In the tradition of Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes Cartboy and the Time Capsule by L.A. Campbell, a laugh-out-loud debut novel about sixth-grader Hal Rifkind—unfortunately nicknamed “Cartboy”—and his horribly historic, hilarious year.
Hal hates history class—it literally bores him to tears. But his father is a big history buff, and unless Hal gets a good grade this year, he’ll never get his own room. Sixth grade gets off to a horrible start when history teacher Mr. Tupkin gives the class an assignment to write journals that will be buried in a time capsule at the end of the year. Things get even worse when his dad makes him take his neighbor’s old shopping cart to school, earning him the nickname “Cartboy.” What else could possibly go wrong? Read Hal’s journal to find out!
Filled with photos, drawings, and timelines, Hal’s time capsule journal chronicles a year in the life of the hopelessly hapless Cartboy.
About the Author
L. A. CAMPBELL grew up in Park Ridge, New Jersey, and attended the University of Colorado, graduating with a degree in journalism. She started her own ad agency, which won awards for work on such brands as Comedy Central and New York magazine. Cartboy and the Time Capsule is her first book. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
Read an Excerpt
Cartboy and the Time Capsule
By L.A. Campbell
StarscapeCopyright © 2013 L.A. Campbell
All right reserved.
Dear Surprised Finder of the Time Capsule Under the Bleachers:
If you are new to planet Earth and looking for shelter (a place to live), I have two things to say:
2. Do not buy a house with a deck. You will live to regret it.
I found this out after I asked my parents for my own room.
Why does a twelve-year-old boy need his own room, you might ask. There are lots of reasons, but the top two are called Bea and Perrie. My twin baby sisters. Not only do I share a room with them, my bed is in between their cribs.
Between the crying, teething, spit-up, and diapers, I’ve slept about seven minutes since they were born.
Needless to say, I’ve been working on my dad night and day to let me move into the tiny spare room in our house.
“First of all, I need that room for my job” is his usual reply. “And second, the only way I’d consider giving you your own room is if you bring your history grade up. Way up.”
Judging by how I’m doing in history, it’s going to take a miracle. Even though it’s only October, Mr. Tupkin has already given us ten pop quizzes and tests. So far, I’ve gotten the same grade on every single one.
HINT: My grade is a letter between C and F. Words that start with my grade are Dang, Doomed, and Duh.
“No son of mine will fail history,” my dad says every time I bring home a test. “You must do better, Hal. History is who we are and why.”
“Boy, do I love history too, Dad. But the thing is, sharing a room with two babies makes it so hard to study. If we had a bigger house…”
“Here we go again with the ‘bigger house.’ You know I work at home. And I’ve got my whole shop set up in the spare room. It would take months to pack it up. Besides, business is a little slow. There’s no way we’re moving.”
Usually, at some point during the “Hal, you’ll never get your own room” speech, I look to my mom for help. But she’s got her own “very good” reasons for not getting a bigger house.
“Sharing is nice. You’ll establish an everlasting bond with your sisters.”
Or: “A small home is greener. Much better for the environment.”
And then there’s my personal favorite: “If you’re feeling tired, honey, I could put some needles in your feet.”
That’s the other thing about my mom. Her big plan to help out with the family income is to go to night school. She’s studying for a degree in acupuncture. It’s this Chinese medicine that’s popular today.
They say it’s been around for thousands of years in China, which I really don’t get. Because the idea of acupuncture is to stick needles in people. To make them feel better.
Normally, the conversation about getting my own room ends with me right back where I started. Sitting on my bed, listening to the twins’ nonstop jibber-jabber.
The other night, Perrie was trying to talk. She was holding her favorite puppet, a seashell with a hermit crab inside. “Sell. Sell,” she said, showing me the shell.
I put my hand inside the shell and made the hermit crab pop out.
Perrie loves it when I do that. She pointed to the shell again, and said, “Sell.”
That’s it, I thought. Sell! If only I could sell our house. Get someone to make an offer my parents couldn’t refuse.
Sure, they kept telling me they’ll never move. But for the right price, maybe my mom and dad would reconsider.
So last Saturday, when my parents said we were going to visit Grampa Janson, I told them I wanted to stay home and study. As soon as they left, I printed out a sign on my computer. It said OPEN HOUSE. It means anyone who’s driving by can come in and look at your house to see if they want to buy it. I even decorated the sign for good measure.
Next, I put on a suit I borrowed from Arnie. It was the one he wore to Billy Cohen’s bar mitzvah. I have to admit, the suit was a little flashy for me. And not just because I’m not the suit-wearing type.
The thing about Arnie is he actually likes dressing up because “girls notice that stuff.” The other thing he does is put gel in his hair because it looks “sophisticated.”
About half an hour after I put up the OPEN HOUSE sign, I heard a sound that was music to my ears.
I opened the door and saw a nice-looking couple standing on the steps.
“Hello, we’re here for the open house,” said the man.
“Is the homeowner here?”
“He’ll be back shortly. In the meantime, why don’t I show you around?”
We started to walk through the house and right away the man started firing off questions.
“How close is the nearest school?”
“The Stowfield Middle School is just a stone’s throw away, sir.”
The couple walked into our kitchen and looked at the ceiling. “Have you ever had problems with mold?” asked the woman.
“Yes,” I said. I figured it was best to be honest. I grabbed a hunk of my dad’s favorite blue cheese out of the fridge and tossed it in the trash. “But not anymore.”
The man looked me straight in the eye. “Are there any structural issues or deferred payments we should know about?”
Ding-dong. Luckily, I was saved by the bell.
The next people to come to the open house were an older lady and her “friend.” After I showed them around a little, I found out her friend was a home inspector.
“I like to bring the inspector with me,” said the lady. “So I’ll know if there are problems right off the bat.”
The lady and the inspector walked down the hall and stopped in front of the spare room. The one that should be my bedroom right now.
“What’s in here?” asked the inspector.
“This room is, um, under renovation,” I said, locking the door. “Don’t want the dust to get out. Very harmful.”
The inspector gave me a look like he knew something was up. But then he turned to the lady, and said, “Why don’t we go see the outside of the house?”
As the two of them went to look at our back deck, I stood in front of the spare room. I knew the real reason I didn’t want to open that door.
I was embarrassed.
The thing is, the room is filled from floor to ceiling with old microwaves. And DVD players. And toasters from the 1970s. Because my dad’s job is fixing appliances.
There are little screws and wires and tools everywhere, and everything is greasy and dirty. Every time I look in that room I can’t help but wonder why it has to be my dad who surrounds himself with used stuff. Didn’t he ever want anything new, like a normal dad?
I was still standing in front of the door when the inspector suddenly walked up and handed me an official-looking piece of paper. As soon as I saw it, my hands started to sweat. Could this really be it? An offer for the house? I mean, it seemed a bit soon. But if you love a place, you love a place, right?
I stood there holding the paper and I couldn’t help but imagine what my new room would look like. Arnie and I would set up RavenCave (the best video game ever). We’d have a special table for chocolate-glazed doughnuts with sprinkles.
I was lost in the thought of where the doughnut table would go when I heard the inspector say, “You have a violation. Code one-thirteen. Section nine. Deck railing.”
“Thank you. Um, what?”
“Your deck railing is not built to code. The rails are five inches apart. They need to be four. Judging by the toys lying around everywhere, I’m guessing small children live in this house.”
“Small children. Yes, two.”
“Young man, I’d fix that deck if you want those children to be safe. And if you want to avoid a fine.”
It wasn’t until later in the day that my family got back from Grampa Janson’s. My dad was pretty surprised to see me on the back deck.
“Haven’t seen you holding a hammer in years, son.”
“I just want to make sure Bea and Perrie don’t fall off the deck. These rails are a little far apart, don’t you think, Dad? What do you say we fix them together?”
“That’s my boy! Why buy new when you can fix the old!”
I spent the first two weeks of October working on the deck, thinking about how I’d never have my own room.
And how I’d be spending the rest of my life next to two girls who have five teeth between them.
Copyright © 2013 by L. A. Campbell
Excerpted from Cartboy and the Time Capsule by L.A. Campbell Copyright © 2013 by L.A. Campbell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hilarious! As good as Diary of a Wimpy Kid!
Say hello to Hal Rifkind. He is a 6th grader that is a pretty typical boy, wanting to play video games with his best friend, dreams of the ultimate, coolest transportation, would love to have his own room and thinks history is boring, per Hal “history is the most boring thing on the planet!” Unfortunately, he is also facing the very real danger of failing history. While trying to navigate the pitfalls of 6th grade, with hand-me-down clothes, betrayals and a first dance, Hal, very realistically, loses his temper, comes up with a plan to try to sell the family house (so he can finally get his own room), tries out for the school play, ends up on YouTube and gets bullied. There are fart jokes, a very realistic rendering of a kid’s view of adult reasoning, and monkeys dancing on Mars. The illustrations are amusing, the characters, even the adults, are not just paper thin cut-outs and do interact with Hal. I think this book would work well for 4th-6th graders, there are no monsters (except some minor bullying), the lessons included are handled lightly and the story is amusing. Warning does end with a cliff hanger, but the next book doesn’t come out until spring of 2014! Hopefully your reader will enjoy this enough to read this and want the next one. I can definitely think of some worse series out there.
As funny as Wimpy Kid, if not funnier, but with a charm and sense of humor all its own. Get this for your girl or boy who likes comic books or cleverly illustrated novels. It is laugh out loud funny and pure kid-friendly.
My brother truly enjoyed reading this book. He said it was funny!
My grand-kids love this. I think they're read it 10 times and they just howl with laughter. A pleasure to see. We are counting down to the release of the sequel.