The Children’s Book Review | March 20, 2019
Get To Know Duck Embry from Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester’s The Fang of Bonfire Crossing, “rip-roaring” middle-grade adventure.
The Children’s Book Review: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Duck Embry: This might sound like a fib, but most mornin’s I’m ready to hop out of bed so I can get to my chores. At my ranch in Missouri, there’s plenty to keep a body busy, like feed and water the hogs, pick up the rocks in our fields, and help my big brother Nathaniel fix any breaks in the fence. Once all my chores are done, Ma and Pa say I can do most anything I want (as long as I don’t get into shenanigans). Each night before I fall asleep I think about all the things I can’t wait to do, and when I wake up, I hurry to get ’em done so I can make another list.
I see you have a bag with you. Will you tell us what you keep inside of it?
This here is my saddlebag, the one my pony Irving wears whenever we travel ’cross country. Even though Irving’s a Fox Trotter, and the stoutest horse ever to walk the earth, I try to keep his load nice and light. Right now I’m carryin’ a pouch of dried beef jerky, my water canteen, a second pair of socks in case I step into a puddle, and an old spyglass telescope I found on the Santa Fe Trail.
Are you hungry right now? Can we fix you anything to eat? Maybe we could make you your favorite dish?
I sure wouldn’t mind sinkin’ my teeth into a fine roasted turkey stuffed with sweet bread and thyme. And maybe toss a boiled onion and some cranberry sauce on the side. I also sure would love a good winter squash puddin’ like my Ma makes in December.
That does sound good! We’ll see what we can whip up for you.
Do you like to read?
Ain’t nothin’ I like better! Ma and Pa used to read to me when I was young, but they would quit when they got tuckered out. So I worked real hard to read on my own so the stories would never have to end. I’m a big fan of the old scary yarns like Beowulf, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I’m such a hound for Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, I named my pony after Washington Irving.
Do you have a favorite song?
I’ve always been mighty partial to a song my Ma used to sing to me at bedtime. It was called “Roll On, Silver Moon,” and it went a little somethin’ like this:
“As I stray’d from my cot at the close of day
’Mid the ravishing beauties of June
’Neath a jessamine shade I espied a fair maid
And she plaintively sigh’d to the moon . . . ”
Apologies that I can’t sing worth a lick, but my Ma sure sounded pretty.
Are you a rule follower or rule breaker?
Oh, I don’t just break the rules, I smash ’em to pieces. As my Pa used to tell me and my brother Nathaniel, anybody who just follows the rules can’t turn the world a better direction. So if I’m gonna turn the world, I gotta make the change that’ll steer the rudder.
When was the last time you felt embarrassed?
This one here is so easy: my tenth birthday. My family and I was celebratin’ in our backyard when I got myself a wild notion. I felt I was such a grownup on account of turnin’ ten, I claimed I could scramble to the top of our old Spanish oak tree in five seconds flat. Nathaniel said I was downright foolish, and Ma and Pa were quick to outlaw the idea, but my birthday cake had me on top of the world. So I dashed to the oak tree and started to climb. Was doin’ a pretty bang-up job, too—till I reached a rotten limb. Before I knew it, I was tumblin’ nearly fifteen feet, all the way down through the branches. Hurt my rump so bad on the ground, I thought I would die. But let me tell you somethin’: as bad as my rump hurt, my pride was what took the worst of the wallopin’.
If you weren’t answering the questions in this interview right now, what would you be doing?
Either readin’ up on the histories of the Roman emperors, or wrestlin’ with my big brother Nat, or ridin’ Irving all over our ranch. There’s just so much to do in a lifetime, I feel like there ain’t ever enough minutes or hours. If I could have but one wish, it’d be to never get tired so I could do everything.
Do you have any secrets you would like to share with us before you go?
Well, as you might know, I’m a fairly open book; but if I did have one secret, I reckon it would be this: Sometimes at night, I cry in bed so hard, I fall asleep on a wet pillow. Mark my words, I’m plenty tough, but sometimes I wake up Nathaniel with my bawlin’ and snifflin’. Nat always asks if I’m havin’ a bad dream, but I never tell him what causes my tears. I just tell him, “It’s okay to cry, even if you don’t understand why.” But I do understand. It’s because I love the people in the world so much, I hate to think of anyone sufferin’ pain. Someday I’m gonna help. Someday I’m gonna fight for everyone in pain, and after I’m done, I’ll soak my pillow with tears of joy.
Written by Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester
Publisher’s Synopsis: Dark magic meets the Old West in this rip-roaring middle-grade adventure series filled with scrappy heroes and diabolical villains.
Keech Blackwood and his band of fellow orphans demand justice for their fallen families. But the road to retribution is a long and hard-fought journey.
After defeating Bad Whiskey Nelson, the man who burned Keech’s home to the ground, the Lost Causes have a new mission: find Bonfire Crossing, the mysterious land that holds clues to the whereabouts of the all-powerful Char Stone. Along the way they’ll have to fend off a shapeshifting beast, a swarm of river monsters, and a fearsome desperado named Big Ben Loving who conjures tornadoes out of thin air. It’s an epic standoff between the Lost Causes and the outlaw Reverend Rose, a powerful sorcerer who would be unstoppable with the Stone in his possession.
With the world―and vengeance―hanging in the balance, the Lost Causes are ready for battle.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | February 19, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1250124340
About the Authors
Brad McLelland was born and raised in Arkansas and spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South. In 2011 he obtained his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University, where he met his writing partner, Louis. Together they are the authors of Legends of the Lost Causes and The Fang of Bonfire Crossing. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.
Louis Sylvester is a professor at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. He and his wife spend their free time playing tabletop games from his collection of over 1,000 card and board games. Louis enjoys watching Western films and reading fantasy novels. He has two dogs that go wild when they hear the word treats.
This interview with Duck Embry, a character from The Fang of Bonfire Crossing: Legends of the Lost Causes, was conducted between Brad McLelland, Louis Sylvester, and Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Character Development, Character Interviews, Magic, Magical Powers, Middle Grade Books, and Wild West Books.
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