Friday, November 13, 2015

"The Ifs" Series by J. D. Pooker

The Ifs Series
by J. D. Pooker

The Ifs series by J. D. Pooker is recommended for children ages 8 to 12. The series currently consists of two books: The Ifs and The Ifs Return. Find out more about each book below.
This book blast and giveaway is brought to you by Mother Daughter Book Promotion Services.

The Ifs
by J. D. Pooker

Landon and Broden are brothers.  Some days they DO NOT get along very well. They spend most of their time fighting, arguing and plotting ways to get revenge on each other. Then, strange things start happening…
Noises in their room that are not the cat.
Homework is mysteriously finished.
A broken shoelace repairs all by itself.
Clothes are put in the hamper on their own.
The brothers want to share their weird experiences, but they don’t know if they can trust each other. But when they find out who’s behind all the strange things around the house, they are called to battle.
Battle? Whoa! Right there in the forest by their house! A battle with the most unusual creatures and wildest of beasts. And when the battle turns more dangerous than they imagined, Landon and Broden must face their fears, put their grudges aside and learn how to work together.

Chapter 1
“Good night, boys.  I love you.”  Mom smiled slightly as she blew each of the boys a kiss.
“Love you, too, Mom,” the brothers said in unison.
She clicked out the light and closed the door.
Landon settled into bed and closed his eyes.
He dreamt that he ran through the forest.  His breath came in pants, his legs were heavy and hard to move.  Something stomped behind him, breathing on his neck.  When he glanced over his shoulder, there was nothing but trees.  He turned back just in time to see a branch in front of his face.  He ducked just before hitting it, but the movement shifted his weight and threw him off balance.  He fell forward, rolling through dirt and leaves.  As soon as he stopped, he held his breath and listened.  The footsteps still sounded behind him.  He tried to push himself up, but he couldn’t move.  A puddle of mud surrounded him, and he sank into it.  He grabbed at the tree roots in an attempt to save himself.  Suddenly, the footsteps stopped.  Landon quit struggling and glanced around.  The forest grew darker, and someone laughed—a low, menacing laugh, like a villain in cartoons.  The renewed desire to pull himself out overwhelmed him, but his movements caused him to sink faster.  When the mud was about to cover his face, he jerked awake.
His foot connected with something on his bed, and it thumped onto the floor before scurrying across the room.  Landon wiped the sweat from his forehead and rubbed his eyes.  Cautiously, he glanced over the edge.
“Tiki?” he whispered.  “Tiki is that you?” 
He waited for the meow, but it never came.  He shrugged and hopped off the bed, walking to the bathroom to get a drink of water.  As he came back to his room, something clinked.  What was that?  He squinted in the darkness, hoping the gesture would allow him to see what made that sound.
“Tiki?” He walked to his bookshelves.  He was sure the sound came from that area.  “You know you’re not supposed to be up there.” 
He stood in front of the shelves, patting each shelf with his hand, looking for the cat.  A meow sounded behind him.  Tiki stood in the doorway.  Something thumped in the closet to his right.  His heart began to beat rapidly, and he jumped back into bed, throwing the covers over his head.  It was a zombie, he knew it.  Mom and Dad told him they didn’t exist, but he was sure they did.  What else would have made that sound?  It was going to come out of the closest, its eyes glowing red and teeth dripping with spit, and eat him.  The only protection he had was the force field created by his blankets.  Hopefully, they kept him safe. 
Landon listened intently, waiting for another sound to permeate the darkness, but nothing sounded.  He relaxed.  The zombie must have moved on.  It knew it couldn’t get through his shields.  His heart rate slowed; he took a deep breath.  Eventually, he fell back asleep.
His alarm woke him the next morning.  He poked his head out of the covers and glanced at the clock.  7:00.  He folded the covers to his waist and rubbed his eyes.  He didn’t feel very rested.  In fact, he was incredibly tired.  He wanted nothing more than to roll over and go back to sleep.  Landon finished rubbing his eyes and glanced down.  Tiki lay at the end of his bed, staring at him and blinking slowly.  Landon huffed.  Dumb cat caused a lot of issues during the night, and she looked at him like she was innocent and did nothing wrong.  It was her fault he was so tired.  But what could he do?  He had to go to school, and Mom would be mad if he hurt the cat.  The only thing he had to look forward to was that it was Friday.  He jumped onto the floor and turned to Broden.
“Hey.” He shook Broden’s shoulder.  “It’s time to get up.  We have to get ready for school.”
Broden rolled over and swatted at his brother but missed.  Landon backed out of the way.
“I’m up, I’m up,” he said.
Landon felt ornery and punched him in the arm before running down the hall.  Broden yelled at him from the bedroom.  It wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but Broden needed some motivation to get up.  As he turned to go downstairs, he heard Broden right behind him.  Landon glanced over his shoulder, smiling.  He took the stairs two at a time and went into the kitchen.  Mom sat at the table, checking her email and eating a bowl of cereal.  Phew!  Landon was safe.
“Good morning,” she said between bites.
Landon was about to answer when Broden burst into the room.  He tried to smack Landon on the head, but Landon blocked it, and the two started a slap fight.  Broden must not have noticed Mom at the table, or maybe he didn’t care.  With her there, Broden could get into a lot of trouble for starting a fight.  After all, Mom didn’t see Landon hit Broden in the bedroom, so she couldn’t punish him for that.
“Boys,” Mom called over the melee.  “It’s too early for that.  Knock it off.”
“He hit me,” Broden whined.
“No I didn’t,” Landon protested.
“I don’t care who did what.  Knock it off before I hit you both.”
The two settled down and grabbed a bowl and a box of cereal out of the cupboard.  As they sat at the table, they kicked at each other.  Landon tried to whack his brother good, but he missed and hit the table leg.  He jammed his toe and yelped in pain.  Broden laughed.  Mom just stared at him, her lips pursed. 
“I hope that teaches you a lesson,” she said and stood, taking her bowl to the sink.  She walked out of the room without saying another word.
Landon put his foot on the chair and examined his toe.  It was red and throbbing, but there was no blood, so he would be fine.  Still, it upset him that Mom didn’t get Broden in trouble.  She was there, she saw him start the fight.  Landon didn’t know why he wanted Broden to get in trouble.  He was tired and grumpy, so it sounded like a good idea.  Maybe he wanted Broden to feel as bad as he did.  Either way, it didn’t work out, and that made him angry.  He wouldn’t have hurt his toe if it weren’t for Broden.  That made him even madder.
“See, that’s what happens when you mess with me.” Broden smiled.
Landon flipped milk at him.  There was no other way to retaliate.  Plus, he knew it would upset Broden.  He’d be sticky and dirty for school.
“Mom!  Landon’s throwing food!” 
“No I’m not!”
“Boys,” Mom called from downstairs, “you don’t have time for this.  Did everyone finish their homework?”
Landon’s eyes grew wide.  “Oh, yeah.  My math.”  He scarfed down the rest of his cereal and ran upstairs.
The night before, he’d been having a hard time solving a math problem.  He agonized over it and tried several way to find the answer, but he never did.  The paper was stained gray from him erasing his work so many times.  He was determined to finish it, but he never got the chance.  It was bedtime.  His only hope was that when he went upstairs, a new idea would come to him and he would be able to solve it.
Once in his room, he pulled on his clothes, ran into the bathroom to brush his teeth, then sat at his desk.  The anger and frustration from the morning faded away, replaced with determination to finish his assignment.  He opened his math book and pulled out the paper.  He grabbed his pencil and scanned down the paper, stopping on the problem he had been working on before bed.  Determination was replaced with confusion.  He was sure he hadn’t finished the problem, but as he stared at the paper, there were numbers filled in on the page.  The writing was crooked and light, as if whoever had written it had a hard time holding the pencil.  He scrutinized it for a long time.
Broden came into the room and pulled him out of his stupor.  Landon placed the paper back into his book.  He looked at his brother.
“Did you do my homework?”
Broden stopped getting dressed and looked at him.  “Why would I do your homework?”
“I don’t know.  To mess with me.  The writing is all sloppy.”
Broden cocked his head to the right.  “Landon, if I wanted to mess with you, I wouldn’t do your homework for you.  I’d flush it down the toilet.”
Landon shrugged.  “Well, someone did it.”
Broden pulled on his pants.  “Maybe it was Mom.”
Landon nodded.  “Maybe.”  He placed his book in his backpack.
“Boys,” Mom called from down the hall, “are you getting ready?”
“Yes,” they answered.
“Mom,” Landon yelled, “did you do my homework?”
“Did you do my homework?”
Mom poked her head into their room.  “Why would I do your homework for you?”
Landon shrugged.  “I don’t know.  ‘Cause you felt sorry for me?”
Mom rolled her eyes.  “First of all, sweetie, I didn’t even know you were having trouble with your homework.  Secondly, I’m busy sleeping at night, not sneaking around in the dark finishing people’s homework.  Maybe it was the homework fairy.” 
Landon chuckled.  “Mom!  You know there’s no such thing.”
“There is if you believe.”  She knocked on the wall.  “Now, c’mon, we’ve got to get to school.”  She left the room.
After the boys were dressed and ready to go, they met their mom in the living room.  They piled into the car and backed down the driveway.  The ride to school was silent.  Mom pulled in front of the building and turned to face the boys. 
“Have a good day, angels.” She smiled.  “Go straight home after school.  Your dad will be waiting for you.”
“Okay, Mom,” they said as the climbed out of the car.  “Love you!”
“Love you, too!”
Landon turned and waved as he walked toward school, but Broden was already half way to the playground.  They played until the bell rang, then headed into their classrooms.
The first thing Landon’s teacher asked for that morning was the math homework.  Landon turned it in, feeling pretty proud of himself that he had finished all of it, even if he had a little help.  He came to the conclusion that he must have gotten up in the middle of the night and finished it in his sleep.  It was the only way to explain it.  Surely, the zombie in his closet didn’t do it, so who could have?  And it would explain why he was so exhausted.
He went through the rest of his day without giving it a second thought.  By the time lunch rolled around, the only thing he thought about was getting onto the playground and playing kickball.  He ate his turkey and noodles as fast as he could, then ran outside.  On his way, his shoe came untied.  While retying it, the shoelace broke.  He held the string in his hand and stared at it.
“Oh, man.”
“Landon, c’mon!” his friends called.
He put the lace in his pocket and headed onto the field.  He’d have plenty of time to worry about it later.  Right then, the most important thing was the game.
Landon’s team was up by two points, and it was his turn to kick.  He was easily one of the best kickers in his class.  The game would be won by the bell.  There was a runner on second, and Landon was sure he could get him home.  He lined himself up at the plate and eyed the pitcher.  The boy watched him for a few seconds, his eyes narrowed to slits, before winding up his arm and tossing the ball.  Landon steadied himself and watched the ball approach.  He took one step forward and kicked.  His foot connected with the ball with a thump, sending it sailing over the other player’s heads, along with his shoe. 
At first he didn’t notice, the excitement of the great kick overwhelmed him, but when he started running, the gravel dug into the bottom of his foot.  Still, he wasn’t going to let it slow him down.  The runner on second base took off; Landon had to get to first.  He would, even if he had to limp.  He was half way there when he turned to see where the ball was.  The shortstop was crouched down with his arms out.  The ball bounced and he scooped it up, shifting it quickly to his right hand to throw.  Landon quickened his pace.  If he didn’t hurry, he would be out.  As his shoeless foot came down, he stepped on a rock.  Pain started in his heel and traveled up his calf, causing him to almost lose his balance.  He wanted to yell, but the pain took his breath away.   That, and he had to get to first base.  There wasn’t time to yell.  The shortstop cocked his arm back.  Landon braced for the blow.  Before it could come, the bell rang.  Landon stopped in his tracks, and he and the other kids groaned with disappointment.  He turned to get his shoe, then headed back into the building.
Landon was thankful to be able to sit down.  The heel he hit on the rock was on the same foot he jammed his toe.  His whole foot felt like it was pulsating.  He lifted his foot to his chair and slid his sock down.  The heel was already bruised.  A black circle surrounded by red covered part of his foot.  That was going to be sore for a while.  He was a little thankful that he couldn’t tie his shoe.  The pressure might have made his foot explode.  He replaced his sock and put his foot on the floor as the teacher handed back their homework from the night before.  Landon looked at his grade.  B.  He shrugged.  Not bad.  He glanced down the page to see which problems he missed.  The first one that caught his eye was the one he didn’t finish.  Not only was it checked, but the teacher had written a little note beside the problem.  It read:  “Please make sure I can read your writing.  This is a mess.”  Landon shook his head and stuffed the paper in his desk.
After school, Landon met Broden at the monkey bars, as usual, and they headed home.  They only lived a few blocks from school, but their mom liked to drop them off on her way to work.  They didn’t mind because that meant they got to sleep in a little bit longer.  They didn’t say anything the whole way home.  Landon’s foot was sore from the rock, although it didn’t hurt as bad as it had earlier in the day, and he had to concentrate on walking so he didn’t lose his shoe.  Broden was busy kicking a plastic bottle cap down the sidewalk. 
When they got close to the house, Broden turned and kicked the cap at Landon.  It hit Landon in the hand, and even though it wasn’t going fast enough to cause real damage, it still stung.  Landon’s gaze flicked up from the ground.  Broden smiled, then took off running.  How dare he!  He would pay for that!  Landon tried to follow him, but his shoe kept falling off, preventing him from running.  He would have taken it off, but that would make his foot hurt even more.  It didn’t really matter.  There would be plenty of time to get revenge.  Broden didn’t have anywhere to hide.
Landon walked into the house and noticed Broden hugging Dad around the waist.  He would have to wait to get back at his brother.
“Hey, sport,” Dad said.  “How was your day?”
Landon set his backpack by the couch.  “Good.”
Dad smiled.  “We’re going to go play some football in the backyard.  Do you want to come?”
He nodded enthusiastically.  “Yeah.  Let me change my shoes real quick.” 
He ran upstairs and kicked his shoe into the room.  Sitting on Broden’s bed, he took off the other one and pulled on a pair of old sneakers.  He ran back downstairs and joined his dad and brother outside.
Playing with Dad was always fun, but Landon’s foot still hurt, so he wasn’t overly excited.  Still, he tried his best.  Broden caught the first throw, so Landon promptly tackled him.  The second one was his, and Broden whacked him hard.  Broden’s shoulder dug into his back, which hurt, then when he hit the ground, the air got knocked out of him.  That was painful, too.  It took him a few moments to get to his feet.  When he did, his arm was around his waist to help with the pain.  He thought about quitting and going inside, but then Broden would tease him.  He could stick it out for a little longer.
Mom got home a few hours later, and the family ate dinner and watched a little TV.  Broden didn’t tackle him hard again, and Landon was thankful.  By the time they sat on the couch to watch cartoons, Landon was so tired, he forgot about getting revenge on his brother.  Landon and Broden went to bed at 9:00.  All night, Landon kept dreaming that someone was poking his foot, right where he stepped on the rock, with a small stick.  At one point, they poked it so hard, pain radiated through his leg, causing Landon to jerk awake.  His foot throbbed again.  He rubbed his heel for a moment, barely able to keep his eyes open.  Right before falling asleep, he couldn’t help but think something weird was going on.

Praise for the Book
"A good and exciting read for a middle school age child. I like the message this story projected, brothers no matter what!" ~ 1977 Books
"I am in love with this book!. Action packed, adventurous and thrilling!" ~ Naznin Azeez
"This book is packed full of mystery, adventure, action and some brotherly love. It’s a fun read and will be enjoyed by both girls and boys." ~ Stitch Says

Book Links

The Ifs Return
by J. D. Pooker

"Gage escaped."
These are the worst words Broden could hear from his big brother Landon - just one day after they battled alongside Slade’s Ifs and his army of forest beasts.
Sure, the brothers had learned to work together to fight and capture the evil If Gage. But, now, Slade has informed them that Gage has escaped!

Fear and distrust have entered the boys’ world. Why should they help Slade if he can’t keep control of his prisoners? Will they be able to fight against a familiar foe? Plus, Landon has more news …

"Gage has magic."
What kind of magic? Will he use it against them? As the boys are drawn into yet more adventure with the Ifs, they find out just how powerful, and dangerous, Gage’s magic can be.

Chapter 1
The alarm screeched through the bedroom, jerking Landon out of sleep. With difficulty, he pried his eyes open. They felt like someone had sprinkled sand in them and glued them shut. For a moment, he wondered if some of the bad Ifs had done just that, but then he remembered: There was no way they could have.
The bad Ifs had been defeated.
They had been captured.
They couldn’t do anything to hurt Landon anymore. If they ever try anything again, Landon thought, I’ll put them right back in their place. He rolled over to shut off the alarm. His whole body ached with the movement. It was difficult to raise his arm, his muscles were stiff and sore. The scratch on the back of his calf throbbed. Why didn’t he let the Healers come fix him in the night? Landon groaned. Maybe it’s not too late. If he got the chance, he’d ask Slade if he could still take him up on the healing offer. Landon wanted to be reminded of the battle and their awesome victory, but he didn’t think it would be this bad. He would have his memories; he didn’t need the pain.
Silence filled the room. Landon rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. The day had come too soon. It felt like he’d just fallen asleep. He didn’t feel rested; he was still exhausted. Maybe he could ask Mom for a sick day. Just one day to relax… Watch some TV… Eat whatever I want…He had been in a battle and was a hero, he deserved it. Of course, he knew Mom would never let him. He could hear her now: “If you’re well enough to fight a battle, you’re well enough to go to school.” Thank goodness the summer was almost here. Too bad it wasn’t the last day of school.
Slowly, Landon pushed himself up and glanced over the side of the bed to the bunk below. Broden was awake too. His eyes shifted to look at his brother, but he made no move to get up.
Landon sighed. “Dude, if we don’t get up soon, we’ll have to put up with Mom getting us up.” More than likely, she would tickle them, and Landon didn’t think he could handle being touched. As sore as he was, it would hurt. A lot.
“I’m tired,” Broden croaked. “Do we really have to go to school today?”
Landon nodded. “’Fraid so. You know Mom and Dad won’t let us stay home.”
Broden moaned. “Next time, we need to tell Slade to have his battle on Saturday. That way we can have a day to rest.”
“I hear ya. Although I doubt it was his choice.” Landon pulled himself back onto his bed and crawled toward the ladder. When his feet touched the floor, he looked at his brother. “We’d better hurry. Mom will be up here soon.”
Broden grunted and swung his feet out of bed. He sat on the edge for a moment and rubbed his face. “My head feels like it’s on fire. I can feel every scratch on there.”
“I know. My leg hurts, too.”
Broden stared at Landon. “It’s going to be a long day at school.” He stood from the bed.
Landon put his arm around his brother. He was a head taller and two years older, but after the adventures of the past few days, Broden seemed just as tall. The pair walked toward the door. “I know. Maybe we can take a nap when we get home tonight.”
Broden nodded. “That sounds good.”
The pair headed downstairs and into the kitchen. Mom sat at the table, eating cereal and looking at the computer. She smiled as they entered.
“There’re my strong, brave heroes. How did you sleep?”
The boys answered with a grunt and grabbed a bowl.
“That bad, huh?”
“We’re just tired,” Landon stated.
“I’m sure you are.” Mom stood from the table and put her bowl in the sink. “You had a big day yesterday.”
“We could really use some rest,” Broden mentioned.
Mom kissed them both on the tops of their heads. “Then I suggest you get to bed early tonight.”
“Or you can let us stay home from school today.” Broden sat up straighter in his chair, anticipation covering his face.
Mom chuckled. “And tell your teachers what? That you can’t make it to school today because you spent all day yesterday fighting tiny people and now you’re tired? I’m pretty sure they won’t like that excuse.”
“You could say we’re sick,” Landon chimed in, hope surging through his body.
Mom pursed her lips. “That would be lying. And lying is bad.”
Broden slouched in his chair and reached for the cereal. Landon mouthed Told you at his brother, the hope he felt moments earlier replaced with disappointment. Mom was right, of course. Lying was bad. Landon had done it a few times before and it never turned out okay.
Like the time he had dug holes in their backyard looking for dinosaur bones. Dad was furious. To avoid punishment, Landon blamed the holes on something that couldn’t tell the truth: stray dogs. What harm could come from that? Dad wouldn’t do anything anyway if it was just dogs. But he did do something. He set up traps to catch the dogs, then planned on taking them up into the hills. Landon wasn’t exactly sure what Dad would do after that, but he knew it probably wouldn’t be good for the dogs. Thankfully, since the dogs didn’t really exist, Dad never caught them.
However, something else got caught in the trap. The neighbor’s cat. Landon remembered sitting at the kitchen table for breakfast when Dad brought it in. The thing was yowling like its paw had been cut off. The sound was awful. Dad said the cat had probably been in there all night and was hungry. Landon felt terrible. He thought of his own cat, Tiki. He would never want Tiki trapped somewhere like that. Thankfully, Dad did not take the cat to the hills, and let it go in the front yard.
Another time, Landon told his teacher a lie about his homework. He said his brother had torn it up after they’d gotten into a fight. In reality, Landon hadn’t even done his homework. The teacher sent a note home to let Mom and Dad know what had happened. Broden tried to tell them he didn’t tear up the homework, but they just stared at him with their hands on their hips. Landon remained silent the whole time. Broden lost his TV privileges for a few days, which made him really angry. He refused to talk to or play with Landon the whole time he couldn’t watch TV. Landon never did come forward with the truth. Eventually, Broden forgave him, but it took Landon giving him one of his favorite toys and a promise he would never do it again.
There had been a few other occasions Landon had lied, but nothing as serious as those two episodes. Every time Landon lied, it made his stomach hurt and he worried about being found out. Worse yet, he hurt people or animals when he didn’t tell the truth. He didn’t like that feeling. He thought about the look on Broden’s face when Landon lied to their parents about the homework. About the stray dogs and the yowling neighbor’s cat. I’m going to be honest from now on, he told himself after those incidents, even if I get in trouble. It wasn’t his favorite thing to do, but it was better than a hurt cat or dog being taken into the wilderness. Even better than his brother not talking to him. He could handle spending some time in his room or not watching TV. In the end, it made him feel better. He glanced now at his brother. Broden was buried in his cereal bowl, but he looked at Landon, even smiled a little. Landon jabbed him with his elbow and smiled back.
Then he turned to Mom and said, “Fine. We’ll go to school.”
“Of course you will. You didn’t really have a choice.” She winked with a smile of her own, then walked out of the kitchen.
Landon poured himself a bowl of cereal and ate slowly, his cheek resting on his hand. Broden was also having a hard time holding his head up. His chin was mere inches from the table top. The boys didn’t speak. They just stared at the back of the cereal box and finished their breakfast. When they were done, they put their bowls in the sink and headed upstairs to get dressed.
Landon yawned as he pulled on his T-shirt and shorts. Broden had dressed in everything except his socks and shoes—and laid back down on his bed. His hands were folded over his stomach, and his eyes were closed.
Landon smacked at his brother’s feet. “Get up! Mom’s gonna…” Then Landon sighed, staring at Broden, jealous that he wasn’t back in bed. He scrambled to get dressed. A few minutes is all I need, she won’t be up to get us just yet… He headed toward the top bunk—
Mom came into the room. Ugh.
“I’m leaving in five minutes,” she announced. “You’d better be ready. Broden, get out of bed.”
Landon sighed and gave up his walk to the bunk, and instead searched the room for his shoes. Broden groaned and slid out of bed. He crouched on the floor to put his socks on. Landon tied his shoes and headed for the door.
“I can see your scratch.” Broden’s voice stopped Landon.
Extending his leg behind him, he glanced over his shoulder down at his wound. He wanted to show off his injury. It helped that the weather was warm enough for shorts. It would be hard to explain if he wore shorts in the winter time. Landon glanced at his brother.
“I know. So?”
Broden stood and pushed his eyebrows together. “So what are you going to tell people when they ask how you got it? You can’t tell them about the Ifs.”
Landon shrugged. “I’ll just tell them I don’t know how I got it, but it’s still pretty cool to show off. Besides, you can see the scratch on your neck. People are going to ask about that, too.”
Broden brought his hand up to his neck and ran his fingers over the cut. “It’s kind of hard to hide unless I wear a turtle neck. And it’s too hot to wear a turtle neck. I wish we could tell our friends what happened.”
“I know. They would be so jealous. But we made a promise to Slade to keep quiet about their existence. We have to stick by it.”
Broden nodded. “It’s going to be tough. And like Mom said, we shouldn’t lie.”
“Keeping a secret isn’t the same as lying. We won’t get into trouble or hurt anybody for it.”
“Still, it would probably be easier to keep the secret if we had the Healers take care of our wounds.” Broden rubbed his neck again. “I’m wishing now that we would have let them help us.”
“I feel the same way. I didn’t think I’d be this sore.”
“Or tired.”
“Boys!” Mom’s voice called from downstairs. “I’m leaving! You’d better get down here now or you’ll have to walk to school!”
Landon and Broden rushed to get the rest of their clothes on and grabbed their backpacks before running downstairs. Mom was already in the garage climbing into the car, and they threw themselves into the backseat. Landon stared out the window, his head resting on the door, as they drove to school. He was still so tired… How he was going to make it through the day? He thought about the cut on his leg. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to wear shorts, he thought. What am I going to tell my friends if they ask?
When he first put the shorts on, all he could think was how cool it was that he had been in a battle—and won! Visions of his friends staring at him in awe and jealousy ran through his mind. He would be the center of attention, everyone would want to know what had happened. Of course, if he was smart, he wouldn’t have to tell a total lie. He could always tell them that he and Broden had been playing in the woods when it happened. It was pretty close to the truth. He didn’t have to mention Slade and the other Ifs or how they rode animals (even though it was the best part). He could still be the center of attention and tell a cool story. He nodded to himself. That’s what he’d do.
The car pulled up to the curb, and Mom turned in her seat. She smiled at the boys.
“You two have a great day. Try to stay awake in class.”
Landon pushed open his door and pulled his backpack over his shoulder. “We will. See you tonight.”
“Love you!”
“Love you too.” Landon waved at his mom before slamming the car door.
They were a few minutes early for school, so they walked to the playground. Broden was usually pretty far ahead of him, running to play with his friends. Today, though, he walked next to his brother. Landon knew he must have been really tired. They threw their backpacks down by the building and headed toward the equipment. Landon had planned on sitting on the stairs to the slide, but as the morning air flowed through him and the sun warmed his skin, he felt refreshed. I could handle a few turns down the slide, he thought.
But after the second slide, climbing the stairs was exhausting, so he headed for the monkey bars. He grabbed onto the bars and swung off the ladder to go across. As soon as all his weight was on his arms—bam!—he slipped and fell to the ground. He stood up and brushed the dirt from his butt, feeling the ache in his arms. The slide might be a better idea this morning.
Just then the bell rang, and he and Broden headed into class with the other kids. While the others ran to get in line, he walked at a fast pace. So far, no one had noticed the wound on the back of his leg. He thought for sure Tom or Joe would have said something, but they were playing kickball. Landon had thought about joining them, but he knew he didn’t have the energy. Still, they had run by him to get in line and pushed against his shoulders—they should have noticed! Maybe they’ll ask me later.
Landon sat at his desk in class. The weight of sleepiness drooped his shoulders. There wasn’t any fresh air or sunshine to revive him. Only the stuffy, dry air of the classroom. He glanced out the window and then at the clock. Darn it! Still a long time before next recess. Mrs. Lewis, his teacher, stood at the front of the room and wrote math problems on the board. He folded his hands on his desk and laid his chin on top…
Landon’s mind drifted. It was the day before…and images of the battle ran through his head. It was hard for him to believe that he had stood up to wild animals and battled tiny people. It seemed almost like a dream, but the soreness in his body told him it wasn’t. He smiled. As scary as it had been at the time, he would do it again. It made him feel good to know that he could help other people and defeat wild dogs. He felt strong and brave, but most of all, he felt special. How many kids lived in his town? How many of them went to the park and ventured down the nature trail? Landon didn’t know for sure, but he was sure it was a lot. And out of all those kids, he thought, Slade picked me. Okay, and Broden too. Pride swelled in Landon’s chest for both himself and his brother.
Even if he couldn’t tell anybody else about what had happened, he always had Broden to talk to. They shared a fantastic adventure together, and it brought them closer as brothers. Well, he hoped it did anyway. Landon was going to try to be nicer to Broden. After all, he didn’t want to end up mean, like Gage. He didn’t want to be the bad guy. Landon was sure Broden felt the same way. After all, Broden had every chance to help Gage in the battle and didn’t. He fought the good fight. We’re a team! Landon smiled at the thought—he couldn’t think of anyone else he wanted by his side.
Landon’s gaze drifted back out the window. How he wished he was back in the woods with Slade and the other Ifs. Though this time it would be for a happier occasion, a banquet! In honor of Landon and Broden. Slade said it would be to thank them for what they did for him and his people, and he wanted it to happen by the weekend. Landon also hoped to actually pet one of the foxes or a wild dog. Would they be soft? Would they even come around him if they weren’t in battle?
Landon sighed. The forest was so much more fun than the classroom. Out there, Landon was a hero. At school, he was just another boy.
His eyes grew heavy. Every time he blinked, they stayed closed for longer. His stomach tingled—if Mrs. Lewis caught him sleeping, he’d be in trouble. She’d probably make him go to the front of the class and solve the math problem on the board, but he wasn’t paying attention. He had no idea what to do. The others would laugh at him, tease him for being a tired baby. Wake up! He shook himself. Raise your head off the desk.
But his body wouldn’t listen. His eyes slowly drifted shut. Right before they closed, movement in the grass caught his eyes. Was that a…? No. It can’t be. He forced his eyes open and lifted his head from the desk. It felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. The orange flashed through the grass again. Yes! It was a fox. The fluffy tail tipped with white was a dead giveaway. What’s it doing here? Landon sat up further and craned his neck to see out the window. The animal had gotten close to the building, just below the window where he couldn’t see it.
“I can’t imagine there’s anything outside more interesting than what you’re learning in here, Landon.” Mrs. Lewis’s voice cut through his thoughts.
He jumped, startled to hear his name, and focused his attention on the front of the room. Should he tell her what he saw? No, he couldn’t. The other kids would jump out of their seats to see the fox and he would get in trouble for causing a distraction. Plus, they would call Animal Control to catch the fox. He didn’t want to see it hurt or captured.
“Sorry,” he told Mrs. Lewis. “I’m paying attention now.”
She nodded curtly before turning back to the board to write more math problems.
Landon glanced out the window from the corner of his eye, hoping to see the fox again. Maybe it would still be out there when they went out for recess. It would be so cool if it allowed Landon to pet it in front of the other students. He smiled at the thought. He’d have to be careful not to let any of the teachers see. They’d freak out and say the animal was sick, tell him to stay away from it. He thought about how he’d have to take the fox and the kids out into the field, away from the eyes of the teachers and aides. The group of students would raise suspicion, but the fox could run away if a teacher came too close. It could work! He was sure of it.
Then, it occurred to Landon to wonder even more: Why would a fox be at school?

Praise for the Book
"This book is very exciting. Children 8 and up would absolutely love this book. I’m ready for book 3!" ~ Jane Ritz
"There is a lot of quick paced action which children enjoy. The characters are great and ones your kids can relate to as well. I recommend that you check out The Ifs books if your kids enjoy a good adventure." ~ Christy’s Cozy Corners
"Summed up, this is a fun adventure for kids ages 8+ which will send their fantasy on a wild ride and make the search for a hidden tiny fold adventure of their own." ~ Bookworm for Kids

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About the Author
J. D. Pooker lives in wonderful Wyoming with her husband and two sons, along with a black lab named Ryder and a sweet kitty named Alia. J.D. likes to spend time with her family and go camping, fishing, and snowmobiling.
Her sons, Landon and Broden, were the inspiration for The Ifs and The Ifs Return. The brothers enjoy camping, fishing, and snowmobiling with their parents. They also enjoy wrestling, playing with their Wii, their toy guns and bows and arrows, and their pets. J.D. can’t wait until her boys get older. She is sure they will have many fabulous adventures.

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