A quirky Dungeons & Dragons-inspired adventure that will appeal to gamers and readers of the Mr. Lemoncello's Library series.
What if your favorite fantasy game characters showed up on your doorstep IRL?
Sixth graders Ralph, Jojo, Noel, Persephone, and Cammi are hooked on fantasy tabletop role-playing games. When they somehow manage to summon their characters to Ralph's house, things take a truly magical turn!
The five are soon racing around town on a wild adventure that tests their both their RPG skills and their friendship. Will Ralph and crew be able to keep their characters out of trouble? Trying to convince a sticky-fingered halfling rogue not to pickpocket or a six-foot-five barbarian woman that you don't always have to solve conflicts with a two-handed broadsword is hard enough. How will they ever send the adventurers back to their mystical realm?
"Epic...for young fans of Stranger Things."SLJ
"An exciting new adventure exploring friendship...[with] often humorous commentary on social issues."Booklist
"Both funny and heartfelt...[The Game Masters of Garden Place] has as much to offer diehard fans as it does newcomers to fantasy role-playing."Bulletin
About the Author
Denis Markell's first novel for kids was Click Here To Start. His second book is based on his tween son's Dungeons & Dragons game (well, except the part where the characters come to life). . . . He lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn with his wife, illustrator Melissa Iwai, and his son. You can find him on Twitter at @DenisMarkell, and yes, he'd be happy to do a Skype author visit for your kid's class.
Read an Excerpt
Ralph Peter Ginzberg sighed again as he began to put away the papers, pencils, dice, and other Reign of Dragons paraphernalia. He and his friends had been playing the game every weekend during the school year for the last three years.
Jojo had already zipped her warm-up jacket and was looking for her backpack among the pile of coats and book bags by the front door. She was the only one who hadn’t answered.
“You’ll be here next week, right, Jojo?” he called after her.
Jojo answered without looking directly at him. She was doing that a lot these days. Ever since she’d joined the sixth-grade gymnastics team, things had changed. “I’m not sure. I mean, we might have a meet or something. Or practice.”
Noel Carrington looked up from his gaming magazine. Ralph remembered when all he read were Reign of Dragons rule books and fantasy novels. These days he seemed to be more into the newest thing for his gaming console. “You have to be here. We just met the Komach’Kreel!”
There was the beep of a horn, and Jojo looked out the window of the brownstone’s garden-level front room. She waved at the car idling outside. “I gotta go. Perseph, are you coming?”
“Yes!” Persephone Chang heaved her knapsack onto her back. She didn’t have any problem finding it in the pile. Between the sparkly Hamilton and Wicked stickers splayed across it, the plush Simba on the strap, and the gigantic size, it was impossible to miss. It was so large that when she wore it, she looked like a walking backpack with two tiny feet attached.
“Ready to go / To face my fate / The world outside / Will know me!” Persephone sang as she joined Jojo.
The rest gritted their teeth. It wasn’t that Persephone had a bad voice--on the contrary, she had an amazing voice. It was especially cool hearing all that sound coming out of such a small body. The first dozen or so times she’d sung this particular song, it was enjoyable, but she had been singing it nonstop for weeks now.
Ralph went to open the door to let the girls out.
“You have to come,” Ralph persisted.
“What’s the big deal?” Jojo snapped, her soccer bag socking him in the gut as she pushed past him. “Someone else can play Jandia if I’m not here.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Noel said. “You have to play Jandia! No one is as bloodthirsty or fearless as you!”
Persephone looked at her friend as she joined her in the doorway. “That is totally true, Jojo.” Her eyes widened. “Wait! I didn’t say goodbye to Cammi!”
Cameron Sprague had remained silent during all this, which was typical. Persephone rushed over and hugged him. “Do you need a ride too? We can squeeze together.”
“That’s okay,” Cammi said in a small voice. “My mom is coming to get me in an hour.”
“We can call her,” Persephone said, “and she can pick you up at my house! Or maybe we can have a sleepover!”
Persephone certainly wouldn’t have invited any other boy in their grade, but Cammi was different. Most of his friends were girls, and he often spent the night with Persephone or Jojo when his mom and grandmother were working late.
“No, that’s all right,” Cammi insisted. “She said she’d come.”
Ralph noticed that Persephone was whispering something in Cammi’s ear. He nodded.
Just like a wizard, Ralph thought. Cammi loved secrets. Wizards were like that, keeping to themselves, filled with secret knowledge.
“But you’re coming next week, right?” Noel yelled to Jojo from the couch.
“I said I don’t know!” Jojo yelled back from the door. “Now can we go?” Her voice sounded as tight as her ponytail, pulled back for sports.
Persephone ran to the door, caroming off a few walls like a pinball on her way out.
No one at St. Anselm’s School had more energy than Perseph. Ralph never understood how she was able to sit still during the three hours they normally took to play their adventure every Saturday. Okay, mostly sit still. She did have a habit of breaking into song or dancing around the room. Of course she’d picked a bard. Bards sang magical songs that cast powerful spells on the enemy--that role had Persephone’s name written all over it.
Ralph turned back to Noel and Cammi once the girls were gone.
Cammi looked at the floor. “Um, Persephone reminded me to let you know that the play might be starting Saturday rehearsals in a few weeks.”
“Are you kidding me?” Ralph said, a little louder than he meant to.
“We’re not sure!” Cammi answered quickly. “That’s why we didn’t want to, you know, say anything until it was for certain.”
Ralph stared at Cammi. Saturdays had been their day for so long that this was hard to process. “You guys too?”
“We’ll be here next week,” Cammi promised quickly. “She just wanted me to warn you about . . . later. . . . And it would just be for a week or two. . . .”
Ralph slumped down on the couch next to Noel. “Boy, Jojo really doesn’t seem to be as into the game as she used to be.”
“You think?” laughed Noel, grabbing the last of the chips from the bowl Ralph’s parents always left for them. “Maybe you should roll for a perception check.”
This was an inside joke among the hard-core players of Reign of Dragons, or RoD, as they called it. In the game, whenever you wanted to do anything, whether it was looking around a room for potential traps or bringing your sword down on a fearsome demon, you had to roll the dice. The higher you rolled, the greater your chances of success.
Ralph didn’t need to roll the dice to see what was happening around him. It was clear that the game was changing.
Excerpted from "The Game Masters of Garden Place"
Copyright © 2019 Denis Markell.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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