Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows

Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows

by J.M. Bergen

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781732457805
Publisher: Elandrian Press
Publication date: 02/02/2019
Pages: 364
Sales rank: 143,422
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"HEY WILDUS, YOU READY?"

The voice cut through the buzz of kids hustling to class. Thomas closed his locker and turned, smiling. A strand of blond hair slipped out of place, stopping just above the sharp blue eyes that overshadowed his prominent nose. "Enrique! Ready for what?"

"To lose, knucklehead," said Enrique. "Doodle war. You're going down. Again."

"In your dreams, Rodriguez. That was all me yesterday. Besides, Jameel says there's a stack of papers on Dilstrom's desk."

"Another pop quiz?"

"Probably."

"Lucky for you. I was going to throw a beat-down today," said Enrique. "If there's no quiz, it's on."

"If it's on, then I'm going to make it four in a row." Thomas turned and started down the hall toward class. "Come on, let's go."

"Four? What? Uh, uh," said Enrique. He nudged past Thomas. "No way. Yesterday was not a win."

"It was a total win. You laughed. That's the rule."

"At that ridiculous scribble? No way. I was laughing at my own masterpiece. You just showed yours at exactly the right time."

"I'd hardly call it a masterpiece." Thomas barely remembered the doodle at all. Something to do with the drama teacher and a unicycle. It was uninspired work, far from Enrique's best stuff.

"Please. You crazy." Enrique took a half step sideways as a cluster of older kids approached, laughing and jostling at each other. A mischievous smile crinkled the dark skin at the corners of his hazel-green eyes. "It was art, and you know it."

Thomas opened his mouth to retort and froze, slack-jawed. Peggy Epelson appeared right behind the older kids, clutching her laptop and talking to one of her friends. Carla or Clara or something like that. They were walking straight toward him. Thomas hardly noticed the other girl, but Peggy's auburn hair shone under the fluorescent lights, her smile —

A sharp thump jarred his shoulder. "Ow! What the heck?"

"Cut it out," said Enrique.

"Cut what out?"

"The googly-eyed staring. You're like a puppy dog. It's not healthy."

Thomas grimaced and rubbed his shoulder. Peggy and her friend disappeared around a corner. He had to force himself not to stare after her. "Really? Is it that bad?"

Enrique ignored the question and tilted his head sideways. "Hey, is that —?" He dabbed at the corner of Thomas's mouth. "Is that drool? You might want to take care of that."

"What!?" Thomas's eyes went wide. He swiped a hand across his lips. It came away dry. "Drool? Seriously?"

Enrique laughed. "Hey, come on. I'm just trying to keep you from embarrassing yourself. It's not easy, you know."

Thomas walked toward their classroom, still rubbing his shoulder. Enrique had a point. The staring was probably too much, but he couldn't help it. Peggy wasn't just incredibly cute. She was also the smartest girl in their grade and a talented pianist. He tucked his backpack under the desk and plopped into his seat.

The bell rang, loud and jarring. For the hundredth time, Thomas wondered why they didn't play a snippet of music instead of blasting that awful sound through the building. Practically anything would be less annoying and probably better for learning, too.

"All right, class, take your seats, please." As usual, Mr. Dilstrom's voice was monotone, his eyes droopy and tired. "We have a pop quiz today, covering material from your reading last night. Please put away your laptops and take out a writing utensil. We'll start as soon as everybody is ready, umkay?"

Enrique shook his head. "You're lucky, Wildus. I was going to crush you."

"That's big talk from a guy who's lost three in a row," said Thomas. "Work fast and we'll battle while everyone else is finishing."

"It's on."

"Bring it," said Thomas.

"Oh, hey, you want to come over after school and hang out?" asked Enrique, his voice not quite a whisper. "Coach Davis is out, so we don't have volleyball today. My sisters won't get home until at least six, maybe later, so the house shouldn't be too crazy."

"Ahem!" said Mr. Dilstrom. "Is there something you'd like to share with the class, Mr. Rodriguez?"

"No, sir, Mr. Dilstrom," said Enrique. "I was just checking to make sure Thomas did his reading last night. You know how he is."

A hot blush lit up Thomas's cheeks as the class laughed. He managed to keep himself from kicking Enrique's leg, but it was an exercise in self-restraint. Mr. Dilstrom stared for a long moment, eyebrows raised, then turned and went back to passing out quizzes.

"What do you think?" asked Enrique, his voice hushed.

"Can't," whispered Thomas. "I've got Kung Fu tonight. It's my last class before Sifu leaves town."

"Whatever. Slacker."

Thomas accepted the dwindling stack of quiz sheets, took one for himself, and set the last one down on the empty desk behind him. He looked at Enrique. "Tomorrow, all right?"

"Deal," whispered Enrique. "Now quit looking at my quiz and do your own work. This much brilliance can't be copied."

"Knucklehead," whispered Thomas. He glanced up and saw Mr. Dilstrom staring in his direction. He wiped the smile from his face and read the first question. In the battle of Gettysburg, what did ... ? He skimmed through the rest of the questions. It was all basic stuff, requiring only that one had done the assigned reading. He had, and so had Enrique. Mrs. Rodriguez was even more hardcore about grades and studying than Thomas's mom, and that was saying something.

In a battle with Enrique, every second counted. Thomas finished the quiz as quickly as he could and started doodling. The room around him faded as he focused in on his idea — an Enrique-saurus with short T-Rex arms and a perplexed look on his half-lizard face. Thomas was putting the finishing touches on his drawing when something nudged his foot.

"Hey," whispered Enrique. He kicked Thomas's foot again. "Hey, check it out."

Thomas glanced out of the corner of his eye. Enrique was staring forward, a finished doodle dangling from the side of his desk. Thomas half-turned. The details resolved into a picture of Mr. Dilstrom standing on his desk in a tutu, his knees pointed out like a ballerina. The eyes were perfect, baggy and heavy-lidded, his lumpy body horrifyingly on target.

Thomas tried to fight it, but the laughter bubbled up. He covered his mouth, trying to fake a cough. A half-choked squawk erupted.

"Bam!" Enrique lifted his hands over his head and dropped his pen like a microphone. The plastic clattered to the floor. "Who's the champion?"

"Excuse me?"

"Sorry, Mr. Dilstrom. It's just the pop quiz, you know. I totally crushed it. It's like BAM! I'm the champion. You know what I mean?"

Mr. Dilstrom stared at Enrique, his eyes bulging and forehead furrowed. Thomas chortled so loudly he had to act like he was choking. Stinking Enrique.

* * *

Five hours later, Thomas clasped his right fist in his left hand and bowed his head gently. A bead of sweat dripped from his nose and splashed onto the studio floor. "Thank you, Sifu."

Sifu gave an answering bow. "You worked hard, but your form is still terrible. Maybe you should come with me, study in the temple."

"To China? But it's the middle of the school year."

"I'm just kidding, Thomas." Sifu smiled, his crinkled eyes twinkling with amusement. With his accent, kidding sounded more like keeeding. "Your form is not terrible anymore. Very bad, but not terrible. You need more practice before visiting temple. Otherwise, your teacher will look bad."

"Thanks," said Thomas. The subtle jab wasn't lost on him, but with Sifu, moving from terrible to very bad was big progress. The hard work was starting to pay off.

"Okay, time to go. Be a good student while your Sifu is away. Practice. Don't get soft and lazy, okay?"

"I promise," said Thomas. It was still strange to think of the old master having a teacher of his own, but every year, Sifu went back to the temple to study with his uncle Cheng, the grandmaster of his Kung Fu family.

"Remember. Practice, Thomas," Sifu repeated. "Move right, breathe right, think right. Every day, practice. All the time, practice."

"I will," said Thomas. "Have a great trip, Sifu. I'll see you in a couple months."

Thomas shrugged his backpack onto his shoulders and stepped outside. The sun hung low in the afternoon sky, a glob of golden butter melting between the spires of two tall buildings. Long shadows covered the sidewalk and climbed the brick walls at his back. A breeze ruffled his hair and made the lines of sweat on his cheeks feel almost chilly. He turned toward the bus stop at 7th and Main.

The line of customers snaking out of the coffee shop next door was longer than usual, stretching almost to the street corner. Practically everyone was tapping on a phone or tablet. Thomas felt a familiar twinge of envy. All he had was a stupid flip phone. No games. No Internet. Nothing useful at all. He couldn't wait for his birthday. His mom had all-but promised an upgrade.

Thomas angled toward a thin gap between two of the older patrons. They separated as he approached, allowing him to pass without bothering to look up from their devices. A cute redhead with even brighter red headphones was on the other side of them. She smiled at Thomas as her head bobbed to music he couldn't hear. He blushed and sped past, crossing to the other side of the intersection just as the light changed from green to yellow.

At the corner of 16th, a musical note cut through the rumble of traffic. Thomas paused, looking down the narrow, alley-like street. The sound grew louder, a humming that rose and fell in an arrhythmic cadence, drawing him forward. A man sat on the sidewalk, his threadbare olive overcoat pressed into a bent parking meter. Thomas's feet moved of their own accord, drawing him inexplicably closer to the source of the music.

The man looked up, staring through tangles of dark hair that shrouded his face and merged with an unkempt black beard touched with streaks of gray. The music stopped mid-stream. Green eyes locked onto Thomas's, wild and unblinking. Thomas's legs locked in place. A feeling of unreality descended, a strange déjà vu that bent the moment into something dreamlike but vaguely familiar.

Thomas was frozen. There was nothing in the world but those wild eyes. A rushing sound filled his head, a waterfall thundering through his brain even as an invisible hand squeezed his gut. I know him. His inner voice sounded distant, as if speaking from the bottom of a deep well. How do I know him?

The angry blare of a car horn shattered the moment. Thomas's head swung instinctively toward the intersection. A BMW peeled past, the driver laying on his horn and flashing a rude gesture at the slow-moving car next to him.

Thomas turned back. The sidewalk was empty. He looked around, but the man was nowhere to be seen. He'd only looked away for a second, but there was nobody on the street, no sign that anyone had ever really been sitting against the parking meter at all.

"What the heck?" Thomas's whispered question was swallowed by the rush of traffic and a soft gust of wind. He ran to the bent parking meter and leaned over, peering between the tires of the rusted-out delivery van parked along the curb. He stepped into the narrow street, looking at doorways and windows up and down the short block.

The man was genuinely gone. If he'd ever been there at all. Thomas turned back toward Main Street, suddenly wondering if he was losing his mind. As he turned, a blinding light caught him square in the eyes, a flash of purple that was gone even before he finished flinching.

For the second time, Thomas froze, this time blinking furiously. When he could see again, he found himself staring at a shop on the other side of the street. A sign hung above a wooden door with slightly faded red paint. The lettering was too small to read, but there were splotches of purple around the edges. It was the only purple Thomas could see anywhere. He looked both ways and jogged across the street.

The sign came into focus. H&A Booksellers, Purveyors of Fine Books and Rare Manuscripts. The words were painted in chipped gold leaf, with tiny purple flowers nestled in the arcs and whorls of the lettering. Thomas stared at the sign, his eyes following the path of the thin green vine that wound through the gold letters.

Was it possible that a bookstore in this area had escaped his attention? Not a chance. Not one that was listed on the Internet anyway. But the shop was here, every bit as real as the humming man a moment earlier. Thomas felt an uneasy excitement in his chest. Cars zipped past on Main, but this street was practically deserted. He looked at the red door, at the plastic placard dangling from the nail in the center. Open.

He contemplated his next move. The options were simple. Forget what had just happened and turn around in time to catch his bus home or go inside and risk being laughed at for the hundredth time.

He reached out and pressed on the old-fashioned handle, forcing himself not to think about the disappearing man or the prospect of pending humiliation. The door swung open. The wide wooden counter and oversized green cash register looked as ancient as the faded lighting and worn carpet. The place was bigger than he would have expected, though, with shelves running far beyond the point where they logically should have ended.

The size was just the first curious thing about the shop. Everything else was different, too. There were no racks of shiny best-sellers, no big display cases promoting glossy fiction. Instead, cloth and leather-bound volumes were stacked and piled and crammed together in an endless sprawl of dusty texts. Every shelf was chock full of unrecognizable old books. The place was a goldmine. Jackpot!

Thomas looked at the placard at the end of the nearest row. The inscription stamped in tarnished bronze was faded but legible. Alch. Hist. 1127–1490. He reached for the nearest book, a tall, narrow volume wrapped in faded red leather, wondering what the inscription meant.

"Ahem."

The forced cough originated behind Thomas's left shoulder. He turned, startled, and found himself eye to eye with a man who had thin graying hair, a sharp nose, and hazel eyes flecked with specks of gold. The man stood with his hands behind his back and wore a yellowed apron with the words In Liber Veritas stenciled on the front.

"May I help you, young man?" The shopkeeper was only a few inches taller than Thomas himself.

"I, uh, I hope so." Thomas looked around the shop, his eyes wide with wonder. "This place is amazing."

"Thank you," said the little man, inclining his head in a slight bow. "Is there something in particular you are hoping to find?"

The wonder receded, replaced by a wrenching anxiety that knotted his gut and made his palms turn clammy. He could hear the scornful responses of the others he'd asked. Are you messing with me, kid? What, are you some kind of idiot? There's no such thing as magic, dummy. Go on, get out of here.

He pushed the voices out of his head. "I'm looking for books about magic. Magic books, really."

"Back of the shop and to the left." The man pointed a finger past Thomas to an even more dimly lit part of the building. "We have a wonderful selection of collectibles in the fantasy genre and more than a few New Age texts as well. I'm sure you'll find something to your liking."

Fantasy and New Age? Really? Thomas's shoulders slumped. He took a half-hearted step toward the back of the shop and paused, the knot in his gut tightening. As much as he hated getting laughed at, the idea of digging through piles of worthless books was as unexciting as the prospect of scrolling through another online "magic" forum. If ever there was a place that might have what he really wanted, this was it. He sucked in a deep breath and turned around.

The man looked at Thomas with one eyebrow raised. "Yes?"

"I, uh, I'm not really looking for those kinds of books," he managed. "I was hoping for something different. Something more unusual."

"What do you mean by unusual?" the man asked. "Be specific, please."

This was it. The part where he got laughed out of the building. Thomas looked at his feet, wondering if he should even bother. He considered turning around, but the words on the man's yellowing apron caught his eye. In Liber Veritas. Veritas meant truth, right? He looked up, his eyes locking onto those of the little man. "Unusual as in magical. Not fiction or fantasy or New Age. Magic. Real magic."

"Real magic? What makes you think there's any such thing?"

Thomas's body tensed, preparing for a swift retreat from the store. His dad's last words flashed into his mind, the final fragment before everything changed. "Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real."

He sucked in a deep breath and forced himself to stand still. The air rushed out in a whoosh. "I-I just do."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows"
by .
Copyright © 2019 J.M. Bergen.
Excerpted by permission of Elandrian Press.
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.

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Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Ronnie293 3 months ago
Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a magical story filled with peril and friendship. Thomas is an ordinary twelve year old who loves to read books about magic until one day he is given not a book about magic but a magical book. His father’s parting words ring in his ears “Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real.” The story starts with the everyday life of Thomas Wildus. He goes to school, hangs out with best friend Enrique, has problems with the school bully and has a crush on a pretty girl in his grade. After Thomas receives the book the story changes to one of mystery, danger and suspense. There is a slow build up to the main revelations about Tomas and his mission. The explanation of the magic and quantum physics was a bit long however the story kept my interest. Overall Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows was a good read filled with danger, suspense and magic. Thomas was a modest hero and a good role model. *I received a copy from the author to read.
MontzieW 6 months ago
Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen is a book I requested from NetGalley and a book I won but haven't received yet. The books from NetGalley only stay active for a short period of time so I am glad I won so I can have my grand daughters read this book! A magic book, a strange book store , kidnapping, magic powers, evil super being, excitement, suspense, mystery, and more! Everything a middle grade fantasy reader would want!