March of the mini beasts, p.1

March of the Mini Beasts, page 1


March of the Mini Beasts

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March of the Mini Beasts


  Chapter 1 The Data Set

  Chapter 2 Mad Dr. Bunsen

  Chapter 3 Growth Ray . . . Huzzah!

  Chapter 4 Laura’s Super-Awesome Tree House

  Chapter 5 Mini Beasts Alive!

  Chapter 6 Wild Shenanigans

  Chapter 7 March of the Mini Beasts

  Chapter 8 A Dino-Sized Problem

  Chapter 9 Operation: Zoo!

  Chapter 10 The Adventure of a Lifetime

  "Don't Disturb the Dinosaurs" Excerpt

  About Ada Hopper and Sam Ricks

  Chapter 1

  The Data Set

  * * *

  Gabriel Martinez rang the doorbell. Then he, Laura Reyes, and Cesar Moreno held their breath.

  Whoever came to the door would determine the fate of the world.

  Or, at least, the fate of their school science club’s field trip.

  One of those two.

  A woman in stretchy pants and a T-shirt answered. “What can I do for you three sweeties?”

  So far so good, thought Gabriel. He quickly sized up the facts. The woman was in a friendly mood. Good. She’d called them “sweeties.” Excellent. And then . . .

  Noooo! On the television behind her blared an exercise program.

  “One, two, three, four!” cried the instructor. “Chocolate won’t rule you anymore!”

  Gabe, Laura, and Cesar sighed.

  Laura held up a box of science club fund-raiser chocolate bars. King-size. With extra nuts and caramel.

  “Would you like to buy some delicious, um, health-promoting chocolate? It’s for our school science club. . . .”

  The woman politely shook her head. “I’m afraid not, dear. I’m trying to be healthy.” She patted her tummy. “But best of luck!”

  The three friends plodded down the sidewalk.

  “We’re running out of houses,” declared Gabe. “According to my estimates, we need to sell two more boxes to earn enough money.”

  Cesar unwrapped a chocolate bar and began to munch.

  “Cesar, you’re eating our chances of success!” Laura scolded.

  “But I need to keep up my energy!” Cesar replied with a full mouth. Actually, because of the ooey-gooey caramel, it came out more like, “Buh I neef to keeb uh muh emergee.”

  Laura rolled her eyes. Cesar was always the hungriest member of the Data Set.

  That was what these whiz kids from Newtonburg Elementary School were fondly known as: the Data Set. Gabe, Laura, and Cesar had gathered enough random facts and information—or data—to challenge even their brightest teachers, so the name stuck.

  Gabriel was the oldest by two months, seventeen days, six hours, and three minutes. That made him the leader. He loved animals, big and small, and was fascinated by dinosaurs. If you had a question about dinosaurs, he could answer it quicker than you could say “Stegosaurus.”

  Laura was the team’s engineer. It was hard inventing mechanical devices when you’re only eight—Newtonburg Home Improvement Depot doesn’t exactly sell power tools to second graders. But Laura had a knack for making things work with rope, tape, bubble gum, and a bit of imagination.

  And Cesar was the group’s historian. He had a photographic memory and could remember all the dates, names, and facts from the page of a book simply by looking at it once. He also had a big appetite. Usually this wasn’t a problem.

  Unless you were trying to sell chocolate bars to raise money so your school’s science club could go see the sweet, sweet new neutron generator on display in Teslaville. Then yes, a big appetite could indeed be a problem.

  But against the odds and even a chocolate bar short, these three friends were optimistic.

  “We can still do this, guys,” Gabe insisted. “There must be someone we can sell the last two boxes of chocolate to.”

  “Well,” said Laura, “there is one more house.”

  She pointed down the street toward a teetering old Victorian. Rumor had it a strange man named Dr. Bunsen lived there. The dull-gray mansion loomed over the block, looking very out of place. Its shutters hung at odd angles, and a twisted wrought-iron fence creaked in the breeze.

  The three friends gulped.

  Gabe squared his shoulders. “C’mon, guys,” he said. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

  Chapter 2

  Mad Dr. Bunsen

  * * *


  A tall, thin man with a mop of shaggy brown hair and gigantic magnifying goggles rolled back from his lab table. This was Dr. Gustav Bunsen.

  “The doorbell?” he asked. “But I never get visitors.”

  He went to answer it. Outside were three children with monstrously large heads!

  “Ahh!” screamed Dr. Bunsen.

  “Ahh!” cried the children. The man had humungous eyes!

  “Guys, relax,” said Gabe. “It’s just his goggles.”

  “Oh, right, these.” Dr. Bunsen lifted his magnifying goggles. “I do tend to startle myself each time I look in the mirror. Now, what can I do for you three, uh . . . ?”

  “Children?” Laura finished.

  “Right, children!” Dr. Bunsen rubbed his hands together. “I knew there was a word other than ‘tiny humans.’ ”

  The Data Set exchanged a look with one another.

  “We’re, um, selling chocolate,” Laura said.

  “For our school’s science club,” added Gabe.

  “Wid exdra nuds.” Cesar’s mouth was still full.

  “Chocolate?” Dr. Bunsen pulled a pair of tongs from his lab coat and plucked out a wrapped bar. He studied it. He sniffed it.

  “I love chocolate!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been working for so long, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy a king-size bar. I’ll take ten boxes.”

  “Ten?!” the three friends cried.

  “But we only have two boxes left,” Laura said.

  “Oh.” Dr. Bunsen frowned. “That is rather disappointing.”

  He studied the candy box in Laura’s hands more closely. “Hmm, especially since this box appears a bar short.”

  Laura elbowed Cesar. Hard.

  “But no matter!” Dr. Bunsen said. “Two boxes it is! Let me just grab some currency. Yes, currency is the name of the game. Especially when it comes to chocolate. King-size! With extra nuts!” His voice trailed off as he disappeared down the long hallway.

  “He’s a little extra nutty if you ask me,” said Cesar.

  “Nutty or not, now we’ll have enough money for our field trip!” Laura smiled.

  The three friends waited. And waited.

  “Dr. Bunsen?” Gabe called. “Hello?”

  They stepped cautiously inside.

  Suddenly, Laura cried out.

  “What is it?” Gabe asked, alarmed.

  “Check it out!” Laura hurried into one of the rooms.

  Her friends followed her . . . into the biggest scientific laboratory they had ever seen!

  “That’s a nanoscopic microscope,” Laura exclaimed. “You can’t get them outside of government research facilities. And this is a molecular field generator.”

  “How come we never knew this guy was so into science?” asked Gabe.

  “Umm, maybe because he’s a mad scientist,” said Cesar.

  Laura walked up to a very strange-looking contraption. “Hey, I wonder what this is. . . .”

  “That is my latest invention.” Dr. Bunsen’s voice rang out behind them.

  The three friends spun around.

  The doctor’s eyes flashed. “Would you care to try it?”

  Chapter 3

  Growth Ray . . . Huzzah!

  * * *

  After a long pause, Laura broke into a wide grin.
r />   “Would I?!” she exclaimed. “I love gadgets! What does it do?”

  “Excellent!” Dr. Bunsen clapped his hands. He lifted the invention like a camera. “This, my young, ‘snoopy’ friends, is a growth ray.”

  Gabe raised an eyebrow. “A growth ray? But that’s impossible.”

  “Ah . . .” Dr. Bunsen wagged his finger. “That’s what the National Science Academy said as well. But here it is! Which of you wants to grow first?”

  “You want to test it on us?” asked Cesar. “That sounds . . . illegal.”

  “Here.” Gabe came to the rescue. “Try it on Stego.” He pulled out a small plastic Stegosaurus from his jacket pocket.

  “But that’s your lucky Stegosaurus,” whispered Laura. “What if his machine melts it?”

  “Better Stego than us,” Gabe whispered back.

  “Right!” Dr. Bunsen put on his goggles and used tweezers to grasp Stego. He gently placed the little dinosaur on the machine’s platform. Then he picked up a handheld box with a flashing light and aimed it at the toy.

  “Ready?” he asked. “Now stand back . . . and . . . huzzah!”

  Dr. Bunsen pressed the box’s red button.

  The box whirred! It clicked!

  It fizzled out. Nothing happened.

  “Hmmmm,” Dr. Bunsen said. He pressed the button again and frowned. “I don’t understand. My calculations are correct. It should work.”

  “It’s okay, Dr. B.” Gabe placed the very un-grown (and un-melted) Stego back in his pocket. “I read an essay last month that said growth ray technology is impossible. You didn’t do anything wrong. It just can’t work.”

  “Yes.” Dr. Bunsen looked like he was near tears. “My old partner, Dr. von Naysayer, wrote that article. He knew I was working on this invention. And he said it was . . .” Dr. Bunsen’s lower lip quivered. “Mad.”

  After a moment Cesar held out the boxes of chocolate. “Here, they’re on the house.”

  “But our field trip!” Laura protested.

  Cesar shook his head. “I think he needs these more than we do,” he whispered.

  And coming from Cesar, that was saying a lot.

  Chapter 4

  Laura’s Super-Awesome Tree House

  * * *

  The next morning was a rare treat for the students at Newtonburg Elementary: a double teacher workday! That meant there was no school on Thursday or Friday. And when they weren’t in school, the Data Set could be found in one place: their super-awesome, amazingly futuristic tree house that Laura designed.

  Some kids had normal tree houses with ladders and wooden planks. That was cool. But the Data Set’s tree house was unlike any other.

  Laura had constructed it in Gabe’s backyard, high up in an old oak tree. The house was built out of welded scrap metal and high-density composite board. The windows had remote-controlled shutters. The door was guarded by a keypad lock. And best of all, Laura had rigged an elevator using a rope and pulley system. Why climb to the tree house when you could ascend to it—in style?

  The sun shone brightly through the open windows.

  Suddenly, a loud racket disrupted the quiet.

  Bang, clatter, clatter!

  “Cesar, can you keep it down?” Laura said without looking up.

  Cesar huffed. “That wasn’t me.”

  Clatter, bang, sha-bing!

  “Cesar, please keep it down,” said Gabe.

  “I said it wasn’t me!”

  Bump, thump, WHUMP!

  “What was that?!” Gabe and Laura exclaimed.

  “See, it wasn’t me!” Cesar said.

  Outside, a familiar voice cried out, “Whoooooaaa!”

  The three friends poked their heads out of the window and saw a very upside-down and stuck Dr. Bunsen hanging from a tree branch.

  “Dr. B.?” Gabe called. “What are you doing here?”

  “Ah, yes, what indeed,” the doctor replied. “I was coming to see you three, but I seem to have hit a snag.”

  Laura giggled. “Why didn’t you use the elevator?”

  The topsy-turvy doctor turned his head. “Ah—an elevator! How clever. I’m on my way!”

  Soon Dr. Bunsen was safely inside. “I asked around for three inquisitive, slightly snoopy children and was directed here,” he said, dusting off his coat. “People called you the ‘Data Set’?”

  Gabe smiled proudly. “That’s us! What’s up?”

  “Well, after you left, I realized the mistake with my invention,” the doctor explained. “I reset the flux generator. At last my growth ray is ready!”

  The doctor whipped out the flashing box from his lab coat and pointed it at a small bucket in the corner of the tree house. It held several of Gabe’s plastic animal toys.

  “Observe!” he said. He pushed the red button. “HUZZAH!”

  Chapter 5

  Mini Beasts Alive!

  * * *

  Once again the box sizzled! It crackled!


  Still nothing. The plastic animals remained their normal size.

  Gabe shook his head. “Dr. B., a growth ray would be cool. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

  The doctor was frustrated. “Hmm, but I know it should work!”

  “It’s okay,” said Laura. “Sometimes you just need to—Ow! Cesar! You stepped on my jeans.”

  “Uh, I’m over here,” Cesar said from across the tree house.

  “Then who . . . ?” Laura looked down. Her eyes grew wide. A tiny, un-grown, but very much alive, miniature chimp was trying to climb up her pant leg!

  “A tiny monkey!” she cried. “You guys—check it out!”

  The friends looked toward Gabe’s tub of plastic figurines and gasped. The mini animals had all come to life!

  One by one, they wobbled over like baby animals, looking for attention. A tiny elephant trumpeted when Gabe cupped it in his palm. A teeny hippo waddled up to Cesar. He plucked a tree leaf through the window and fed it to the little hippo. It munched happily! “Hey, guys, this one likes me!”

  Meanwhile, Laura marveled at a miniature giraffe. “Dr. B., the machine you invented is not a growth ray. It’s a life ray!”

  “Fascinating,” said Dr. Bunsen. He picked up a pocket-size zebra. “I have no idea how this happened. I must study this further. May I please borrow this tiny zebra?”

  “Sure,” said Gabe. “But what should we do with the others?”

  “We’ll take care of them!” Laura exclaimed.

  “Is that okay, Dr. B.?” Gabe asked.

  The doctor shrugged. “They seem to be quite happy.” He gestured to Cesar, who was feeding the hippo leaf after tasty leaf. “Just keep the animals together until I can figure out a way to return them to their normal, toy selves.”

  “Cool!” cried Laura.

  “Come on, guys,” said Cesar. “Let’s grab Gabe’s book on what animals like to eat. I can memorize these guys’ favorite snacks.”

  “Speaking of ‘favorite,’ has anyone seen Stego?” Gabe suddenly asked. “I thought he was with the others, but I don’t see him.”

  But the others were already on their way down the tree-house elevator and didn’t hear him. Gabe shrugged. He must have left Stego inside the house somewhere.

  At least, he hoped so.

  Chapter 6

  Wild Shenanigans

  * * *

  The friends spent the afternoon playing with their new pets! Laura used the empty fish tank to make a tiny terrarium. And Gabe helped Cesar skim his animal reference books for the perfect snacks for the mini beasts.

  “They’re so sweet!” Laura’s giraffe bounded over a small stick she held. “I wish we could keep them forever instead of turning them back into toys.”

  “Maybe we can ask Dr. B.,” said Gabe. “They wouldn’t be hard to take care of.”

  “Little Cesar Jr. doesn’t want to go back to being a toy—do you, buddy?” Cesar said as he tickled the tiny hippo’s tummy.

  Laura rolled her eyes.
You named the hippo after yourself?”

  Cesar shrugged. “Why not? It’s an awesome name.”

  Soon the sun began to set. Laura gently placed the giraffe and the chimp in the terrarium next to Gabe’s elephant. “See you first thing tomorrow to play with them?”

  “Sure,” said Gabe. “I’ll watch them for the night.”

  “Call me if he starts to fuss,” Cesar instructed. “I know what he likes to eat.”

  Gabe huffed. “I know what he likes to eat too. We looked it up together, remember? Anyway, see you guys in the morning.”

  Tink. Tink. Tink.

  Gabe opened one eye as sunlight peeked through his curtains. Criiiiiiick. Craaaaaaaaack.

  Gabe rolled over in bed. “Just a few more minutes, Mom,” he mumbled.


  Gabe shot up. That sounded like glass breaking!

  Confused, Gabe looked to the other side of the room . . .

  . . . where the fish tank lay shattered on his bedroom floor.

  “Uh-oh . . .”

  The mini beasts were gone!

  Gabe hopped carefully out of bed. “Mini beasts!” he whispered, tiptoeing down the hall. “Where are you?”

  Soon he came to the kitchen. His mother was flipping pancakes while his sister, Juanita, bounced in her high chair.

  “Good morning, mi hijo,” Gabe’s mom said in her pretty Colombian accent. “I’m making pancakes con chocolate. Would you like some?”

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