As the townsfolk sleep, something creeps into the neighborhood. Hidden in the shadows, its presence is as old as time itself, its intent not born of goodness. Nick, a teenager who fancies himself a detective, wakes to find his carved masterpiece missing. Now a mystery is afoot and Nick has his first assignment, to find out who or what is snatching up the town’s pumpkins and why. Unfortunately, as with all great detectives, obstacles stand in Nick’s way—the neighborhood bully and his cronies and the strange old lady and her dog who share the run-down house at the end of Nick’s block. As Nick investigates, an urban legend unravels . . . the legend of the Pumpkin Thief. Nick fears the legend as he embarks on the most dangerous adventure of his young life. Collecting clues, getting ever closer to the true nature of evil, he learns that curiosity comes with a high price.
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Charles Day is an artist, illustrator, and the owner of Day Media and Publishing, which houses the successful imprints, Evil Jester Press, Evil Jester Comics, and Hidden Thoughts Press. He lives in Long Island, New York.
Read an Excerpt
The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief
By Charles Day
Month9BooksCopyright © 2016 Charles Day
All rights reserved.
Nick sniffed the cold air that had started to settle in and around Chesterville, New York, his quaint, upstate hometown located in the Catskill Mountains. Halloween was one day away, a Friday this year. Nick looked forward to the holiday, one of his favorites, next to Christmas, of course. However, today he had something he enjoyed even better: a great mystery.
Nick flipped through the final pages of yet another mystery novel that fed his mind with exciting characters and great plots. As he sat in bed with his new favorite book held in his sweaty palms, the earth could have exploded into smithereens, his house pulled from its foundation by a tornado — it didn't matter what catastrophe might occur at this moment; Nick found himself fully immersed in the final chapter with his favorite characters.
He loved stories about missing people, crazed or degenerate criminals intent on doing their victims harm, or a detective two clues away from capturing his suspects.
Although he was only twelve, Nick had already completed a good number of mystery novels in his short life. He kept his own personal collection in a large cardboard box on a shelf in his closet, safe above wooden hangers holding football jerseys, dyed T-shirts, and ripped blue jeans, and he was about to add this latest mystery to his library. Just a few pages to go and he would know what these characters were up to ... until he heard a voice from downstairs.
"Nicky, time for dinner! I'm not going to call you again," his mother yelled up the stairs, apparently for the second time. Yes, nothing interrupted his concentration when he neared the end of a good mystery book — except his mom, with her threatening voice.
Nick's mother was not unlike other mothers in the neighborhood. He had some friends whose moms were the same when it came to gathering their families for dinner, but tonight was not the night. He wanted to finish the final pages before stepping back into reality.
"I'll be down in a minute, Ma!" Nick screamed back, but his eyes still focused on the book. Sure, he knew he'd be in trouble if he didn't heed her call. Dad would eventually come upstairs and yell at him for not showing up at the table on time. So he bookmarked the page, took a quick peek at himself in the mirror on his way out of his room, admired the short blond hair, blue eyes, and thin physique — still looking good, guy — then quickly ran downstairs to join his family.
As Nick walked into the dining room, he saw Samantha, his younger sister, still ten but going on sixteen, already seated at the table with a generous portion of meat and potatoes falling over the edge of her plate. Her dark hair, pulled up into pigtails, bobbed as she inhaled the aromas. And, coming out from the kitchen with freshly baked dinner rolls, was Mom.
"Sit down, Nicky," Mom said, passing him by while the smell from those warm rolls filled his nostrils and made his mouth water.
As Nick suspected, Mom, adorned in a silk blouse, yellow skirt, and high heels, was dressed as if she'd just stepped out of one of those beauty magazines scattered about the house. However, he focused on those dinner rolls she'd placed on the table. He had to have one. As he went to grab a roll, Samantha's annoying voice short-circuited his growing appetite to savor the warm goodness.
"Glad you could make it, snot-face," she said, smiling at Nick.
There she was, in all her glory, his pigtailed brat of a sister.
Nick's appetite suddenly disappeared. He stared at Samantha, who continued to smile, and wondered how ... how he could make his sister's life miserable at that very moment.
"That's it, sis. Fill up on all that food you got there on your plate so you can keep getting nice and fat, because —"
"Ma!" Samantha yelled.
"Knock it off, Nicholas. Leave your sister alone and let her eat," Mom said.
Of course, Samantha screaming was always his fault. Whether or not his sister was wrong didn't matter; it seemed that he'd be the guilty one. In fact, Nick knew that even if she stood on the dinner table and kicked the plates full of food to the floor, with his parents witnessing the whole event, he'd still be the guilty one, accused of making her do it.
"Yeah, okay ... I know it's my fault. Even though she called me snot-face, I'm the one who's guilty." Nick gestured, using his hands to show his frustration. "Whatever."
Nick watched his father come in while he argued.
"I don't care much who's at fault; what I want is for everyone to stifle it and eat your food ... understood?" He sat down at the head of the table.
"Ma, have a seat and join us." He looked to his left. "Nick and Samantha, not another word out of you two, or you're both grounded."
That's what Nick wanted to hear — fairness. His dad was harsh when it came to disciplinary things, but he also was fair. Nick could reason with him on occasion, and he liked that.
"Oh, by the way," his father said, looking confused, "I was coming in from the rain and noticed the jack-o'-lantern on the steps out front is missing. Anybody know where it went?"
He knew his dad wanted an answer from him, by the stare he sent deep into Nick's eyes. The Stare of Death!
Nick felt singled out again. Sure, Dad, blame it on me. Score another win for Sam.
Nick heard the drops of water as they exploded on the roof. Loud tapping sounded against the windows from the windswept rain. Halloween is tomorrow. Maybe one of the local punks in the neighborhood took it to use as a flying projectile. I don't know.
Nick figured that since eggs were hard to come by on Halloween, especially for kids his age, it had to be a teenager who'd stolen their pumpkin to toss around instead. That would make a nice mess on some unsuspecting neighbor's driveway.
Then it hit him. Here was his chance to find out who may have taken the carved-out pumpkin and, just maybe, assist in the apprehension of the punk. After eating most of his dinner, Nick excused himself from the table and ran up to his room to gather a few items.
He shut his door, surprised his parents didn't question his early departure from their nightly dinner ritual. Not even an evil eye glanced his way from his mom. That had certainly made him feel better. No need to get on Mom's bad side.
There was another good reason to venture out and start his investigation: to be far away from his sister.
She was trouble.
Besides, there was a mystery to solve, the case of the missing pumpkin, and he figured he'd start by checking to see if any of his neighbors were missing their pumpkins.
The new mystery reminded him of the stories he'd heard among his classmates: the urban legend of the Pumpkin Thief. He'd cut out an article about this legend from the school's newsletter a few years ago, when he'd first heard the story, intrigued by the creepiness of it all.
Nick wanted to read the article again. He went to his desk and rummaged through his stack of papers until he located the piece of tattered print, written by some kid, a Jeffery Beamer, in the Journalism Club. He'd certainly done his research on the urban legend. Nick re-read the whole thing while standing.
"Legend of the Pumpkin Thief, by Jeffery Beamer.
"One thing that truly amazes me is urban legends. I've heard a few good ones over the years, some from watching TV, others from Googling urban legends. So when some of my older friends in school shared with me the Pumpkin Thief legend, I just had to do a little bit of research. And this is what I found.
"Legend has it that around Halloween, this evil creature, the Pumpkin Thief — a tall, green-bean-thin figure in a black suit and large, orange tie, with a massive orange pumpkin for a head and carved-out eyes, nose, and jagged mouth — would sneak into a town of his choosing and snatch up the pumpkins at night. He'd collect as many as he could hold, then he'd carry them away to a secret location.
"Why did he snatch up all the pumpkins? Well, my dear readers, folklore said it had to do with him trying to stop the townsfolk from using them to ward off evil spirits. You see, without the pumpkins to protect their homes, they were prey to all the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins that float around on Halloween, having fun on the one night when they get to celebrate all things horror. They run amok and frighten trick-or-treaters. It's their night, and the Pumpkin Thief does what he can to allow them to have fun on this special night.
"Now, although the urban legend has been discredited, I was able to retrieve some stories from people who said they have evidence that he is indeed real.
"It appears that a few local towns had confirmed that this Pumpkin Thief visited them. They had their pumpkins stolen, and on Halloween night, weird things happened to a few of the townsfolk. Some said they saw ghosts peering into their homes through the windows. One person claimed that floating chased about his bedroom. Another said his doorbell kept ringing, but no one was there. I even found a few photos from a nearby town that showed strange, large, orb-type lights floating above their homes on Halloween night.
Of course, experts discredited these allegations. It seems no one had concrete evidence of a Pumpkin Thief caught red-handed grabbing pumpkins; nonetheless, the legend continues. Which town will be next?
Nick stopped reading. He had enough to go on. One missing pumpkin certainly did not qualify as a visit from the Pumpkin Thief. But it was kind of cool, getting all worked up the night before the holiday, a special holiday devoted to celebrating evil and dead things. And the article intrigued him. Maybe I should look into this some more, find out who else might have been visited by this legend since Jeffery wrote the article. I need to track down this kid. I'm sure he's got more to tell.
He replaced the article on the pile of papers and went to pack his jacket pockets with all the detective tools he'd need for tonight: a flashlight, cell phone, and a small pair of binoculars. Those were all he had, so far. He'd ordered some other items out of one of his detective comic books, but they hadn't shipped yet. He loved all the detective gadgetry!
He knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. He wanted to be a detective with the police department. He wasn't sure how to get there, but between his parents, teachers, and those guidance counselors they had in the big high school he'd be eventually attending, he'd find his way. Once he had the title of detective, and access to all that high-tech gadgetry he'd seen on his favorite TV shows, he'd be happier than an ant in a picnic basket.
And now that his family's pumpkin had gone missing, most likely stolen, he'd been given the perfect opportunity for an early taste of detective work. Just the thought of it excited him as he began preparations for tonight's quick investigation.
Nick sat on his bed for a moment longer, still imagining how, one day, he'd succeed at what he wanted to do. Detective work. The girl. The cars. The life.
Nick had to stop thinking so much about the future and instead concentrate on solving the mystery afoot. He already had an idea about who may have put their grubby hands on his pumpkin. Lou, the bully of his neighborhood! He stood and walked out of his room, closing the door behind him, then to the top of the stairs. But when he approached the top step, he saw his evil little sibling with the pigtails at the bottom, looking straight up at him.
Samantha put both hands on her hips and smiled. "Where are you going? I'm telling."
"You've got to be kidding me, Sam. What is your problem? You're ten, but sometimes you act like a spoiled baby. Do you really hate me that much?"
Nick hoped a little guilt would soften his sister up, and possibly keep her from saying anything to their parents. She seemed to have a relentless desire to make his life a living mess
"You're playing stupid detective again, right?" She smiled, her arms folded. "Well, you're going to need me if you want to solve a mystery because I know how to be a real detective." She continued to smile while blocking Nick's exit.
He knew her motive. She wanted to follow her big brother through a night of detective work, a complete gathering of clues, and hopefully witness a crime get solved through the quick actions of her detective brother.
He also figured she'd tell all her friends that her older brother could solve any crime that dared to enter her neighborhood. He could see it in her eyes. "Yeah, sure. Get your coat and let's go. It's getting dark out."
Nick wasn't the least bit happy about having to drag Samantha along, but he didn't want her telling her friends and their parents any lies about his motives. Besides, she might be able to help keep an eye on things.
* * *
Nick and Samantha left the house together, first telling his parents he was taking his sister across the street to his friend's house. He knew they would've noticed Samantha missing, with her always under their feet.
As they crossed the street, Nick took out his flashlight. He directed its yellow beam to his neighbors' stoops and porches in search of pumpkins. He pointed the light at each home, every porch that may have displayed a pumpkin, as he walked farther down his street, Samantha by his side.
He was having trouble getting a clear view. Although the rain had stopped, a misty fog had taken over, reflecting the beam of his flashlight back into his eyes. That made it difficult for him to check for pumpkins, even with some porch lights on. But as far as he could tell, none of the houses had any pumpkins on their porches, either. That bothered him.
Eventually he made it to the last house on the left, the home of Mrs. Needlewhitter, an eighty-seven-year-old widow who hated children. Nick knew she was a mean old lady, and he usually did his best to steer clear of her. Tonight was different. He needed to check her porch, just like he'd checked the others.
Nick slowly approached the gate, then jumped back in sheer fright, pulling his sister to the ground with him. Baxter, the old lady's German Shepherd, slammed up against the fence, barking, snarling, and showing off his white canines.
Samantha cried and screamed, "I want to go home!"
Her loud voice made the dog bark even more.
"Come on, sis, let's go. He can't hurt you. He's behind the fence," Nick said, lifting her up off the wet grass that left a fresh, green stain on the knees of her white pants. He shined his flashlight on Mrs. Needlewhitter's porch, noticing a few smashed pumpkins by her bottom stoop.
Could that be it? Had he found the culprit? An eighty-seven-year-old, half-crippled, almost blind, gray-haired ... pumpkin thief?
Baxter stood on his hind legs, his massive front paws hanging over the top of the gate, snarling and barking at Nick as he came closer for a better look. He shined his flashlight in Baxter's eyes, turning them red as blood, reminding him of a movie he'd seen last week on the Chiller Channel about this dog gone bad, evil incarnate, determined to do harm to those who'd messed with him while he was still a pup.
Nick shook this thought from his head and, instead, focused his attention on the front porch.
The porch light turned on.
"What's going on out there, Baxter boy? You see trespassers, is that it?" Mrs. Needlewhitter yelled through the screen door. "Get 'em, boy. Rip 'em to shreds. Dirty rat punks."
Nick couldn't understand why she said what she did, but he wasn't waiting around to find out what would happen next. He grabbed hold of his sister and ran across the street, not looking back as they sprinted home. He still heard the old lady's dog, barking in the distance.
When they reached their house, Nick walked his sister up the front porch steps, and then opened the door. He gave his tearful sister a nudge inside. "Go, and don't say a word to Mom or Dad, you hear?" She didn't look back or reply as she walked indoors.
He quickly shut the door, then sat down on his front steps to think of what he needed to do next. He'd found a few broken and smashed pumpkins, and Mrs. Needlewhitter might just be the pumpkin culprit, but why?
How could she manage to sneak around and grab all those pumpkins? Or could this be the work of Lou, the bully? Or worse. Has the Pumpkin Thief chosen this town for this Halloween? My town? Now Nick had even more reason to find this Jeffery Beamer.
Excerpted from The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief by Charles Day. Copyright © 2016 Charles Day. Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed reading this book - it's perfect for young adults because while it's about Halloween and has some scary themes, it's not violent and it's not horror. Nick is a normal kid with the exception that he loves to investigate things. He is kind of a young Sherlock Holmes. And when all of the town pumpkins start disappearing Nick decides he must figure out who is doing it. There is a legend of the Pumpkin Thief and when Nick discovers it he can't believe that could be true ... but what else can account for the missing pumpkins? There is an old lady that is not a fan of the kids or anyone being on her property and she will send out her dog to get them anytime. In between investigating Nick is also dealing with real-life problems like a bully who won't leave him alone and keeps threatening him, making Nick a little scared to walk around alone. But he continues working on the case and eventually he and his friends discover the truth behind what is happening and solve the case. It's really a great read for all ages, I enjoyed it at 40 years of age :) The characters are well-written and you can really engage with their personalities and circumstances. And of course the bullying theme and resolving conflict is a strong theme in the book. ***I received a complimentary ebook in exchange for my honest review.***
I have mixed emotions about this book. I read it twice because I felt my adult-ism may have skewed my opinion, so the second time, I tried to read it as a 10 or 12-year-old. Reading it from that perspective, I could see where the book would be entertaining to that age group. The pace wasn't bogged down with unnecessary dialogue or scenery. The characters were snarky and interesting, and the plot was scary without being overly so, which makes it a good introductory read for those younger kids who are interested in spooky stories but don't want to be too terrified they can't sleep at night. With that said, I still found the story not as engaging as I had hoped. I do read a good deal of middle-grade books so I'm not new to the age group, or the books available to them. While the pace on this one was quick, I thought maybe it moved too fast. The story is also told from several points of view, which is ok with me, but I almost wish the pace had slowed down a tad so we could learn more about each character. For example, there is a scene with Lou, this bully in the neighborhood, and we get a bleak look at his life with his dad. We get a brief glimpse at the dynamics, and it's not pleasant, but it is almost lost in the story. What's worse is that it didn't stir any empathy or sympathy within me. It was kind of like one of those "well, that stinks" moments, and then it was gone. I understand that the author didn't want to linger on the point as it wasn't part of the tale of the pumpkin thief, but I wondered why it was thrown in for such a brief second only to be forgotten. I didn't care for Mrs. Needlewhitter and her dog, Baxter. This rifle-toting old lady never became a loveable character to me. I wanted to empathize with her, too, but never quite got there. As for the plot, it was good. The story really came to life Halloween night when all the ghouls and goblins and the Pumpkin Thief came out to play. That's when Nick, his pesky sister, Samantha, and their friends really get the spooks. However, I thought the unveiling of the Pumpkin Thief was a bit of a letdown. I was expecting someone more sinister, someone that would make me gasp and think, "No freaking way!" Overall, it was a good story. I'm sure 10-12-year-olds will enjoy it. Regardless of my feelings about the story, the author must be doing something right as the book was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel in 2012. For me, I would have liked something a bit more engaging, scarier, with a little more mystery and substance. I give it 3 1/2 stars. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The beautiful cover image got my attention, so I knew I had to read this one. Bearing in mind that the story aims at young readers, the simple writing was easy to follow. The very descriptive language makes it easy to follow what happens and what Nick experiences, however sometimes it felt a bit repetitive and overly detailed, as if explaining things to an unknowing toddler instead of a child who can already read and imagine on its own. The characters were simple - the bully, the weird old lady, the unsure boy with heroic ambitions, but I guess that is still ok with a children's tale. The Pumpkin Thief was scary, but not too much, and of course the ending was a happy one (to prevent nightmares ;). All in all a nice addition for kids who like creepy stories, especially around Halloween time, but not one to last - they will outgrow it soon. (I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)
Nick, an aspiring detective and self-proclaimed protector of the neighborhood, has the world's most complicated Halloween ahead of him. A few things on his list: attempt to discover who stole all the pumpkins in the neighborhood, makes sense of an urban legend about a pumpkin headed spirit summoner, keep his annoying little sister out of the way, woo the cute girl on the bus, and avoid the school bully who has singled him out for a beating. This night is more than enough to keep a 12-year-old kid occupied on the spookiest night of the year. THE LEGEND OF THE PUMPKIN THIEF is an exciting look in to the minds and imaginations of young kinds on the brink of young adulthood and is a fun, if not anxious read. Although many have attributed this book as a young adult novel, I would more rightly place it in the youth horror category along side R.L. Stein's Goosebumps. The themes are not quite dynamic enough to enthrall teenagers and other young adults, but kinds in the latter part of elementary school and junior high will find this read engaging and fun. Nick faces many of the trials of your typically American adolescent, and a few not so typical ones, which allows him to be relatable. The pairing of young detective fiction and horror writing makes for a fun read that will be interesting for young kids looking for something besides flirting vampires for change.
I'd just like to start up front by saying I like the story. Here was beginning grump about the book. The cover. The big honking publisher logo and "YA HORROR" on the top completely take away from the cover itself. And then the "of the" screams ROMANCE NOVEL... which this isn't. So from the moment I looked at the book I felt like someone should slap the cover designer! As for the story itself, I love it. It's a good young teen read. I don't think it fits the title of YA because it feels like it is more of a middle grade book. I talked to the author and he said Nick was originally 14 in the book but the publisher suggested the age bump... Bad call, Noble YA, bad call. The book is written in a tone that suggests the original age of the protagonist. Knowing this, I came to realize that even though the cover takes away from the story and the main character's age was tampered with in a way that screws with the feel of the story- the story is still really good. It's creepy in a good way. The kind of way that makes you wonder if this legend really exists and if he does, will he be jacking your pumpkins? Overactive imagination here! Believe me, when I stopped reading, the light was on and I was seriously considering waking up my husband because there had to be something outside or under the bed or even in the closet (we won't mention that I can see almost my entire interior of my closet from my bed). It is a great Halloween read, which is right around the corner. Nick is a great character (did I mention I hate the fact that the age was changed, yet? I do.). I love how he thinks and his goals for the future. I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE his little sister. Having been the little sister, I think Charles Day nailed it! :0) So I suggest this book to anyone that likes a good young teen read with creepy elements. If you don't like creepy stuff, stay away. If you're looking for a YA book in the sense of the main character feeling the part of a 17 year old-ish, then I'd suggest a different book. Or maybe you can get passed that little age issue. It's a good read either way, really. I just hate when outside sources screw with good aspects of a book because they think it might sell more- which is what I suspect happened here. *I received this book in exchange for an honest review*
Delightful! Aimed at a target audience of YA readers who enjoy horror, this novel embraces that audience but is also literate and pacy enough to appeal to adult readers such as myself (perhaps, I should say, even older adult readers <smile>). I’ve really enjoyed reading “Legend of the Pumpkin Thief,” an excellent first outing into the YA field for an accomplished horror author. Mr. Day knows his characters, and draws them well with swift and perceptive strokes. I particularly enjoyed the crotchety elderly neighbor, Mrs. Needlewhitter (even her name holds such possibilities) and her massive watchdog Baxter. I empathized with protagonist Nick, who even as an adolescent has his future plans well in hand (better than many adults!) and “walked with him” as he tramped his town looking for clues to the “mystery.” But what stole the show for me I think was the inimitable way in which Author Day developed the “Pumpkin Thief,” as a small-town urban legend which amazingly crossed communities, appearing in one town now, in another town later, and in yet a different town the following year, almost as it the Legend itself were a traveling carnival of horrors. PS to fascinated readers: Get this one. It’s worth reading, and later re-reading.