The Exquisite Corpse Adventure - Episode 1


The Exquisite Corpse Adventure
Episode 1

Hear it Hear it  (MP3) 4:53

Contributed by: Jon Scieszka
Illustration by: Chris Van Dusen

About this book

A very unusual and completely amazing story pieced together out of so many parts that it is not possible to describe them all here so go ahead and just start reading...

This story starts with a train rushing through the night.

The full moon lights the silver rails winding around dark mountains, through deep woods, and over steep gorges of jagged rock and one freezing cold rushing black mountain river.

I wish there was enough time to describe all of the funny (and touching) twists and turns - especially the Elephant Clown Party - that led up to now. But there isn't. Enough time. Because there is a ticking clock. And the two passengers we care most about don't know anything about it.

In a sleeping berth, in the third car from the end of the train, are two children, eleven- year-old twins, who have just run away from the circus.

The girl's name is Nancy. The boy's name is Joe.

They have no idea that those are not their true names. Though they will figure it out soon enough. Up until two hours ago, Nancy and Joe thought they were orphans. That turned out to be not true either. Joe holds up the “birthday card” that has suddenly changed their lives.

“This is not even in code! If our real Mom and Dad are such secret spies, wouldn't they have at least written in code?

“Maybe they didn't have enough time,” said Nancy.

Rescue Us By

. . . gets right to the point. And there is this mark. The same mark we both have on our right little toe. Who else would know about that?”

Joe frowned. “But we don't really know if we are going to the right place. We don't really know if the Exquisite Corpse is the Top Secret Robot we are supposed to piece together. And we don't really know how to help.”

Joe was right to be worried. But he was worried for all of the wrong reasons.

The note was from their real mom and dad. They were going to the right place. The Exquisite Corpse was a very Top Secret Robot that could only be assembled by them. And because they had been raised in a circus, Joe and Nancy had been perfectly trained for just this moment.

Fire juggling, trapeze flips, sharpshooting, bullwhip stunts, lock-picking, lion taming, bareback riding, knife throwing, snake charming, disappearing, sword swallowing, and other circus skills can come in handy in all sorts of situations.

What Joe should have been worried about was the clock – the first ticking clock. Oh, so much more to explain. So little time.

Here, you will just have to piece things together yourself:

If the train makes it over the last treacherous gorge, there is a good chance that you and Nancy and Joe will have to deal with werewolves and mad scientists, real ninjas and fake vampires, one roller-skating baby, a talking pig, creatures from another planet (possibly another dimension), killer poetry, clues from classic children's books, two easy riddles, several bad knock knock jokes, plenty of explosions, a monkey disguised as a pirate, two meatballs, a blue plastic Star Wars lunch box (missing its matching thermos), three ticking clocks, and not just one bad guy – but a whole army of villains, cads, scalawags, sneaks, rats, varmints and swindlers. Also several desperados, a gang of evildoers, and one just plain bad egg.

And you-know-who will have to piece together the Exquisite Corpse.

But the first ticking clock.
It is attached to the last bridge.
And of course there is a wire that leads from the clock to an entire bundle of dynamite.
Joe and Nancy's train rushes toward that bridge.
The second hand of the clock has exactly forty-seven more ticks before it reaches its very explosive alarm time.

Joe looks once more at their “birthday card.”
“So now what do we do?”

Audio recordings provided by National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Next Episode

The Exquisite Corpse


The Exquisite Corpse interative book

Interactive Book

The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance and the Butler Center for Children's Literature at Dominican University have developed a companion educational resource center  to support “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.”