For Ages
8 to 12

Hide and Geek is a part of the Hide and Geek collection.

A puzzlemaker's last clue. A friendship's last chance.

The GEEKs:
Gina, Edgar, Elena, and Kevin have been best friends for as long as they can remember. So when their arch-nemesis points out that their initials make them literally GEEKs, they decide to go with it.
 
The problem:
The GEEKs’ hometown of Elmwood was once the headquarters of the famous toymaker Maxine Van Houten. Her popular puzzle sphere, the Bamboozler, put the town on the map. But Maxine passed away long ago. Now the toy factory is shutting down, and Elena’s mom and Kevin’s dad are losing their jobs. They might have to move—and that would mean splitting up the GEEKs!
 
The quest:
Maxine left one final puzzle, a treasure hunt that could save the town and keep the friends together. But only those who know and love Elmwood best will be able to solve it. GEEKs to the rescue!

 

An Excerpt fromHide and Geek

1

I may not be a math genius like my friend Kevin, but I can count. And because I’m a journalist, it’s important for me to record things accurately, which is why I always keep a pencil tucked into my bun and carry my scuffed-up leather notebook (it’s vintage--a birthday gift from Mom last year). So when Kevin popped from his lunchroom seat like a jack-in-the-box, I knew it was the twenty-seventh time he’d done that in only eight minutes. 

“Kevin Robinson for president! Be sure to vote!” Kevin blurted. He snatched a kevin for sixth-grade class president flyer from the massive stack in the middle of our lunch table and thrust it toward Gunner Bradley, who nearly dropped his lunch tray in surprise. “Scientific calculators for every student and new science-lab equipment! More funding for the debate team and educational field trips! Help me help you make Elmwood Middle School a better place to learn!” 

Instead of the outstretched flyer, Gunner snatched a chicken nugget from Kevin’s lunch and said, “Thanks, dude. Chicken nuggets rule!” 

As Gunner hustled away, I glanced across the lunch table at my other two best friends--Edgar Feingarten and Elena Hernández. Elena and I shared an eye roll. Kevin had been class president in third grade, in fourth grade, and in fifth. Of course he’d be class president again in sixth grade. Nobody else ever bothered to run against him. Plus, he was the one who’d started the school’s peer-tutoring program, raised money for new sports equipment with a car wash, and got the cafeteria to turn the smelly lunch scraps into compost for the school garden. He had good ideas, and everyone knew it. 

Kevin sat down and smoothed the flyer on the edge of the table. He rubbed at the collar of his polo shirt. “Do you think I need a tie? To look more presidential?” 

“Mmm,” Edgar grunted, his round face buried in some new play script. As he read, he unconsciously played with his hair, twisting and untwisting one of his loopy red curls. 

Elena took a slug of chocolate milk. “What you need, Kev, is a classier look. Like mine.” Elena ran her hands down her wrinkled T-shirt, which had a picture of Albert Einstein on the front. Einstein’s hair shot out in all directions, in contrast to Elena’s, which her abuela braided nice and tight and neat every morning before school. 

Kevin shook his head. “I’m serious, Elena. Class president is an important position. I’d be able to make this school better for everyone. I could help improve our educational outcomes and experiences. I can’t just--” 

“He can’t just slap up a few posters and call it a campaign.” An all-too-unwelcome voice cut in. Silver bracelets jangled on Sophina Burkhart’s wrist as she reached over Kevin’s shoulder and plucked up a flyer. Glittery polish flashed on her perfectly manicured nails as she brushed back a strand of her shoulder-length, straight blond hair. Sophina’s trailing pack of minions--Kyesha Killman, Bella Ronelli-Compelli, and Mandy Sykes--all peered over her shoulder. “This year, Kevin will actually have to earn his votes.” 

“I--I can get votes,” Kevin spluttered. “I have ideas. Experience.” 

“Sure you do,” Sophina said. She studied Kevin’s flyer before casually tossing it back onto the table. Her green eyes sparkled. “But why would anyone vote for you . . . when they can vote for me?” 

Kevin’s dark eyes widened. “I--what--you?” he stammered. He tugged at the collar of his shirt. If Sophina was being serious, this was not good. Like Kevin, Sophina was smart. Unlike Kevin, she was also popular. 

Without turning around, Sophina held a hand over one shoulder. Mandy Sykes passed her a sheet of paper. “See for yourself,” Sophina said, dropping the paper on top of Kevin’s flyers. 

Kevin stared, speechless. The paper said vote sophina at the top, followed by a list of campaign promises. 

“Don’t worry, Kevin,” Sophina said. “I’m sure Gina, Edgar, and Elena will still vote for--” She stopped and stifled a giggle. “You know what? I just realized something. Gina, Edgar, Elena, Kevin. G-E-E-K. Together, you are--literally--GEEKs.” 

Sophina’s minions laughed. My cheeks grew hot. I couldn’t believe none of us had ever noticed our initials before. 

Sophina gave a satisfied grin before sticking her chin in the air and spinning away. “See you later . . . GEEKs.” 

Elena made a little growling noise. “She’ll be sorry.”

“Don’t do it, Elena,” I said. “Whatever you’re thinking--don’t do it.” 

Elena batted her eyelashes innocently. “Who, me? Why, I wasn’t thinking anything. Maybe just a tiny, harmless prank is in her future, that’s all.” 

“Yeah right, Elena,” Edgar said. “Everybody knows there’s nothing tiny about your pranks. They tend to be of the epic variety.” The time she’d somehow filled the locker room with bath bubbles sprang to mind. And there’d been an unfortunate incident involving exploding ketchup bottles and Principal Gawkmeyer’s favorite sweater. “Come on,” Edgar continued. “The science thing, remember?” 

Elena had been accepted into an amazing weeklong science program over winter break, but her dad would only let her go if she stayed out of trouble until then. Her jaw clenched and her nostrils flared. But she took a slow, deep breath. “Particle-accelerator tour,” she chanted to herself. “Personalized lab coats.” 

Sophina and her minions pranced away, handing out campaign flyers and calling, “Vote for Sophina Burkhart! Sophina for sixth-grade class president!” 

“Also, be sure to enjoy a free cake pop after school!” Sophina added. “Courtesy of Burkhart Bakery!” 

Shouts and cheers erupted around the lunchroom.

Kevin drooped in his seat. He ran a hand nervously across the tight black curls of his high-top fade. “I’m totally doomed. . . .” 

“Come on, Kevin,” Edgar said. “It’s not that bad.” 

“Not that bad? Look at this!” He shook Sophina’s campaign flyer. “High-gloss, premium heavyweight paper. Color laser printing. Campaign promises I’ll never be able to compete against!” 

“Hmm,” I said. I tapped my pencil against the flyer. “Her ‘no homework’ promise does seem newsworthy. . . .” 

“This is serious, Gina!” Kevin wailed. “Who’s going to vote for me when Sophina’s promising a schoolwide no-homework policy, plus being allowed to text in class? There’s no way she could deliver those things, but all she needs is for enough kids to believe she can.” 

“Jeez, Kev,” Elena said. She swiped a chicken nugget through the pool of ketchup on her lunch tray, then pointed it toward Kevin. “Edge is the actor, but you’re the one with all the drama.” 

“And anyway,” I said, “Sophina may have cake pops, but the fact is, nobody has more experience than you do. You’ve got a proven track record.” 

Kevin started shaking his head before I’d even finished talking. “Maybe. But here’s another fact--Sophina’s popular, while I’m just a . . . a geek.” 

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a geek,” I said, although I shuddered slightly at the thought of our new GEEKs label being passed around the cafeteria as we spoke. 

“And if Sophina gets everybody mocking us for being geeks, what will happen in a few years?” Kevin said. “The bullies are bigger in high school, and when you get stuffed in a gym locker, it’ll smell worse.” 

“If some high school punk tries to stuff me into a locker, he’ll get more than he bargained for.” Elena rubbed her hands together, her eyes sparkling. “A little decarboxylated lysine through his locker slats would teach him to be more careful who he messed with.” 

“De-car-box-a-what?” Edgar asked. 

“Decarboxylated lysine,” Elena said. “Basically, roadkill perfume. Great stuff.” 

“Wow,” I said. “I’m sure glad you’re my geeky friend, not my geeky enemy.” 

Elena lobbed a soggy French fry at my head. 

“At least the high school has a real theater program,” Edgar said. He waved his script around. “How am I ever going to get my name in lights on Broadway when I’m stuck in a middle school drama club that only has three members?” Edgar added a deep sigh, but we knew it was part of his act. For all his talk about becoming a famous Broadway actor, he loved Elmwood too much to leave. Plus, he was destined to be an Elmwood lifer, no matter what. Because there are two important facts you should know about Edgar Feingarten: 

     FACT #1: He’s the only child of New Hampshire dairy farmers. 

     FACT #2: He’s loyal. 

Edgar would never let himself be the one who removed the family from Feingarten Family Farms. 

Plus, he’d never be able to abandon his favorite prizewinning heifer, Ollie. 

I turned to Kevin. “Elmwood Middle needs you.” I picked up Sophina’s campaign flyer and crumpled it into a ball. “So you can’t let Sophina bully you out of running.” 

“You’re right.” Kevin sat up a little straighter. “Hey, if I win, will your mom put me on the front page of the paper?” 

I slid my pencil back into my hair bun. “It’s possible.” But I felt an uncomfortable twinge in my stomach that I couldn’t blame on the cafeteria food. The Elmwood Tribune had deep roots in the town, but subscriptions had been falling for four straight years. We’d had a bit of a sales bump after Alice Van Houten died (thanks in part, I like to think, to the obituary I’d written as my first official assignment). But it hadn’t lasted. 

Mom and I had both been on the lookout nonstop for the next big scoop. Or even a medium scoop. Really, any scoop would do. But printing the results of the middle school’s class elections wasn’t likely to help much. 

At least Kevin was a bit more hopeful now. “This school is too important to have a class president who isn’t completely prepared for the job. I can’t let Sophina ruin my campaign.” 

Elena clapped him on the shoulder and whooped, “Go get ’em, Kev!” 

“But for now . . .” Kevin glanced up at the cafeteria clock. “Only two minutes until the bell rings. We really need to get to our next classes.” 

“Aha! The importance of getting to class,” Edgar said. He stabbed a finger into the air. “That’s the way of the GEEKs!” Then, seeing the look on all our faces, he shrugged. “What? If we can’t escape it, we might as well embrace it.” 

And, just like that, we were no longer simply geeks. We were the GEEKs.

 

There are three important facts about last-period social studies that make it the best class of the day: 

     FACT #1: Other than lunch, social studies is the only period with all four GEEKs. 

     FACT #2: Edgar, Elena, Kevin, and I sit together in the front row. 

     FACT #3: Our teacher, Mr. Singh, likes bow ties, blue jeans, and socks with sandals. And he doesn’t like to style his overgrown mustache the same way two days in a row. He’s pretty consistently entertaining. (Okay, that last bit was an opinion.) 

“As we shall learn during our next unit,” Mr. Singh said near the end of class that afternoon, “the late eighteenth century was a time of revolution. Of upheaval, social change, and, oui--bloodshed.” 

Edgar leaned over his desk and whispered, “It also happens to be part of two of the best musicals of all time, Les Misérables and--”

“Hamilton,” I finished. “I know, I know.” Edgar had memorized both entire cast albums and sang them whenever he wasn’t busy quoting Shakespeare or whatever play he was reading at the time.

I jumped when Mr. Singh plopped something heavy on his desk and announced in a terrible French accent: “I give you--une petite guillotine!” 

We all leaned forward as Mr. Singh produced a watermelon from under his desk. His mustache--which today looked like he’d glued a pair of squirrel tails to the middle of his face--twitched as he placed the melon under the guillotine’s blade. “During the French Revolution, both aristocrats and common criminals met their demise by the blade of this device, which I will now demonstrate.” Mr. Singh winked as he pulled a thin rope to raise the blade of the miniature guillotine. “I hope you’re all hungry.” 

The class cheered. 

However, before Mr. Singh could release the blade, a beep and a crackle sounded from the speaker mounted above the classroom door. 

The class booed. 

“Attention, educators. Attention, scholars,” Principal Gawkmeyer wheezed through the intercom. “I apologize for this interruption. However, I have an important announcement. I just received notification that the town’s select board has scheduled an emergency town meeting.” 

Huh? Elmwood never had town meetings. I opened my notebook and pulled the pencil from my hair bun. Kevin’s mom was on the select board, so I glanced his way and silently mouthed, What’s it about? 

Kevin pursed his lips and shrugged. 

Principal Gawkmeyer continued: “The meeting is scheduled for seven o’clock this evening at the Elmwood Town Hall. Scholars, please inform your parents. I hope to see them tonight. Thank you.”

As soon as the intercom clicked off, the rest of the class forgot all about the announcement. A chant of “Wa-ter-me-lon! Wa-ter-me-lon!” filled the room. 

Mr. Singh once again prepared to release the guillotine’s blade. 

The end-of-day bell clanged. 

“Alas,” Mr. Singh said, stepping back from the guillotine, arms raised. “The execution has been postponed.” 

The class groaned. 

Mr. Singh scooped the watermelon into his arms and cradled it like a baby. “Worry not, mes amis. On Monday, this felonious fruit shall receive its just deserts. Then you shall receive your desserts as well!” 

I half smiled at Mr. Singh’s attempt at humor. But as I followed the flow of students out the door, my mind spun around the emergency town meeting, my reporter radar pinging. The newspaper needed a scoop, and now it looked like there might be one. 

Unfortunately, it’s like they always say--be careful what you wish for.

Under the Cover