bet she would have laughed, too, if she'd heard the conversation.
A feeling of sadness swept over me. I longed for Mort's normal lecture and her confession of loving me with all her unbeating heart. I would have even been willing to let her embarrass me in public with VDAs (Vampire Displays of Affection — you know, all that huggy-kissy stuff vampire parents like to do to their little suckers).
Mort pulled the car up to the curb, her eyes fixed straight ahead.
The silence pounded in my ears as I reached for the door handle. I stepped out onto the sidewalk, leaving the door ajar. "Well ... Thanks ... I guess ..." I stammered, feeling even more nervous about another new school because of Mort's new attitude. "I guess I'll see you after school."
Mort grunted, then snapped her head toward me, our eyes meeting for the first time. "This is our last move, Scarlet." Her pale skin flamed with color as she clenched her teeth. "You mess up this time, and Drac and I will have no choice ..." She lifted her nose and sniffed the air suddenly. Maybe the yummy smell of my classmates tempted her too much. Mort swallowed hard like she wanted to say more, but didn't.
She didn't have to. My undead heart skipped a beat and my limbs grew numb. Mort and Drac were going to send me to the Underworld. If a vampire can't make it work topside, that's the only place for us to go. The thought of meeting Mr. Death again gave me shivers, and I couldn't bear it. My lips moved in objection but nothing came out.
I jumped out of the way as Mort leaned across the seat and slammed the door shut. Her tires squealed as she took off out of the parking lot like a bat out of ... well ... you know where. In fact, I think it's safe to say she left skid marks on the pavement.
I stared at Mort's car as it chugged along, sputtering down the road, steam hissing from the engine and puffs of smoke escaping the tailpipe.
And by car I mean a jalopy of a vehicle, somewhat resembling a form of transportation on four wheels. Why she hadn't upgraded to something more modern is beyond me. It was probably because of my dad, Drac. He said the twenties were roaring, and I guess he just couldn't accept the idea of leaving that decade behind. Thankfully he had agreed to give up his Brook Brothers suit for this move. If only I could make the zoot suit disappear, too.
But Mort ... she didn't even blow me a kiss. No goodbye. No nothing.
I stood on the curb and gawked. First at Mort's car, which was completely out of sight in less than T-minus ten ... nine ... yup. Gone.
Without tears in my eyes, because I was not crying — not because of Mort, and certainly not about starting at a new school again — I gawked at the building. It was the same as all the other schools I'd attended. Same boring red brick façade with fingerprint-smudged windows. Same double-door entry that tried to look inviting beneath layers of tacky-colored paint. Plus, I could smell my classmates. Their rich blood made my mouth water and stomach gurgle.
I scanned the building, looking for a broken window. I'd have a better chance of surviving (and so would my classmates) if I knew what to expect. All the other schools had one, and ... yup. There it was. At the far left corner, second story. I bet it was the science lab where some kid thought he was funny combining chemicals that didn't get along very well. From the looks of it, he nearly blew the school to smithereens.
If the broken window and science lab stuff were true, then there would certainly be a pecking order here.
You know, every school has one.
The star athlete who uses sports as a crutch because he can't pull off good grades.
Miss Popularity who thinks she's important because no matter how hard she tries, she never measures up at home.
A teacher's pet who pretends to be perfect because deep inside she fears failure.
A class clown who hides behind a disability like ADHD.
And the school bully who's really mean because he has no self-esteem from being bullied at home.
This may seem a little grown-up and insightful for a kid, but trust me. I've been around long enough to know this stuff is true. And I can usually find them in the first week, sometimes sooner.
Which makes forming friendships even harder. As if being a middle-school vampire wasn't hard enough, there were rules. Some of them I learned the hard way.
As far as fitting in with my peers, well that never happens. Ever. At my old school they just called me a goth freak. Whatever that is. Mort said it was probably on account of wearing combat boots with dark, old fashioned dresses with buckles and black lace all the time. That's why she'd dumped a heap of new clothes on my casket; she said they might help me fit in better. I'd had a hard time parting with my high-collared mourning dress, but at least she let me keep my purple Dr. Martins, my favorite pair of combat boots. I'd picked them up in Seattle in the early 90s when grunge was all the rage.
Memories and emotions flooded my undead body. I missed the Victorian era. It was my favorite time period. I'd enjoyed some of my best meals then, back when blood wasn't so polluted. Things weren't the same when we became vegetarians.
I pushed those thoughts deep into my belly, which still gurgled like a witch's cauldron with last night's dinner. Skunk, in case you were wondering.
I'd just have to suck it up.
Except I couldn't help thinking about Mort and why she took off so fast. Why didn't she bother to say goodbye? Or recite the rules? Or kiss me? Not that I wanted her to kiss me. That's lame. Every kid hates that. Still, I didn't know what was eating her. Maybe the skunk wasn't sitting well with her, either. She always said it left a bad taste in her mouth.
Focus, Scarlet. I let out a sigh and read the marquee. Last week was the Spring Fling and report cards would be distributed next week. Good thing I didn't have to worry about any of that.
It took a minute for me to notice the school name. Sure it was displayed over the entrance like some sort of crowning glory, but it's not like I really paid attention. As usual, it was a boring name of some old man who the town thought did something interesting a really long time ago. If it had been done today it would probably result in an indefinite prison sentence.
"Charles Perrault Middle School," I whispered under my breath. "Charles Perrault? Where have I heard that name before?"
"Fairy tales," a voice said from behind.
"Whoa!" I cried, spinning around. To my amazement, there stood a girl with blonde hair and large, blue eyes. And I'm pretty sure she was talking to me, but I couldn't be sure. None of my peers had ever talked to me ... well, except when they were calling me names ... or saying something like, "Oh, please, no!" as they ran in the opposite direction when I tried to suck the life out of them. But there she was, staring. At me.CHAPTER 2
As I stared back at her, my lips revealing too many teeth, I remembered a rule.
My smile quickly faded and I ducked behind my long, shaggy bangs, hiding my face from view. As I did, something dawned on me. Why hadn't I heard — or more importantly, smelled — her approach? My senses were usually right on. Being a vampire and all, I can smell blood from a mile away. It was probably one of my best qualities. For some reason, I really wasn't at my best. Mort's behavior probably threw me off. My stomach bubbled and popped. Or maybe I had acquired her disdain for skunk. "I mean, what? What did you say?"
"Fairy tales. Charles Perrault, he wrote loads of them." She held out a boney-looking hand and I reluctantly placed mine in hers. "Cindy," she said, glancing over my shoulder. "So, new in town?"
"Um, yeah. Sure." Even though I'd been through the new-kid scenario a gazillion times (usually ignored, teased, or stared at) I was caught off guard by this girl. "I mean, yes. I am. We just moved in ... down the street." It was hard looking people in the eye, so I fixed my eyes at my hand in hers. When I realized she might feel my cold, undead skin I blinked and pulled away. I didn't want her to know my secret so soon. I certainly didn't need any alarms going off already. I couldn't upset Mort and Drac. There's no way I'd allow them to send me to the Underworld.
"Well, great! I'll show you around." Cindy grabbed for my hand again, but I tucked it behind my back before she could reach it. As she moved closer, that's when I realized something seriously different about this girl. Her smell. Not the normal iron-rich smell that comes from all living, breathing humans pumping yummy, sweet blood through their veins. No, hers was more of a dull, earthy fragrance, like dirt and autumn leaves. It reminded me of Halloween and cemeteries and other scary things like that. But oddly, I wasn't scared of her.
"So, sixth grade or seventh?" She eyed me curiously, sizing me up. "You look too young for eighth."
"You think so?" My voice cracked with a laugh. If she only knew! I'd completed middle school more times than I cared to count. Plus I am older than dirt. Literally.
"Sorry ... I just meant that ..." She tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear, and the same earthy scent floated in the air between us. "That you look young."
She probably thought I was short, too, since I only came up to her shoulder, but she was too nice to admit it. "It's okay. I get that a lot." Actually, it was a first. But that was probably because no one ever talked to me.
Her cheeks flushed pink. "I'm in sixth," she volunteered.
She didn't need to know I'd completed sixth grade for the umpteenth time. She also didn't need to know I'd been instructed to enroll in seventh. "Me too," I said before I could stop myself.
Mort and Drac would be infuriated when they found out. After all, no one disobeyed General Drac. My throat got tight as I remembered the Underworld. Remembered Mr. Death. If I messed up and someone found out my vampire secret, they'd have no choice but to send me away.
"Seriously?" Cindy beamed. "Well, that's the best news I've heard today." Her strange scent wafted through the air again, punching my nostrils like the heavyweight champion of the year.
This girl was just too much. I couldn't pass up more time with her. Between her chipper personality and the weird smell, I just had to find out more about her. Besides, the old suckers would get over it when they realized my super-quick thinking would allow us to stay an extra year longer. Or so I hoped.
"Yeah, seriously." I tried to smile, but it was more of a catawampus, awkward grin.
"You okay?" she asked.
"Just ... nervous ... you know?" C'mon! You can do this! "It's my first time in middle school." Good job! That was perfect.
"You mean you didn't transfer from a middle school?"
What?! For devil's sake this girl is good! My hands dripped with sweat and my undead heart gave one good thump in my chest. "Uh ... My last school was a private school ... kindergarten through sixth." Phew! That was a close one!
"Oh, right. Well, if I can tell you a secret, I was nervous my first day in middle school too. It's not as horrible as you think it is. Except for Mr. G. Petto. He's kind of a bald-headed freak."
She tilted her head like she was picturing him in her mind or something. "He likes to carve wood into puppets. Sometimes, if you sneak up to his house and spy on him late at night, you can see him dancing around ..." Cindy looked at me horrified, eyes bulging. "I mean ... It's too bad you didn't get here last week. You just missed the Spring Fling." She twisted a lock of hair around her finger.
Even though I'd seen the notice on the marquee, I still acted surprised. "A dance?" At this point, I'd heard them all: Spring Fling, Fall Formal, Sock Hop and Winter Waltz.
"Yeah. It was the best dance ever!" Cindy beamed again, but she looked more like she was hiding something important. "So, why'd you move in the middle of the school year?"
You can do this. "Dad." I sighed like I wanted sympathy just so she wouldn't think I was weird. "He's in the army." It was so nice to have someone talk to me for once instead of running away, but interacting with my peers felt so weird. And exhausting.
"That must be tough," Cindy said. "Or exciting. Guess it depends on how you look at it. You know ... the power of an attitude adjustment and all."
"Attitude adjustment?" That was a new one.
"Yeah, kinda like looking at something bad as something maybe not so bad ... like maybe it's a good thing bad things happen. Sometimes it's not as awful as you might think. Know what I mean?"
Strangely, I understood perfectly what she meant. "I think I know exactly what you mean." Nothing's ever as bad as I think it might be. So I'm not sure why I still felt upset by Mort's little drop-and-run. She must have had a good reason for it, right? Unless the Underworld was her reason, then ... GULP. "Yeah, the moving isn't bad at all. I've gotten used to it. Er — I've had an attitude adjustment." I showed her my cheerful side, even though I knew I'd never fit in no matter how many new schools I went to.
Cindy laughed. Something about it told me somehow, she might have experience with that, too — looking at things differently, and having a positive attitude, that is.
And somehow, I thought I would really like this earthy-smelling girl.
Maybe because, for starters, I had no desire to eat her.CHAPTER 3
As soon as I stepped into the school, a new smell barreled into me like a wrecking ball. I wondered why I hadn't noticed it before. It made me want to vomit.
Saliva and fur. And manure. Like a farm. But worse. At least with farm animals you can smell their tasty blood — which, for a vampire, always masks the smell of everything yucky.
This stench almost masked the beautiful fragrance of the hundreds of sweet-blooded middle-schoolers. Only one thing on the planet had a smell like that: dog.
Wet, nasty, disgusting dog.
I hate dogs.
I reached a hand up to plug my nose but Cindy grabbed it, dragging me to the main office. Normally I hate having people touch my cold, undead skin, but I didn't really mind because her earthy fragrance helped cover up the foul odor floating around the school. A little bit, anyway.
I couldn't help but notice that this Cindy girl was really into that touchy, feely thing. Personally, I preferred the feeling of sinking my fangs into a human.
But we vampires have rules about those sorts of things.
But she didn't need to know that — just like she didn't need to know why my skin felt ice cold. I actually wondered why she didn't say anything about it whenever she grabbed my hand. I figured she politely pretended not to notice. Kind of like how I didn't say anything about her strange smell. Either that or she was just weird. Or maybe both.
Cindy opened the door to the main office. "You probably need your schedule, right?"
"Schedule?" My eyes felt like they would pop out of my head. Why hadn't I thought this through better? And why did I feel so off-kilter? I should have been able to handle all this simple stuff — but Mort usually took care of all that boring paperwork stuff. How would I do this on my own?
Excerpted from Little Dead Riding Hood by Amie Borst, Bethanie Borst, Rachel Caringella. Copyright © 2014 Amie and Bethanie Borst. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a fantastic book! My daughter read her first book Cinderskella and couldn't put it down. In fact, my 10 year old read it four times in a row. She loved it. Then some of her friends purchased the book and they too loved it just as much! Just like her first book Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood is humorous, teaches some life lessons such as learning to love yourself and keeps the reader engrossed in the story. I recommend this book as well as the first book to any 8-13 year old. Wonderfully done.
Scarlet Small was new in town. Her dad, Drac, is in the army, and they moved a lot. Scarlet was scared of her new school. It smelled of werewolf. It didn’t help that at her old school, she was friendless and ridiculed. A lot. Did I happen to mention that Scarlet Small and her “parents” are vampires? And that Scarlet is over a century old? In a 12-year-old body? So far, school is going great for her, until Scarlet meets Ethan. She is sure that he is the werewolf she smells, which is bad, because a werewolf’s bite is the only thing that can kill a vampire. And he seems to hate her. Could things get any worse for a pre-teen vampire? This is a fun book and it is the second in the Scarily Ever Laughter Series (Cinderskella is the first). The Borst mother-daughter team have written monster characters that even I (who really doesn’t like monster stories) like. There is humor in the story, which is always a plus for me. The characters act like middle schoolers and have many of the same issues – fitting in, doing well in school (only in monster terms). I like the sense of fractured fairytales throughout the book. It adds to the enjoyment of reading it. I felt like I was really there with Scarlet as she went on with her story. The Borsts describe the setting very well – it gave the perfect feeling for the story – a small town with a humongous woods surrounding it. This story contains minor spoilers about Cinderskella so I’d read the books in order. Scarlet befriends Cindy (Cinderskella) in the story. I love Scarlet’s “parents’ ” names – Drac and Mort: Dracula and Morticia. The language in the book is kid appropriate. Obviously the book is about monsters and some of the things they do, but there is nothing graphic or unpleasant in the story. It’s a really nice story about trying to fit in. I hope that there are more books in this series! *NOTE* I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Little Dead Riding Hood is the second book in the Scarily Ever Laughter series! Scarlet Small is not your average twelve year old, she is a vampire who had to move around and has to start a new school with the hopes that nothing goes wrong this time around. As she meets her classmates who include a smelly werewolf and a girl by the name of Cindy, it takes a pie eating contest for everything to go wrong! After the whole pie-eating contest, she meets an older woman who goes by the name of Granny who fills her with sweets and seems to understand her more than anyone around. As things start to get weird with Granny and with the threat of the underworld, nothing is what it seems with anyone. After stuff goes down with an monster and everyone's secrets are reveled on who the truly are, Scarlet can finally be at peace with who she is and can finally call a place, home! This book was amazing and for me, this is a more modern fairy tale with a few twists that I loved reading about! The whole having Little Red Riding Hood's story come to life in this story with a huge twist was perfect for this story and to have the characters from the last story (Cinderskella) made it even more perfect or at lest for me it was! It kinda sucks that this series had to end the way it did with the publisher but I so hope that this series can find a new home that I hope can return bigger and brighter than before!! Thank You to Amie & Bethanie Borst for writing a series with fairy tales but in a whole new way of thinking that everyone can love and enjoy!! I received this book from BookSparks : Funky Fall Middle Grade Blog Tour in exchange for a honest review!