Elvis Is Missing #1

Author Bruce Hale
Illustrated by Luke Séguin-Magee
Blast off into space and come along for an intergalactic mystery—with plenty of pizza—in this first book of the illustrated chapter book series, Outer Space Mystery Pizza Club!

It’s another ordinary Friday night in the suburbs for the Garcia-Jackson family: Mateo and Valentina’s favorite show is on TV. Mateo’s best friend, Booker, is over. And their babysitter, Jennica, is definitely keeping an eye on them and not playing with her phone.

But when Elvis, the family’s dog, bolts out of the house, barking uncontrollably at someone—or something—in the backyard, the kids go investigate…only to watch Elvis disappear through a mysterious portal!

The three kids, with their babysitter in tow, have no choice but to follow him—adventuring through deep space, where they’ll encounter aliens, dodge asteroids, and defy gravity—as they attempt to find their furry best friend (and make it back home before bedtime!).

Illustrator Luke Séguin-Magee brings this hilarious story to life with out-of-this-world black-and-white spot art.
Chapter 1: Stranger Critters
 
Something was up. Elvis could tell.

Mr. and Mrs. Garcia-Jackson bustled about the house, dressed in their don’t-jump-on-me clothes. House keys jangled, a sure sign of someone leaving. Jennica the Babysitter slouched in the armchair, half playing with her phone, half watching TV with Mateo and Valentina.

Anticipation curled through the room like the smoky scent of a distant fire.

Elvis whined. He paced across the kitchen tiles, toenails clicking.

Was the family planning to leave him alone with only a babysitter for company?

A hand reached down and scruffled his neck fur. “It’s okay, buddy,” said Mr. Garcia-Jackson. “The kids are staying home with you.”

Elvis leaned into it. The scruffles felt good. But he still couldn’t settle down.

Seeking more comfort, Elvis padded back into the family room and rested his chin on Mateo’s knee. The boy didn’t take his eyes off the screen. “Not now, pup,” said Mateo. He patted Elvis twice and nudged his head away.

Elvis looked up at him with big eyes, but Mateo was oblivious.

Tina grabbed the remote from her brother. “It’s almost on!”

Music swelled. Elvis glanced at the TV, but the swirling colors on the screen made his eyes feel strange. What was it with humans and their devices?

“Oooh, the Mystery Club, the Mystery Club / Cracking open mysteries is what we love!”
Mateo and Tina sang along with the TV.

Jennica rolled her eyes, but the corners of her lips curled up. The older girl smelled calm and comforting, so Elvis trotted over and nose-bopped her. She scratched behind his ears.

“Any questions, any problems, we’re just a phone call away,” said Mrs. Garcia-Jackson. Fixing her earring, she glided into the room in a cloud of rose perfume.

“We know, Mom,” Mateo and Tina chorused.

“Do what Jennica tells you.”

“We will, Mom.”

Mrs. Garcia-Jackson bent over the sofa to kiss each of them on the top of their heads. “And if any strangers knock at the door . . .”

“Don’t let them in,” the kids droned. But their eyes stayed glued to the screen.

Mrs. Garcia-Jackson lifted her purse from the side table. “There’s a fire extinguisher by the back door, and a—”

“Honey, we’ll miss our reservation,” said Mr. Garcia-Jackson. He slipped an arm through hers.

“We’ll be fine, Mrs. Garcia-Jackson,” said Jennica. “Really.” Elvis noticed the babysitter didn’t roll her eyes this time, but she smelled like she wanted to. “Have fun!”

“Bye, kids!” their mother called as their father guided her out the door.

Tina and Mateo just grunted, absorbed by their TV show.

“Thought they’d never leave,” Tina muttered after the door closed.

“Shh!” her brother shushed.

They focused on the screen.

Elvis sighed. He lay down with his chin on Jennica’s foot. She’d taken care of him one time before, when the family went away for the weekend. Though he preferred his own humans, Elvis approved of her. The girl understood the importance of treats.

Before long, the dog caught a familiar scent. He raised his head, sniffing deeply. Sure enough, a few seconds later, someone rapped on the back door.

Elvis barked with great enthusiasm. Nobody was a better barker.

Rising, Mateo said, “I’ll get it.”

“What did your mom just say?” asked Jennica.

“No worries. It’s only Booker.”

Elvis lunged up to join the boy. Sure, he knew who was at the door, but what fun was being a watchdog if you couldn’t bark?

Outside the back door stood a skinny boy about Mateo’s age with poodle-curly hair.
“Where you been, Book?” asked Mateo.

“Dude, my gran made me triple-check my homework,” said Booker. “She’s mean. Not like your babysitter. Hi, Jennica!” he called.

“Hey, Booker,” said the babysitter.

“You only missed the intro,” said Mateo, flinging the door open wide. “Come on in.”

And that was when Elvis caught it. A weird, wild scent. A scent he’d never smelled before. His nose lit up with the strangeness of it, and he stiffened, neck ruff bristling.

What was it?

Cat, but not a cat. Raccoon but not a raccoon. Some completely new critter?

Whatever it was, he’d teach it not to invade his territory.

“Arrrr-ruff-ruff-ruff!” With a savage bark, Elvis sprang through the open doorway, shoving Booker aside.

“Elvis, no!” cried Mateo.

“What’s wrong?” Jennica asked.

“Elvis got out!”

Mateo and Booker took off running after the dog. Tina hopped off the sofa. “Let’s go!”

“Won’t they catch him?” Jennica asked, glancing up from her phone.

“You know about ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’?”

“Yeah?”
Tina smirked. “Any turtle in tennis shoes could beat those two. Come on!”

The two girls dashed out the door. Responsible Jennica made sure to close it behind them.

Bluish twilight bathed the scene. The Garcia-Jacksons’ backyard bumped up against wild parkland, with only a low fence separating it from the tangle of trees and bushes. Booker’s place was right next door. By the time the girls reached the back fence, Booker and Mateo were disappearing into the trees.

“Elvis! Here, Elvis!” the boys called. Mateo scrubbed a hand over his face. Maybe if he’d paid the dog more attention, Elvis wouldn’t have run off.

Between tree trunks, they glimpsed the dog up ahead. Elvis was bounding through the bushes, closing in on . . . something. What the heck is that? Mateo wondered.

Elvis wondered, too. He dimly heard the humans, but his nostrils were full of this raccoon--cat--whatever. He gained on the creature with every bound. Soon he’d show this pest a thing or two . . .

The critter dodged around a tree. Glancing back, it spotted Elvis right on its bushy tail.

“Ee-ee-ee-eek!” the thing chittered. Elvis charged forward. But it zigged when he thought it would zag.

Fake out! He crashed into the bushes.

With a growl, the dog recovered. Once more, he galloped after the creature, ears flapping.

“Elvis, come!” one of the kids called. But Elvis ignored them. His blood was up.

Just ahead, two mighty oaks had fallen, forming a wide A that blocked the critter’s path. Ha! The pest was headed straight for the middle of the A.

Now Elvis had it cornered. He put on a burst of speed.

But before he could reach the maddening creature, the air ahead rippled into a strange shape. Roughly oval, taller than a human. It was hard to tell in the twilight, but Elvis thought the shape twinkled, like the starry midnight sky.

With one last “Eee!” the creature jumped into the air . . .

And vanished.

Elvis snarled. No way was that pesky whatever-it-was making a fool of him. He leaped after it, disappearing into that circle of sparkles.

~

“Wh-where’d he go?” Mateo stuttered to a halt. He and Booker had arrived just in time to witness Elvis’s back end disappearing into nothingness.

“I, uh . . .”

Both boys stared at that shimmering piece of night sky in the middle of the twilight woods.
It wasn’t possible. Was it?

Jennica and Tina jogged up to join them. “Did you lose him?” asked Tina. She noticed that Mateo wore a weird expression on his face. Weirder than usual, anyway. “Where’s Elvis?”

Her older brother just stared at the place where two fallen trees met.

“He, um, disappeared,” said Booker.

“Into the bushes?” asked Jennica.

Mateo shook his head. “Into that.” He pointed.

Fists on hips, Tina frowned at the glittering circle. “He went in there? Then let’s get him out.” As she stepped forward, Jennica caught her arm.

“Wait,” said the babysitter. “We don’t know what that is.”

“So?” said Tina.

“Until we do, I don’t want you getting any closer.”

Slipping from Jennica’s grip, Tina said, “We know that’s where Elvis went. Good enough for me.” She strode forward.

“Tina, stop!” said the babysitter. “Your parents—”

But Tina, as so often happened when she was with Jennica, wasn’t listening. She marched into the circle calling, “Elvis!”

And vanished from sight.

“No way!” Jennica gasped. “She just . . .”

Mateo shifted from foot to foot. He wanted to follow his sister, but he couldn’t help overthinking things. To go or not to go? He glanced at his friend. “It’s like in those Narnia books.”

“Yeah?” said Booker.

“It’s a portal,” said Mateo. “Think it’s safe?”

“Definitely not.”

“Wonder where it goes?”

Booker shrugged. “Someplace dark, deadly, and dangerous?”

“Don’t even think about it,” said Jennica.

Mateo bit his lip, staring into the void. “Still, she’s my sister. We should . . .”

“I guess,” said Booker. “Even though nothing good will come of it.”

In her bossy babysitter voice, Jennica said, “I forbid you to go through.”

Mateo sighed. Maybe he wasn’t a hero like those in the stories he read. Maybe he was just some nobody who loved books and movies and pizza. But he couldn’t let his younger sister and his dog face the unknown by themselves.

He stepped forward with Booker.

“Don’t you dare!” Jennica snapped.

“Sorry,” said Mateo. “But I’ve got to—”

“No!” Jennica crossed her arms. “Your parents trusted me to take care of you guys.”

With a glance back, he said, “Then you’d better come along.”

“Mateo . . .” Jennica’s voice held a warning.

But he ignored her, just like his sister had. With a nervous flip of his stomach, Mateo stepped into the circle of starlight.

And the world turned inside out.
Bruce Hale has performed extensively on stage and on television and is a popular speaker, teacher, and storyteller for both children and adults. From picture books to novels and graphic novels, Bruce has written and/or illustrated over fifty books for kids. His popular series include the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, among others. These days, Bruce lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, his sweet mutt, Riley, and his massive collection of hats. View titles by Bruce Hale

About

Blast off into space and come along for an intergalactic mystery—with plenty of pizza—in this first book of the illustrated chapter book series, Outer Space Mystery Pizza Club!

It’s another ordinary Friday night in the suburbs for the Garcia-Jackson family: Mateo and Valentina’s favorite show is on TV. Mateo’s best friend, Booker, is over. And their babysitter, Jennica, is definitely keeping an eye on them and not playing with her phone.

But when Elvis, the family’s dog, bolts out of the house, barking uncontrollably at someone—or something—in the backyard, the kids go investigate…only to watch Elvis disappear through a mysterious portal!

The three kids, with their babysitter in tow, have no choice but to follow him—adventuring through deep space, where they’ll encounter aliens, dodge asteroids, and defy gravity—as they attempt to find their furry best friend (and make it back home before bedtime!).

Illustrator Luke Séguin-Magee brings this hilarious story to life with out-of-this-world black-and-white spot art.

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Stranger Critters
 
Something was up. Elvis could tell.

Mr. and Mrs. Garcia-Jackson bustled about the house, dressed in their don’t-jump-on-me clothes. House keys jangled, a sure sign of someone leaving. Jennica the Babysitter slouched in the armchair, half playing with her phone, half watching TV with Mateo and Valentina.

Anticipation curled through the room like the smoky scent of a distant fire.

Elvis whined. He paced across the kitchen tiles, toenails clicking.

Was the family planning to leave him alone with only a babysitter for company?

A hand reached down and scruffled his neck fur. “It’s okay, buddy,” said Mr. Garcia-Jackson. “The kids are staying home with you.”

Elvis leaned into it. The scruffles felt good. But he still couldn’t settle down.

Seeking more comfort, Elvis padded back into the family room and rested his chin on Mateo’s knee. The boy didn’t take his eyes off the screen. “Not now, pup,” said Mateo. He patted Elvis twice and nudged his head away.

Elvis looked up at him with big eyes, but Mateo was oblivious.

Tina grabbed the remote from her brother. “It’s almost on!”

Music swelled. Elvis glanced at the TV, but the swirling colors on the screen made his eyes feel strange. What was it with humans and their devices?

“Oooh, the Mystery Club, the Mystery Club / Cracking open mysteries is what we love!”
Mateo and Tina sang along with the TV.

Jennica rolled her eyes, but the corners of her lips curled up. The older girl smelled calm and comforting, so Elvis trotted over and nose-bopped her. She scratched behind his ears.

“Any questions, any problems, we’re just a phone call away,” said Mrs. Garcia-Jackson. Fixing her earring, she glided into the room in a cloud of rose perfume.

“We know, Mom,” Mateo and Tina chorused.

“Do what Jennica tells you.”

“We will, Mom.”

Mrs. Garcia-Jackson bent over the sofa to kiss each of them on the top of their heads. “And if any strangers knock at the door . . .”

“Don’t let them in,” the kids droned. But their eyes stayed glued to the screen.

Mrs. Garcia-Jackson lifted her purse from the side table. “There’s a fire extinguisher by the back door, and a—”

“Honey, we’ll miss our reservation,” said Mr. Garcia-Jackson. He slipped an arm through hers.

“We’ll be fine, Mrs. Garcia-Jackson,” said Jennica. “Really.” Elvis noticed the babysitter didn’t roll her eyes this time, but she smelled like she wanted to. “Have fun!”

“Bye, kids!” their mother called as their father guided her out the door.

Tina and Mateo just grunted, absorbed by their TV show.

“Thought they’d never leave,” Tina muttered after the door closed.

“Shh!” her brother shushed.

They focused on the screen.

Elvis sighed. He lay down with his chin on Jennica’s foot. She’d taken care of him one time before, when the family went away for the weekend. Though he preferred his own humans, Elvis approved of her. The girl understood the importance of treats.

Before long, the dog caught a familiar scent. He raised his head, sniffing deeply. Sure enough, a few seconds later, someone rapped on the back door.

Elvis barked with great enthusiasm. Nobody was a better barker.

Rising, Mateo said, “I’ll get it.”

“What did your mom just say?” asked Jennica.

“No worries. It’s only Booker.”

Elvis lunged up to join the boy. Sure, he knew who was at the door, but what fun was being a watchdog if you couldn’t bark?

Outside the back door stood a skinny boy about Mateo’s age with poodle-curly hair.
“Where you been, Book?” asked Mateo.

“Dude, my gran made me triple-check my homework,” said Booker. “She’s mean. Not like your babysitter. Hi, Jennica!” he called.

“Hey, Booker,” said the babysitter.

“You only missed the intro,” said Mateo, flinging the door open wide. “Come on in.”

And that was when Elvis caught it. A weird, wild scent. A scent he’d never smelled before. His nose lit up with the strangeness of it, and he stiffened, neck ruff bristling.

What was it?

Cat, but not a cat. Raccoon but not a raccoon. Some completely new critter?

Whatever it was, he’d teach it not to invade his territory.

“Arrrr-ruff-ruff-ruff!” With a savage bark, Elvis sprang through the open doorway, shoving Booker aside.

“Elvis, no!” cried Mateo.

“What’s wrong?” Jennica asked.

“Elvis got out!”

Mateo and Booker took off running after the dog. Tina hopped off the sofa. “Let’s go!”

“Won’t they catch him?” Jennica asked, glancing up from her phone.

“You know about ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’?”

“Yeah?”
Tina smirked. “Any turtle in tennis shoes could beat those two. Come on!”

The two girls dashed out the door. Responsible Jennica made sure to close it behind them.

Bluish twilight bathed the scene. The Garcia-Jacksons’ backyard bumped up against wild parkland, with only a low fence separating it from the tangle of trees and bushes. Booker’s place was right next door. By the time the girls reached the back fence, Booker and Mateo were disappearing into the trees.

“Elvis! Here, Elvis!” the boys called. Mateo scrubbed a hand over his face. Maybe if he’d paid the dog more attention, Elvis wouldn’t have run off.

Between tree trunks, they glimpsed the dog up ahead. Elvis was bounding through the bushes, closing in on . . . something. What the heck is that? Mateo wondered.

Elvis wondered, too. He dimly heard the humans, but his nostrils were full of this raccoon--cat--whatever. He gained on the creature with every bound. Soon he’d show this pest a thing or two . . .

The critter dodged around a tree. Glancing back, it spotted Elvis right on its bushy tail.

“Ee-ee-ee-eek!” the thing chittered. Elvis charged forward. But it zigged when he thought it would zag.

Fake out! He crashed into the bushes.

With a growl, the dog recovered. Once more, he galloped after the creature, ears flapping.

“Elvis, come!” one of the kids called. But Elvis ignored them. His blood was up.

Just ahead, two mighty oaks had fallen, forming a wide A that blocked the critter’s path. Ha! The pest was headed straight for the middle of the A.

Now Elvis had it cornered. He put on a burst of speed.

But before he could reach the maddening creature, the air ahead rippled into a strange shape. Roughly oval, taller than a human. It was hard to tell in the twilight, but Elvis thought the shape twinkled, like the starry midnight sky.

With one last “Eee!” the creature jumped into the air . . .

And vanished.

Elvis snarled. No way was that pesky whatever-it-was making a fool of him. He leaped after it, disappearing into that circle of sparkles.

~

“Wh-where’d he go?” Mateo stuttered to a halt. He and Booker had arrived just in time to witness Elvis’s back end disappearing into nothingness.

“I, uh . . .”

Both boys stared at that shimmering piece of night sky in the middle of the twilight woods.
It wasn’t possible. Was it?

Jennica and Tina jogged up to join them. “Did you lose him?” asked Tina. She noticed that Mateo wore a weird expression on his face. Weirder than usual, anyway. “Where’s Elvis?”

Her older brother just stared at the place where two fallen trees met.

“He, um, disappeared,” said Booker.

“Into the bushes?” asked Jennica.

Mateo shook his head. “Into that.” He pointed.

Fists on hips, Tina frowned at the glittering circle. “He went in there? Then let’s get him out.” As she stepped forward, Jennica caught her arm.

“Wait,” said the babysitter. “We don’t know what that is.”

“So?” said Tina.

“Until we do, I don’t want you getting any closer.”

Slipping from Jennica’s grip, Tina said, “We know that’s where Elvis went. Good enough for me.” She strode forward.

“Tina, stop!” said the babysitter. “Your parents—”

But Tina, as so often happened when she was with Jennica, wasn’t listening. She marched into the circle calling, “Elvis!”

And vanished from sight.

“No way!” Jennica gasped. “She just . . .”

Mateo shifted from foot to foot. He wanted to follow his sister, but he couldn’t help overthinking things. To go or not to go? He glanced at his friend. “It’s like in those Narnia books.”

“Yeah?” said Booker.

“It’s a portal,” said Mateo. “Think it’s safe?”

“Definitely not.”

“Wonder where it goes?”

Booker shrugged. “Someplace dark, deadly, and dangerous?”

“Don’t even think about it,” said Jennica.

Mateo bit his lip, staring into the void. “Still, she’s my sister. We should . . .”

“I guess,” said Booker. “Even though nothing good will come of it.”

In her bossy babysitter voice, Jennica said, “I forbid you to go through.”

Mateo sighed. Maybe he wasn’t a hero like those in the stories he read. Maybe he was just some nobody who loved books and movies and pizza. But he couldn’t let his younger sister and his dog face the unknown by themselves.

He stepped forward with Booker.

“Don’t you dare!” Jennica snapped.

“Sorry,” said Mateo. “But I’ve got to—”

“No!” Jennica crossed her arms. “Your parents trusted me to take care of you guys.”

With a glance back, he said, “Then you’d better come along.”

“Mateo . . .” Jennica’s voice held a warning.

But he ignored her, just like his sister had. With a nervous flip of his stomach, Mateo stepped into the circle of starlight.

And the world turned inside out.

Author

Bruce Hale has performed extensively on stage and on television and is a popular speaker, teacher, and storyteller for both children and adults. From picture books to novels and graphic novels, Bruce has written and/or illustrated over fifty books for kids. His popular series include the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, among others. These days, Bruce lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, his sweet mutt, Riley, and his massive collection of hats. View titles by Bruce Hale

The New York Times’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century

The New York Times recently published their list “100 Best Books of the 21st Century.” We are pleased to announce that there are 49 titles published from Penguin Random House and its distribution clients included in this list. Browse our collection of Penguin Random House titles here. Browse the full list from The New York

Read more