Summer Reading Preview: The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles

Are you trying to find books for your middle graders to read this summer? The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles is a time travel adventure with a twist—readers ages 9–13 will discover theological themes as they travel through God’s Word. By placing the characters into biblical events, authors Champ Thornton and Andrew David Naselli show the Bible is far from being a boring book full of instructions. Readers will discover life-changing truths they’ll never forget.

Through the course of the story, the brother and sister team of Emmet and Nomi cross paths with Adam, Eve, and David, and come close (but not quite) to meeting Moses and Jesus. As readers journey through the Bible with Emmet and Nomi, they will see how God conquers evil, slays the Serpent, and rescues his people. The authors hope that readers will begin to experience the Bible the same way and encounter the story of Scripture up close and personal.

Enjoy this preview from the first chapter of The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles.

The Unexpected Outcome

The playing card taped to Emmet’s bike frame—so it would sound like a motorcycle—was working perfectly! But Emmet wasn’t impressed by its roar, not today. Right now, he just hoped they could get away.

Alongside his sister Nomi, Emmet pedaled furiously, standing up, leaning forward. Sweat ran down his olive-toned skin and his mop of thick black hair stood straight up in the wind. His backpack—packed for summer adventures—shifted from side to side as he strained to go as fast as possible.

Out of the corner of his eye, Emmet could see Nomi beside him. Darker skinned, her curly hair bobbed against her back- pack. She was determined, afraid, and keeping up. Not bad.

Though they were both twelve, Nomi was five inches taller and could outrun her brother any day. But on bikes, Emmet was usually the fastest. Today was an exception; they were neck and neck, zooming past trees and houses. Soon they would take the narrow dirt path, deep through the woods—and away from Tobias.

Tobias was eleven, but instead of looking like he was in the fifth grade, he looked like he could’ve been in eighth— for the third time. He was big. And he was new. Tobias lived just down the street from Emmet and Nomi. His family had moved from New York City, four hours away, to their little coastal town of Lewis last year.

Tobias was also loud and annoying. All through last school year, he seemed to delight in making life difficult for Emmet and Nomi. And they didn’t know why. Last Halloween, he snuck up behind Nomi, reached into her sack of candy, grabbed a huge handful, and ran away laughing.

He hadn’t even eaten the candy. Emmet saw him throw it away when he thought no one was looking. Another time, when it snowed, Tobias had thrown snowballs at their snow- man. And when Emmet went outside to talk to him, he tackled him and shoved his face in the snow. Now whenever they were outside playing, it seemed that Tobias had nothing better to do than tease them or taunt them or burp so loud even the neighbors could hear.

Now Tobias was chasing them on his blue BMX bike, and he was getting closer every second.

Emmet and Nomi’s trail bikes hit the path with a bump, and their tires dropped off the sidewalk onto the well-worn dirt path. One hundred feet ahead, the trail disappeared into the woods. But they had no plans of stopping. They flew through the woods, up the gulley, and out into the back of the next neighborhood. Now if they could only lose Tobias on a side street.

Emmet, in the lead, pointed to a street up ahead. Turn right. Quick, before . . . Emmet looked back. Tobias’s bike exploded out of the woods. Too late! He had seen them.

Serpent Slayer ch 1 ill 1 1

Now they had to make another turn—fast. Emmet whipped around to face front.

Ugh! He had led them onto a dead-end street.

“Between the houses!” yelled Nomi, pointing ahead at two houses—a brick one and a bright yellow one—at the end of the street.

“Don’t yell,” said Emmet. “He’ll hear us.”

Nomi crinkled her eyebrows, “Says the guy on the ‘motorcycle’?”

The bikes hit the curb, zipped down the driveway, bounced across the grass, and into the backyard behind one of the houses. They skidded to a dusty stop at the edge of the trees and peered back.

Nomi’s white metal water bottle had flown out of her backpack and was lying in plain sight on the grass beside the driveway of the yellow house. She must have forgotten to zip the pouch.

Though Nomi was mature for her age, Emmet couldn’t believe how disorganized she could be. He always said her room looked like a middle-school art show that had been struck by a tornado. Finding her homework, or even her hairbrush, was quite the feat.

Serpent Slayer ch 1 ill 2

“Your new water bottle!” sighed Emmet. Then he added, “I’ll go get it.”

“No, wait. He’ll see you,” said Nomi.

“I just hope he doesn’t see your water bott—” Emmet began, just as Tobias skidded to a squealing stop, right in front of the water bottle. He grinned, picked it up, and held it up with his right hand.

“Hey, you dropped something!” he shouted. “You want this? You’re going to have to come get it.”

You’re going to get it,” whispered Emmet.

Tobias repeated, “Come and get it!” He dropped his bike to the ground and was now tossing the water bottle back and forth between his hands. “Come. And. Get. It.”

Something inside Emmet snapped. He threw his bike to the ground. When the bike landed with a thud, Tobias took his eyes off the water bottle to see what Emmet was up to. And at that moment, he missed the water bottle. Instead of catching it, Tobias hit it with his left hand and sent it clanging across the driveway.

“That’s it!” Emmet shouted. Enough of Tobias and his huge, annoying self, thought Emmet. Enough of Tobias’s bullying. He might have gotten away with stealing Nomi’s Halloween candy, but he wasn’t going to get away with stealing her new water bottle.

He was furious at Tobias—so angry he wasn’t thinking. And what happened next would replay in Emmet’s mind for quite some time. Emmet lunged toward the ground, grabbed the closest rock he could find, and threw it at Tobias as hard as he could. Too hard.

The rock missed Tobias by a long shot. But it didn’t miss the window.

Excerpted from The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles © 2022 by George Thomas Thornton II and Andrew David Naselli. Used with permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.

SerpentSlayer Front Cover

The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles

The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles is a time travel adventure with a twist—middle school students will discover theological themes as they travel through God’s Word. By placing the characters into Bible events, Champ Thornton and Andrew Naselli show the Bible is far from being a boring book full of instructions. Readers will discover life-changing truths they’ll never forget.   

About the author

Champ Thornton

Champ Thornton, PhD, and his wife, Robben, live in Newark, Delaware and enjoy being parents to three energetic children. He is the author of several books, including Radically Different, The Radical Book for Kids, The Really Radical Book for Kids, Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation, Why Do We Say Goodnight?, Wonders of HIs Love, The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles, and Why Do We Say Thank You?.

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