Friday, April 6, 2012

A Boy Called Duct Tape - Book Spotlight

About A Boy Called Duct Tape

Twelve-year-old Pablo Perez is a poor kid without much going for him. His classmates at his Jamesville, Missouri middle school have dubbed Pablo “Duct Tape” because his tattered discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.

The story opens. While swimming with Pia, his 9-year-old sister, Pablo finds a $20 gold piece on the bottom of the river. Pablo and Pia are tightlipped about the find until their sophisticated city cousin, Kiki Flores, 13, an aspiring journalist, comes to visit. Pablo tells her about the rare old coin. She suggests they have it appraised, and they take the gold piece to a local coin dealer, Earl Blood.

The coin dealer is without scruples. He knows the coin is valuable, but tells Pablo it isn’t worth much, and offers him a hundred dollars. No deal, Pablo says, and Blood secretly switches coins, replacing the valuable coin with a worthless one. To his horror, Pablo later discovers the deceit, but Blood is nowhere to be found.

During a local celebration, held every Memorial Day in tribute to Jesse James, the town’s namesake, the trio of would-be adventurers buys an old Jesse James treasure map for one dollar. The map shows the “lost treasure” of Jesse James located in a secret cave not far from where Pablo found the $20 gold piece. Could it be a coincidence? Pablo doesn’t think so, and he and his sister and cousin make preparations to explore the cave, even though Pablo knows there is no cave where the map indicates.

Pablo realizes cave exploration can be tricky, and he makes a deal with Monroe Huff, an eccentric spelunker: If Monroe will help them find the cave and the treasure, Pablo will share the booty with him. Pablo, however, does not trust Monroe, who has explored many of the world’s caves. Monroe’s unsightly appearance is the source of Pablo’s mistrust. Monroe’s big ambition in life is to explore the deepest cave in the world, located in Turkey.

 After accidentally stumbling upon the cave, Monroe leads Pablo, Pia, and Kiki on a terrifying three-day odyssey into the treacherous network of natural tunnels beneath Bear Mountain, where the map shows the treasure is located. The subterranean journey is rout with danger.

The treasure hunters fall victim to Earl Blood, who has been trailing them in hopes of discovering the treasure for himself. At the point of Blood’s rifle, our three young detectives and their guide enter a place on the map called the Cathedral, a magnificent chamber of stalactites and stalagmites resembling more closely a futuristic city than a cave. They find the treasure of gold and silver coins in an old steamer trunk, along with a letter from Jesse James.

An earthquake suddenly rocks the cave. Earthquakes are not that uncommon in that part of Missouri, and Earl Blood dies from a falling stalactite. In what seems to be an act of madness—the cave falling apart around them—Monroe tosses Pia into an underground river.

Pia is swept away. Pablo and Kiki jump into the swirling waters in an effort to rescue Pia. All three are carried out of the cave and down a dark, limestone conduit that spills into the James River and safety. Pablo realizes his suspicions about Monroe were misguided. By throwing Pia into the river, he has saved them.

Three backpacks filled with treasure tumble into the river behind them, apparently thrown in by Monroe. They are recovered. Monroe and the other treasure-laded backpack, however, vanish. Has Monroe died in the earthquake?

Missouri claims ownership of the fortune, but our three explorers are ultimately awarded the treasure, valued at more than $10 million. Pablo and Pia receive a gift in the mail that Christmas. They immediately recognize the gift—a woodcarving found by Monroe in the cave. Pablo looks at the return address on the package: Turkey. Pablo and Pia are ecstatic. Monroe is alive and well, and fulfilling his lifelong dream of exploring the world’s deepest cave.

About Christopher Cloud

Christopher Cloud admits he came to literature late in life. “I was in my 60s before I developed a real interest in writing fiction,” he said. A Boy Called Duct Tape is Cloud’s debut middle-grade novel. It is a first-person account of three Latino children searching for the “lost treasure” of Jesse James.

Cloud began writing children’s fiction after a long career in journalism and public relations. He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1967 with a degree in journalism. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist for newspapers in Texas, California, and Missouri. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Time Magazine.

He was employed by Sun Oil Company, Philadelphia, as a public relations executive, and later operated his own PR agency. He created the board game Sixth Sense in 2002. The game sold at independent bookstores nationwide.

Cloud said his next project is a young-adult novel. “I have written the first draft of a story I’m calling 16 And In Love,” Cloud said. “This story—like A Boy Called Duct Tape—is multicultural.”

Cloud lives in Joplin, Missouri.
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