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Authors: Lynne Jonell

The Secret of Zoom

BOOK: The Secret of Zoom
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Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Publishers since 1866

175 Fifth Avenue

New York, New York 10010


Henry Holt
is a registered trademark of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Text copyright © 2009 by Lynne Jonell

Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Victor Rivas

All rights reserved.

Distributed in Canada by H. B. Fenn and Company Ltd.


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Jonell, Lynne.

The secret of zoom / Lynne Jonell.—1st ed.

p.      cm.

Summary: Ten-year-old Christina lives a sheltered life until she discovers a secret tunnel,
a plot to enslave orphans, and a mysterious source of energy known as zoom.
ISBN 978-0-8050-8856-4

[1. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.J675Se 2009 [Fic]—dc22 2008050276


First Edition—2009

Book designed by April Ward
Printed in July 2009 in the United States of America by
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia


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To my dear father,
for whom ninety-nine
was never enough


had fallen asleep while reading under the dining room table and awakened to the clink of silverware and the sound of grown-up voices telling secrets. And that was how she found out, long after it had happened, that her mother had been blown up.

“Blown to smithereens,” said a lady's voice cheerfully. “Right in her own laboratory, poor dear. And her daughter was just a little thing, too.”

“Those scientific experiments can be tricky,” said a man's voice. “Pass the salt, please.”

Christina sat up attentively. All around her were legs—black-and gray-trousered legs for the men, nylon-stockinged legs for the women, except for one woman with hairy knees who wore white socks and sandals. The crimson tablecloth hung down to their grown-up laps, giving the light beneath the table a reddish hue. As usual, someone had dropped a roll. Christina poked at it with her finger, dimpling the crust.

She didn't remember her mother. Or, rather, she remembered only bits of her mother. A comfortable lap. A hand, patting. A rocking motion and a voice, singing low.

Christina pressed her finger into the roll again, and a third time. The three holes looked like two eyes and a nose. She was considering the mouth—should the face be happy or sad?—when heavy footsteps crossed the floor.

“I'm sorry I was called away,” said the deep voice of Christina's father, and the chair at the head of the table was pulled out. “There was a problem at the lab—you know how it is.”

Adult voices murmured agreement as Christina broke little pieces off the roll. Her father, Dr. Adnoid, was the top scientist at Loompski Laboratories. His friends were all scientists. And all her life, people had told Christina that she would grow up to be a scientist, too. But now, after hearing what had happened to her mother, she wasn't sure she liked the idea.

It occurred to her as well that her father might get blown up someday in
laboratory. And while Christina didn't see Dr. Adnoid that often—and when she did, he only seemed interested in her math grades—still, he
her father, and if he died, then she would be an orphan. And orphans, as she well knew, went to the Loompski Orphan Home just down the road and were taught useful trades like shoe shining and floor mopping and garbage collecting.

Of course that all sounded like fun to Christina. She had often envied the orphans, watching from her window as they came down the street in their orange and red vests, dumping garbage cans into the rear of a big truck painted with happy
faces and banging the lids back on in a businesslike manner. And every so often, if she was lucky, she would see the big rear panel come down with a bang and press all the garbage back with an interesting grinding noise.

She wasn't allowed out when the orphans came by, though. In fact, she wasn't allowed out at all, except for an hour a day, when she stood at the tall iron rails that fenced in her yard and stared longingly through the bars at the world going past.


Christina's house was big, old, and set on a hill. It had been built years ago when Dr. Leo Loompski, one of the famed scientific Loompskis, had come from the city to visit his brother and find a place for his laboratories.

He had stepped off the riverboat at the sleepy little town of Dorf and looked up. Above him were foothills and a spreading forest, and beyond that was nothing but the bare gray rock of the Starkian Mountain Ridge and the nests of some large and high-flying birds.

He had been a small man—almost the size of a child, some said—but all the same, he put on big heavy boots, grabbed a walking stick, and hiked straight up.

When he came back, smiling as if at some great and wonderful secret, he bought the land. Then he promptly fenced off a hundred acres of forest, built his laboratories at the very center, and put up a stone house for himself at the edge of the woods. And ever since Leo Loompski's time, the head scientist of Loompski Labs had lived in the very same house.

The house was full of portraits of the Loompski family
members and their awards. Although Leo's parents had been rather ordinary, four of their five sons were anything but. Between Leo, Lester, Lars, and Ludwig, they had won all the major mathematical and scientific prizes; they had married unusual and talented women; and even their dog, Lucky, had her portrait on the wall. (Lucky had won Best of Show nine years running for being able to tap out the first seven numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.)

But in pride of place was Leo Loompski's portrait, hanging next to the Karsnicky Medal. The medal was a golden disc on a silver ribbon, and the highest honor a scientist could achieve, but Christina liked the portrait best. Leo Loompski's eyes were bright blue, his ears stuck out from beneath his white hair, and the smile on his face looked happy and kind. Christina knew he
have been kind, for hadn't he even set up an orphanage to care for homeless children?

Still, he had built the sort of laboratory where mothers could get blown up. And he had put up a fence in the forest that was twenty feet high, made of crisscrossed barbed wire and humming with electricity. The signs posted on it said things like
! and

Christina didn't really like to look at the fence, or the forest beyond that hid Loompski Labs. So on the afternoons when she was let out, she mostly stood in her front yard. If she pressed her face between the gate's iron palings, she couldn't see any fence at all between herself and the town of Dorf below, with its river that curled through the valley like a long blue snake. On cloudy days, it looked more like a gray snake,
but it didn't much matter what color it was—Christina knew, no matter how she begged, that she would never be allowed to play on its banks.


do I have to stay in the yard?” she asked at breakfast, the morning after her father's dinner party. She had asked many times before, of course, but Christina hoped that if she kept asking, someone might one day give in.

“The world is a dangerous place,” said Nanny, squeezing Christina in her plump arms. “Your father wants to keep you safe. Eat up, now.”

Nanny's hugs were a little on the smothering side. Christina squirmed away. What was so great about being safe all the time? She could think of much more important things—like meeting kids her own age and having a little
now and then.

“Your father already lost his wife,” said Cook darkly, coming in with a tray of muffins. “He doesn't want to lose you, too.”

Christina crumbled a muffin into bits. She had heard this before. When she was younger, she used to wonder if her mother had been lost in the Loompski forest and might find her way back someday. It hadn't been until recently that Christina had understood: When people said her mother had been
, they meant she had

“I could at least go to school,” Christina said rebelliously. “Kids are
to go to school, aren't they?”

“But your computer classes are far superior to any ordinary school,” said her father, wandering past with a cup of coffee in one hand and a calculator in the other. “You have the
finest instructors from all over the world, and you never have to leave your room. Speaking of which, how are you doing in math these days?”

“Fine,” muttered Christina, making a face.

“You know, math is so much more fun than you realize. Here, I'll show you.”

“No—really, I'm

Dr. Adnoid pulled a notebook and pen from his pocket. “You're going to enjoy this problem—just listen for a minute, now. Say you had seven integers, three of which were divisible by two . . .”

Christina ate her oatmeal in gloomy silence. When her father finally put his pen away to leave for work, she was so relieved that she followed him out to wave good-bye.

Dr. Adnoid's dark green car pulled out of the carriage house, passed the front gate, and disappeared down the gravel road that led into the forest. The gate shut with a metallic clang. Christina winced—she hated that noise—and stood a moment in the bright morning air, facing the house.

The house that Leo Loompski had built was a little like a castle, with brass-studded doors, stone lions at the steps, and grinning gargoyles on the roof. If Christina hadn't been so lonely, she would have loved living there. The inside was filled with surprising little closets and cupboards big enough to crawl into and window seats in the oddest places.

“Christina! Time to come in!” Nanny stood at the door, hands on her sizable hips.

Christina dragged her feet, looking wistfully at the stone facade. If only she were allowed to climb on the roof! There
were unusual-looking places behind the stone gargoyles that she would love to explore.

There was nothing new left to discover indoors—she had already located everything that was interesting. Rumor had it that Dr. Loompski had built a secret tunnel, but rumor was wrong. Christina had never found it, and she had searched for years.

BOOK: The Secret of Zoom
11.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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