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Last Christmas, Rowan discovered the courage to follow his wild ideas. Those wild ideas have got him in trouble all year, but when the wrong kind of magic is once again released on Christmas Eve, a wild idea might be the only thing that can save his sisters—and Christmas.

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One good thing that came of the three siblings unleashing all the wrong kind of magic last year was that Rowan discovered the courage to follow his wild ideas. But those wild ideas have got him in nothing but trouble and he’s sworn off them for good. Yet when the magic is again released on Christmas Eve and an evil angel casts a spell on his sisters, only a wild and reckless idea can save them.

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Chapter 1

an Arctic start

The wind roared and the snow slashed at the windows outside the car. Inside the car, Izabelle’s dinosaur, Ethan, fell onto Rowan’s head for the umpteenth time. For the umpteenth time, Rowan shoved his sister’s toy into the gap between the red suitcase and Marley’s pillow behind his seat.

As he twisted back to face the front, his elbow accidentally nudged Izabelle’s new dinosaur, Rex.

“Don’t touch my toys!” Izabelle said.

Rowan wanted to tell her he would not have touched his little sister’s new favorite dinosaur if she hadn’t abandoned her old favorite for Rex, but he had already begun his plan to turn over a new leaf, so he said nothing.

His new leaf was going to be challenging. Then again, his old leaf hadn’t exactly been easy.

Things for Rowan had started to go wrong in the first week of school after Christmas last year. And they had not stopped going wrong.

None of it felt like it was his fault. Take the first thing that went wrong.

Fresh back from Christmas break, the teacher asked the kids in his class to stand up and talk about a memorable moment from the holidays.

Talking in front of everyone? It couldn’t get worse than that.

Oh, but it did get worse.

When it was Rowan’s turn to talk, he forced himself to stand up even though his knees felt kind of wobbly. He took a deep breath and thought about the end of the story he was about to tell, the bit where he had swung the Nutcracker to smack the bad Santa and launch him out into the snow, and suddenly he didn’t feel quite so scared.

And not feeling quite so scared, he started to tell the story of the wild Christmas he and his sisters, Marley and Izabelle, had.

The whole class listened as Rowan described the way the house rocked and how they thought there was an earthquake.

One or two kids snickered when he got to the bit about his toy monkey, Trevor, poking his head around the sofa where Rowan and his sister were taking cover. (He chose the words ‘taking cover’ because ‘hiding’ made him sound scared.)

The teacher interrupted him just after the bit of the story where Rowan and his sisters realized they were getting chased by a crazed, mechanical Santa, and just before the bit where Izabelle released her Apatosaurus.

Ms. Sage said he was supposed to be talking about a real moment, not a made-up story. Rowan told her it was a true story, and this made his classmates laugh harder.

Rowan jumped to the bit where he grabbed Trevor and stuffed the toy back in the Christmas stocking, but Ms. Sage interrupted him again, in a stern voice this time, and asked him to sit down.

“But I was scared to touch him and I did it anyway!” Rowan protested, even though he hadn’t meant to tell the class he’d felt scared. That made Caleb Farthing roar with laughter, and when Mr. Popular roared with laughter, the entire class roared with laughter.

His year continued with a series of attempts to explore his newfound desire to try things he’d never tried before. None of them worked.

Like the time when he had finally felt ready to face the climbing wall in the gym. Apparently, he’d not been allowed to let himself in the gym and climb without adult supervision. That was the first time he was sent to the principal’s office.

Or the time he had dared to tell Mr. Crab what the whole class wanted to say but were too afraid to, that he always gave them too much homework. And so, Mr. Crab had set the class double the number of problems for homework for an entire month.

Or when Rowan had swallowed his fear and sneaked into the biology lab to touch the slimy frogs and accidentally forgotten to put the lid on properly and all the frogs escaped.

Or when he had braved the ocean waves as tall as he was on vacation at Bethany Beach and found himself being pulled out of the water by the lifeguards.

The most recent time was during his first ever football match. He had been holding the ball on the ground ready for the kicker when he’d had a bright idea. His bright idea was to pick up the ball and make a run for the goal line. It might have worked, too, if it hadn’t been for that really tall kid with the spiky hair who landed him with a full body of bruises and a place on the bench for the rest of the season.

“It must have taken a lot of courage,” his coach said. “But it would have been less painful if you’d done what I asked you to do.”

The bruises were painful. Being sent to the principal’s office was painful. Getting angry glares from his classmates was painful. Almost drowning was painful. And so was the realization that Coach had used the word ‘courage’ and that the other times Rowan had got into trouble might also have had something to do with courage.

On TV, being brave made you a hero. In reality, it got you into everyone’s bad book, and Rowan was fed up with being in everyone’s bad book.

Which is why he planned to turn over a new leaf during the holidays.

Enough of his wild ideas which kept on getting him in trouble. From now on, he would trust other people’s rules and ideas.
Going to the grands for the Christmas break would be good practice for when he got home. It would be a safe place for him to practice because his grandparents knew nothing about the bazillions of times he’d been in trouble.

“Roar!” Izabelle bopped Rowan in the face with Rex. What Rowan wanted to do was to push the stuffie, but moments ago she’d said she didn’t want him touching her toys, so he looked straight ahead and let Iza’s T-Rex continue to gnaw his ear.

Later tonight, when everyone was in bed, he would tell Trevor all about the restraint he’d shown—that would make him feel better.

Izabelle bopped him again, this time a bit too hard, knocking Rex from her hand and onto the floor.

“I can’t reach!” Izabelle strained forward to pick him up, but her seatbelt clicked her tight in place.

“Will someone get Rex for her?” Nana asked.

Rowan didn’t want to be that someone to pick up her dinosaur because if he did, he would not be doing what Izabelle had asked him. But if he didn’t pick up Rex, he would also not be doing what Nana had just asked him. So, he chose instead to distract everyone’s attention.

“Popa, does it take courage to drive in this weather?”

Nana chuckled but didn’t sound amused. “More like recklessness,” she said.

“I’m not sure courage comes into it,” Popa said. “It’s just driving.”

Driving while thick swirls of snow blocked the view in front of them seemed pretty courageous to Rowan. Perhaps that was why Popa was driving so slowly. At this rate, they wouldn’t get there until the new year.

“It might be braver for Popa to accept my advice and book into a hotel for the night,” Nana said. “Did you know, the word ‘courage’ comes from the Latin word for ‘in the heart’?” she added, always eager to share useless facts with the kids.

“We’re fine, no need to waste money on a hotel.” Popa said. “It’s just a little snow and cold.”

“Historic cold temperatures, wind, snow, ice, or whatever that is. This is a bit more than a little snow and cold!” Nana said.

Rowan wondered if Popa could see Nana shake her head. Probably not, the way he was leaning forward in his seat, and could still probably see nothing at all through the sideways snow.

Popa was brave to be driving in these conditions, though he was brushing it off as nothing out of the ordinary, and Popa was in trouble with Nana. Which just proved Rowan’s point. The TV really had it wrong, and Rowan had figured it out right. Courage only got you in trouble.

This affirmation didn’t upset Rowan. Quite the opposite. It was a relief to know he had learned something so important, and that his plan to restore his reputation was certain to work.

Meet the author

An Italian speaking Brit living in the US, Hilary Hauck is a bestselling,
award-winning author of historical and fantasy fiction featuring characters struggling
to find their inner amazing. Raised in the UK, Hilary later lived in Italy,
where she mastered the language, learned how to cook food she can no longer
eat, and won a national karate championship. After meeting her husband, she
came to the US and drew inspiration from Pennsylvania coal history for her
debut novel.

Learn more about Hilary