Memo: For Ministry of Strange, Unusual, and Impossible Things Operatives Only
A series of strange incidents have been reported in Belfast:
1. Oddball kids are going missing
2. There are several unconfirmed signs of pirates.
3. A wild bear known to be a very sore loser at musical statues has escaped from the museum and is on the rampage.
Fortunately, our newest recruits, Jack Pearse, a curious boy skilled at logical thinking and seeing what's actually there, and Trudy Emerson, the most dangerous girl in his school, are on the case. As per Ministry policy, they are currently being trained in the use of The Speed (patent pending) and will have full access to Ministry supplies (assuming they manage to navigate the paperwork without going insane), so we are confident that they will succeed in their mission to discover and foil this villainous plot. Please provide all assistance possible, as A) they don't know who they are actually up against, B) the world is much stranger than they realized, and C) they are only 12 and have to be in bed by 10 p.m.
P.S.Could all Ministry operatives who have borrowed dinosaurs in the past two weeks please return them? We're running low on inventory.
A thrilling and hilarious middle grade story, The Ministry of SUITs by Paul Gamble gives its readers a silly, but oddly thoughtful adventure they surely won't forget. But the wackiness doesn't end here at allit all continues in the sequel, The Monster's Daughter.
"A zany explosion of hilarity." Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series
"It's like Douglas Adams wrote Men in Black but with Pirates, Dinosaurs and the Tooth Fairy. Genius, but a comic evil genius methinks." Mo O'Hara, author of the My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish series
"Gamble’s debut novel is overflowing with offbeat humor...An entertaining read for fans of humorous adventure, such as Michael Buckley’s “NERDS” series." School Library Journal
About the Author
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The Ministry of Suits
By Paul Gamble
Feiwel & FriendsCopyright © 2016 Paul Gamble
All rights reserved.
A LONELY SHOE MONDAY
It was morning and Jack's head was still hidden under his duvet. It wasn't that Jack didn't like mornings. It was just that he would have preferred them if they happened slightly later in the day. Maybe half past eleven. Possibly even later on the weekends.
"Jack! Time to get up," Jack's mother yelled from downstairs. "You don't want to be late for school."
It was a strange thing for his mother to yell. After all, being late for school was something that didn't worry Jack in the slightest.
Rubbing his eyes with both hands, he crawled from under the duvet and peeped out of his curtains. The sun was beaming down through a cloudless sky. Jack found this annoying, as it meant that P.E. would be outside today. Getting sweaty and tired was bad, but getting sweaty and tired and muddy was even worse.
As Jack looked out the window he noticed a single shoe lying in the middle of the road.
"How did that get there?" he wondered. To Jack, a shoe lying in the middle of the road was annoying. There was no sensible or reasonable explanation for it, and Jack hated unexplained mysteries. When reading detective books he almost always found himself flipping to the last few pages to find out who the murderer was. An unexplained mystery felt almost physically uncomfortable, like an unscratched itch or a crumpled sock inside a shoe.
By the time Jack got downstairs his cereal was getting soggy. Jack's father's mustache appeared over the top of his newspaper. As always, Jack's father's face quickly followed the mustache. Jack's father's face and Jack's father's mustache had a sort of double act going in that way. You rarely saw one without the other.
"Morning, Jack," said the mustache.
"Eat your cereal," said Jack's mother.
Jack poked his cereal with a spoon and frowned. Why did parents always make you do things that you didn't want to do? In Jack's books heroes were almost always orphans, or their parents had been kidnapped, or they just didn't seem to feel the need for parents at all. After all, Peter Pan probably would never have defeated Captain Hook if his parents had been around. They would never have let him use a pointed sword, for a start. And it's almost impossible to kill a maniacal pirate with a pair of safety scissors.
Jack thought that maybe people only ever became heroes because they didn't have parents.
The mustache looked at its watch. "You'll have to get a move on if you want to catch your bus."
"Here's your P.E. kit." Jack's mother handed him a bag. "I washed it."
Jack looked halfheartedly at the bag. It made him wonder about heroes again. If heroes didn't have parents, then who did their laundry? As far as he could remember, Peter Pan never found himself wrestling with an enchanted washing machine and a pair of magically dirty pants.
"Mum," Jack said in his nicest voice, "I don't suppose you could give me a note to get out of P.E.?"
His mother sighed. She had heard this before. "What is it about P.E. that you hate so much?"
"Partly getting muddy, but mainly P.E. teachers."
"Not a good enough reason. So, no note."
It was Jack's turn to sigh as he picked up his schoolbag and P.E. kit. As he was walking out the door he stopped and turned around to his parents. "Mum, how hard is it to do your own laundry? Would it take me a long time to wash my own clothes?"
She arched an eyebrow as she looked at him. "Well, the ironing might take you a while. You wouldn't have much free time if you had to do it."
"I'm glad I'm not a hero, then," Jack said as he left to catch his bus.
The mustache looked at Jack's mother. "That boy gets stranger all the time."
MINISTRY OF S.U.I.T.S HANDBOOK
KILLING WITH SAFETY SCISSORS
Many people will tell you it is impossible to kill pirates with safety scissors. However, it is only almost impossible. You can kill pirates with a pair of safety scissors but you have to persuade them to lie still for an awfully long time before you can achieve it. And even if you do persuade them to lie down in the first place they tend to get bored halfway through and wander off to dig up some treasure or pillage a Caribbean island.CHAPTER 2
AN UNEXPECTED BEAR
Jack ran out the front door with his shirttail flapping inelegantly behind him, making it to the corner just in time to catch the bus. As he walked down the aisle he caught sight of David Sacher, his best friend.
David and Jack had been friends since they met as five-year-olds on the first day of school. So, when it came to going to middle school they had both decided to go to the same one.
They made a strange pair. Jack was about average height for his age with jet-black hair. The odd thing about Jack was that he was always thinking. Whether it was wondering about heroes or wanting to know how a single shoe could get abandoned in the middle of a road, Jack just wanted the world to make sense. Which was, in many ways, a bad thing to want. Because although the world made many things, sense was rarely one of them.
David was generally a lot more relaxed about such things. He didn't particularly care if the world made sense. If David woke up one morning and found a bacon sandwich tree in his back garden, he would not wonder what could have caused such a botanical anomaly. Largely because he would have been looking for a glass-of-milk bush in order to wash his bacon sandwich down.
David was thin and all angles and points. In many ways he resembled a human erector set. It was never a good idea to wander too close to David when he was walking because you never knew when a stray elbow or knee might come popping out of his body and clatter into a soft and fleshy part of you. It wasn't so much that David was excessively clumsy, it was just that he seemed to have been born with a few extra joints in his arms and legs. Whereas the girls in their junior school had exchanged friendship bracelets to show their devotion to each other, Jack's friendship with David was marked with a series of accidental bruises and numbed limbs.
The top of David's head was home to a scraggly shock of dirty-blond hair that unfortunately made him resemble a rather badly constructed scarecrow.
"Hey," said Jack as he sat down beside his friend.
"P.E. today," said David.
"You remembered your kit?"
"I will never forget my kit."
Both David and Jack shuddered at the thought of forgetting their kit. Something truly horrible happened to the children who forgot their kit. Something neither Jack nor David wanted to think about.
* * *
There was a loud screech of brakes and the bus jerked to a stop. Everyone on board rocked forward in their seats. On a normal bus this would have thrown the passengers into chaos with people shouting, screaming, and hurling abuse at each other. This, however, was a school bus, and it was already quite chaotic with a fair amount of general abuse being hurled back and forth. Therefore the sudden stop had actually stunned the bus into silence.
Of course, the silence lasted only for a second before chattering broke out again.
"So, did you watch any TV last night?" asked David.
"The bus has just suddenly ground to a halt and you want to ask me what I saw on TV last night?"
David nodded. "Yes."
"Aren't you the least bit curious as to what's going on?" David thought about this. "Not really. I mean, if it's important, someone will let us know. Right?"
Jack sighed and looked around the bus. Paper planes were being thrown, mobile phones were pinging, and geeks were being tormented by popular kids. Jack wished he could have gone back to his conversation with David, but his natural curiosity forced him to stand up.
Jack's mother had always said that curiosity killed the cat. Jack would then normally point out that a feeling couldn't possibly kill a cat. Jack's mother then normally said Jack thought too much about things, that he had to know everything and that he might very well be obsessive-compulsive. Jack thought about this, decided he needed to know what obsessive-compulsive meant, and looked it up in the dictionary. As far as he understood, an obsessive-compulsive was someone who worried about things all the time. From that moment on, Jack spent a good part of every day worrying that he might be an obsessive-compulsive.
"I can't just sit here and not know," said Jack. "I'm going to see why the bus stopped."
"It might be dangerous," said David.
"I'd rather be in danger than not know." Jack stood up. "Are you coming with me?"
"Might as well. Danger is always the most fun."
At the front of the bus the driver had already opened the door and got out. A line of halted traffic blocked their progress.
"You kids had better get back on the bus," said the driver.
"We will get back on the bus ... just not yet." Jack always obeyed adults ... eventually.
Jack walked along the line of cars. He was on his tiptoes, straining his neck trying to see what was happening. He'd been expecting an accident, but when he got to the front of the queue it was something rather different. David was shocked by what he saw and started hyperventilating. He briefly fumbled in his pocket for his inhaler before he remembered that he wasn't actually asthmatic.
There was a large bear on all fours in the center of the road. It was enormous, almost the size of a horse, and had a shaggy black coat. It roared and its open mouth looked like a cave with ivory-white stalactites for teeth. Drool fell from its maw in a most unbecoming way.
Looking at the bear's razor-sharp teeth, Jack suddenly became aware of how tasty his arms and legs might look. For a brief moment he had a stunning psychological insight into what it must feel like to be a Gummy Bear.
"What is a bear doing in the middle of the city?" Jack whispered.
"That isn't the right question to be asking," said David. "The question you should be asking is: Can we get away without being eaten?"
"All right, don't panic. We'll just move toward one of the cars and they'll let us inside. We'll be safe."
The bear reared up onto its hind legs and let out a roar that made the hair on the back of Jack's neck stand up. After the roar, David and Jack heard a chorus of clicks as the doors of the surrounding cars locked.
"All right," said Jack nervously, "now that all the cowards in the cars have locked their doors we're going to need another plan."
He looked around. The people in the cars had stopped looking at the bear and had started looking at the two boys. At first Jack was confused. He thought that they should have been watching a bear. Frightening as the bear was, it was an interesting and unique thing to look at.
Then he realized.
A grizzly bear was a frightening and unique thing to look at. However, an even more frightening and unique thing to look at was two twelve-year-olds who were just about to be eaten alive by a grizzly bear.
"I say we try and make a run for it," said David.
"Remember that documentary we saw about bears on BBC 2?" asked Jack. "They can run at about thirty miles an hour. Do you think you can outrun him?"
David shook his head very slightly. "I wasn't planning on outrunning him. I was just planning on outrunning you."
"Oh," said Jack. Then he realized what his friend meant. "Oh great, and then I get eaten."
"If you're lucky, he won't eat all of you. He looks quite well fed. He might just chew on one of your arms for a while."
"Hopefully the right one," said Jack. "I just got this watch for my birthday and Mum would kill me if I lost it."
"How about we both run in different directions and hope that confuses him," David suggested. "On three."
"Okay," Jack agreed. He didn't have a better plan.
David started counting. "One, two ..."
Suddenly Jack noticed movement behind the bear. "Wait a minute."
There was a man lying on the ground behind the bear. He was dressed in a black pin-striped suit and had an umbrella lying beside him. His chest was rising and falling, although only very slightly. That meant he wasn't dead yet, but if they left him, Jack had no doubt he would be. The man had already been attacked by the bear and his clothes were torn and covered in bloodstains.
"There's a person lying behind the bear."
"Good," said David. "Hopefully he'll eat him instead of us."
"We have to help him."
David let out a little groan. "Jack, do you have to be a hero? You do this all the time. Remember the time you tried to defend that little kid from the gang of bullies?"
"We saved him, didn't we?"
"Well, yes, but we ended up being thrown into the trash bins. Jack, you're my best friend. But you aren't a hero!"
"I know I'm not a hero, David; I don't do my own laundry."
The bear roared and took two lumbering steps toward the boys. Jack looked around to see if there was anything he could use to defend himself. Ideally a tranquilizer gun.
The road was deserted. Everyone had fled into the local stores or was safely locked inside their cars. It should be noted that the people inside their cars were not quite as safe as they thought they were. Bears have been observed in the wild smashing windows to get to food inside cars. Essentially the people in the cars looked to the bear a little bit like the way baked beans in a tin look to humans.
There was a building site to Jack's right. The builders had abandoned all their tools and clambered up the scaffolding, from where they safely watched the unfolding drama. A large nail gun was lying on the ground where a builder had dropped it.
Jack looked at the other side of the road. There was a small French-style café with a few tables and rickety chairs outside.
He took a deep breath and a feeling of certainty came over him.
"Right, David, I've got a plan. The minute I move you start running in the opposite direction." Without any further hesitation, Jack sprang into action.
MINISTRY OF S.U.I.T.S HANDBOOK
BADLY CONSTRUCTED SCARECROWS
Secretly all scarecrows wish to improve their construction slightly and get a better job as a store mannequin. The work is similar (standing about all day), the hours are similar (again ... all day), but there are two important differences between the job of scarecrow and store mannequin. Firstly, a store mannequin gets to work indoors, which is a huge benefit in our uncertain climate. Secondly, store mannequins get to wear all sorts of delightful new clothes whereas scarecrows end up with a variety of hand-me-downs that are inevitably full of holes and patches. Shabby though they may be, scarecrows still have a sense of self-esteem.CHAPTER 3
THE CHAIR OF DESTINY
Jack leapt forward and David took off running in the opposite direction. Out of the corner of his eye Jack saw David running. Many of their school friends had discussed what David's body had been built for. It certainly wasn't running. Watching him run was a bit like watching an episode of You've Been Framed. You knew something was going to go wrong, you just weren't sure of exactly when. Predictably enough, David fell over in a heap of flailing arms and legs.
Now Jack's plan had to work; otherwise they would both end up as a bear's breakfast.
The builders who were watching from the safety of some scaffolding had expected Jack to leap into the back of their tool van and grab something from there. Maybe a sledgehammer to smack the bear with. Maybe he would go for the dropped nail gun to try and shoot the bear.
But Jack didn't go for the tool van. Instead, Jack leapt toward the café. One of the builders wondered if maybe he just wanted a croissant.
Jack did not want a croissant.
The bear let out a final roar and moved toward him like an enormous, foul-smelling, furry carpet. Jack grabbed one of the rather rickety wooden chairs that was sitting outside the café.
The bear took a swipe at Jack with one enormous paw, its claws glistening with blood. Jack swayed backward. The claw swished the air past Jack's face. A drop of bear sweat landed on the tip of Jack's nose.
The builders watching from the safety of their scaffold cheered, but Jack didn't feel elated. He knew that he had avoided death, but if his next move didn't work, then he would be in serious trouble.
Jack raised the rickety chair and yelled, "Yah!" He'd seen it in a circus once. A man had kept a lion at bay with a chair. Jack thought the same might hold true for bears.
"Unless that bear really, really wants to have a sit-down, that young boy is going to die," muttered one of the builders unhelpfully.
The bear had pulled its massive paw back to take another swing at Jack, but suddenly its eyes focused on the four legs of the chair. There seemed to be a look of fear on the bear's face.
The people in the cars were surprised. The builders on the scaffold were stunned. But Jack was probably the most shocked of all. A large part of him had expected the bear to smash the chair with one enormous paw. Instead the bear seemed strangely unnerved by the chair.
"Yah!" shouted Jack as he poked the bear in the midriff with his chair. "Scram. Or I'll ... I'll chair you, I suppose."
The bear gingerly lowered itself down onto four paws. It sniffed the chair cautiously and took two steps backward. For a moment Jack and the bear locked eyes, then the bear turned away and bounded off down the street.
Excerpted from The Ministry of Suits by Paul Gamble. Copyright © 2016 Paul Gamble. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel & Friends.
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
1. A Lonely Shoe,
2. An Unexpected Bear,
3. The Chair of Destiny,
4. A Dangerous Umbrella,
5. A Girl Called Trudy Who Has a Reputation for Moodiness,
6. Chapeau Noir Enterprises,
7. The Box of Spares,
8. The Odd Kids,
9. Multitasking with an Umbrella,
10. Vanity, Thy Name is Statue,
11. Weirdest Interview Ever,
12. Dinosaurs and Housework,
13. A Truly Surprising Partner,
15. "Go, Trudy!",
16. Time Goes Past So Slowly,
17. A Lack of Curiosity,
18. A Bona Fide Superhero,
20. Beaker of Foam,
21. Back Door and Black Door,
22. The Misery,
23. Catching a Bottle,
24. Everything Changes,
25. The Missing Kids,
26. Suspiciously Unsuspicious,
27. Just Whistle,
29. Killing with His Bear Hands,
30. Bandages on My Legs and Arms,
31. A Deal Struck,
32. A Total Plank,
33. A Missing Friend,
34. The Tunnel,
35. Angel Etiquette,
36. We Suspect a Mole,
37. Substandard Cavalry,
38. The Quartermaster's Store,
39. Return to Sanity,
41. Spin Me Right 'Round,
42. A P.E. Teacher's History Lesson,
43. Pillow Fights,
44. What's in the Glove Box?,
45. "We Must Do Something Immediately",
48. Steam Power,
49. Above Standard Cavalry,
About the Author,