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Mascot to the Rescue!

Mascot to the Rescue! by Peter David
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Josh Miller, sixth grader at Demarest Elementary School, has a secret. Everything that happens to Mascot, the superhero sidekick in the Captain Major comic books, also happens to Josh. So when Josh finds out that Mascot is slated to die in the next Captain Major adventure, he knows he has to do something—and fast! A budding comics artist and writer himself, Josh and his new friend, Kelsey (aka Large Lass), take off to find Stan Kirby, the creator of the Captain Major series, so they can save Mascot—and Josh's life.

Comic-book legend Peter David teams up with the renowned comics artist Colleen Doran in their first book for young readers.

HarperCollins; June 2009
240 pages; ISBN 9780061957383
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Title: Mascot to the Rescue!
Author: Peter David; Colleen Doran

Chapter One

The New Kid In School

Kelsey Markus didn't know Mascot was going to rescue her that bright Monday afternoon. She was much too busy abandoning hope that things were going to be different at Demarest Elementary School to recognize a rescuer when she saw one. But as the first kid snickered at her, and then another and a third, she realized bitterly that she should have known nothing would change. It was going to be just like it was when she'd gone to Essex Elementary. She was starting over. She was "the new kid" again.

"Move it, lard butt," said one boy, shoving past her to get out onto the playground during recess. She staggered to one side, and then a crowd of boys came in from that side, pushing her the other way. "Beach ball!" called out one of them, generating even more laughter. The teachers tried to restore order, but the damage had been done.

Kelsey was fat. She knew that. They had mirrors around her house. She didn't make excuses for being overweight. She loved to eat. It wasn't much more complicated than that. Some girls loved to eat and they never gained a pound, and no one made fun of them. So obviously (she reasoned) the whole eating thing wasn't really the problem. It was the gaining part, and that was simply bad luck.

She didn't know how much she weighed. She'd stopped using a scale back in third grade. Instead Kelsey tried to focus on the important things: Her father and grandparents and family all loved her. And she knew she was a good person. She was certain of it. So why should anything else matter?

Still . . . it was tough being the new kid in school, especially since they were already well into the school year and she'd just moved into town. She wasn't stupid. She knew the harsh truth of things—a fat girl got made fun of, and no one wanted to be friends with someone who got made fun of—but she had been hoping that Demarest would be different somehow.

But no: same old, same old.

Kickball, tetherball, even an impromptu game of tag—she tried to join in but wasn't welcome. She could complain to the teachers, but what would be the point of that? Telling on other kids would squash any remote chance of making friends.

She would have loved it if once, just once, someone had needed her for a team.

"You goin' to the bake sale?"

She was sitting on the bottom rung of the jungle gym, her heels rocking back and forth on the ground. She looked up, and up, at the large boy who had addressed her. He looked short, but his chest and arms seemed pretty muscular.

Kelsey stopped rocking and studied the boy warily. She suspected he already knew the answer to the question; his asking it was simply a formality, part of an endless ritual of bullying with which she had become all too familiar. "Why?" she said guardedly.

"That means yes," the boy said smugly. He put out his hand. "Gimme the money y'got for it."

Automatically her hand went to her right hip pocket, tipping him to precisely where she carried her money. The boy, whose name was Fred, saw the gesture and smiled the sort of cruel smile that only boys named Fred who are about to steal money could smile.

"Come on," he said. "It's not like skipping a meal is gonna kill you."

Several of Fred's pals came up behind him to watch the fun. They wanted to see the fat girl cry.

Kelsey closed her hand tightly on her pocket, trying to send Fred a clear signal that she was not going to be as easy as all that, and perhaps it would be best for him to back off. Strands of her thick, curly brown hair fell in front of her eyes and she pushed them aside, not wanting to break eye contact.

If he received the signal, he gave no sign. Instead, quickly glancing around—presumably to make certain no teachers were heading their way—Fred abruptly lunged for Kelsey, grabbing at her pocket.

Kelsey's weight actually gave her some advantage—she thrust forward and sent Fred staggering off balance. But she was at a bad angle, perched as she was on a rung of the jungle gym, and Fred had enough leverage to press his advantage.

That was when things suddenly became very strange.

"Get your hands off her!" came a loud, reedy cry.

Everybody looked up.

There on the branch of a large oak tree just above the jungle gym, perched like an eagle about to swoop, was a very thin boy. He had a shock of blond hair, a round face, and freckles. Most curiously, he had a domino mask drawn on his face across his eyes. Apparently he had used a black Magic Marker. He was sporting a blue Windbreaker and was gripping either side, stretching it out so he looked as if he had wings.

"I said get your hands off her!"

"Make me!"

The boy obliged, shouting, "Justiiiiice!" as he leaped into battle.

What Kelsey, Fred, and the assorted boys saw was a crudely masked boy in a tree, who was barking orders—or perhaps simply barking mad.

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