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Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation



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About The Book

Fans of Brandon Mull and James Riley will love this middle grade fantasy trilogy about a regular kid who discovers that the truth about his past could be the answer to saving the future.

All Jack Blank knows is his bleak, dreary life at St. Barnaby’s Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost, an orphanage that sinks more and more into the swampland of New Jersey with each passing year. His aptitude tests project him as spending a long, unhappy career as a toilet brush cleaner. His only chance at escape comes through the comic books donated years ago to the orphanage that he secretly reads in the dark corners of the library. Everything changes one icy gray morning when Jack receives two visitors that alter his life forever. The first is a deadly robot straight out of one of his comic books that tries its best to blow him up. The second is an emissary from a secret country called the Imagine Nation, an astonishing place where all the fantastic and unbelievable things in our world originate—including Jack. Jack soon discovers that he has an amazing ability—one that could make him the savior of the Imagine Nation and the world beyond, or the biggest threat they’ve ever faced.


The Accidental Hero CHAPTER 1 Unreal Tales #42
“Jack Blank, I know you’re in there!”

Mrs. Theedwheck’s shrill voice pierced the air, hitting Jack’s eardrums like a siren. She stood at the library door, holding her yardstick.

Mrs. Theedwheck was a tall, spindly old lady with horn-rimmed glasses and a wound-up knot of frizzy gray hair. As usual, her face was scrunched up like she’d smelled something funny and didn’t like it one bit. Jack could not imagine a Mr. Theedwheck existing anywhere in her past, present, or future.

Mrs. Theedwheck never went anywhere without her trusty yardstick. Ever. It was pretty much part of her hand. With it, she was ready to strike out at any and all knuckles and backsides within a three-foot radius, whether they deserved it or not. Mrs. Theedwheck had carried a ruler for years—years!—before a fellow teacher at St. Barnaby’s finally suggested the yardstick. She tried it out once and knew right away that there was no going back. The yardstick was her weapon of choice, and she wielded it like a ninja master.

Jack ducked farther down behind the bookcase. Mrs. Theedwheck was bluffing. No way she knew where he was. No way.

“Don’t make me come in there, Jack,” she warned. “I want you out here by the count of three. Front and center, young man! One!”

Jack held his breath as Mrs. Theedwheck tapped her yardstick against the open door. She was bluffing, right?

“Two . . . ,” Mrs. Theedwheck continued.

Jack cringed as she stepped through the library door and reached for the lights.

“Three,” she said flatly.

Fluorescent lightbulbs flickered on, and Mrs. Theedwheck started searching the library. She reached out with her yardstick, banging on tables, bookshelves, and countertops. She was like a hunter flushing out her prey. Jack braced himself for the inevitable yardstick thwacking.

Jack heard Mrs. Theedwheck tap her yardstick on different surfaces. The tapping got closer and closer until Mrs. Theedwheck slapped the yardstick down on a bookcase right next to Jack. Jack was certain he was caught, but Mrs. Theedwheck let out a frustrated “Hrrmmph!” and turned, storming out of the library, shutting the lights off behind her. She hadn’t seen him. He was safe . . . for now.

“Whew!” Jack said to no one in particular as his entire body unclenched.

Jack was hiding because it was the day of a big field trip. Ordinarily, children Jack’s age looked forward to field trips. Jack would have looked forward to them too if he’d been allowed to go. Every time he got on the school bus, however, it broke down. Or it went too fast. Or the radio would mysteriously switch stations from the news channel to rock stations, hip-hop stations, and baseball games without anybody touching the dial. The teachers didn’t know what these strange things were all about, but they knew they only seemed to happen when Jack was around. So whenever there was a class trip, Jack was sentenced to stay home doing chores until the other students got back. Mrs. Theedwheck had prepared an endless list of tasks to give Jack, but she had to find him first.

All things considered, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to miss a St. Barnaby’s field trip. It wasn’t like the students ever went to cool places like planetariums or museums with dinosaur bones or anything like that. As Jack hid in the library stacks, the other orphans were heading to the Mount Dismoor Maximum Security Prison. H. Ross Calhoun, the head disciplinarian at St. Barnaby’s, always planned trips like this to scare the children into behaving and to show them where they’d end up if they didn’t straighten up and fly right. Jack was glad to be missing this one. He was pretty sure that if he did go to the prison, Mrs. Theedwheck would have chores for him to do there, too. She’d volunteer him for everything from scrubbing iron bars on jail cells to helping train the guard dogs by giving them something to chase down and chew on.

Mrs. Theedwheck was also planning to get a look at the prison’s new electric fence and bring the old one back with her. The electric fence that currently lined the perimeter of St. Barnaby’s was practically an antique that shot sparks out when it rained. All the teachers agreed it was time for an upgrade, and even a hand-me-down prison fence was an improvement on the current state of affairs. Jack suspected that if Mrs. Theedwheck got him out to Mount Dismoor, she’d put him to work carrying sections of fence out to the bus in the pouring rain. That is, unless Rex and his buddies managed to stick him in a jail cell first. Either way, it would have been a pretty bad day, so he was quite happy to be right where he was, stowed away in the St. Barnaby’s library with a stack of old comic books.

A few years back, the comics had been left in the orphanage donations box along with some old toys and secondhand clothes. Comic books were pretty high on the list of banned items at St. Barnaby’s and were meant to be thrown out immediately. That’s what would have happened if Mrs. Theedwheck had taken care of it herself, but she hadn’t. She had told Jack to do it.

Jack remembered that day and how excited he’d been. The comics were like no books or magazines he’d ever seen. They were old issues with faded, torn pages, but to Jack they were bright, colorful, and crackling with energy. They had superpowered heroes, laser beams, and explosions. They had action-packed words like WHACK, KAPOW, and ARRRGHHH!!! Jack couldn’t bring himself to throw them away. He just couldn’t. Instead, he hid them in the stacks on the second floor of the St. Barnaby’s library, where hardly anyone ever went.

Almost all of the comics were missing covers, and quite a few were missing pages at the end. That didn’t bother Jack. He was a creative kid, perfectly happy to make up whatever endings suited him. Jack figured out his own ways for Captain Courage to defeat Doctor Destructo, or for Laser Girl to escape the Warrior Women of Planet 13. He drew them on notebook paper and stapled them into the comics. He came up with all kinds of wild ideas like Dimensional Doorways, Time Traps, Freeze Ray Reversers, and more.

Jack loved the comic book world. He felt at home there. He could imagine himself standing shoulder to shoulder with heroes and believe that there was something spectacular out there in the world, that amazing things could really happen. Jack would hide out up in the library with a stack of comics and a flashlight for hours at a time, completely forgetting the grim lessons of his teachers at St. Barnaby’s. Alone in that library, Jack learned new lessons. Lessons about justice, honor, and courage, about standing up for the little guy and doing what’s right. These were the hallmarks of a hero. These comics were Jack’s true teachers, and they never told him to grow up or stop dreaming.

Once Jack was absolutely sure that Mrs. Theedwheck was gone, he took the comics out of their hiding place. What was he going to read today? Jack had already read each comic at least a dozen times or more. It was all a matter of finding the right comic for his mood. He skimmed through the options. Chi, the supersensei ninja master, was taking on the evil Ronin assassins in the pages of ZenClan Warriors. Jack set that one aside—a definite possibility. The medieval adventures of barbarian kings were waiting for Jack in the pages of The Mighty Hovarth. Hovarth wasn’t really one of Jack’s favorites. Eventually, Jack settled on Unreal Tales #42 and the escapades of the space-faring hero called Prime. It was one of the rare comics in Jack’s collection with the cover still intact. The words ALONE AGAINST THE ROBO-ZOMBIES OF ASTEROID R! lit up the front page, right over a picture of Prime hopelessly outnumbered by an army of scrap-metal cyborg monsters. Jack settled himself into a comfortable position. He hadn’t read this one in a while.

Jack was halfway through the comic when he thought he heard someone in the library. He almost got up to take a look around, but he was at his favorite part of the story. Prime was in mortal peril, surrounded by Robo-Zombies and blasted with a direct hit from a Robo-Rust ray gun. The black eye of the Robo-Zombies started appearing on Prime’s face. Every Robo-Zombie had a dark line running around their right eye, with another line running down across their right cheek. Prime was turning into a Robo-Zombie himself! Would he be able to fight off the transformation? Would he become an evil Robo-Zombie bent on world domination?

Jack read on as Prime took a Robo-Zombie prisoner and blasted away from Asteroid R in a stolen starship. Over the next few pages, Prime pressed the zombie for a cure, but to no avail. The Robo-Zombie just laughed as a timer on its chest counted down. Jack turned the page to see a full-page picture of Prime’s ship exploding in space. Did Prime get out in time? There was no way to know. The final pages were missing, ripped out long ago.

Jack got out his notebook paper and started thinking about how the comic should end. Really, he should have been putting it away because of the noise he had heard. Someone might have been out there, maybe even a teacher, but Jack wasn’t thinking about that. He wasn’t thinking about the fact that he never actually heard the last school bus pull away for Mount Dismoor. He wasn’t thinking about the footsteps on the library’s second floor, inching ever closer. He wasn’t thinking about any of it until he was face-to-face with Rex Staples.

“Found him, Mrs. Theeeeedwheck!” Rex shouted back in the other direction.

“Ha!” the old bat shouted back.

Jack’s face fell. “Oh, great,” he groaned.

“Whoa,” Rex said, looking at all the comic books. “You’re in trouble now, Weirdo Face.”

“Don’t call me that,” Jack said, standing up.

“Who’s gonna stop me?” Rex asked, shoving Jack back down to the ground.

Rex stood over Jack and snickered. He had a pudgy face with freckles, spiky hair, and big teeth. He was the same age as Jack, but he was twice the size. At times like this, Jack really wished he had superpowers like the characters in his comics. Rex picked on him all the time. Calling him names, pushing him around, spilling coffee on his drawings . . . that’s right, Rex drank coffee. A twelve-year-old who drank coffee! He was a classic bully, but no matter what Rex did, somehow Jack was always the one who wound up in trouble.

“Good work, Rex!” Mrs. Theedwheck declared as she made her way through the stacks of books toward the two boys. “I knew you were up here, Jack, I just kn—oh my goodness! Are those comic books?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jack replied in a sullen voice. What else could he say? He was caught red-handed.

“The comic books I told you to throw away?!” Mrs. Theedwheck let out a horrified gasp. “That was years ago!”

Jack just stood there looking guilty while Rex smiled on.

“This explains everything,” Mrs. Theedwheck said, still in shock. “Why you won’t behave, why you never listen . . . it’s these! These ridiculous magazines poisoning your brain with nonsense! Childish nonsense! This is why you’re always such a problem!”

“It’s why he’s always such a weirdo,” Rex added.

“At least I’m not a snitch,” Jack said to Rex, who immediately punched him in the shoulder. “Ow!” Jack yelled. “Mrs. Theedwheck, are you just going to let him hit me?”

“You deserved that,” Mrs. Theedwheck scolded. “Calling Rex names when he’s only being responsible,” she added, shaking her head. “Young man, when are you going to grow up?”

“Grow up?” Jack said. “I’m only twelve years old.”

“Well! When I was your age, I was much older than that!” Mrs. Theedwheck fired back. “Mr. Calhoun is going to hear about this, Jack. You can count on that. And as for all of these absurd comical books, this time we are going to throw them out. Rex, before you get back on the bus, I want you to put every one of these childish publications in the incinerator.”

“No!” Jack yelled, and the lights in the room suddenly grew brighter, before fading down to their regular levels.

“What in the world?” Mrs. Theedwheck wondered aloud.

“It’s Jack,” Rex said. “He’s messing with the lights!”

“What are you talking about?” Jack said. “I am not!” The lights grew incredibly bright again, then slowly returned to normal.

Mrs. Theedwheck went to the window and saw sparks coming off the electric fence. “Calm down, Rex, it’s just the rain shorting out our fence. It drains the power from the school’s generator. This won’t happen when we get the new one.”

“I’m telling you, it’s him, Mrs. Theedwheck. This kind of crazy stuff always happens with him,” Rex said. “Like with the bus breaking down, or that time Jack broke my calculator in the middle of a math test.”

“That was my calculator!” Jack replied. “You stole it from me! And I didn’t break it!” The lights intensified to their brightest setting yet.

“It’s him, Mrs. Theedwheck! He’s doing it! Make him stop!”

“I’m not doing anything!” Jack said, raising his voice for the last time, as the lightbulb above them surged with power until it blew out with a crash.

“Oh!” Mrs. Theedwheck screamed as broken glass rained down. “Jack, that’s enough! Whatever it is that you’re doing, stop it!”

“But I didn’t do anything! Mrs. Theedwheck, please don’t burn up my comics,” Jack pleaded. “I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll do chores all day. All week, even!”

“Oh, I know you will, but the comics are getting burned either way. Rex, gather up every last one and then get on the bus. Jack, you have chores to do, but first things first.” Mrs. Theedwheck took out her yardstick. Jack knew what would come next.

* * *

When Mrs. Theedwheck was through with him, Jack was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to sit down for at least a week. That wasn’t the worst part of his punishment either. The worst was that there were so many comics that Rex couldn’t carry them all, and Jack had to help him take them down to the incinerator. He had to help burn up his own comic book collection in the furnace. Watching those books go into the fire was the absolute worst.

With the other kids finally off on their class trip, Jack was left alone in the basement, or what was currently the basement, bailing out water to stem the tide of the swamp. When he was younger, there used to be classrooms down there. Now the basement was surrendering to the marshlands, slowly sinking a little more each year.

Jack hated the creepy, slanted basement, with its floor tilted on an angle. The basement was nothing more than a long, thin, warped hallway. The high end of the tilt was dry and the low end was wet. Jack thought of the low end as the “deep end,” because all the way down at that end of the hall was a pool of water around a stairwell leading to the floor below, a floor completely submerged in swamp water.

The basement smelled of moisture, mold, and mildew. It was dark, too, since it wasn’t safe to use electricity on a floor that was almost halfway below swamp level. The only sunlight that crept through the windows was a combination of dim rays that either climbed above or dove below the swamp water outside. On a gray morning like this, there was almost no light at all, making the whole place look like a ghost school with empty desks scattered about each room, unsolved equations left on the chalkboard, and lonely art projects still taped to the walls.

Jack navigated the puddle-ridden basement in squishy shoes. Splish, splash. Splish, splash. He had a bucket to carry water from the deep end of the floor up to the shallow end. Back and forth, he made his way across the basement, up the tilted floor to the dry side, where he would climb a rickety wooden staircase that led to a window by the ceiling. Once he got there, he’d dump a bucket of green water outside and go back to do it again. He was supposed to keep going until the floor was dry. Splish, splash. Splish, splash. It was no use. Swamp water seeped in everywhere. It was a never-ending job.

One way or the other, Jack always ended up doing jobs like this as punishment for something. These days, it was usually punishment for something he did, in fact, do. There was a time when he used to keep his head down and try to follow the rules, but he found out that didn’t work at a place like St. Barnaby’s. Not for him, anyway. Even when he did what he was told and played the part of the model student, he always managed to get in trouble with the teachers for some new rule he had broken or was suspected of breaking. It was no wonder he started sidestepping the rules whenever he could, like hiding from Mrs. Theedwheck to dodge chores or stashing the comic books in the library. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn’t. This time, it didn’t.

While he worked, Jack thought about what had happened with the lights in the library. He had to admit, weird stuff like that did happen a lot—like the calculator incident Rex was talking about. Jack remembered it well. It was the day of a big math test and Rex had forgotten his calculator, so he stole Jack’s. Jack was so mad, and then the calculator fried itself two minutes later. The look on Rex’s face at that moment was almost worth losing the calculator, but Jack didn’t have anything to do with it breaking. How could he have?

Jack’s ponderings were cut short just as he was emptying a pail of water out the window. He heard something behind him. Something way back on the deep side of the floor. A sound almost like bubbles. A sound like something was coming up from the water.

“Hello?” Jack called back from the window.

There was no answer.

Jack waited a minute, then tried to shake it off. “Probably just some air bubbles,” he told himself as he started back down the stairs. No big deal.

Then he heard the dripping. Heavy dripping, like water running off a person’s body onto the floor. Like a large person stepping out of a bathtub. Or a swamp.

“Hello?” Jack called out again, a little more scared this time. “Is anyone down there?”

The reply was footsteps—watery footsteps from all the way down on the dark side of the basement. . . .

Splish, splash. Splish, splash. Splish, splash.

There was no question about it. Somebody was definitely down there.

Jack walked with his pail to the flooded side of the basement. He stood at the doorway of a waterlogged classroom. “Who’s down here?” Jack called out with all the courage he could muster.

Again, he heard footsteps. Splish, splash. Splish, splash. The sound was coming from another room down the hall. Jack’s first thought was that Rex and his cronies were messing with him, but everyone was supposed to be out on the field trip. So, who was down there? Slowly and carefully, Jack walked after the footsteps, following the sound.

He was sure the noise was coming from a classroom down near the deep end of the hall. He followed the noise to another warped doorway and looked inside to find dead quiet and an empty room. He checked a few more rooms but found nothing each time. The footsteps were gone. Jack decided it was just his imagination. He filled his bucket with water and started back toward the rickety wooden staircase on the dry side of the floor.

A door shut behind him. Jack turned around with a jump and dropped his bucket. An old, creaky door dragging several inches of water with it had just closed itself at the end of the hall. This was not his imagination.

Most of the classrooms were connected by interior doorways, so Jack had no way of knowing which door had just mysteriously shut. He stared down the hall, looking for a clue. The dim light from the windows flickered ever so slightly off the surface of swirling water at the very end of the hallway. Something was down there. Jack picked up his bucket and started inching down the corridor into ankle-deep water. The closer he got, the better he could see the water churning about, like someone had just slipped beneath its surface. He reached the stairwell, the very place where the swamp was flooding in from below. A lone banister was all that remained to mark the location of the staircase. It reached out from the murky depths in a futile gesture to escape the swamp.

Jack sloshed through smelly water to the open doorway at the stairwell. It was a doorway to both the staircase below and the depths of the swamp.

Jack was scared enough to keep his distance but curious enough that he had to find out what was down there. If Jack had known what was lurking below the surface, he would have run the other way as fast as his feet would take him. That wouldn’t have mattered, though. It had followed him this far already. It had followed him across the swamp, up through the lower levels of St. Barnaby’s, and right up to the basement stairwell, where it could feel Jack’s presence. It was so close. Just on the other side of the water.

The time had come.

Jack was staring into his own blurry reflection in the murky water when the image was dispelled by a grabbing hand reaching to clutch at his wrist.

“AGGHH!” Jack yelped, backing away so fast that he tripped on his own feet. He hit the ground with a splash. The hand that had grabbed at him disappeared back below the water’s edge. What was that?

From the ground, Jack watched, trembling, as the rest of the thing emerged from the deep. It looked like a heap of scrap metal. It smelled of mildew and rust, a random collection of corroded metal plates. But it wasn’t random. Not really. Wires, nuts, and bolts were sticking out everywhere, and the rising pile of waste looked like garbage left over from the construction work that was always being done around St. Barnaby’s. That garbage was routinely dumped in the swamp, but this garbage was forming the shape of something.

The shifting mass lurched forward, out of the pool of water in the stairwell. Jack got a good look, and what he saw was impossible. The mass was dark gray everywhere except for a shining red light in the center of what was apparently becoming a person’s chest. A newly formed neck raised a newly formed head, and on that head an eye blinked open. An eye with a black mark running all the way around it and a dark line running down from its inside corner.

The creature was exactly like one of the aliens Jack had just read about in his comic books. He was looking at a Robo-Zombie. Jack shivered in place, letting out a stuttering burble of shock. Frozen with fear, his mind tried to tell him he was seeing things, that none of this was possible.

The Robo-Zombie opened its mouth to speak, and a mechanical noise poured out, screeching through the air like choppy analog ringtones and static:


Jack screamed and threw his bucket at the mechanical beast. It was all he could think to do. The robot caught the bucket and crushed it in its left hand. It tossed the bucket away and slowly advanced on Jack.

Frantic, Jack scooted himself backward, still on the ground. The lights in the basement were coming on. Just like before, they were starting out low and gradually growing brighter. This was impossible, Jack thought. Then again, he was staring at a seven-foot robot that had just climbed out of the swamp, so what did impossible really mean? The light intensified. The Robo-Zombie noticed the lights as they reached their height of brightness and sparks shot out of the sockets. The power to the lights was supposed to be off because it wasn’t safe. As Jack cleared the pool of water by the stairwell, electric bolts shot up through the water, striking the robot. It cried out in pain.

Jack ran.

Sprinting down the long hallway to the staircase on the dry side, Jack was scared beyond belief. Behind him, he could see the robot down on one knee, looking up at him. Smoke rose off its frame. It looked angry. Getting up quickly, it charged at the doorway. Too wide to fit through the door, it broke through the wall on either side. It was coming for Jack, and it was picking up speed.

Jack had always wished he’d had superpowers. He’d go to bed hoping that he’d wake up with the ability to fly, turn into steel, or shoot ice rays from his hands. While flying was Jack’s first choice, anything would have been fine as the Robo-Zombie was coming after him. You don’t get picky when you have a monster robot chasing you down the hall. Jack reached the wooden staircase that led up to the window. He scampered up the rickety steps, tripping halfway to the top. He caught himself and turned to see the robot powering up in his run. It left the ground and flew right at him.

Jack just barely managed to squeeze himself out through the window at the ceiling, and took off running across the marsh. The robot barreled through the window behind him, taking chunks of the wall off as it charged out of the basement. The damaged section of the building’s foundation sludged into the swamp and the robot shot high into the air.

The Robo-Zombie circled around in the sky, looking for Jack. There was no real cover to be found in the marsh. It was an endless stretch of tall, colorless grass and weeds surrounding vast pools of cold, still water. The drab landscape was interrupted by a few trees and rocks planted here and there, with long, half-barren hedgerows winding in between. Everything was beige and tan. Everything looked dead.

With the robot up in the air, Jack knew he would be easily spotted running through the grass. In fact, any movement at all was sure to give away his position. Jack was scared to death but somehow managed to keep thinking straight. He stayed perfectly still and ducked down below the reeds.

A hundred or so feet away, the tall grass fluttered. The robot zeroed in on it immediately and swooped down from the sky. Diving like a torpedo, the robot hit the earth with a slam. Jack shook in his hiding place as a gaggle of ducks scattered off in a dozen directions, quacking up a storm.

The Robo-Zombie remained on the ground, swatting at the ducks. Jack ran. He ran hard with all the energy he had. All of it. Pure supercharged adrenaline and fear powered his legs as he ran blindly through the thin stalks of grass. The freezing water was past his ankles, but he ran as fast as he could and didn’t dare look back. He plowed ahead through the marsh, and then suddenly he slammed right into the electric fence.

Jack bounced back with a shock. The robot heard him. Jack looked across the marsh and locked eyes with the iron brute. It was coming for him.

Unable to climb the fence, Jack just kept running. It was still raining outside, and sparks flew off the electric fence as he ran alongside it. From behind him he heard two zaps from the electric fence and then a third, louder noise.

“Whoa!” Jack yelped as he ducked behind a tree. That last zap was no spark from the fence. Some kind of laser blast had just missed him! The robot was fast approaching. It was taking shots at him as it came. The first two blasts disappeared in the murky water to Jack’s left and right, and the third one struck the trunk of his tree, splintering it in two.

Jack kept running through bushes and weeds, trying to get away, but it was no use. The robot was closing in, screaming its static-filled battle cry and firing shot after shot from its wrist cannons.

Eventually, Jack cleared the swamp, exhausted and with no energy left to keep going. He reached a dead end, penned in by the electric fence at the edge of St. Barnaby’s property. There was nothing there but the orphanage’s power generator out back by an old shed. Jack hid in the shed, hoping to escape. It wasn’t happening. No sooner did he get into a good hiding place than the shed’s roof and walls were ripped off the ground. The robot threw them away and hovered menacingly over Jack. It trained its arm, ready to blast him into oblivion. Jack sat there shivering, wondering what he’d done to make a monster from his comic books come to life and try to kill him.

“What do you want?” Jack screamed at the monster. “Why are you after me?”

There was no answer, but the monster paused.

It was almost as if the iron beast that chased him all this way was now struggling with the thought of killing him. This came as no comfort to Jack. He was still terrified, and his heart bounced around in his chest like a racquetball. What he didn’t realize was that the faster his heart beat and the more scared he became, the faster the power generator across from him seemed to run. The generator was big enough to light the entire orphanage and power the electric fence. The robot was hovering right over it.

Jack stared up at the monster that was still deciding whether or not to finish him off. Knowing there was nowhere left to run, Jack could only hope that the monster had some kind of a conscience. As the robot primed its wrist cannons, Jack could see that the evil thing intended to complete its mission.

Meanwhile, the power generator below the robot was redlining. A mechanical whirr grew louder and louder, faster and faster, until first one bolt popped and then another and another. By the time the monster finally noticed that the machine below him was bursting at the seams, it was too late.

The explosion was incredible. It rose up in a ball of orange and black flames, a vigorous blast that engulfed the robot in a blazing conflagration. Within that blast thundered a second explosion that knocked Jack off his feet. It was like something out of an action movie that Jack wasn’t allowed to watch, or the comic books he wasn’t allowed to read. The heat from the flames blew into Jack with a draft of sizzling air. The smoke set Jack into a coughing fit, but he didn’t mind. He was actually pretty darn happy. The warm gust of air that hit his freezing body couldn’t have been more welcome if it had come from an oven filled with freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies.

When the smoke cleared, Jack still had no idea what had happened, but he could see the destruction was total. A huge, smoldering hole in the ground and some burned-out chunks of metal were all that remained of the power generator. It was a good thing St. Barnaby’s was getting a new electric fence for free, because the new generator they were going to need wouldn’t be cheap. And there were no identifiable pieces left of the robot that caused all this mess. The generator had blown up and taken all of the robot with it. Jack sat down in shock and waited in the rain for someone to come and yell at him.

He knew no one was going to believe this.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions for The Accidental Hero by Matt Myklusch

Jack lives at St. Barnaby’s Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten and Lost. What does this name signify about the types of kids who live there? What kind of boy is Jack?
Jack is surprised when Jazen tells him he is courageous. Why do you think he’s surprised? Are there different kinds of courage?
What do you believe is the connection between the word imagination and the place Imagine Nation?
How are Jack’s past and future similar? How might they be different? Are there other characters in the book who deal with this too?
Why do you think the author shows that Jack qualifies for a future as a toilet brush cleaner on the P-MAP test? What does Jack think about this test?
How could Jack not knowing who he is be beneficial to him in the Imagine Nation, in your opinion?
Why do you think the author named the characters Jonas Smart and Stendeval the Wise? Is there a difference between being wise and being smart? If so, how is this showcased in these characters?
Stendeval says, “Fear is a very effective political tool, and I know that you can be very . . . persuasive.” In what ways do you believe Jonas Smart employs fear in the book as a tool to achieve what he wants?
Which teacher at the School of Thought do you think has the most important or effective test for Jack, Skerren, and Allegra to pass?
Stendeval says, “The only thing I find impossible is the concept of impossibility.” What does he mean by this? How can you connect this quote to the idea of imagination and the place Imagine Nation?

Questions written by Jessica Rentas, 4th Grade Teacher

About The Author

Supplied by author

Matt Myklusch lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (August 3, 2010)
  • Length: 480 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416995616
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 780 The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

Matt Myklusch's "Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation" is a great novel that feels a lot like the "Harry Potter" series, except instead of magic and wizards, it deals with superheroes and supervillains.”—

Awards and Honors

  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List

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More books from this author: Matt Myklusch

More books in this series: A Jack Blank Adventure