The Lunch Thief | Writing Sample

Come with us to a world of magic genies and color-changing lunchboxes. This week’s excerpt come from Jill’s middle-grade fantasy, The Lunch Thief.

Chapter 17: Games and Ghosts (From The Lunch Thief)

I was speechless. In fact, I’m not sure I was breathing because I was so stunned. The boy was wearing an orange vest that was speckled with bits of pudding. His hat looked like an oddly shaped bowl with a tassel that swung as he downed my favorite snack. In his hand he held a tiny spoon which he used to slurp up his food. When he was finished, there was no trace of it left. His pointed shoes dangled as he sat on the edge of the pudding cup and let out a loud burp.

“Are you Zam?” I whispered. The boy jumped out of the pudding cup and stared at me. Then he disappeared in a puff of orange smoke. From what I saw, he had dark hair and his skin was tan.

“Wait! Are you Zam? Zam! Zam! You can’t hide from me!” I whispered angrily as I shook the opened box.

“Yes I can! It’s my house!” a boy’s voice said. The lunchbox suddenly slammed shut. I jumped back and let it fall on my bed. I paced around the room, thinking.

Then I had an idea! Zam wrote a note to me. What if I wrote a note to him?

Dear Zam,

What are you? And please stop eating my lunch.


I put the piece of paper inside the lunchbox and waited.

“Joey! Time for dinner!” Mom called. I didn’t want to leave yet, so I didn’t reply.


I sighed. I had to go. “Coming, Mom!”

I could hear Ted talking about his videogame all the way from my room. He was talking about a level with a haunted house and zombies and then it struck me: my lunchbox was haunted.

I mean, obviously it was haunted. But there was a real-live ghost living in my lunchbox.

I didn’t eat very much for dinner. I wasn’t hungry. I mean, would you be hungry if you just found out that your lunchbox was haunted?

 “What kinds of things are in that haunted house?” I asked.

“Haven’t you been listening, or are you deaf? I’ve been telling ya. Ghosts and zombies, goblins, and I just barely got to the top story, where there’s this vampire I can’t kill. He has fangs, and if you look into his eyes, you get stunned. Then he sucks all your blood and you die.”

A vampire? I didn’t remember Zam having fangs.

“What are ghosts like?” I asked.

“Well, they look like real people, but they can walk through walls, and grow big or small. If they get hold of you, they give you the kiss of death and suck the life out of you!”

Zam looked like a real person. And he was small.

“Do they eat pudding?” I asked.

“What?! No way! Ghosts don’t have bodies. They don’t need to eat.”

Well then, Zam wasn’t a ghost.

“Why do you ask, Joey?” Mom asked.

“Yeah, are you afraid of that goblin you saw?” Ted taunted. “Oh, I’m little Joey and I’m afraid of goblins. Save me! Oh no!” I knew, even though he was making fun of me, he would have nightmares if he knew that the goblin really existed.

“That’s enough, Theodore,” Mom warned.

Ted was quiet. But he made faces at me across the table. As soon as dinner was over, he ran right back to his videogame.

Mom took some time to try and convince me that goblins and ghosts weren’t real. But she hadn’t seen what I had seen.

I went upstairs and stood in the hall staring at my door. I wasn’t sure I wanted to open it. I mean, what if Zam was half zombie-half ghost? Was he going to eat me in my sleep?

“Move out of the way!” Ted yelled. He shoved me over. “If I was a zombie, you’d be dead right now.” I sat on the floor for a minute and watched him run to the bathroom. I would have been angrier if I didn’t have a magic lunchbox sitting in my room.

I walked into my room. It was still on my bed, but the note was on top:

I am a genie.


I sat down on my bed slowly. I had a genie in my lunchbox. One that could disappear and write notes and—well, I didn’t know everything that he could do because I hadn’t met him yet, but I was sure he had magic. Not like the tricks in my magic set. This genie could do real magic, and genies used their real magic to give wishes. So, if I had a genie, that meant I got at least one wish, right?

Further Reading

Ready for more magic and adventure? The Lunch Thief by J.E. Burgoyne is available on!

For previous excerpts, click here.