JJ and the Wizard's Quest

Our Chapter Books transport readers to exciting new worlds for gripping adventures they'll never want to leave!

In JJ and the Wizard's Quest, when the injured wizard Devlin tells JJ that only he can stop the evil Annika from sucking all the joy out of the world; JJ must rely on his wits, his courage, and his new friend Bernie to outsmart the wicked Annika!

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8

Chapter One

When JJ woke up that morning, he was pleased to see sun streaming through the window. A light breeze swept over his spotted fur as he sat up and stretched. Today was shaping up to be just like any other day, or so he thought.

As dogs go, JJ was rather reserved. When he saw unfamiliar dogs coming his way, he usually nodded politely and headed off another direction. He wasn't unfriendly. He just kept to himself.

JJ also hated surprises, especially the new addition to his backyard. In the last month, JJ had woken up more mornings than he could count to find holes dug all over his perfectly manicured lawn.

The gophers were at it again, digging up holes all over the grass. He knew it was their nature. He knew they weren't mean spirited or criminal. But that didn't change the fact that those blasted gophers were ruining his lawn. JJ had had enough.

Any other dog might have stayed up late and confronted the gophers. But JJ was not any other dog. Instead, he took a more pragmatic approach. As soon as he'd had his breakfast, he set off on his mission.

It was a lovely day for a walk, with more sun than clouds by this time. JJ nodded politely to everyone who crossed his path, whether canine or not. He even smiled at the cranky cat who always blocked the entrance to the library, sprawled out to catch the morning rays. He stepped delicately over her and walked into the cool stillness of the towering books.

JJ took a deep breath, inhaling the wonderful scent of ink and paper mingled with the faintest aroma of glue. JJ loved the library. Everything was so orderly and predictable. It was always so easy to find exactly what he was looking for. He was sure that with a bit of careful research, he should be able to find the perfect piece of information to keep the errant gophers off his lawn.

"Good morning, JJ!" the librarian called, in a voice JJ thought perhaps too loud for a librarian. A creature as loud as a parrot didn't seem right to work in a library.

"Good morning, Sheila." JJ waved at her and kept walking.

"Wait, JJ. I set a book aside for you!"

JJ stopped and considered the pirate adventure the parrot librarian had thrust his direction. "It's new," she squawked. "I just love all the great adventures! I thought you might, too."

"No, thanks." JJ didn't know where Sheila would have gotten such an idea. JJ liked adventures, to be sure, but only in small doses. With one more nod to Sheila, he headed toward the reference section.

Scanning the shelves of animal books, JJ snickered at the thick volume, Dogs and their Dreams. It didn't take five hundred pages to explain what dogs dream about. Cats, squirrels, bones. There. He'd done it in three words.

His eyes scanned past the section on foxes, still looking for the elusive guide to gophers. But then, for some reason, his eyes wandered back.

Set in between Foxes: Cunning or Courageous? and Foxes: A Den of their Own was a very old, dusty looking book with odd markings up and down its spine.

Looking back, JJ never could explain why he pulled that book out to begin with. It had nothing to do with gophers or lawn maintenance. In fact, he couldn't tell what it was about at all, since the characters on the front of the book were impossible to read.

JJ sat down and set the strange, heavy book in front of him. He cocked his head slightly, trying to make out the odd characters. He reached out with his paw and traced one of them. Then, without even understanding what he was doing, JJ opened the mysterious book.

JJ stared at what he supposed was the title page of the strange book without understanding a word. Inside the book, the letters seemed even stranger. Not only were the letters unrecognizable, but they seemed to swirl around. They changed places on the page even as JJ tried to make sense of them.

His head aching, JJ shut the book abruptly and shoved it back onto the shelf. Was it even meant to be in this section? Foreign language books were kept on the other side of the library. But something kept drawing him back to the dusty old book.

JJ stood there for what seemed like hours, though it was probably only a minute or two. Finally, he pulled the book down from the shelf one more time. He brushed his paw across the cover, wiping off years of dust. No one had opened this book in a very long time.

JJ opened the book. He simply couldn't stop himself. Again, letters swirled about like water going down the drain.

Suddenly, he noticed something. Whenever he placed his paw over the page, the letters slowed down. But when he pulled his paw away, they sped up again. Thoughtfully, he placed his hand directly onto the page and the letters almost stopped moving.

Of course, it was very difficult to get a good look at anything with his paw directly over the page. He lifted his paw a tiny bit and peered underneath at the slowly moving letters. Anyone walking by the reference section at that moment would have likely found this a very strange reading technique. But as he gazed at the slow, swirly letters, JJ realized he suddenly understood them, as if they were the language he'd been reading since he was small.

"What comes once in a minute," he read, and then stopped. Was it a riddle? He loved riddles. "What comes once in a minute," he repeated, making sure he understood the words. Then he continued. "And twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years."

JJ smiled. Once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years. He thought carefully, and could feel the answer humming around inside his brain, just bursting to come out. It was like teetering on the edge of a memory. Maybe if he looked at it again ...

He placed his paw on the page, and then lifted it ever so slightly, peering underneath. What comes once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years? It couldn't be simpler. The letter M.

He chuckled. Of course! "The letter M..." he muttered aloud.

And that was the moment JJ's life changed forever. As soon as the letter M left JJ's lips, the letters were not the only things swirling. Suddenly it felt as if the entire library was swirling, the ground beneath him was shifting, the world was upside down.

JJ felt like he was falling, but not falling down. He felt like he was somehow falling through something. Like water, without getting wet, or fire, without getting burnt.

He felt time itself rushing past him, or ahead of him. He couldn't be sure of anything. It all happened in a flash and felt like it took forever. And then, quite suddenly, it was over.

JJ felt nothing at all.

Everything was darkness. Stillness. It was cool, and silent, and after a minute, an hour or maybe even a day, JJ began to come to. He had no idea what had happened. He wasn't even sure he was alive at all. Then slowly but surely he began to feel the ground beneath him. It was rough, like hard-packed dirt. He was definitely not in the library.

The library! That was the last thing he remembered. Without moving a muscle or opening his eyes, JJ recounted for himself the events of the last few minutes. Still, he had nothing but questions.

Where was he? Had he died? Could he even open his eyes?

Slowly, terrified at what he might see, JJ opened his eyes. He was lying flat on his back, somewhere very dark, and at first he saw nothing. But like eyes adjusting to a dark bedroom, things slowly started coming into focus. What he saw then was much more terrifying than seeing nothing at all.

Looming over him stood a huge, snarling canine face. Was it another dog? JJ was too scared to be sure. Its snout was very long and pointed, with sharp teeth bared. Its reddish hair stood on end, and its long tail twitched menacingly. The creature stood holding a gnarled wand inches from JJ's chest, waiting for him to make the next move.

JJ's next move was to screw his eyes shut and will himself back into the library. He would rather spend all day in the company of Sheila the parrot than consider this snarling creature again.

Wildly, he rethought the steps that had brought him here. Went to the library. Found the odd book. Slowed the swirling letters. Read a riddle. Answered it... Maybe answering the riddle was the key to transporting himself back to the library. If it brought him here, maybe it could take him back again.

"The letter M," he mumbled, still feeling the hard packed dirt beneath his back. "The letter M," he called out in a stronger voice.

"The letter M, indeed," came another voice. It was the voice of the creature looming over him, although it sounded strangely pleasant. "Welcome, my dear young canine friend!"

JJ opened one eye and peered out at the creature, which was clearly not so monstrous, even under the inspection of a single eye. He opened the other eye and sat up cautiously. The creature was a fox, draped in brilliant blue robes befitting some kind of royalty, and his hair was speckled with silver here and there. This was a fox who had lived.

What was more, this fox who had seemed so frightening when JJ first arrived, was apparently injured. He hobbled about the den with the aid of the gnarled stick that JJ had thought was a wand.

"Tea?" the fox asked jovially, apparently thrilled by JJ's presence. "I'm sure I've got some tea around here somewhere."

JJ tried to speak but barely a whisper came out.

"Speak up then, I don't have the hearing of my younger days!" The fox cocked his ears in JJ's direction.

JJ cleared his throat. "I thought you were going to kill me."

The fox chuckled. "My apologies. When one sends a magical spell into another world, one must proceed with great caution, no matter what happens next."

"A magical spell?" JJ thought some tea might do him good. When he'd set out that morning, he never imagined he might find himself conversing with a magical fox in another world.

"Yes, I sent that spell out and you responded. I'm ever so glad you did, and sorry to have frightened you. I just thought there was the slightest chance you were working for her, you know, and I needed to seem as imposing as possible. But you're in no danger, at least not from me."

JJ didn't feel much better. He nodded his head toward the fox's stick. "So that's not a ..."

"This old thing? It's a stick. Good for nothing except helping a hobbled old creature get about his den."

"So you're not a ..."

The fox looked at him expectantly. "A what?"

"I don't know." JJ laughed nervously. "A ... sorcerer?"

The fox let out a booming laugh that filled the den and bounced off the hard rock walls. "A sorcerer!" His laughter was infectious, and soon JJ joined in. The laughter felt good. He couldn't remember the last time he had laughed so hard, in fact.

Finally, the fox settled down. "A sorcerer! That's a hoot. I had no idea you'd be so funny! Marvelous! No, my dear canine friend, I am not a sorcerer." Then, he winked at JJ. "I'm just Devlin. Devlin the wizard."

JJ's mind raced. What was the difference between a sorcerer and a wizard? He didn't know, but he did know that he would not feel comfortable with either one. But whatever kind of magic this mysterious old fox could do, he didn't seem inclined to do any right now. Or at least not yet.

"Well then. A wizard." JJ smiled a cautious smile, as though he were perfectly comfortable spending the day inside a dark cave with a strange wizard.

"A wizard with no wand," Devlin corrected, fumbling about with the tea things. "Which barely makes me a wizard at all. What good is a vast knowledge of the deepest magic in the universe when one cannot even make a spot of tea appear by magic?"

"Well, you cast a spell into my world, didn't you?" JJ pointed out. "You can't be totally powerless."

Devlin nodded and sat down, rubbing his injured leg. "A wand is necessary for most things," he began to explain. "It's the very essence of a wizard, really, but..." Before he could continue, a minor explosion in the corner interrupted Devlin.

"Oh dear," he muttered, heading over to clean up the mess as JJ watched in wonder. JJ wasn't sure what to make of Devlin the wizard. If things exploded when he attempted a simple task like making tea, JJ was quite afraid what might happen when the wizard actually held a wand in his hand.

"Do you need help with that?"

The wizard motioned for him to sit back down. "No, no. You rest up. You're going to need your strength. I'm just so accustomed to making things happen with the flick of the wand, I guess I let the teapot heat up a bit too much. It's nothing."

And yet it didn't seem like nothing to JJ. Every now and again, JJ noticed Devlin glancing around the den as if on the lookout for something. Or someone. He couldn't say why, but JJ had a sneaking suspicion the exploding tea had nothing to do with Devlin's rusty kitchen skills.

Finally the tea was set before him and Devlin sat down as well. "As I was saying, a wand is required for nearly all the magic I do, but there are a few unique spells that come completely from one's heart. They require nothing but the sheer will to accomplish them."

"I see." JJ sipped the tea, which was quite weak and not very hot at all. "I wonder, then, might you have enough will to send me back to the library I came from? Or my house. Or anywhere thereabouts? I'm not picky."

Devlin shook his head. "I'm afraid that's not possible. It took every last ounce of will I had to summon you here. In fact..."

Again the wizard was interrupted, this time by a fly buzzing around the tea on the table between them. As Devlin reached out to shoo the fly away, it suddenly turned into a frog. The frog, looking rather surprised itself, fell with a tremendous plop into the teapot.

JJ's eyes widened as the frog, who for his part was quite grateful the tea was not very hot, struggled out of the tea pot and hopped out of the den, leaving splotches of weak tea behind him everywhere he stepped.

The wizard did not look at all troubled by this turn of events. In fact, he looked exasperated, but he went on as though nothing unusual had just happened.

"A library, you say? That's where you came from?" The wizard delicately wiped a droplet of tea that had splashed onto his forehead. "Tell me about this library. It must be a place with books, I presume?"

"Um, yes." JJ stared off in the direction the frog had gone. "A library is a place with books. Lots of books."

"And you found mine."

""Yours? You mean that dusty old book belonged to you? Did you leave it there?"

The wizard chuckled. "No, no. I've never even been to your world. But the spell I cast..."

This time the wizard stared off after the frog, and JJ began to wonder if Devlin was quite well. Finally, the old fox spoke again. "Well, in short, the spell I cast sent that book into your world to find the chosen one. And since you opened the book and answered my little riddle correctly, that means you are the one. The chosen one."

JJ wasn't sure he liked the sound of that. But before he could ask what exactly he had been chosen for, he noticed an odd twinkling out of the corner of his eye. As he turned to see what it could possibly be, JJ found himself looking directly into a bright ball of fire barreling directly toward his head.

- End of Chapter One -