After a friend fails English, the plans that 13-year-old Jax and his friends had for a summer at Camp Runamuck go out the window. But miraculously, the teacher offers a chance to earn extra credit. The students must find several fake artifacts to include in a display on fairy tales at the local library. But finding junk isn’t as easy as it sounds. And when the group discovers that the teacher has cut the same deal with more than 50 kids, it’s a race to the finish line in an effort to save their summer vacation. When the search through junk uncovers the truth, that one of the artifacts they’re searching for is real and can be used to rewrite the endings of fairy tales; things get real pretty quickly! To secure the artifact, the friends will fight fairy tale villains and compete against heroes and classmates to see who can get their hand, hook, claw, or fin on it first.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Pete Catalano writes books for kids of all ages as well as adults who secretly never grew up and he tries to keep the suspension of disbelief in his life as much as he can. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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By Pete Catalano
Month9BooksCopyright © 2016 Pete Catalano
All rights reserved.
My name is Jax Murphy, and I'm twelve years old. I live in a small town near Charlotte, North Carolina, and my friends and I are less than two weeks from our last day of sixth grade. We have a big summer planned that should be exciting ... and exhausting. Only two more weeks!
But first, I have to sit through boring days of class after class where all the teacher does in that looooongest forty-five minutes ever is tell you how the school year was harder on him than it was on you. I've heard that before!
I feel like I'm going to explode, and sitting through class these next few days just might kill me, but it'll all be worth the wait. Don't take my word for it. Just look around my room.
Camp brochures are ... everywhere!
Scattered across the bed and floor, unfolded and tacked to my wall, and stapled to the back of my door. Spread out on my desk, numbered from one to fifty depending on which activities I wanted to do first ... and starred for how many times I wanted to do them ... all the time.
Only two more weeks!
I shot a look at the calendar and the first Saturday of summer. The Saturday with the gigantic red circle drawn around it and two of the most awesome words I've ever read inside it: Camp Runamuck. Exclamation point. Exclamation point. Exclamation point.
"You might as well go ahead and kiss it, Jax," Korie Cecchetti said, crawling through my window. Korie's a crack-up. Well, she cracks me up. That's why we've been best friends for as long as I can remember.
"Wait! What?" I jumped back, pretending not to know what she was talking about.
Korie laughed. "You're staring at that calendar like you're in love with it."
"Dork," I said, more embarrassed she had caught me than mad she said something about it. And, of course, I foolishly tried to defend myself. "What do you expect? The five of us are about to have an awesome time at Camp Runamuck running ... amuck."
I had to be careful to remember how many times I was using the word amuck.
"It might not be the five of us," Korie said.
"What?" I said. I felt like the coyote when catapulted into the side of the cliff when he tried to get the Road Runner.
Korie shrugged. "Crunch may have to stay behind and go to summer school English."
"Crunch is great in English."
"Crunch handed in a couple of his brother's old reports on the books Bartholomew assigned us to read," Korie explained. "It looks like he's great at something, but it's not English."
"Holy Hannah!" I said, the room spinning as fast as my whole plan was swirling down the drain. I reached out for the calendar and Korie slid a chair over to break my fall.
James Bartholomew teaches sixth grade English like a warden runs a prison. It's his way or the highway, and I was afraid Bartholomew was going to leave poor Crunch splattered like road kill before he was done with him.
"Is there anything we ... I mean he ... can do to change it?"
"I don't know," Korie said. "He and his parents have a meeting at the school this morning."
"Jax!" my mom called up the stairs. "Are you ready for breakfast?"
"Be there in a minute," I yelled down. "You've got to get out of here," I whispered to Korie. "I'll meet you outside."
"And bring Korie with you," Mom added. "I saw those black high tops pass by my window. Please remind her that next time she comes over, we do have a perfectly good front door for her to use."
I nudged Korie. "We do have a perfectly good front door."
"Come on." She elbowed me on the way out of the room and we thundered down the stairs to breakfast.
"Morning, Mom," I said, running behind her and kissing the air somewhere in her general direction so Korie didn't think I was weird.
"I hope you kids are hungry," Mom said.
"Toad," I said, smacking my younger brother in that big, fat head of his.
"Good morning, Korie," Mom said.
"Morning, Mrs. Murphy," Korie said, sliding into the chair next to me. "It's so nice of you to ask me to stay for breakfast."
"You stay for breakfast every day." My dad laughed, coming into the kitchen, kissing my mom and smacking both Toad and me in the back of the head. "Every morning we watch you climb up the trellis outside the kitchen window and into Jax's window. Hey, next time you go up that trellis, remind me to give you a paintbrush so you can touch up a couple of spots for me."
Korie smiled. "Will do, Mr. M."
Dad laughed. "Yeah, that just kills me. Once you get caught, you two come rumbling down the stairs like a herd of elephants, pretending like it never happened."
Korie looked at him. "Pretending like what never happened?"
Dad cracked up. "Good girl!"
"You talking about Jax?" my older sister Dana asked, stumbling down the stairs. "I pretend like he never happened all the time." She paused. "And we won't have to pretend if you sign those papers for boarding school I left out for each of you. And I do have copies in case you threw them out. Oh, hi, Korie," she said sweetly. Then she turned to me. "Creeper."
I smiled. "Sister Creature."
"Jax, don't talk to your sister like that," Mom said.
"Oh, and Creeper was so much better?" I turned to Dana. "Why are you so nice to Korie and I get Creeper?"
"I like her," Dana said. "And she's not related to me."
I fell into her trap. "Which means?"
"Which means nothing coming out of her mouth can embarrass me," Dana said. "And everything coming out of your mouth embarrasses me. She's so cool and you're so ..." She shivered and squirmed rather than answer.
"I'm ... what?" I wasn't letting this go, but I have to admit I may have forgotten Korie was still in the room.
Dana snickered. "You're ... you! You dance around the house with your favorite Pixar movies. You've watched Goonies and Home Alone like a bazillion times! At least Korie tries to act a little grown up, but ..."
"Butt." Korie cracked up and fell into me.
"There goes that argument," Dad said.
Dana groaned and went back to her breakfast.
"You kids finish up," Mom said. "You're going to be late."
There was a crash at the back door. Followed by a thud, a series of rants and raves, some very loud grumbling and rumbling, and what sounded like a lot of pushing and shoving.
"The Wahoo brothers," I told Mom, jumping off the chair and running to the door, trying to get there before they broke it off the hinges.
The moment I turned the knob, the door flew open and slammed against the side of the cabinet as the Wahoo brothers tumbled into the kitchen.
Tank and Mouth Wahoo are twins who were born at nearly identical times, but there's absolutely nothing identical about them.
Mouth is the smaller, quirkier, and louder of the two. He spends most of his day annoying the crap out of us ... and the rest of it running from Tank.
Tank is ginormous. Nearly five-feet-ten and one hundred and seventy pounds, he's the biggest kid at our school and has the strength of about five middle schoolers rolled into one.
It takes a lot to make Tank mad, but if you do, you'd better run.
And Mouth was usually running ... a lot.
"Hey," I said, watching them roll around on the floor, struggling to get back to their feet. Finally, Mouth pushed up off Tank's back and stood up.
"You gonna lay around there all day?" Mouth said to his brother.
Tank stood up and glared at Mouth. The glare was followed by a grumble, and that usually meant the battle was going to start again.
"Why can't you just meet them at school so my kitchen door doesn't always get bashed in?" Dad asked.
"It doesn't start out that way," Mouth said. "But Tank's such a dope, that's how it usually ends. You should see us at home."
"Are you kids excited for the end of school?" Mom asked.
"End of school nothing," I said. "We're ready for the beginning of two weeks away from everybody who makes our life terrible." I shot a look at Dana.
Korie smiled. "It seems like we've been waiting to go to Camp Runamuck forever."
"And Jax, it won't be long before you and Dana are in high school together."
"Oh, kill me now," Dana said, dropping her head to the kitchen table.
Toad leaned over to whisper in her ear. "And I'm right behind him."
"Come on," Dad yelled. "Let's go. Everybody out. School's not going to wait for you. I want everybody who's not related to me through that door so I can finish my breakfast in peace. Remember, smiles on your faces and learning in your heart."
"Learning in your heart?" Mom asked.
Dad laughed. "It sounded good in my head."
"Dad, I ..."
"You too." He waved me off. "Get out!"
Korie and I scrambled toward the door as fast as we could and barely made it out before the rest of them followed.
Mornings were the most fun part of the day. I could always count on Korie showing up, the Wahoo brothers making an entrance that made you feel like you were watching the WWE or roller derby, and I loved when my dad kicked us all out, pretending like he hated every second of it when I knew that he couldn't live without it.CHAPTER 2
Stumbling off the porch, Korie, Mouth, Tank, and I jumped on our bikes and rode toward the school. It was going to be a really long day for Crunch and we wanted to make sure we were there to support him.
Crisscrossing back and forth across the road, Korie and I talked about the next two weeks of school, Camp Runamuck, and how we were going to get Crunch to pass English. We both knew Bartholomew, so even though we were sure there was a way to get Crunch out of it ... there'd be a really high price to pay for it.
The Wahoos were being very Wahoo-like and spent most of the ride arguing and yelling and trying to run each other off the road.
"I still can't believe Crunch took his brothers' reports and handed them into Bartholomew," I said. "Are we sure that really happened?"
"No," Korie shrugged, "but the only other answer would be that his brothers switched their reports for his, knowing he'd get into trouble."
"Crunch's brothers are idiots," Mouth said. "Sort of like mine." Mouth swerved waaaaay out to the side to avoid Tank's reach. "There's no way they could have come up with a plan to set Crunch up like that."
"Yeah," Tank agreed. "Idiots. They probably copied the papers to start with and then Crunch was dumb enough to copy the copied papers."
Crunch's dad's car pulled past us. Crunch was sitting quietly in the backseat staring out the window. He half-waved to us and then quickly pulled his hand down before he got caught.
"He looks like he's on his way to prison," I said.
"He is," Korie said. "Nobody ever comes back a free man after an early morning parent-teacher conference with Bartholomew."
"Well, at least in Crunch's case, he probably made sure he got a great last meal."
"This is one of those times I wish I had a garbage truck or something really big that we could ram into his parents' car, send it crashing over on its side, pull Crunch from the burning wreckage, and then ..." Tank said.
We all stared at him.
"And then we need to turn the TV off." Mouth laughed. "You've been watching waaaaay too much of it."
* * *
Riding up to Hickory Wind Middle School, we locked up our bikes at the end of the third bike rack. It had taken a little time to figure it all out, but even though the third bike rack was a little farther from the front door, it was just behind where the last bus parked, waiting for all the kids to come out of school. We could run out, get our bikes, and take off before any of the other kids from the first and second racks could get around the buses and on the road.
Taking the stairs up two at a time, we crashed through the doors and headed right for Bartholomew's English class. By the time we got there Crunch and his parents were already inside but the door was cracked open ... so we peeked in.
Crunch was sitting quietly with his parents on either side. I thought my head was going to explode with laughter because those little wooden sixth grade chairs were not made for the six-foot-three, two hundred-and-eighty pound Mr. Newton, even when he was in sixth grade.
"How did he even get into that chair?" Korie asked.
"How's he going to get out?" Tank asked.
"He must have folded himself one way and then twisted around in another," Mouth guessed. "From the look on his face, I think his head might pop off."
"Mrs. Newton looks like she's going to cry," Korie said.
"You'd be crying too," I said. "Crunch has to go to summer school now."
"I don't think she's crying about summer school," Mouth said. "I think she's crying because Crunch can't go away to Camp Runamuck for two weeks. She was probably looking forward to the break."
"Yeah." Korie sighed. "A break from Crunch is nice sometimes."
"What do you think they're saying?" I asked.
"Oh, that's easy," Mouth said.
As their mouths started moving, so did his.
"Oh, please, Mr. Bartholomew," he said in Mrs. Newton's high voice, "please let Crunch pass so I can get him out of the house for two solid weeks. I can't stand it anymore."
"Hey," he continued in Mr. Newton's much deeper voice, "how did I get in this chair in the first place? I'm like a giant man and this is a teeny tiny little bit of a chair. It's like a torture chamber and something really sharp is poking my butt."
Then came Crunch. "Hey Mr. B. I know I'm a dope, but I can hand in anybody's papers you want me to. They don't have to be my brothers'."
I slapped my hands over my mouth and Korie's so they wouldn't hear us laughing.
After a few minutes of going back and forth, the meeting was over.
The Newtons didn't say another word and it looked like Bartholomew couldn't care less. He just shooed them away and went back to his work.
I watched Mr. Newton hold his breath and try, like, five times to squeeze back out of that chair. Each time was funnier than the last. Finally, he ripped off the top of the desk, stood up, and handed it to Bartholomew.
It was awesome!
"It doesn't look like it went too well," Korie whispered.
"Yeah," Mouth cackled, "that desk got crushed!"
"I was talking about Crunch, you idiot." Korie smacked him.
Mr. and Mrs. Newton shook Bartholomew's hand, put their arms around Crunch, and walked toward the door.
"Oh, no. That's the arm-around-his-shoulder death march," I said.
"Oh, gosh, we won't see him until high school," Korie said.
"Well, that's one less happy camper for Camp Runamuck," Mouth said. "Maybe they'll let me have all of his stuff when we get there."
"Keep talking like that you won't get there, either," Tank said.
As the door opened, the Wahoos settled down and the Newtons walked out past us with Crunch straggling behind them.
"Boys." Mr. Newton nodded.
"Hey, Mr. Newton," I said. "Crunch, how'd it go in there?"
"Not as well as we had hoped," Mr. Newton whispered. "Clarence ..."
I love when Crunch's parents call him Clarence.
"... won't be able to start the summer with you. He has some work to catch up on that will take him into July."
"It's a bunch of malarkey," Crunch snapped.
I winced at that word. Crunch's parents were so against any type of cursing that Crunch developed this whole vocabulary to take the place of the bad words. Most of them were stupid, but they made perfect sense to Crunch.
"Yeah," Crunch continued, "it was such a bunch of BS ..."
"Clarence," Mrs. Newton warned him.
"Bunk," Crunch corrected himself, "it was such a bunch of bunk."
"Sorry, Crunch," Korie said.
Seeing the sad look on Korie's face had me go a little bit ... amuck.
"Wait a minute," I said, grabbing Crunch's shirt and dragging him back into Bartholomew's room. "Hey, Mr. Bartholomew!" I called as we powered across the floor, stopping just short of his desk.
Uh-oh. Maybe I didn't think this all the way through.
"Hello, Jackson," Bartholomew said.
I hate when he calls me Jackson.
"I believe we're done with the conversation over Clarence and his ... reports," Bartholomew said. "There's no more to discuss on this matter. Although, we could start talking about you and your grades if you'd like."
I brushed him off. "My grades are fine!"
"Ooooohhhh!" I could hear the rest of them behind me.
"Look at this face!" I squeezed Crunch's cheeks between my thumb and forefinger and pointed it at Mr. Bartholomew. "Does this look like the face of a report copier?"
Bartholomew's eyebrows knitted and he looked very closely at Crunch. "Jackson, I applaud your valiant effort to save your friend from the horrors of summer school, instead of being whisked off to the wonders of camp, but I found his brothers' papers in the files myself. I know how well they were written."
Excerpted from Artifacts by Pete Catalano. Copyright © 2016 Pete Catalano. Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
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