Annnnd…. We’re Back! (And First Chapter Re-posted)

by | May 13, 2011 | Nathan's Books | 59 comments

So… Jacob Wonderbar kind of broke Blogger, which ate yesterday’s post and all your lovely comments.

But I remember them!! And THANK YOU so much to everyone for all of your support and kind words. You made this astronaut very happy:

Despite Blogger’s snafu, JACOB WONDERBAR is still very much for sale! You can snag a copy at:
Amazon (hardcover)!
Amazon (Kindle)! 
Barnes & Noble (hardcover)! 
Barnes & Noble (Nook)!

I’ll be back tomorrow with This Week in Books. Also, don’t forget about the Launch Party tonight here in San Francisco!

And here’s the first chapter again:


Chapter 1

Each type of substitute teacher had its own special weakness, and Jacob Wonderbar knew every possible trick to distract them. Male substitutes with long hair and women with tie-dyed skirts often had a guitar stashed nearby and were just waiting for an excuse to ditch the lesson plan and play a song. The mousy ones who spoke softly and tentatively when they introduced themselves would patiently answer every absurd question Jacob asked them and would be confronting a classroom gone wild within minutes.

Older subs were more challenging. Having endured a lifetime of rowdy classrooms, they better understood that children were their mortal enemies. They came to class early and peered out warily through thick glasses, ready for battle. They armed themselves with ancient metal thermoses and cranky dispositions.

Jacob sized up the new sub and wondered if he had finally met his match. She was impossibly tall and thin, with a wart on both cheeks and a glint of evil in her eye. She wore a long faded dress with a hideous floral print. Her shoes were clunky and beige. Everything about her seemed crooked: Her fingers were spindly, her posture was hunched, her nose was bent. She had a crooked set of yellow teeth and foul breath that smelled like burned coffee and rotten eggs.

He watched carefully as she scrawled “Mrs. Pinkerton” on the chalkboard and underlined it six times with increasing ferocity. Her handwriting dripped with malice.

She was the scariest substitute he had ever seen.

With a lurching twitch, Mrs. Pinkerton cleared her voice, a mixture of gravel and syrup, and warbled, “Good morning, class.”

Jacob’s classmates were too scared to reply. He knew they were counting on him to gain the upper hand. He was Jacob Wonderbar, substitute teacher slayer extraordinaire. He had forced more subs to flee the classroom than he could count. His mission was simple: Distract the substitute from the lesson plan without getting sent to the principal’s office. Bonus points for making them reconsider their choice of profession and/or purpose in life.

Mrs. Pinkerton smiled, sending a chill down Jacob’s spine, and warbled again, louder this time, “I said good morning, class.”

A few of Jacob’s classmates answered with a quiet, nervous, “Good morning, Mrs. Pinkerton.”

Jacob looked over at Dexter, his trusty friend with messy brown hair and a perpetual look of fear in his eyes. Jacob whispered, “This is not good.”

Suddenly a ruler appeared in Mrs. Pinkerton’s hands and she furiously rapped a table. “I. Heard. That.” Silence filled the classroom. Dexter buried his his head in his arms.

Mrs. Pinkerton slinked over to Jacob’s desk. She appeared to grow taller with every step. She loomed over Jacob, and he smelled her fearsome breath. “Are you Jacob Wonderbar?”

Jacob smiled at her rookie mistake. Never let a sixth grader identify himself. He shook his head. “No, sorry, you have the wrong…”

Mrs. Pinkerton cackled without smiling. The back of Jacob’s neck prickled. “Of course you are. I’ve been warned about you.”

She turned to walk back to the front of the class but suddenly whirled around, leaned forward, and jabbed a crooked finger in front of Jacob’s face. “I’m watching you,” she whispered.

Jacob felt a sudden pain on his earlobe, which could only have meant one thing. Sarah had flicked it.

Sarah sat behind Jacob. She was a very pretty girl with piercing blue eyes and golden hair, and the one thing in the entire world that drove her the craziest was when people called her by both her first and last name, “Sarah Daisy.” She said it made her sound like the girliest girl on the planet. Needless to say, she did not appreciate it when Jacob passed her a note that said, simply, “Sarah DAISY.”

Sarah flicked his ear again, even harder than the last time.

“I HEARD THAT!” Mrs. Pinkerton shouted. As she stomped over to Jacob’s desk again, he smiled at his good luck. Sarah never got into trouble, and this time she was caught red-handed. Getting in trouble would make her mad, and Jacob found her quite hilarious when she was mad. Which of course only made her angrier.

“Jacob Wonderbar, you have two strikes.”

“Me? She was the one–“

“Zip it!”





Jacob slumped back in his seat. Dexter raised his head out of his arms and shook it slowly, warning Jacob not to push it this time. He knew what Jacob was thinking before Jacob knew what Jacob was thinking. Then Dexter buried his head in his arms again.

Jacob shook off Dexter’s warning. He waited until Mrs. Pinkerton was facing the chalkboard and coughed “Pinkerton” into his arm, hoping to inspire the class into a sudden fake coughing fit.

“Demerit,” Mrs. Pinkerton immediately coughed back before any of Jacob’s classmates could so much as inhale. She walked over to Miss Banks’s demerit chart and moved Jacob’s card five slots to the right, an unexplored region of demeritdom that he had previously assumed was only reserved for criminals.

Jacob’s ears burned as he weighed his options. He thought about his mom, at work in some hotshot meeting probably. He knew that if he was sent to the principal’s office it would mean she would be called out of work, then she’d arrive at the principal’s office with a red tint in her cheeks, and when they got in the car his mom would look straight ahead and say, “I don’t want to say anything I’ll regret later,” and then they’d ride home in complete silence. He had already promised to never land himself in the principal’s office ever again.

But Mrs. Pinkerton had to be stopped.

“Dexter Goldstein?” Mrs. Pinkerton called out.

One eye appeared out from Dexter’s tangled arms. “Present?”

Mrs. Pinkerton rapped her knuckles on her desk. “I am not calling roll. It is science time. I must insist that you stand in front of the class and recite the first fifty elements of the periodic table.”

Jacob’s class had only studied the first ten elements. Dexter shook his head, since there must have been a mix-up. “But we–“

“There is no mistake!” Mrs. Pinkerton yelled. “And I’d hate to think what would happen if you were to get one wrong.”

After hesitating for a moment, Dexter slumped out of his chair and stood in front of the class. He gazed out the window and Jacob assumed that he was considering the possibility of an escape. Dexter looked at Jacob with an expression that said: “These twelve years have been nice and everything, but I am definitely going to die at the front of this classroom.”

“Well?” Mrs. Pinkerton asked.

Dexter stared at his feet. “Um… Hydrogen?”

“WRONG!” Mrs. Pinkerton thundered. “I do not see umhydrogen anywhere on the periodic table. I suggest you try again without stuttering.”

Jacob heard Sarah take a deep breath. The class was completely silent. Dexter’s face was pale.

“Hydrogen,” Dexter whispered.

“Correct,” Mrs. Pinkerton said. “Next?”


The class gasped.

Dexter held up his hands. “I mean, not um. Definitely not um. Starting over. Pretend I didn’t say that word that I definitely… did not say.” Dexter took a deep breath. He took another. “Helium?”
He closed his eyes and grimaced as he waited to see if Mrs. Pinkerton would allow that answer.

Mrs. Pinkerton paused. “Correct.”

Dexter nearly fainted.



Sarah smacked her hand on her face. “Lithium,” she muttered. “Lithium!”

“I mean lithium,” Dexter said.

Mrs. Pinkerton let out an inhuman growl and Jacob saw purple veins popping out on her face in places he didn’t even know people had veins. She grasped her ruler and broke it over her knee, flinging the pieces up in the air. “Cheating?! In my classroom?” She rushed toward Dexter, who shrunk away in fear.

Jacob sprang into action. No one bullied Dexter, especially not a substitute teacher. It was time for the nuclear option.

He reached into his desk and pulled out a baseball he had hidden away in case of emergency. He had practiced for hours for just this occasion. He threw the baseball toward the ceiling and hit the emergency fire sprinkler, which immediately burst into pieces and began drenching the class with heavy streams of water.

The entire class screamed and began a mad rush toward the door, overturning desks and chairs and slipping in the water. Sarah laughed hysterically and slapped Jacob on the back.

Amid the pandemonium, Dexter backed up against the wall and accidentally knocked a large framed picture of Albert Einstein to the ground, which then tipped over and bumped Miss Banks’s rolling chair, which rolled just far enough so that the arm of the chair barely clipped Mrs. Pinkerton’s coffee mug, which slid off of the desk, fell ever so slowly, crashed, and shattered on the floor into a million pieces.

As the class streamed into the hallway and as water rained down, Jacob, Sarah, and Dexter stared at Mrs. Pinkerton, who looked completely calm. It was almost as if her “Reach for the Stars” coffee mug had not just been destroyed and she was not being doused with water at the rate of two gallons per second. In fact, she acted as if it were the most natural thing in the universe.

“Dexter Goldstein, Sarah Daisy, Jacob Wonderbar. Principal’s office. Now.”

“But—” all three said at once.



  1. L.G.Smith

    Congrats again!!

    This time let's hope it sticks!

    *shakes fist at blogger*

    And that picture is ADORABLE.

  2. Riley Redgate

    Eek! I'm almost glad Blogger ate the last one; I missed it being posted!

    Off to buy this now. Sweeeeet.

  3. Matthew MacNish

    New picture, nice!

    Congrats on breaking the internet, Jake. We're all impressed.


  4. Jill

    Are the old posts going to be recovered or are the gone for good? Congratulations on the book!

  5. Nathan Bransford


    I don't know, Google hasn't said yet. I recovered the old post and will re-post it if everything's gone for good, but am hoping the comments are restored as well.

  6. Bryan Russell (Ink)

    What's up with Blogger? It ate my Support the Wonderbar post, too. I mean, did Blogger eat everything yesterday? Or just corndog related posts?

  7. Marty

    Congratulations and good luck Nathan… best wishes for your book!

  8. Anne R. Allen

    I should have known it was Jacob W's fault. If he can break the Universe is it any wonder he broke Blogger?

    I'd trade a whole bunch of corn dogs to get yesterday's comments back!

  9. Meghan Ward

    Nathan – Congratulations on the release of Jacob Wonderbar! I'm sad that I missed the Kindle giveaway by a few hours, but I will see you at your book release party tonight.

    For everyone else out there, I have read Jacob Wonderbar and loved it. It's a lot of fun. I will buy another copy tonight!

  10. Rosie Lane

    The Boy and I just read it together. It gets his seal of approval; he would want to read the rest.

    Now to find out if we can get it in the UK…

  11. Meghan Ward

    P.S. And that is the cutest picture ever!

  12. Jennifer Schubert

    We ordered! Can't wait to read the whole thing.

    Just as a note, when I searched Barnes and Noble for Jacob Wonderbar, it didn't come up (didn't find any results). I had to use your direct link. Weirdness.

  13. D.G. Hudson

    I checked the status updates on Blogger and anything the 11th of May and after got dunked, it seems. They were in the process of reposting what had been taken down (or broken by Jacob). No mention of comments at that time.

    Tech is so ugly when it doesn't work.

    Have a great party tonight — and how about some pix next week of the launch to show those of us who can't make it?

  14. Steph Sinkhorn

    Great picture, and great chapter! Love Jacob's attitude, and what an EVIL substitute!

  15. Roger Billings

    This is a unique publicity campaign. Break Blogger yesterday, break Twitter today. What's next? Oh, the universe?

  16. Skipetty

    Best wishes Nathan.

  17. Shannon

    Looking forward to reading the rest. Thanks for sharing the first chapter! Congratulations again!

  18. Robin

    Loved it! Can't wait to see what's next!

  19. Michelle L. Brown

    This book is my cup of coffee! Blogging about it and giving away a copy on my blog for middle-graders once I'm sure Blogger is fixed. Love that evil sub!

  20. Chris Hunt

    What a chapter. Talk about slowing everything down. I really enjoyed reading the entire thing.

  21. Anonymous

    Nathan you have the best attitude. If that had happened to me at that exact time I would have been cursing everything in sight!


  22. Shadow

    is jaocb wonderbar available in the UK?
    And great chapter nathan

  23. Marilyn Peake

    Congratulations on the publication of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW! HeHeHe…Apparently, Jacob Wonderbar and his friends broke the Universe of Blogger! I tried soooooo many times to post a congratulations to you on your blog last night, but Blogger just kept on failing. The photographs of you as a kid that you posted yesterday and today are adorable! It looks like your journey to outer space through writing the JACOB WONDERBAR books is a dream come true for you in many ways. Those astronaut costumes you had as a kid are awesome!

  24. Mira

    That is the most adorable picture I've ever seen. How your parents were able to do anything other than stand around taking pictures of their unbelievably cute little boy is beyond my comprehension.

    So, I'm halfway through. I've laughed out loud several times, and this morning I found myself remembering things in the book and chuckling some more. This book is so funny.

    And touching too. There are real human emotions and some valuable life lessons as is appropriate for not only MG, but any book worth its salt.

    And memorable. The characters are alive and distinct. I identify with each one in a different way.

    Nathan, you are a talented writer.

    I hope, because you deserve it, that you are thoroughly enjoying your launch, despite Bloggers terrible sense of timing, and I hope you have a wonderful launch party!!!

  25. Brent Peterson

    Okay, so I don't know if any of yesterday's comments mentioned this (and If I'm the first to notice, I want a prize!) but Jacob has the same symbol on his spacesuit as your childhood costume!! LOVE IT!! That's awesome planning!!

    Congratulations of your big day Nathan!!!!

  26. Nathan Bransford

    UK readers – yep! Available in the UK!


    Ha – yeah, I mentioned it yesterday. Definitely where I got the inspiration.

  27. The Pen and Ink Blog

    Enticing first chapter. I think I left a good comment yesterday before Blogger ran mad.
    Enjoy every moment of this. It's part of the journey and you earned it.

  28. Other Lisa

    Well, I said, "congratulations" yesterday before Jacob broke Blogger, but it can't be said too many times. Therefore:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! HAPPY LAUNCH DAY!!! And seldom is the expression "launch day" so appropriate!

  29. Natalie Aguirre

    Love your picture! And the first chapter. So excited for you.

  30. J. T. Shea

    I take my eye off your blog for just one day and you go and break Blogger!? But we should have guessed. That kid in the spacesuit looks dangerous. He'd frighten space monkeys! The substitute teachers would flee in terror if he landed on their planet.

    'The Nathan has landed! Run for your lives! Leave the blackboards behind!'

    Great opening, Nathan, despite the absence of a prologue or dreams or weather reports in the first paragraph. You could use more commas and exclamation marks too, but so could nearly everybody! And I'd probably have given Sarah Daisy the warts and made Mrs. Pinkerton a beautiful blonde, but that would likely blow the MG age rating.

  31. JM Leotti

    I couldn't leave my comment yesterday–blogger wouldn't let me sign in. I LOVE those photos! So adorable! It seems this book was predestined.

    First chapter is dynamite! I laughed out loud a number of times.

    Best of luck and have FUN tonight!



    Both pictures cracked me up. You were like some weird Evel Knievel meets astronaut midget.

  33. Martha Ramirez

    Cute pics! Thanks for sharing. How exciting!!

  34. Clare WB

    I can only imagine the glee in the senior Bransford home tonight. Nathan's mother: "OMG that spacesuit
    it took me a week to make actually paid off!" Nathan's father: "Spacesuit hell. Look at the work that went into the rocket ship! And don't forget the college tuition." Seriously, Spaceboy, you grew up good! Hope tonight's a perfect blastoff. Congratulations–and thanks to your parents too.

  35. Jackie Brown

    I wish you every happiness that I hope is bestowed upon myself. Congratulations on the birth of your first novel.

  36. Anonymous

    I thought I broke my blog, until I saw everyone else was having a problem.

    I never saw google blogger out for so long. But I was lucky that I didn't lose anything.

  37. Terry Towery

    Congrats, Nathan! Great first chapter. You are a very talented writer with a very exciting future ahead of you.

  38. Jessica

    Happy publication day, Nathan!

    I loved the first chapter and the book trailer. I'm going to snag a copy from Amazon for my nephews. I think they'll love it.

  39. Anonymous

    Funny. Loved that first chapter. Can't wait to read it with my kids. Congrats Nathan!


  40. Anonymous

    BTW Everyone, Maybe we can all request that these be ordered to our local libraries.

    I don't know what the feeling is profit-wise Nathan, but more people reading your book has got to be a good thing…and lots of kids (and parents) can't afford to buy. I can though and I will.

    Thanks, NickB

  41. Brittany

    Congrats, Nathan! Can't wait to read the rest!

  42. Bron

    I posted this comment a few hours ago on the older post but there's only seven comments there, so maybe it only put up those who posted after Blogger was fixed? Anyway, on the other post I said something along the lines of congratulations and cute picture! I wasn't sure if I was going to buy the book as I don't read MG and don't have kids, but the first chapter hooked me. But Amazon won't sell me the e-book because I live in Australia! Any idea when I can buy the e-book Down Under?

  43. wendy

    Jacob really is a wonder. Not only did he break the universe but he broke blogger? I tried to comment yesterday but the page was…broken. Too many people trying to comment?

    I love this first chapter. I read more non-fiction and children's books than anything else, and this is the kind of kiddy lit I enjoy – fantasism laced with humour and irony.

    And for the trifector: cute photo!

  44. Katrina L. Lantz

    Smashing beginning! hee hee Can't wait to see how he breaks the universe and who on Earth would trade him a space ship for his hot dog.

  45. J.C. Martin

    Here is the comment Blogger didn't let me post the other day:

    I LOVED the opening chapter! Amazing how you managed to show us the personality of all three main characters in one short chapter! Oh, and Mrs. Pinkerton reminds me of a Physics teacher I had at school, who actually turned out to be pretty nice as long as we behaved. 🙂

  46. Steve C

    All the blogs I read yesterday
    I’m reading again today.
    Either Jacob busted Blogger,
    Or I’m stuck in “Groundhog Day.”

  47. Adele Richards

    Congratulations, Nathan! Love the first chapter – will go see it I can get a copy on Amazon UK.


  48. Anonymous

    Great chapter, congrats! Also, thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge – very inspiring.

    Deborah Serravalle

  49. Anonymous


    So my son (8) was looking for his latest "Big Nate" book last night, the same one he took on a field trip yesterday, and we could not find it ANYWHERE. I figured it was lost on the field trip. He was nearing meltdown stage when I said, "Hey, there's this new book…" and showed him the trailer for "Jacob Wonderbar."

    He laughed at the corn dog and then just as he said he wanted the book, his older brother walked in with "Big Nate."


    "I want Jacob Wonderbar."

    So there you go–a kindle purchase scored around 8:30 last night. 🙂

  50. K. C. Blake

    Congrats, Nathan! After all your hard work, you deserve a lot of success. 🙂

  51. Anonymous

    Downloaded your book to my iPad and started reading it to my kids last night. By the time we got to chapter two, all three wanted to know if you were writing a sequel. Yes, add me and my kids to your list of fans!!

    Congrats, Nathan!

  52. Deniz Bevan

    Congratulations Nathan! Love the first chapter – can't wait to read the rest!

  53. Mira


    Nathan, that was impressive. I expected to love your book, but I truly didn't expect to be so impressed by it!

    What a treat. Funny, fast paced, imaginative, multi-layed, intelligently written and tightly crafted.


    But surely you can't really mean that we have to wait a year for the sequel? Can you fix that, Nathan? I want to know what happens NEXT!!

    What a wonderful book you've written, Nathan!

  54. Mira

    Thank you, Nathan. A wonderful read.

    I'm going to have trouble waiting until 2012. Maybe Jacob could pull a fast one and get it released sooner. I'll cross my fingers. 🙂

  55. Tami Brothers

    Awesome beginning! Can't wait to read the rest.

    Oh and keep a hand on Jacob. We NEEEEDDDDD Blogger…grin…


  56. Francis Tuohy

    Congratulations on the launch in my country (Zimbabwe) we would say Amhlope!
    definately looks like a winner, got a nice feeling of the heart of the book from the first chapter alone.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

My blog has everything you need to know to write, edit, and publish a book. Can’t find what you need or want personalized help? Reach out.


I’m available for consultations, edits, query critiques, brainstorming, and more.



Need help with your query? Want to talk books? Check out the Nathan Bransford Forums!