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  • Creatch Battler
  • Written by Mark Crilley
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307514233
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Creatch Battler

Written by Mark CrilleyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mark Crilley


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: February 19, 2009
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51423-3
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
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Billy Clikk’s just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill . . . hero? A guy whose hobbies include skateboarding, extreme mountain biking—and a brand of snowboarding he wishes would include a few good old-fashioned body slams. Unfortunately, 12-year-old Billy’s boring home town of Piffling, Indiana, will probably never host the X Games. But that doesn’t stop him from bungee jumping off a bridge and winning the X-Sports Challenge in front of Dave’s Cycle and Fitness.

Then one day, things suddenly get more interesting. Billy discovers his insect-exterminating parents—supposedly the best in Piffling—have been living a double life. In just a few short hours, he’s sucked into a world that his parents have been trying to hide from him. And this world is much bigger, stranger, and scarier than the one he left behind. How could his own dull parents have so many secrets that even their secrets have secrets?

On the bright side, this could be Billy’s chance to fight some real bad guys: the huge kind with teeth and too many hairy tentacles to count. Within a few hours of learning the truth, he’s flying to India and testing out some very cool James Bond–style gadgetry, things no average 12-year-old can even imagine. But before Billy can fight alongside his parents, he’ll have to prove himself. Being a hero doesn’t always mean getting the bad guy—sometimes it means keeping a cool head to figure out what’s really going on. And at the end of the day, Billy just might get to save the world—or go down trying.

From the Hardcover edition.



skeeter gig. back late, don't wait up. dinner's in

the fudge. love, mom & dad

Billy Clikk read the Post-it again.

"Fridge. She meant fridge." Crumpling up the yellow square, Billy chucked it at the garbage can and watched it fly in and then bounce out onto the kitchen floor. It was the third time this week he'd come home from school to find his parents gone, leaving him to heat leftovers in the microwave, do his homework, and put himself to bed. At this point they could just leave a note reading the usual and he'd know exactly what it meant.

There was an upside, though: Billy was now free to kick back and watch his favorite TV show, Truly Twisted. He dashed into the living room, leaped over the couch, grabbed the remote, and switched on the TV.

Truly Twisted was the one program his parents said he must "never, never" watch. These guys took extreme sports to a whole new level: they once snuck into a church, climbed up the steeple, and bungee-jumped right into the middle of some guy's wedding. It was pretty awesome.

When Billy got to the channel where Truly Twisted was supposed to be airing, though, there was nothing more extreme than some lame college tennis championship. "Oh, come on!" Billy cried. They'd bumped the best show on cable for a couple of scrawny guys knocking a ball back and forth.

Billy shut off the TV and slouched back into the kitchen. He yanked open the "fudge," pulled out a brown paper bag, and peeked inside. Cold chicken curry: carryout from the Delhi Deli, an Indian restaurant down the street. Billy used to like their chicken curry. Back before he'd eaten it once or twice a week, every week, for about three years.

Billy pursed his lips, made a farting sound, and tossed the bag back in the refrigerator. He slammed the door a lot harder than he really needed to and stared at the floor. There, next to his foot, sat the crumpled-up Post-it note.

"Are pest problems getting you down?" he said, suddenly doing a superdeep TV-commercial voice. "Then you should pick up that phone and call Jim and Linda Clikk, founders of BUGZ-B-GON, the best extermination service in all of Piffling, Indiana." He leaned down and picked up the wadded note, and as he straightened up, he added a tone of mystery to his voice. The TV commercial had turned into a piece of investigative journalism. "What makes the Clikks so busy? What drives them to spend their every waking hour on extermination jobs--'skeeter gigs,' as they call them? Is it really necessary for them to devote so much of their time and energy to saving total strangers from termites and hornets' nests? Is it just for the money, or is killing bugs some kind of a weird power trip?"

Billy took aim with the Post-it and had another shot at the garbage can. This time the note went in and stayed in.

That's more like it.

Billy changed his posture and pivoted on one foot, transforming himself once again into a reporter.

"And what of Jim and Linda's son, Billy? How does he feel about all this?" Billy went on, clutching an imaginary microphone as he strode from the kitchen back to the living room. "Well, let's ask him. Billy, how do you feel about all this?"

"You want the truth?" said Billy, switching to his own voice. "I think it stinks. I think it's a lousy way to treat a devoted son who is so bright, well behaved, and good-looking."

Billy drew his eyebrows into an expression of great sympathy: he was the reporter again. "Tell me, Billy, do you think it bothers your parents that you have to spend so many evenings at home by yourself? Do you think they feel the least bit guilty that you have to eat takeout night after night rather than home-cooked meals? Indeed, do you suppose--as your parents dash madly from one skeeter gig to another--that they even think of you at all?"

Billy stopped, stood between the couch and the coffee table, and let out a long sigh. He dropped the imaginary microphone and the phony voice along with it.

"I don't know." Billy flopped onto the couch. "Probably not."

It hadn't been so bad the previous year, when Billy's best friend, Nathan Burns, was still living in Piffling. Nathan was the only kid at Piffling Elementary who was as obsessed with extreme sports as Billy was. They used to spend practically every weekend together, mountain-biking the cliffs that led down to the Piffling River, skateboarding across every handrail in town (they both had the scrapes, bruises, and occasional fractures to prove it), and even street luging on their homemade luges, which was apparently outlawed by some city ordinance or another. The only thing Billy and Nathan hadn't tried was sneaking a ride on the brand-new Harley-Davidson Nathan's father had stashed away in the garage.

They would have tried it eventually, for sure. But then Nathan's family moved to Los Angeles for some stupid reason, his father's work or something. There were other kids at Piffling Elementary who were into extreme sports a little. They just weren't willing to risk life and limb the way Nathan was. Billy soon realized that finding a new best friend was going to take a while. In the meantime, it was looking like it would be the usual for many months to come.

Piker, Billy's Scottish terrier, lifted her head from the recliner on the other side of the room, snorted, and went back to sleep.

back late, don't wait up.

Billy had never been able to figure out why so much of his parents' work was done at night. Exterminators didn't normally work at night, did they? Were they trying to catch the bugs snoozing or something? Kids at school thought he was lucky. "If my parents left me alone at night like that," Nelson Skubblemeyer had said just the other day, "I'd be partyin' like nobody's business. I'd be, like, 'Yo, party tonight at my place. . . .' " (Nelson always said the word party as if it rhymed with saute: in spite of his name, he'd somehow convinced himself he was the coolest kid in the sixth grade.)

Billy had never thrown a party while his parents were out on a skeeter gig. He wouldn't have been able to get away with it even if he'd tried. There was someone keeping an eye on him.

From the Hardcover edition.
Mark Crilley

About Mark Crilley

Mark Crilley - Creatch Battler

Photo © Mary Moylan

Mark Crilley was raised in Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from Kalamazoo College, he traveled to Taiwan and Japan, where he taught English for nearly five years. It was during his stay in Japan that he created Akiko.

In 1998, Mark Crilley was named to Entertainment Weekly’s “It List” of the 100 most creative people in entertainment.


I had to draw pictures for a living or I’d go crazy . . .

I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be an author or illustrator until I was 28 years old! I taught English in Taiwan and Japan for five years—and seriously considered spending the rest of my life overseas—before finally realizing I had to draw pictures for a living or I’d go crazy. At first I was writing mainly just to give myself something to illustrate. Only recently have I come to see myself as a ‘real’ author.

Ever since I discovered that there were people out there willing to pay me to make up stories and draw strange creatures all day, I knew there was no turning back. “This,” I thought, “is the job for me.” And I still think that, every day.

He taught me to push myself harder, to hold myself to a higher standard . . .

I was very fortunate to be among the last people to study under David Small, the 2001 Caldecott Medal Winner, back when he was still an art instructor at Kalamazoo College. In fact, I was there just after he’d completed Imogene’s Antlers and saw all the original artwork. David definitely was a huge influence on me as an illustrator. He taught me to push myself harder, to hold myself to a higher standard.

When I was growing up, all my favorite writers and illustrators could be found in one place: Mad magazine! Looking back, I think you can definitely see the influence. Still, my mother did make sure that I saw all the great children’s books, and I recall being especially wild about a lavishly illustrated edition of Pinocchio.

I’m one of those writers who believes in total spontaneity . . .

Just sit down and make it up as you go along. Of course, this doesn’t really fly in the world of children’s books, so I do have to plan my books out as best I can. Still, I think a lot of the really good ideas come unexpectedly, popping up out of the blue when you’re halfway through the story.

How can I make this story different?

I start with a general sense of the sort of story I want to tell—a journey into a mystical land, for instance—then ask myself the questions I need to answer to write the story: Who is the main character? How does he/she get to the mystical land? How can I make this story different from all the other stories that follow this pattern? The real trick is to get beyond the obvious ideas to the truly unusual ideas. This requires time, thought, and lots of long walks.

Akiko is mainly based on Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I wrote the first story while living in Japan, so I chose a common Japanese name—Akiko—as the name for my “Alice.”

Akiko has a knack for getting along with pretty much anyone, so I think the two of us would get on swimmingly. She would probably describe me as “a pretty nice guy, but he needs to get out more often.”

I hope there is a quiet theme in the Akiko novels about the important role a child plays . . .

I initially felt I was writing for a general audience: the sort of men, women, and children who read Calvin and Hobbes. Now I’ve read enough interviews with other children’s authors to realize we all think we’re writing for a general audience.

Truthfully, I don’t think too much about the age of the reader, more about the sort of reader I’m trying to reach: someone who likes imagining other worlds, going on adventures, laughing on one page and being frightened on the next.

I think there’s a natural “all ages groove” that writers can get into, and before long you’re doing it without even thinking.

Some days I’m convinced my books have no message whatsoever and are simply pure fluff from start to finish! Still, I hope there is a quiet theme in the Akiko novels about the important role a child plays in the world, and how, in many instances, a little kid has more sense than the adults surrounding her.


“[A] stylish debut.”—Publishers Weekly

“The action is fast-paced and nicely illustrated . . . and Crilley’s easy-reading, conversational style is appealing.”—Booklist

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