I was sure this was the end. I was tied to an altar of outdated encyclopedias, about to be sacrificed to the Dark Powers by a cult of Evil Librarians.

You've probably never been in a similar situation, but I can assure you that it makes one pause and reflect on one's life, starting with one's parents. I was a little startled that they came to mind, because I'd spent my life not thinking of them. In fact, until my thirteenth birthday, the only thing I knew about them was that they had a twisted sense of humor. They named me Al, but not short for Alexander, Alfonso, Alfred, or any of the other names that could be shortened to Al. No, they named me after the most infamous prison in US history — Alcatraz. That's my name, Alcatraz Smedry. The other reason I thought they had a strange sense of humor was that on my thirteenth birthday, I got my inheritance from them — a bag of sand, perfectly ordinary brown beach sand, about the size of my fist.

I was still thinking about it when I set the kitchen on fire. Now let me assure you that I am not an evil, destructive persoon, but I do have a problem that might make people think that I am. I break things. Not deliberately, of course, but they break. Sometimes I only have to touch something, and it falls apart. That was one of the reasons I was on my twenty-seventh set of foster parents. No one wanted me around after they found out about my curse. Roy and Joan had lasted longer than most — eight months — but the fire was the last straw. They called Ms. Fletcher, my case worker, who came and talked to them and lectured me, then said her assistant would pick me up in the morning.

But before her assistant could arrive, a strange old man who said he was my grandfather arrived to warn me about a cult of Evil Librarians who would try to steal my inheritance. A bag of sand? And sure enough, when I went to look for it, it was gone. Ms. Fletcher was the only person who'd been in my bedroom the previous day, so my grandfather knew immediately that she was one of the Evil Librarians, and that she had taken it. We had to get it back, because that bag of sand was more powerful than it looked, and the Evil Librarians would use it to rule the world.

After that, there was a man holding a gun on me, a car-sized hole in Joan's kitchen wall, and my life took a sharp turn toward altars, sacrifices, and outdated encyclopedias. And possibly some sharks, as well. It's hard to know what might happen when you go up against the Evil Librarians, determined to rule the world.