For Ages
8 to 12

Winnie Zeng Shatters the Universe is a part of the Winnie Zeng collection.

In the third book of this epic fantasy series, kids from around the world are summoned to compete at the magical Shaman Youth Tournament! But with all the young shamans away, who will defend the human realm from evil spirits?

"A hilarious tussle between homework, family, and heroism." —Kwame Mbalia, #1 New York Times bestselling author

If awards were given for multitasking, then Winnie Zeng would come in first place. Between juggling evil spirits and middle school—boy, does she have her hands full. Ordinarily, winter break would be her chance to catch up on anime, but this year marks the return of the Shaman Youth Tournament, where shamans around the world duel for the title of champion!

To prepare, Winnie and her archnemesis, David, train for their toughest battles yet. But when some of their competitors start acting a little stranger—and a lot stronger—than normal, they realize they might be in over their heads.

Soon, it becomes clear that the spirit attacks in Winnie’s hometown were only the beginning of something more sinister than any one shaman can tackle. Now, it’s up to all shamans to take on this task and protect the human world. It just may be the last mission they ever receive. . . .

An Excerpt fromWinnie Zeng Shatters the Universe

Chapter One

Nobody ever said middle school would be easy, but if you ask me, it should come with a hazard sign.

So far, sixth grade had thrown me curveballs left and right—­new teachers, new classmates, new homework and tests (lots of them). I’d expected those curveballs, though, and like a champion baseball player, I’d been batting them back easily.

What nobody had warned me about, though, was that I’d also have to deal with magical . . . situations. Like the time I’d accidentally uncovered my hidden shaman powers after making a mooncake recipe from my grandmother’s old cookbook. Or the other bit, when my pet rabbit, Jade, had started talking to me because the spirit of my grandmother got trapped inside her. Oh, and that’s not even the worst of it. Without meaning to, I’d unleashed evil spirits into the very nonmagical town of Groton and nearly caused its destruction—­twice. Once during the Mid-­Autumn Festival and once during Halloween.

All this had happened to me and we weren’t even halfway through the school year yet. If the town was still standing by the end of sixth grade, it would be a miracle. Seriously, after my showdown with evil spirits during Halloween, I’d been extra worried about my role as a Shaman Task Force member. I’d barely survived and protected Groton last time. What would happen next time, especially if even stronger spirits emerged?

With how stressful life had been lately, I was just glad I’d made it to December. Winter break was hands down the best part of the school year, after summer break. There was still a week to go before the students at Groton Middle School would have almost three full weeks off. Three blissful, stress-­free weeks, when I’d be stuffing my face with everything from Christmas cake to spicy noodles. Every Christmas Eve, Mama and Baba went all out, making a yummy feast, and this year I deserved to eat to my heart’s content. Hey, fighting chaotic spirits was hard, thankless work.

Tuesday afternoon, after an especially hard day of school—­thanks to the math teacher springing a pop quiz on us—­I got home and immediately wanted nothing more than to slink into bed. Unfortunately, I had a pile of homework to finish before winter break. If there was one thing I’d learned about school, it was that teachers loved dumping work on us right before the holidays, as if to make our lives as miserable as possible before they let us off the hook for a few weeks.

Anyway, as soon as I walked through the front doorway of my empty house, I noticed that a pink envelope had been slid under the door and onto the welcome mat. I picked it up and read the sender’s address on the front.

Spirit Council

c/o Suntreader Bookstore

1452 Mayflower Road, Fl 888

Groton, Michigan 88888

“Oh no,” I groaned. “Not another task from the Spirit Council.” Groton had been pretty peaceful since my last run-­in with a class three spirit during Halloween, and I’d hoped it would stay that way as we headed for winter break. Looked like that wouldn’t be the case. “Wait.” I peered more closely at the address and frowned. “That’s not even our town’s zip code!” And now that I thought about it, the Spirit Council lived on the eight hundred and eighty-­eighth floor of the Suntreader Bookstore. (Yeah, it’s a real place; don’t question it.) How had the mail carrier even gotten all the way up there to pick up the mail?

“Open the envelope! You’ll like this task, Winnie,” came my grandmother’s chirpy voice from somewhere above.

Forgetting my confusion for a moment, I glanced up. The spirit of Lao Lao, my grandmother, hovered around the chandelier. My white rabbit, Jade, was sitting at the top of the stairs, not too far from Lao Lao.

By the way, my grandmother was one of the spirits I’d accidentally unleashed back in the fall—­the only spirit I was glad I’d let out of the spirit realm. When she entered this world, she’d done so through Jade, and had been anchored to my pet rabbit for most of her time here. Recently, though, Lao Lao’s presence in the human world had grown strong enough that she no longer needed to be anchored to Jade all the time. This development had its advantages, like the fact that I could bring my grandmother along as backup in potentially life-­threatening situations without having to haul around my rabbit (which my Chinese school principal had once mistaken for a rat, and then proceeded to have the freak-­out of the century—­long story). But it also had its drawbacks, like the fact that my grandmother insisted on sticking to me like rice to a sushi mat, and I didn’t have an excuse to leave her at home.

“How do you know I’ll like this task?” I asked suspiciously.

“I’m your overspirit. I know all,” she said with a mysterious air. “A little birdie told me all the details.” She glanced way up at the ceiling and whistled innocently.

Oh yeah, Lao Lao isn’t just any spirit. She’s my overspirit. That means we are strongest together rather than separately, as cheesy as it sounds. When we’ve combined powers, we’ve become basically unstoppable. Well, as long as I’ve trained regularly to harness my shaman powers.

With a bit of suspicion, I tore open the envelope. Even though I liked being the peacekeeper between Groton and the spirit world, I needed to mentally prepare myself for any tasks the Spirit Council assigned me. As stressful as school was, shaman tasks were, like, that times one hundred. I hadn’t liked any of the tasks the Spirit Council had given me. They all tended to involve Groton’s probable destruction and me risking my neck to save a bunch of clueless people.

A piece of perfumed pink paper slipped out of the envelope. Quickly, I read it.

Spirit Council

c/o Suntreader Bookstore

1452 Mayflower Road, Fl 888

Groton, Michigan 88888

To whom it may concern:

You are cordially invited to attend the 99th Shaman Youth Camp.* Held once every ten years, the camp showcases the greatest talent from around the world.

For ten days, December 14–­­23, learn to hone your powers among the best shamans.

The Shaman Youth Camp will conclude with the Shaman Youth Tournament, in which one shaman will be crowned the Shaman Youth Champion.

Grand prize: A sparring lesson with a legendary spirit of your choosing

Runner-­up: A surprise shaman goody bag

In order to accept your invitation, please confirm your attendance with the Spirit Council via your Shaman Task Force badge.

*Attending Shaman Task Force members will have their regular positions filled with senior Shaman Task Force members.

There was no mention of the world ending, or of me putting myself in a life-­or-­death situation. Actually, as far as tasks went, this was by far the coolest one the Spirit Council had assigned me.

“I get to spar with a legendary spirit of my choosing?” I exclaimed. Immediately, my brain began creating a list of the most impressive figures from every Chinese legend I could recall. What if I won and got to spar with the Monkey King, who was pretty much one of the strongest gods ever? I’d lose fast, but I’d learn a lot, and I’d get to say that I’d sparred with the Monkey King. i got creamed by the monkey king—­I could see it on a T-­shirt already.

Not to mention, this tournament was the perfect opportunity to sharpen my skills a lot in a short amount of time. After the fiasco of Halloween, when the Bull Demon King had nearly succeeded in his plot to infiltrate and take over Groton with an army of demons, I needed to grab any chance I could to level up. Lao Lao and I had been training together, but there was only so far I could get with one-­on-­one training. A camp and a tournament sounded like the perfect way to get more hands-­on practice that I couldn’t with my grandmother alone. Plus, things in Groton had been pretty calm since Halloween, and my training wasn’t really leveling me up that fast.

There was just one problem. And it was a big one.

“My parents would never give me permission to enter something called a Shaman Youth Camp,” I blurted out, shaking my head. Even though I was intrigued by the invitation, I couldn’t even imagine trying to explain ten days’ absence to Mama and Baba, who hadn’t the slightest inkling about the existence of spirits or shamans. “Forget it. I can’t go.”

“Check the envelope again,” my grandmother said, raising her eyebrows knowingly. “Of course the Spirit Council is adamant about humans never finding out about the spirit realm and its activities, so they’ve already taken the necessary precautions. There’s something in the envelope that should help you with getting your parents’ permission.” She gave me a huge, exaggerated wink.

I didn’t see why Lao Lao wouldn’t just tell me exactly what she was hinting at. Sighing, I peered inside the envelope and discovered another slip of paper. At first glance, it appeared to be identical to the Shaman Youth Camp invitation, but when I looked closer, there were some pretty significant differences in the writing.

Michigan Junior Scholars Camp

6122 Rainbow Drive

Hainesville, MI 31415

To whom it may concern:

You are cordially invited to attend the 99th annual Michigan Junior Scholars Camp. The camp showcases the greatest academic talent from around the state of Michigan.

For ten days, December 14–­­23, hone your academic prowess among the best middle school minds.

The Junior Scholars Camp will conclude with the Junior Scholars Tournament, in which one attendee will be crowned the Michigan Junior Scholars Champion.

Grand prize: A future letter of recommendation for college

Runner-­up: A surprise school supplies goody bag

“ ‘Michigan Junior Scholars Champion’ does not have the same ring as ‘Shaman Youth Tournament Champion,’ ” I said. If I put michigan junior scholars champion on a ­T-­shirt and walked around wearing it at school, I’d get shoved into a trash can before first period even began. Also, even though it was fake, I couldn’t believe that the Spirit Council’s idea of a prize for a youth tournament was a bag full of school supplies. It must have been a long, long time since they’d been kids.

“Maybe not, but it’s a good cover story to give to your parents while you attend the Shaman Youth Camp,” my grandmother pointed out.

Mama and Baba would leap at the opportunity to force me to do more school outside of school, not to mention the chance for me to win against other middle schoolers, which would earn them bragging rights (and that, to them, was priceless).

Knowing my parents, they would agree to send me to this camp in a heartbeat.

Under the Cover