"Bemis' debut will shock and amaze... A steampunk collision of heroes, mermaids, pirates, and good old-fashioned Americana." —Booklist

"Compelling" —Kirkus

"A creative, richly developed fantasy... A rollicking, fast-paced adventure." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

The Nine Pound Hammer

John Claude Bemis
Random House / 2009

What if the legend of John Henry were more than just a story?

Twelve-year-old Ray is haunted by the strangest memories of his father, who Ray swears could speak to animals. On a quest to find out what happened to him, Ray falls in with a band of young sideshow performers traveling through the South in a rickety old train. For the first time in years, Ray feels at home. But something strange is going on. From a locked train car, Ray hears hypnotic singing. And the performers themselves—the strong man, the fire-eater, the blind sharpshooter…their talents seem almost magical. Ray investigates and discovers that the old stories about John Henry and Johnny Appleseed are true in ways he never would have dreamed, that an ancient evil these characters fought is rising again, and that Ray himself may have a place in new stories only now being written.

In his debut novel, John Claude Bemis draws upon the rich history of America’s tall tales to create a fresh and exciting middle-grade fantasy adventure.

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