Published Date: 9-15-20
Publisher: INtense Publications LLC
Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin's been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They're greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices. As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher's carnival rides, they discover they're capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher's resistant son? If not, she'll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.
Chattering blackbirds and blue jays pulled her back to her surroundings. The scent of wintergreen berries, bluebells, and wild sassafras from the bushes restored her resolve to continue by herself. She walked a bit faster up a steep incline, removing her official Camp Inch Sweatshirt and tying it around her thin waist.
At the hilltop, one sign pointing left read CAMP INCH VIA WHITE FALLS HIGHWAY: 1/4 MILE EAST. Another pointed right, cautioning PRIVATE PROPERTY! Her pulse quickened. She followed it past bushes and trees.
Below her, an orange football-field-sized building, dressed up with castle-like turrets at each corner, rose several stories high. Darby smiled with glee. I found it! Massive green letters spelling out "L.U.C.K." were painted on its side, glowing brighter than ever. A surrounding fieldstone wall led eastward toward camp.
She hurried down to a spot beside the immense wall where ten golden horseshoes sat lodged in concrete. Same as when Monica and I found them! The sun glinted on a colorless glass circle embedded above the horseshoes. Last time they'd rushed too much to notice the lines inscribed on it. Now, she knelt to read what they said.
All That We Give
Comes Back to Benefit Ourselves
With no time to figure that out, she placed her feet inside two of the horseshoes, like last year. Her heart pounding, she waited anxiously for the faint rumbling she and Monica had heard – or possibly imagined.
Will it even work without her?
The ground trembled ever so slightly beneath her.
She shivered with relief. Yes, I feel it!
Last year, their counselor came after them to end the adventure before it began. This time, the rumbling got louder. Darby ducked to avoid the small rocks and dust that fell from the stone wall looming above her head. Grating and creaking accompanied deep vibrations inside the fieldstone. A Darby-size section swung out on hinges, exposing a latch chain fastened to an old wooden door. She tried to remember to breathe. Or how to breathe. Overcoming the urge to back away, she yanked the chain, pushed the door open, and strained to see.
For a few seconds, semi-darkness that lay beyond kept her cemented in place. Finally, anticipation conquered her apprehension. I can't stop now. Electrified, Darby squared her shoulders and stepped inside.
About the Author
Laura Segal Stegman grew up with parents who valued reading, and she still finds herself spellbound by middle grade fiction. Some of her favorites, then and now, are The Diamond in the Window, Ellen Tebbits, All of A Kind Family, Wonder, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Miraculous. As a writer, her non-fiction credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York, and her feature stories have appeared in Los Angeles Times and Westways Magazine, among others. A long-time publicist, she has represented numerous arts organizations. Summer of L.U.C.K. is her debut novel.