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Video: Volunteer program inspires ‘Secret’ book

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    >>> this morning on al's book club for kids, the name of this book is a secret. hidden clues, it's the story that two young outcasts who must use their witts to solve the mystery of dead magician and a classmate. the author of the name of this book is we secret. and our book club kids, min, good to see you guys. you have a good summer?

    >> yes.

    >> we've also got a special guest live from skype, price nelson from maryland. good to see you, everybody. and let's get started.

    >> hi.

    >> hi, how are you, price?

    >> immigra'm great.

    >> first, we want to talk to our author, synonymous bosh. is that your real name ?

    >> am i among friends here?

    >> yes.

    >> no hidden cameras ?

    >> no. bosh of course is a made up name. synonymous is a family name .

    >> real name .

    >> family portraits, we're the ones with our hands like this.

    >> kind of like that. okay. very good. now, this was actually the first of your five-part secret series. why did you write this?

    >> there's a secret story behind the name of this book, can we all keep this between ourselves?

    >> yes.

    >> i wrote it originally as part of a volunteer program at an elementary school . and i had a writing partner named may who was a fourth grader. and i wrote the book in installments through the mail for her. and we were not supposed to divulge our names, hence, synonymous bosh.

    >> let's get to our book club kids. first of all, michael, what was your question for mr. bosh.

    >> while riding why did you decide to see the code instead of just giving information?

    >> ah, well, i loved secret codes when i was a kid. i was obsessed with morris code . i used to send messages all the time for no reason at all. and as a writer, i think codes and puzzles are sort of just a wonderful device for keeping readers engaged. if you think about it, a mystery look like this in a way is kind of a big puzzle. so i just kind of stuck with that theme on all levels and had a good time with it.

    >> all right. what's your question?

    >> hi. my question is, who are some of your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing career?

    >> when i was a kid i read all the time, almost a book a day. i just read when i was supposed to be doing my homework or eating dinner or anything else. all kinds of books, fantasiefantasies, mysteries. my all-time favorite was lol doll. if you knew how much i like chocolate you might be able to guess why it's my favorite.

    >> bridget, what's your question for mr. bosh?

    >> in the novel kat thie deals with being prepared for disasters. do you see yourself as a survivalist?

    >> cass, who carries a backpack full of survival supplies who wants to be prepared for anything, that character really came out of my seeing all the disasters that had been in the news over the last several years. i was thinking about what would it be like to be a kid growing up with all these disasters around them. and wouldn't you want to feel prepared and like a survivalist? that's where the character came from.

    >> our last question is from 9-year-old price. he's from phoenix, maryland. price, what's your question?

    >> well, i'd like to ask, do you know someone who does? if not, how did you learn about it and decide to put it in the book?

    >> the confusion of the senses, and it's a condition, not a bad condition, but a real condition that a lot of people have is a big theme in the book, as are the senses. five books in my series. one for each sense, which the fifth book is about touch coming out soon. and, yes, i know several people with it although i don't have it. they see numbers and letters in color, which is one of the most common forms.

    >> good question, price. let's see how our kids rated the book on a scale of one to five. the name of the book called "secrets" is five stars. terrific.

    >> terrific.

    >> thank you, guys. thank you, price, as well. if you're between the ages of 9 and 12 and would like a chance to be selected as our next guest kid, go to today.com. time to reveal the next book. it is "wonder struck" by brian zelznick. he wrote the first book on al's book club for kids. this is going to be on book shelves september 13th . mr. bosh, thank you so much. guys, thank you.

    >> thank you.

TODAY books
updated 6/30/2011 9:50:39 AM ET 2011-06-30T13:50:39

Two adventurous kids try to solve a peculiar mystery in Pseudonymous Bosch’s “The Name of This Book is Secret.” Here's an excerpt.

Chapter Two: A Wednesday

It was a Wednesday.

A humble, unremarkable day. The middle child in the weekday family. A Wednesday has to work hard to be noticed. Most people let each one pass without comment.

But not the heroine of our story. She is the kind of girl who notices things that others don’t.

Meet Cassandra.

Wednesday is her favorite day. She believes it’s just when you least expect something earth-shattering to happen that it does.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

According to Greek myth, the original Cassandra was a princess of ancient Troy. She was very beautiful, and Apollo, god of the sun, fell in love with her.

When she rejected him, Apollo became so angry he placed a curse on her: he gave her the power to predict the future, but he also ensured that nobody would believe her predictions. Imagine knowing that your whole world was about to be destroyed by a tornado or typhoon, and then having nobody believe you when you told them. What misery!

Unlike the Cassandra of myth, the girl who figures in our story is not a prophet. She cannot see into the future. Nor has she been cursed by a god, at least not to my knowledge. But she resembles a prophet in that she is always predicting disaster. Earthquakes, hurricanes, plagues — she is an expert in all things terrible and she sees evidence of them everywhere.

That is why I am calling her Cassandra — or Cass, for short.

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As you know, I cannot describe Cass in detail. But this much I will tell you: from the outside, Cass looks like a typical eleven-year-old. Her major distinguishing feature is that she has rather large, pointy ears. And before you tell me that I shouldn’t have told you about the ears, let me explain that she almost always covers her ears with her hair or with a hat. So chances are you will never see them.

While she may look like other girls, Cass is in other respects a very un-average sort of person. She doesn’t play games involving fortune-telling or jump rope or strings of any kind. She doesn’t even watch television very often. She doesn’t own a single pair of soft suede boots lined with fleece. She wouldn’t even want a pair, unless they were waterproof and could protect her in a snowstorm.

As you can tell, Cass is very practical; she has no time for trivial matters.

Her motto: Be Prepared.

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Her mission: to make sure that she and her friends and family survive all the disasters that befall them.

Cass is a survivalist.

These are things Cass carries in her backpack every day:



Silver Mylar space blanket — surprisingly warm if you haven’t tried one; also has useful reflective properties

Box of juice — usually grape, doubles as ink in a pinch

Bubble gum — for its sticking value, and because chewing helps her concentrate

Cass’s patented “super-chip” trail mix — chocolate chips, peanut-butter chips, banana chips, potato chips (and no raisins, ever!)

Topographic maps — of all the closest desert and mountain areas, as well as of Micronesia and the Galápagos Islands


Tool kit

First-aid kit

Dust mask

Extra pair of socks and shoes — in case of flash floods and other wet conditions

Matches — technically not allowed at school

Plastic knife — because a jackknife is really not allowed

Schoolbooks and homework — when she remembers, which is not very often (she keeps forgetting to put schoolwork on her supplies checklist)

On the evidence of the items in her backpack, you might guess that Cass had led a very adventurous life. But you would be wrong. The truth is, up until the time this story begins, none of the disasters she predicted had befallen her. There’d been no earthquakes at school — none strong enough to shatter a window, anyway. The mildew in her mother’s shower turned out to be just that — not the killer mold Cass predicted. And that child spinning around on the grass did not have mad cow disease — he was just having a good time.

Cass didn’t exactly mind that her predictions hadn’t come true. After all, she didn’t wish for disaster. But she couldn’t help wishing people took her concerns more seriously.

Instead, everyone was always reminding her about the boy who cried wolf. Naturally, they took that story to mean the boy shouldn’t have cried wolf when there weren’t any. But Cass knew the true moral of the story: that the boy was right, there really were wolves around, and they’d get you in the end if you didn’t watch out.

Better to cry wolf over and over than never to cry wolf at all.

From "The Name of This Book Is Secret" by Pseudonymous Bosch. Copyright © 2007. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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