The lovable wackiness of Modern Family meets zany contests in this delightful new series that will have readers laughing out loud!
Cal Talaska can’t wait for his family to win the Great Grab Contest! The prize? Twenty minutes to grab anything in the world-famous Wish Shoppe! He knows his family will leave the competition in the dust, but first he has to convince them to compete!
To get their eyes on the prize, Cal focuses on what his family wants from the Wish Shoppe—a gym for Mom, a whole orchestra for Dad, tools to build a spaceship for little sister Imo, and candy for baby brother Bug! Cal would do anything to get them to compete, even if that means tricking them into it . . . They’ll thank him later!
When it comes to the Talaskas, family always comes first. But can Cal convince them to go for first place too?
About the Author
Bill Doyle grew up in Michigan and wrote his first story—a funny whodunit—when he was eight. Since then, he’s written other action-packed books for kids, like Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombie, Stampede of the Supermarket Slugs, Everest: You Decide How to Survive, the Crime Through Time series, the Behind Enemy Lines series, and The Prizewinners of Piedmont Place series. He lives in New York City with two winning weiner dogs. Visit him online at billdoylebooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
When the pancake hit the fan, Cal Talaska wondered if he’d gone too far.
The pancake was still raw, like watery pizza dough. So when the eleven-year-old tossed it up at the ceiling fan, it exploded. Splith! Splith! Splith!
As gooey globs of batter rained down in the kitchen, Cal ducked. But the family dog bounced straight in the air like a mini pony on a trampoline. Butler’s long tongue snagged falling pancake drops while his tail whirled like a propeller. Cal’s little brother, Bug, tried to reach the batter first as it splattered on the kitchen table and the counters. But the four-year-old was half the size of Butler, and the dog kept beating him to the prize. Finally, they crashed into each other, knocked over a chair, and tumbled to the floor.
A smudge of pancake had dripped onto Butler’s back. The dog spun around and around on his side, trying to lick it off his fur. Trapped against Butler’s belly, Bug spun with him and giggled hysterically. They were a swirling, slobbering ball of nuttiness. It was exactly the kind of noisy chaos Cal wanted.
Just as he knew she would, their mom pushed open the kitchen’s swinging door. “What the cheese is going on?” Mrs. Talaska demanded.
“The Butler did it!” Cal cried.
“Not funny, Cal.” Mrs. T. switched off the fan, but not before a glob of pancake flew onto her forehead.
Cal didn’t want her to be mad. He pushed back his black hair and put on his most adorable face. “Surprise! I’m cooking pancakes for dinner! In the microwave!”
Mrs. T.’s green eyes softened. “Honey, I was thinking of making baked chicken and a salad.” She bent over to untangle Bug and Butler. Bug reached up and dipped his finger in the blob on her forehead.
“Gron’t!” Mrs. T. said, saying “Gross!” and “Don’t!” at the same time.
Too late. Bug popped his finger in his mouth. His eyes lit up as he got a taste of the pancake goo. It was like giving a drop of water to a man dying of thirst. He had to have more—and if he didn’t get more, a tantrum would be on its way.
Bug was going through a phase. He didn’t really talk except to bark with Butler. Mrs. T. said he would grow out of it in a few weeks or so. His tantrums, though, had become epic. When cranky, Bug might dig a hole in the backyard with Butler for hours. Or he might twirl in the kitchen for half an hour until he threw up.
Holy Aristotle, Cal thought. He and his mom shared a look across the room.
“Get your dad and sister in here,” Mrs. T. said. “STAT!”
“Dad!” Cal yelled at the top of his lungs. “Imo!” “Criminy, Cal, that’s not what I meant—”
Mr. Talaska burst into the kitchen. He was even taller than Cal’s mom, and his broad shoulders barely fit through the door. His glasses were slanted across his face. He turned them diagonally when he wrote music. He said it helped him see the notes better.
“We’ve got a BTA on our hands,” Mrs. T. told him.
At the code for Bug Tantrum Alert, Mr. T.’s eyes darted to the door, as if he might run for it.
“No, you don’t,” Cal’s mom commanded. “We need pancakes—”
“—and we need them now!” It was Imo. Cal’s nine- year-old sister ran into the kitchen and opened a drawer next to the sink. “Ground Control to family: Why are you just standing there?” Imo said, tucking a whisk and measuring spoons into the pockets of her overalls. “Don’t you see what’s about to happen?”
Cal did, and he was suddenly nervous. His plan had been to gather his family and eat early. That way, he could get them out the door to a top-secret spot by seven pm. But he was playing a dangerous game. If he didn’t get Bug a pancake, they wouldn’t be going anywhere but Meltdown Town.
The tiny batch Cal had made in the microwave was useless. They had to start from scratch.
“Talaskas together!” Cal said. “Let’s make pancakes!” Mr. T. manned the griddle as if it were one of his favorite musical instruments. Imo took charge of the kitchen tools. And Mrs. T. looked through her box of recipes until she found just the right one. Cal moved like lightning around the kitchen. He cracked the eggs, gave advice on the right time to flip, and kept everyone on track.
Six minutes later—a Talaska record—the first pancake hit Bug’s plate. Everyone took a seat with a plate of pancakes. The family waited. Bug didn’t move. In fact, he looked more ready to blow than ever.
“What’s with the look?” Mr. T. asked. “It’s perfectly cooked!” He rhymed when he was excited or nervous.
“Oh!” Cal realized what was up. He rushed to the dishwasher and grabbed Butler’s dog bowl. He slid a cool pancake into it and put the bowl at Bug’s feet. Once Butler had a flapjack, too, Bug grinned . . . and stuffed an entire pancake into his mouth.
“Disgusting,” Imo said.
“Better not laugh, Bug,” Cal said. Which he knew was the worst thing to say to someone you didn’t want to laugh.
Bug’s pancake-filled cheeks quivered, ready to explode.
“Stop!” Imo yelled at both Cal and Bug. “I’m serious, Bug,” Cal said. “Don’t laugh.”
Bug’s lips stretched into a smile, and a tiny pancake glob slid out, like air seeping from a balloon that was about to pop.
“Quick!” Cal said. “Distract him. Somebody say something sad!”
“Like what?” his mom asked.
“Homework!” Cal yelled.
Imo looked offended. “That’s not sad.”
“I don’t know what to say, then,” Cal said. Actually, though, he did know. This was going just the way he had hoped. “Let’s talk about something not funny. Say something you want. Mom, you start.”
Mrs. T. seemed anxious, watching Bug’s mouth like it was a ticking bomb.
With a distracted shrug, she finally answered, “I want to get in shape.”
“How? Specifics, please!” Cal said. More pancake drool slid down Bug’s chin. “Like, for instance, I want the Wonder World Video Game System—”
“That costs almost eight thousand dollars!” Imo protested.
“Dream big!” Cal said. “Now you guys go, fast!” He pointed to his mom.
“I want a home gym,” she said.
“Great,” Cal said, and pointed at his dad.
“I want a new piano,” Mr. T. said. “No, wait, I want an orchestra!”
“I want a laboratory to make spacecraft,” Imo said without hesitating.
Bug mumbled something like mmmph, which shot a small spray of pancake juice out of his mouth. Butler barked in agreement. And then the pancake slid down Bug’s throat, reminding Cal of a boa constrictor swallowing dinner.
Bug thanked the family with a happy thumbs-up. Everyone breathed easier as Mrs. T. put another pan- cake on his plate. This time, she cut it up for him.
“Could there be anything better than breakfast for dinner?” Mr. T. mused, sopping up the syrup on his plate with his last forkful.
There might be, Cal thought, glancing at the kitchen clock. But they’d have to hurry if they were going to find out. He needed to get his family to the secret spot in under half an hour.