About the Author
Anthony VanArsdale was born and raised near the beaches of south Alabama and to this day enjoys the warm southern temperatures of the Gulf Coast. He has worked as a professional illustrator since 2004, combining traditional and digital media to create illustrations with a "stylized realism." Among his favorite subjects to paint are animals, people, and illustrations that reflect the natural setting of his home.
Read an Excerpt
The Detour of the Elephants
By Gertrude Chandler Warner, Anthony VanArsdale
Albert Whitman & CompanyCopyright © 2017 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
Flight to the Far East
"I wish we could have stayed longer in Italy," ten-year-old Violet Alden said as she watched the streets of Rome flash by from the window of the car.
"I know," Violet's older brother Henry said. "But if there is a bad storm coming, we need to get to the plane right away." Henry, who was fourteen, had received a call from the copilot of the private jet they had been traveling on. Emilio told them to hurry to the airport, because if they didn't take off soon, they might have to stay in Rome for several days. A late-spring ice storm was bearing down on the city. "We'll come back to Rome someday when we can spend more time here. The Reddimus Society is counting on us to deliver the rest of the artifacts safely and as quickly as possible."
A secret society had recruited the Alden children to return stolen art and artifacts to their rightful owners. When the head of the society, Mrs. Silverton, had asked the Aldens to help, she hadn't realized a family of thieves, the Argents, would be trying to get the artifacts away from the children before they could be delivered.
"Yes," twelve-year-old Jessie said. "We'll come back when we don't have to worry about the Argents following us." She was worried because they still had four artifacts left and didn't yet know where to deliver them. With each artifact, they had received clues to help them find its destination. They had already been to New Mexico to deliver a Native American piece of pottery, Egypt to return a valuable figurine of an Egyptian pharaoh, and England to deliver a small gold piece of jewelry from the time Stonehenge was built.
"We'll be back," Benny, the youngest Alden said, "because we threw the coins in the fountain." Mrs. McGregor had told them about the legend that if a person threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, that person would come back to Rome. Benny, who was six, had a lot of fun at the fountain. "I wish I knew where we are going now though," Benny added, sighing. "I like the plane a lot, but we can't just fly around in circles. And I wish Mrs. McGregor were coming with us." Their housekeeper, Mrs. McGregor, had been with them in England and Italy. Benny was sad when she said good-bye to them as they got in the car.
"Remember she promised there will be other people to help us at our next stops," Jessie told him. "Besides, Mrs. McGregor needs to get home. I'm sure Grandfather misses her." The Aldens lived with their grandfather. After their parents had died, the Aldens ran away, afraid their grandfather would be mean. They lived in an old boxcar in the woods until he found them and they discovered he wasn't the least bit mean. He even moved the boxcar to the backyard of his house so they could play in it whenever they wanted.
"Watch must be missing her too," Violet said. "Without us there, Watch will be lonely." Watch was the Aldens' dog. Sometimes he got to go with them on their adventures, but this time it wouldn't have been easy to take him along.
Jessie picked up the package they had received at their hotel right before Emilio called. They had opened it there but hadn't had a chance to work out what the clues meant. "Don't worry, Benny. The answer to our next destination is in here. We just have to figure out what the clues mean. Once we are on the plane, we'll work on it."
The driver took them to the terminal where the private planes were parked. Then an airport official escorted the children out to their plane, where Emilio was waiting at the top of the steps.
He waved when he saw them. "All aboard!" he yelled. It began to rain just as they went up the steps. The rain was very cold.
The pilot, Mr. Ganert, came out of the cockpit. "The front edge of the storm is already here, but we can't take off until we know where we are going," Mr. Ganert said. "I need to file a flight plan. You Aldens are supposed to be so clever; let's hear the plan."
"We're working on it," Jessie said, opening up the package once more. She took out the red silk bag with a gold design on it that held the clues.
Mr. Ganert frowned at the sight of the bag. None of the children liked Mr. Ganert. He was a good pilot, but he was not very friendly. He hadn't wanted the Aldens to be in charge of the artifacts, and they knew he didn't trust them to keep the items safe.
"Well, hurry up," Mr. Ganert grumbled as he went back into the cockpit.
Jessie opened the bag and took out the clues, which were some wooden stamps, an ink pad, and an envelope with a riddle inside. The envelope had a little drawing of an owl on it. Reddimus Society agents used the owl on their messages because owls moved quietly and without anyone noticing, just like the agents tried to do.
Six of the seven wooden stamps had letters on them. Benny picked up the one without a letter. It pictured a dragon instead. "A country of many dragons? Dragons aren't real. I wish they were. I'd like to go to a country full of dragons."
Violet looked over Benny's shoulder to get a better look at the stamp. "This dragon doesn't have wings. Pictures I've seen of dragons show them with wings."
"It's really long and skinny too," Benny said. "It almost looks like a snake with legs and arms."
Jessie handed Henry the envelope. "I'll get my laptop going. If this riddle is like the others, we are going to have to research parts of it. Would you read it out loud again?"
Henry took out the riddle and started to read.
You are going to need to be very, very clever.
There will be riddles here, riddles there, riddles everywhere.
The path grows more twisted to confuse those who follow you.
He looked up. "That part means the Argents. It sounds as if we will have to solve more riddles than before to find the place to deliver the next artifact."
"I hope we can do it," Violet said. "The riddles have been hard."
"We'll manage," Henry said. He kept reading.
Something that changed the world started with blocks like these,
Though the symbols carved on them few could read today.
To have books, you must first have a way to make words.
Handwriting is good, but to spread words far and wide, something more is needed.
Figure out what these blocks do and where they first were made,
And you will find your next destination — a city where the dragons ruled.
Violet picked up the ink pad and one of the stamps. "We can stamp letters with these and make words. I don't understand the invention part. Is it where wooden stamps were invented?"
"I think I get it," Henry said. He read part of the riddle again. "To have books, you must first have a way to make words.
"It's printing. Wooden stamps like these were the way things like scrolls and then books were first printed. Later on, the stamps were made of metal, and then the printing press was invented, but it all started with these stamps."
"Henry is right. We need to find out where printing was invented," Jessie said. She typed a question into her laptop. "It's China!" she announced. "Printing was invented in China."
"We're going to China!" Henry called to Emilio and Mr. Ganert.
They came out of the cockpit. "Are you sure?" Mr. Ganert asked. "That is a long way. I had hoped we were going somewhere closer."
"We're sure," Jessie said.
Mr. Ganert sighed. "I'll start on a flight plan. You'd better figure out which city in China. It's a big country." A gust of wind shook the plane. "And you'd better figure it out fast," he called over his shoulder as he went back into the cockpit.
"It's going to be hard to figure out," Henry said. "There are thousands of cities and towns in China. It's a big country, like Mr. Ganert said. It's about the same size as the United States."
"I'm sure you can do it," Emilio said. "I suppose I'd better go help with the flight plan." He wentback to the cockpit.
"We have a C, a J, an E, an I, a G, an N, an A, an H, and a B," Benny said, looking at each stamp.
"We know we're going to China. We can spell that out." Violet sorted the letters, taking out the ones for China and stamping the word on a piece of paper. "That leaves J, G, E, and B," she said as she stamped those letters one by one on another piece of paper.
"That isn't much of a clue," Henry said. "There is only one vowel. Jessie, can you find a list of Chinese cities on your laptop?"
They tried all different combinations of the letters but couldn't find any cities that matched. The wind grew stronger, and they could hear pellets of icy rain pinging on the airplane.
Benny picked up the stamp with the N on it. "This stamp is scratched," he said. "It has two little marks in one corner." His siblings weren't paying attention. They had gone back to reading the riddle.
"The riddle said something about a city where the dragons ruled. What does that mean?" Violet asked.
"Let me see if I can figure it out," Jessie said, going back to her laptop.
Benny looked at the other stamps. The I had three scratches on it, but the others didn't have any.
"I found something," Jessie said. "China used to be ruled by emperors, and some emperors thought they descended from dragons. The emperors lived in Beijing, and that's the capital of China. That could be the city where the dragons ruled."
"How do you spell Beijing?" Benny asked. "Do these letters help spell it?" He pushed the two stamps with the scratches on them toward Jessie. "They have scratches on them. What if we use the N two times and the I three times? My name has two Ns in it. I would use the same stamp twice to spell my name."
"Benny, that's so smart!" Jessie said. "You're right. We can use each stamp more than once. That's what they'd have to do when they were printing in the old days. They wouldn't have had lots of stamps for the same letter." She moved the stamps around. "Yes, they do spell Beijing. We're going to the capital city of China!"
Emilio came out of the cockpit, and the children told him their destination.
"I'll let the Reddimus Society know so they can make arrangements for someone to meet you when we land," Emilio said. Mrs. Silverton's granddaughter, Trudy, handled all the arrangements for their travel from her office at the Reddimus Society headquarters. She was very good at making sure the Aldens managed to get to everywhere they needed to go. And once they had arrived at a destination, she made sure they had places to stay and people to drive them around.
"We'll have to stop partway to get the right paperwork to go to China," Emilio added, "and for fuel and some sleep, so buckle up and settle in."
"I'm excited to go to China," Violet said. "The Argents won't be able to follow us there. They won't know where we've gone."
"I hope not," Jessie said, "though they did manage to follow us to our other stops."
Emilio and Mr. Ganert took turns flying the plane. Mr. Ganert never talked to them. When he wasn't flying, he went to a seat right behind the cockpit and napped. Benny thought Mr. Ganert had a mean look on his face even when he was sleeping.
Violet played with the wooden stamps, trying to see how many words she could make. Emilio came out of the cockpit, sat down, and picked up the dragon stamp. "Nice," he said. "Say, would you like to hear a joke?"
Jessie knew even if they said no, he'd tell one anyway. Emilio loved jokes, and the sillier the joke, the better. Benny thought they were all funny.
"What do peas and dragons have in common?" Emilio asked. He had a grin on his face.
Benny thought for moment. "I don't know. Are they both green?"
Emilio's grin grew bigger. "Good answer, but that's not the one I'm thinking of. Peas and dragons are alike because you can't balance either one on a fork!" Emilio burst out laughing. He always laughed at his own jokes.
Everyone else laughed too, mainly because it was funny to see Emilio so excited about his joke.
They read, played games, and watched a movie on the flight. Emilio came out of the cockpit at different points to help them make meals and to talk. The plane had a small galley in the back stocked with all sorts of good food and snacks. After several hours, they landed in a country called Kazakhstan to collect the paperwork they needed and so the pilots could rest. They spent the night in a hotel at the airport, leaving very early the next morning.
The rest of the flight was bumpy and not very much fun. Everyone buckled their seat belts and sat back to watch another movie to take their minds off the rough air. When the plane rose up and then moved down all of the sudden, a bowl of popcorn on the table tipped over and some of the popcorn spilled out. They waited until Mr. Ganert said they could move around again before they cleaned up the mess.
Emilio helped them. "Even spilled popcorn has a use," he said. "Would you like to see a game?"
"Sure!" Benny said.
"Jessie, there are some small red plastic cups in the galley. Would you get them?" Emilio asked.
Jessie brought Emilio the cups. He set them out on the table upside down. "This is called a shell game. It's a good game to practice your skills at observing," he told them. "Reddimus agents have to stay sharp, so anything you can do to practice helps. The shell game is very old. Some people think it first became popular in ancient Greece. But they didn't play it with cups and popcorn. They probably used nut shells and dried peas."
"I've seen this," Henry said. "It's called sleight of hand."
"That's right," Emilio said.
"What does that mean?" Benny asked.
"Sleight can mean to trick someone by being good at moving your hands very quickly," Henry explained. "It's what magicians do with a lot of their tricks."
"Yes," Emilio said. "That's how many of them start out. You start this trick by putting an object under the middle cup." He lifted up the cup and put a piece of popcorn under it. "Now, pay attention. See if you can keep track of where it goes." He slid the cups into different positions so fast it was hard to keep track of them. Then he did it several more times, each time moving the cups very quickly.
"I lost track," Jessie said.
"Me too," Henry said.
"I think it's under that one." Benny pointed at the one on the right.
"No, it's back under the middle one," Violet said. "I'm sure of it."
Emilio picked up the cup on the right. There was nothing under it. He picked up the one on the left. There was nothing under that one either. His hand hovered over the middle cup.
"It's under there!" Violet said. "I was watching it."
Emilio picked up the cup. The piece of popcorn was back where it had started.
"Good job, Violet," Henry said.
"Now I'll do it again." Emilio moved the cups closer to the edge of the table and started the trick again. When he was finished, all the Aldens were sure the popcorn was under the cup on the left. Emilio picked up that cup. Nothing was there. "See which one it's under, Benny."
Benny picked up the other two. There was no popcorn! "Where did it go?" Benny cried.
Emilio bent down and picked up the piece of popcorn off the floor. "I moved the cups closer to the edge of the table so I could slide it all the way off. The audience is convinced it has to be under one of the cups. They don't think about looking for it somewhere else."
"That's a good trick!" Violet said.
"It is," Henry said. It gave him the beginning of an idea. He sat back to ponder.
By the time the plane was ready to land in Beijing, everyone was ready to get off and start the next part of their mission. Once the plane had landed and arrived at an airport gate, Emilio came out of the cockpit. "I've talked to Mrs. Silverton. You are in for a surprise," he said.
"Are you going to tell us what it is?" Violet asked.
Emilio smiled. "No, you will have to wait." He looked out one of the windows. "Trudy has arranged for a man named Mr. Shen who works at the airport to take you to get your passports checked and to direct you to the main terminal. I see a man waiting. I'm sure that's him."
They collected all their things and went down the plane's staircase to meet Mr. Shen.
He greeted them and took them into the terminal. After they were through the customs line, Mr. Shen said, "We are meeting the rest of your party in the Imperial Garden Pavilion. Come this way, please."
"Who is the rest of our party?" Jessie asked.
"I'm sorry, I don't know their names," Mr. Shen said. "You will see them very soon."
"There is a garden inside the airport?" Henry asked.
"Yes," Mr. Shen replied, "it is built to look like one of the gardens at the Imperial Palace. Of course, it is much smaller. It's right over here."
"There are buildings inside this building!" Benny said. "Except they don't have any walls." Ahead of them were some small buildings with roofs held up by red pillars. The buildings were surrounded by rocks and looked out over a small pond.
"The buildings are called pavilions," Mr. Shen explained. "I see the members of your party." Three people stood in one of the pavilions waving at them.
Excerpted from The Detour of the Elephants by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Anthony VanArsdale. Copyright © 2017 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
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.
Table of Contents
Contents1. Flight to the Far East,
2. A Riddle over Dumplings,
3. The Place of Many Puzzles,
4. Cable Car Caper,
5. On the Earth Dragon's Back,
6. The Man in the Green Van,
7. A New Suspicion,
8. The Detour of the Elephants,
9. Caught in the Act,
10. Back on Track,