Pre-Order Your eBook
ISBN: 978-0-473-59330-8 (print)
ISBN: 978-0-473-60501-8 (epub)
We’ve all heard the saying ‘never meet your heroes,’ but what if you do and that means saving them?
Max Stripe is 13 years old.
He loves a little risk.
And he’s not thinking straight.
Not when the security team for his favourite band, The California Ghouls, leaves their tour bus wide open. Convinced the lead singer wants to marry him, Max drags his little brother aboard, a moment of madness that is a mere opening act for the troubles that lay ahead. The boys are about to go from homeless to household names on a crazy bus ride to stardom.
This book is really funny, my favourite part was when a suitcase got thrown off the highway and landed on Max’s head (I laughed for ages). I like it’s based in America, because my fave youtubers are from there – it’s also well written and interesting – me and Mum sometimes search up bits from the book like American snacks – which is fun. It’s also really adventurous – and I can imagine myself on the road in the tour bus.
Beau Finch, 9
Justin Christopher is a master entertainer. His imagination can fuel a rocket to mars. If you are a kid or even if you are a kid at heart -you will love Stowaway Daze.
It’s highly readable adventure and filled with hope, excitement and humour. Bringing a love of music into the story-line makes it doubly enjoyable. Justin strikes a chord of unputdownable anticipation as we live through Max and younger brother Axel’s daily challenges to try to win in the end . We can all relate to their story. I have a feeling that these young brothers have a long life of adventure ahead of them.
Stowaway Daze is a roller-coaster ride with characters that weave, fly, elevate and subject their story, their journey round the plot of Rock and Roll. Pop music. The world that magnetises and evokes the hearts and minds of youngsters such that their adventures are wild and real.
Let’s Not call it the music industry. The world of rock and roll fixates millions around the world but it’s only those who engage with brave intent, that leave the horde, the audience and climb up under the bright lights that unearth the great adventure.
No spoilers here. You need to read this book with an empty mind that’s ready to take a ride.
CNZM is a former member of the New Zealand bands Split Enz and Citizen Band
Read Chapter One Below
It was early evening and Maximus Stripe badly needed the bathroom. For any typical 13-year-old, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Other boys or girls his age would no doubt casually stroll down the hallway of their toasty warm home and do their business.
Not Max. You see, Max didn’t have a home. For the past five months, he and his little brother, Axel, had been forced to rough it, sleeping beneath a bridge on the wrong side of Detroit.
For the Stripe brothers, the simple act of going to the bathroom meant tying your shoelaces with numb fingers, trudging through rain, wind, and sometimes snow, to the most private space they could find.
That space was below a busy overbridge, which was choked with cars, trucks and buses, all of which, according to Max, carried people who had families and jobs and a home-cooked meal to look forward to. Those other lucky kids had their own rooms and a mom who helped them with their homework. Max dreamt of going to bed and not having to worry about the cold or the smell of the fumes from the bridge above where he lay.
But tonight, despite desperately needing the bathroom, Max stopped a few feet before he found his usual spot. He looked above and stared in wonder at a fluorescent constellation of sparkly white balls of fire. Wow, he thought to himself, studying them for so long his neck began to ache.
His thoughts drifted along with the passing clouds. One day, he said to himself, one day I will be a star.
One day I will have shoes without holes in them and be able to look after my brother. One day I’ll be interviewed by TV reporters and show them the crumby hut where I slept. I’ll say, “I lived in a slum – look at me now!”
But a familiar noise interrupted Max’s magical stargazing. It was a noise he despised more than anything in the world. Across the busy road ahead of him, just within view, was a tent lit up with fairy lights. There was a crowd around the singer in the tent.
Ugh! It was Rock Boy, and as usual, his mom watched from inside her luxurious, shiny, black 4WD BMW, drinking an extra-large hot chocolate.
In an instant, Max’s thoughts turned darker. He no longer felt that anything was possible. Life was awful again. He was angry. Why did every other kid have parents? How would he ever be able to look after his little brother with no money?
Max couldn’t live like this forever and he knew it.
Then he suddenly remembered he needed to relieve himself, so he walked towards a rock wall covered with graffiti.
“OUCH!” he cried. “NOT AGAIN!”
For the second time that week, Max was hit in the head with a half-empty can of Coke.
The can was hurtled from the window of a speeding car from the bridge above. It landed on his forehead, sending a thunderous noise through his skull. Seconds later, his head throbbed and burned. Maximus screamed at the bridge, but it was no use, the car had already left, and the sounds of rap music blasting from their bass-fuelled stereo became dimmer and dimmer as the idiots drove off.
Maximus cursed himself. How could be have been so stupid? He knew this particular spot beneath the highway had always been the most dangerous place to pee. The garbage around him was proof of that. Within a few feet he saw beer cans, cigarette packets, a rusty clothes dryer, a large empty suitcase, and a pile of frozen rotting fish.
Once he regained his balance, Maximus did his business and zigzagged his way back inside the hut and lay down next to Axel, who somehow managed to sleep through anything. He tried his very best not to touch the newly formed bruise, wincing as he broke his promise. In the distance, the crowd cheered for Rock Boy as Max covered his ears.
Max knew the back streets of Midtown Detroit were no place for a child; then again, he and Axel weren’t exactly typical children. Over the past few months they had learned to sleep through the noise, but some nights were so cold they feared they wouldn’t wake up at all. Max sometimes worried his little brother would wake with no fingers or toes.
Their Uncle Herby often talked about his hometown as being the best city in America, back in the days when Detroit’s streets were packed with flashy cars, driven by people with lots of money.
“Detroit was once known as Motor City,” Uncle Herby used to say. “My friends and I used to work in factories that made most of the cars for the United States. It’s home to the original Ford factory!”
But those days were long gone, and now Detroit had over 70,000 abandoned buildings, 5,000 of which were burned down each year by arsonists.
20,000 people like Maximus and Axel Stripe were homeless.
To people with warm homes and hot food, five months tends to fly by, yet for Max and Axel it felt more like five years. A bitterly cold Michigan winter had somehow frozen their memories. They no longer went to school, instead learning everything from the streets.
Which didn’t bother Max. He knew every inch of every alleyway, every pothole, and every shortcut of midtown Detroit. He knew where to find a bathroom that wasn’t polluted or unusable, and most importantly, how to stay warm and dry. That magical spot was a secret, an old abandoned workers’ hut beneath the overpass on the corner of Queens and Governor.
Max and Axel slept in a cubbyhole in the very corner of their tiny hut, their mattress little more than a box spring on crates. As for food, they ate whatever they could find, and Max spent his days repeating the same old line over and over to people walking past in the main street.
“Excuse me, could anyone help me out with any quarters?”
Nine times out of ten it never worked, but Uncle Herby always believed in keeping your manners, so Max always signed off with, “Well, you have a blessed day now.”
Max stroked his chin and studied the cloud of mist that left his mouth when he breathed out. The coolness of the hut added to his pain.
“Oh, man,” he sighed, rubbing the bulbous mark on his forehead.
“STOP going on about your bruise!” Axel said.
“It hurts!” Max replied.
“Not as much as the time I was hit with that suitcase. Remember that? The suitcase went all the way over the bridge and hit me in the head when I was taking a dump.”
“It was empty. It was an empty suitcase!”
“It was still a suitcase! Yours was just an empty iddy-biddy little wee can!”
“Twice, doofus, twice in one week!”
“If you’re so worried about it, wear a helmet next time.”
Max giggled. Even during the worst times his little brother could still make him laugh.
Then he heard a groan. He knew that groan, it was a groan that signalled hunger. But there was a rule between the Stripe brothers. If you were hungry, even if you were starving, even if you were so famished you could chew your own arm off, you kept it to yourself. That was the rule. No one wanted to know about your stupid stomach. If you went on about your stupid stomach, you got a knee in the privates in return.
Because if you went on about your stupid stomach, it made the other people worry about their own stupid stomachs, and that was of no use to anyone.
“Hey,” said Max, softening a bit, “want some chocolate?”
“Ha, ha, very funny,” Axel replied.
“I found some on a park bench, still in the wrapper, hasn’t even touched a trash can.”
Axel spun quickly and grabbed the chocolate bar and munched on it merrily. “Hmmmm, hmmmmm, HMMMM,” he said, and pulled the blanket up to his chin, happy as a clam.
“Rock Boy is out there again,” said Max.
“You mean, Rich Boy?”
“Rich Boy. Rock Boy. Same annoying boy.”
“Was his mommy watching?” Axel asked.
“From the flash car,” Max replied.
“Was there a big crowd?”
Axel sighed, heavily. “Did he sound like a cat having a baby when he was singing?”
Max giggled, although it hurt to do so. Eventually he fell asleep, his stomach feeling like an empty balloon.
Max was jealous of many things when it came to Rock Boy. Obviously, there was his money and his mom’s car, and all the burgers and milkshakes his mom probably fed him, but what most infuriated Maximus Stripe was something he couldn’t talk about, not with anyone, not even his brother.
Rock Boy had hairs!
Under his arms!
And a moustache!
He was only 13!
Max wanted to yell, “Do you know how long I’ve been trying to do that!” For many months Max had stood in front of the mirror willing his own hairs to grow. How did Rock Boy already have them? It seemed impossible! He had money and hairy armpits! This was not fair.
Max Stripe was not proud of it, but every time he caught a glimpse of Rich Boy, he felt a knot in his belly, his breath quickened, and he felt like a complete failure.
Worst, worst, worst of all was the fact that he never managed to come up with a clever response when Rich Boy threw insults. Had it been anyone else, Max would have dreamed up something funny right there on the spot; yet when Rock Boy roasted him, Max felt himself turning into a concrete statue.
His tongue and his brain froze.
Nothing came out.
Why did the perfect reply come in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep?
Max woke with freezing toes. He moved closer to a zonked-out Axel and stared at the hundreds of ripped-up concert tickets plastered to the wall. So many concerts, so many bands, and all of them having played at the nearby world-famous Victory Arena.
Not that Max had ever been to any of the shows. Of course, he hadn’t. Each ticket cost at least $100, and he’d never seen that much money in his life.
But that didn’t stop either of the Stripe brothers from visiting regularly. Victory Arena was their second home. When touring bands came to town, Max and Axel stood as close as they could to its front doors, watching pumped-up crowds arrive with popcorn and soda, wishing it was them.
When they heard the bands sing their hits from outside the arena, they felt lucky and unlucky at the same time.
But instead of moping about and wishing he were rich like the people inside the arena, Max was determined to become rich himself. He convinced Axel to bring along Uncle Herby’s old guitar—four strings, used to be six, should have been six—and a washboard, or an old metal bucket, and together they sang songs the touring band would sing that night.
Max was something of a musical genius. You see, he could listen to any song once and perform it perfectly five minutes later. Soon Axel learned such a wonderful trick.
As a team, the boys knew every chord, every riff, and every lyric. They practiced every day and night, with Max on the guitar and Axel on drums and backing vocals. One night outside Victory Arena, they made $48.50! With the profits, they bought a sleeping bag and two new strings for the guitar.
Max thumbed through one of his many old Guitar magazines in his hut. His eyes then fixated on posters on the wall, his favorite bands playing to sold-out stadiums. One day, he said to himself, that will be me.
“Think it’s ever gonna happen?” Axel asked.
“What?” Max replied.
“You know what.”
“Yeah, I know what,” sighed Max. “Course I know what and the answer is the same as last night, and the night before that. I keep telling you, they aren’t coming.”
“But you said they just dropped a new single!”
Max knew exactly who his brother was talking about, the band to beat them all, the dope band, the band the Stripe brothers couldn’t live without: California Ghouls.
Lead singer, Taylor, with his one and only bandmate Jess on drums and backing vocals. Jess used to be a skater, she had a boyfriend named Marcus, but they were on a break right now. She also had a cat, Gus, and hardly showed her face in interviews. Axel was only 11 but was ready to marry her.
Taylor wrote the songs. He was a lyrical genius. He was also a rapper and obsessed with English Football. His high score juggling was 2986. Unbelievable!
So too was the band. California Ghouls had released four albums, and according to both Max and Axel, as well as music critics from Pittsburgh to Paris, were the best band that ever lived. But they’d never played Detroit’s Victory Arena!
“But…they’re touring now! You told me!” said Axel.
“I know I did—they’re touring all around the world, places I’ve never even heard of. But they ain’t coming near us, not to Detroit, and definitely not to Victory Arena.”
“But why?” Axel pleaded. “They might! I bet they do!”
“They won’t!” Max replied. “Because Detroit is a toilet.”
“Did you know “My Favourite Clown’”s got 10 million views? “Sleepwalker’s” got half a billion! Taylor shaved his head, he’s bald, like a baby. Jess better not! She’s beeee-uitul. Like a flower, on a cloud, on a snowy mountain.”
“So you keep saying.”
“She’s got a new tattoo. A wolf face covers her whole arm. I’m totally gonna marry her.”
For Max, it wasn’t just the music of California Ghouls that sent him crazy. It was the outfits they wore, crazy, colorful, and delightfully creepy outfits. With the release of every new song, came new costumes.
Each time the band dropped a new tune, Max crouched outside a TV shop’s window and watched Jess and Taylor dressed as ghosts or ghouls.
Their trademark? Masks – evil, terrifying, brilliantly decorated masks. Good masks, evil masks, and demonic masks. Clown masks, skeleton masks, and back-from-the-dead masks.
What was not to like? It was little surprise that each time a new outfit was released along with a hit single, it was enough to send the two boys from downtown Detroit into a tailspin.
Max lay down and thought about his brother’s ridiculous dream. As if it would ever come true! What band, especially one as famous as California Ghouls, would be dumb enough to play in Toilet City?