The Book of Fatal Errors



Nothing seemed strange or out of place as Rufus walked along the path that led to the barn. Bees mumbled in the clover. Birds trilled from the wood. So what had Grandpa Jack meant when he said Feylawn was feeling cantankerous? It wasn’t the first time he’d talked about the old property as if it were alive, but Rufus had never understood what he meant by it. How could a place have a mood, other than maybe green, or windy, or wet? Feylawn was hard to find, but it wasn’t normally the kind of place where floorboard holes opened up of their own accord, no matter what Rufus’s father said.

Rufus wanted to see what those holes looked like. And while he was in the barn, he could grab whatever Grandpa Jack had found in the icebox. He’d be in and out of there long before his father was done lecturing Grandpa Jack. Having been on the receiving end of many of his father’s lectures lately, Rufus knew they could go on awhile.

The barn door hung by one hinge and had to be lifted before it would swing open. Rufus stood on the threshold, letting his eyes adjust to the dim light. Then he pushed the toe of his sneaker against the floorboards, testing their strength. They seemed solid enough. He took a hesitant step forward and then another, threading between the furniture stacked on either side of the doorway: dressers, desks, tables, a wardrobe, a curio cabinet, a coatrack, a rabbit hutch, and about a dozen different kinds of chairs, with and without seats. To his left were a motorcycle and the remains of a horse-drawn cart, and in the back of the barn were tools and equipment, cans of paint, a plow, a butter churn, skis and snowshoes, fishing rods, easels, old computers, and a couple of saddles. To Rufus’s right, behind the furniture, crates and boxes were piled in ten-foot stacks. The boxes were the usual sources of Interesting Stuff. You never knew what you’d find inside.

Rufus didn’t see the hole until he had tiptoed past the piled-up furniture. When he did, he stopped short and stared. The floorboards were shattered. Pieces of splintered wood were strewn around them, as if something had burst through from underneath. Rufus drew closer, stepping gingerly, and squatted beside the hole, which was bisected by the thick crossbeams of the ceiling below. A dank smell wafted up. He knew firewood was stacked down there—that’s where he and Grandpa Jack went in winter to get logs for the stove. But peering through the hole now, he couldn’t see anything at all—just shadows.

He stood up, heart pounding inexplicably, and looked around for the icebox. It wasn’t hard to find—a wooden cabinet with three metal doors; it had been dragged into the middle of the floor and left there. There was a small hole beside it.

The door of the largest compartment hung open. Inside was a dusty burlap sack. Rufus had just picked it up when he heard a scraping noise, like a sled being dragged over an icy snowbank. It came from the cellar.

He took a step backward, then whirled around, remembering the hole in the floor. Below him, something flapped like a flag in the wind. Then it slammed against the boards under his feet.

Heart now galloping in his chest, Rufus tightened his grip on the burlap sack and bolted for the


The Book of Fatal Errors

By Dashka Slater

ISBN 978-0-374-30119-4

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Age 8-12

Award-winning author Dashka Slater spins a tale of friendship, magic, and eternal life in The Book of Fatal Errors, an evocative and witty middle-grade fantasy. Rufus doesn’t just make mistakes – he makes fatal errors. Clumsy and awkward, he feels entrapped by his teasing classmates and their constant laughter. But now it is summer. Rufus is free. He roams the wildlands of his grandfather’s mysterious homestead, blissfully unaware of the danger up ahead. And there is much danger. Rufus and his snooty cousin Abigail soon become entangled in the tantalizing world of the feylings, mischievous fairy-like creatures desperate to find their way home. In helping the feylings, Rufus tumbles down a dark path rich with age-old secrets and difficult truths. Any move he makes might be his final fatal error. Or perhaps, his most spectacular beginning.

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New York Times-bestselling author Dashka Slater has spent her life searching for the entrance to other worlds and for items with magical powers, with mixed success. Halloween is her favorite holiday because it is said to be the day when the veil between the worlds is thin, which makes finding the entrances much easier and also, there’s chocolate. She has written award-winning books for every age, from preschool to adult, including Escargot, which won the Wanda Gag Book Award, and The 57 Bus, which won the Stonewall Book Award and many other honors. Like Rufus, she has made more than her share of mistakes, which range from spending the night at a haunted hotel to teaching an entire class with a large piece of kale in her teeth. Learn more at