Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers

by Shelley Tougas


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From the author of The Graham Cracker Plot, a story about two friends playing finders keepers for the missing loot of Al Capone.

Christa spends every summer at the most awesome place in the whole world: her family's cabin on Whitefish Lake in Wisconsin. Only her dad recently lost his job and her parents have decided to sell the cabin. But not if Christa can help it. Everyone knows there is Al Capone blood money hidden somewhere in Whitefish Lake, and her friend Alex's cranky grandpa might have the key to finding it. Grumpa says the loot is gone, or worse-cursed!-but Christa knows better. If she finds it, she can keep it and save her family and their beloved cabin.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250090522
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 10/11/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 851,075
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Shelley Tougas is an award-winning writer of nonfiction for children, including Little Rock Girl 1957, and the author of The Graham Cracker Plot, her debut novel. She lives in Hudson, Wisconsin.

Read an Excerpt

Finders Keepers

By Shelley Tougas

Roaring Brook Press

Copyright © 2015 Shelley Tougas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59643-991-7



I glared at Olivia Stanger's picture on the for-sale sign. Her silver hair sparkled, and her big smile showed teeth as white as wedding cake frosting. Icky-sticky sweet.

So I karate kicked that sign, the sign that announced she was selling my cabin.

The sign swung away, but my foot kept going. I landed in the splits, then pressed my whole body against the grass. The sign swung back but missed my head. I was fast. Cougar fast.

Olivia Stanger had forced a stake into the ground for her sign. A thin pole stuck out near the top of the stake, forming a backward number seven. The sign with her picture hung from the top of the seven. The icky-sticky-sweet smile was as wide as my head.

Next to me was a big stick, so I held it against the ground and pulled myself out of the splits. We were face-to-face again, me and Olivia Stanger's sign.

So I whacked her face with the stick.

Then I spit on the sign, right by the words that said, "Olivia Stanger, Your Wisconsin Lakeshore Realtor."

"What'd that sign ever do to you?"

The voice was a boy covered in mud. Mud on his hands, on his knees, on his green t-shirt. He stood in the grass a few feet from the gravel driveway.

I looked at the muddy boy, then the sign.

I wished Olivia herself would answer. Because if the for-sale sign were an evil talking sign, she'd say, "Miss Christa Boyd-Adams. I will make sure you'll be home every summer, stuck in arts-and-crafts camps. You'll make paper-bag dresses and sock puppets. WAH HA HA HA!"

From under the mud came the boy's voice again. "You got a problem with that sign?"

"Yeah, I got a problem with this sign. A big problem."

"That lady's face is on signs everywhere around here. I guess some people must like her."

"I guess they do. They must like a thief in a business suit selling their best stuff. The stuff they've had since they were born."

He eyed the cabin up and down. "It's not as nice as the places for sale in Arizona. That's where I'm from. But it's a decent cabin. Does it have an actual bathroom? With a toilet that actually flushes?"

"Of course it has a flushing toilet! It's not a hunting shack. It has electricity and a fireplace and two bedrooms. It even has closets."

He nodded. "Then you'll sell it for a wad of money."

Money. That's what my parents wanted. Money from the sale to pay bills. I'd rather sell our house, which was ten hours from the cabin, in a boring neighborhood with hardly any trees.

"Nobody should buy this place," I said. "If you're honest, you'll tell lookers the truth. Are you honest?"

"Guess so."

My brain had to work fast. Race-car fast. I said, "Bats sneak in the cracks at night and swirl around your head, and if they bite you, you need shots or you die. I've already had six shots and I'm only ten years old!"

"I'm eleven." He offered this fact as if it mattered.

I continued, "We hired thirty-two different bug spray guys, and they all left screaming. We've got everything. Bats, squirrels, ants, flies, moles. Centipedes and spiders, too. Sometimes snakes come right up the toilet! We save the spiders because they eat the other bugs."

He shrugged. "I ain't afraid of spiders or snakes."

My dad would split his pants over the word "ain't." He was a history teacher, but you'd think he taught English because of his obsession with words. But the school budget cut my dad, and words don't worry him anymore. Just money. Right before we packed our summer stuff, my parents told us we had to sell the cabin. They couldn't afford a house, two cars, our cabin, and to still save college money for my sister, Amelia, and me.

I told the boy, "I'm not afraid of spiders, either. Even poisonous spiders. And I'm not afraid of snakes. I just don't like them."

The boy said, "I really don't have fears. Just born without them, I guess."

"You afraid of that house?" I pointed to the white two-story house where Mr. Edmund Clark lived, only a few hundred feet from our driveway. My parents made me say "mister" or "missus" when talking to old people, and Mr. Edmund Clark was old. He had a stiff leg and flabby face and silver hair like Olivia Stanger. He should probably have married Olivia Stanger since they were both mean and Mrs. Edmund Clark was dead.

Mud boy said, "Why would I be afraid of that house?"

"The guy there is mean and older than fossils."

His hands sprang to his hips. "That old guy is my grandpa."

"You mean your grumpa?" I laughed, but he didn't.

Mud boy marched toward me with fists ready to spring. I karate kicked the air to show him I meant business. Then he laughed. "Do you know how stupid you look when you do that?"

"Do not!"

I held my arms ready to karate chop. He laughed even harder. He did this crazy spin-around karate kick with his arms waving. Then he stopped and held his arms ready to karate chop. We circled each other.

"I have a karate belt," he said.

"Me, too," I said.

"I also have a Judo belt," he said, circling some more.

I'd never heard of a Judo belt, but it sounded way better than a karate belt.

"Me, too," I said, circling some more.

"I punched gangster Al Capone in the stomach," he said.

"Me, too," I said. "Punched Al and his entire gang. Punched 'em all."

He stopped circling and stomped his foot. "Liar! Al Capone has been dead for like a hundred years! I know because he had a house down the road, and my grandpa's been there."

My lips sealed tight because I didn't know who Al Capone was or that he was dead or that Mr. Edmund Clark had been to his house.

Mud boy said, "I lied and said I punched him to prove you were lying." He sure looked proud of himself.

I'd been tricked. Now it was liar against liar. Because if the grump was his gramps, why hadn't I seen this kid before?

We stared at each other, karate-style. Judo-style.

Finally he said, "Your hair's really short for a girl."

That's what girls at school said — my hair's too short and my clothes don't match. My cabin was supposed to be a fashion-free zone. "I don't have time for braids and ponytails. You got a problem with that?" He thought about it. Then he dropped his karate arms. "I got a bucket of mud. I'm mixing up some mud pies."

"Mud pies?"

"Mud pies. Ten points for hitting that sign from here. Twenty bonus points for hitting her nose."

I was leading 80–40 when Dad shut down the contest. He looked at Olivia Stanger's face on that sign. Bits of grass clung to her silver waves, and her pretty violet-blue eyes were covered with mud. He shook his head and sighed.

Dad went into the cabin and came back with sponges and a bucket of soapy water. He set the bucket by our feet. "Looks like you and your friend have some work to do."

"If I ain't her friend, do I still have to clean this up?"

Ain't! Dad did not split his pants. He said, "Good question. Who are you?"

"Alex Clark."

"Ed's grandson?"

"And Neil and Sally Clark's son. We're buying the house and Grandpa's pizza restaurant so Grandpa can retire." Alex looked at me. "I can eat pizza anytime I want."

"Me, too," I said. "And brownies. Whenever I want."

Dad said, "No you can't, Christa. Now get busy."

We got busy, but I couldn't stop thinking about the stuff Dad and Mom were probably saying inside the cabin. I didn't even need to eavesdrop because I'd heard it all before.

Mom: Christa, why can't you think before you act?

Dad: Christa, that's immature behavior.

Mom: Christa, you need to make better choices.

Dad: Christa, why can't you act your age?

Someday I'll be sixteen like Amelia, and maybe then my parents will say things like, I can't believe you're driving and our baby's growing up and you'll be graduating before we know it. That's what they said to her. Seems like Amelia was always growing up too fast, and I was always growing up too slow. Too bad there wasn't a middle child who could've been just right.

When the sign was clean, Alex and I stood back and looked at our work.

"I liked it better before," he said.

Me, too. I scooped a glob of mud on my finger. Nobody was looking, far as I could tell. I rushed to the sign and did the job quick.

And there she was: cabin-thief Olivia Stanger. Big smile, front teeth blacked out.



Alex turned out to be the new version of the old Amelia, who used to play with me. It was his idea to meet the next day, but it was my idea to climb Mount Everest.

We met on the side of the hill by Mr. Edmund Clark's house. Alex sat in the grass and stuck out his foot.

"Do mine first," he said.

I took a fork and duct tape from my bag. I pressed the fork handle flat against the bottom of his shoe, leaving the tines sticking out past his toes. "Hold it," I said. While he held the fork in place, I tore off a long piece of duct tape and wrapped the fork tightly to his shoe.

"Presto!" I said. "Ice-climbing boots with spikes!"

I made his other shoe into spiked boots, and then he did mine.

A few years ago, Amelia and I had play-climbed Everest in a park near our house. That was when Amelia played with me. When Amelia was Pocahontas helping Lewis and Clark; I was Pocahontas's little sister. I was also the little sister of Sally Ride and Marie Curie and the people we invented, like adventurer Jade Truegood and her sister Chase.

But Amelia became a princess when she turned fourteen. One day, Amelia My Sister was plucking the legs off a daddy longlegs spider to see if it'd roll around with just a body. (Yes, it does.) Then practically overnight, Amelia My Sister vanished, and Amelia The Princess was in her place. Amelia The Princess screamed at bugs and begged for manicures and pierced ears.

I thought she'd be less royal at the cabin, but last summer she just watched movies and read romance novels and texted her friends. She'd sit on the dock and watch me swim — only because she wanted a tan — but she didn't play at all. My dad felt bad for me. He tried to play shipwreck and shark hunters, but he wasn't very good. It's not fun to play with someone who's constantly yelling, "Be careful!"

Fast-forward through the school year. Before we started packing for the cabin, Amelia made the biggest stink about leaving. She stomped around and cried about missing her friends and our parents ruining her life. I overheard the whole thing. She listed all the things she didn't want to do. She didn't want to swim or fish. She didn't want to look for night crawlers in the rain or have bonfires. Then she said it: "Another whole summer with just Christa? I'll go crazy!"

Dad told her she was a role model and that I looked up to her. I was too mad to listen. I went to my bedroom and punched my pillows.

Amelia was stupid. She had it backward! She was going to drive me crazy with her hair tossing and lip glossing and the worst thing of all ... her phone. Her stupid dumb stupid dumb dumb stupid stupid stupid stupid phone.

Who needed a sister? Not me.

Alex didn't have a phone for texting or long hair for tossing. Alex thought pretend-climbing Mount Everest was a brilliant way to spend a morning.

When I emptied out the bag on Mr. Edmund Clark's hill, Alex picked through the items with a smile on his face.

"Cassette tapes? Cool," he said. "My parents threw a bunch of these out when we moved."

I put one of the cassettes in my palm and spoke into it. "'Roger that, base camp.' See? It's a walkie-talkie."

"And the oven mitts?"

"Climbing gloves. We don't keep winter stuff at the cabin, but these will work."

"Cool," he said.

And we were ready for Mount Everest.


The Adventure: The first kids to scale Mount Everest

The Place: Mount Everest (the big hill next to the Clarks' house)

The Characters: Chase Truegood (me) and Buck Punch (Alex)

The Wardrobe/Props: Oxygen masks (plastic cups with rubber bands), ice picks (forks and butter knives), boot spikes (forks duct-taped to shoe bottoms), mittens (oven mitts), walkie-talkies (Dad's old cassette tapes), and rope (rope)

Chase Truegood and Buck Punch have survived many adventures, but Mount Everest may be their last. Known as "killer mountain," Everest's steep cliffs and bottomless ravines lure climbers like buckets of worms lure fishermen.

Climbers rarely make it to the top. Chase's sister Jade, a once-famous mountain climber, failed to scale Mount Everest despite trying one hundred times. The embarrassment forced her to retire. Luckily, Jade didn't die on the mountain like thousands of others — 2,000 victims, to be exact. Might Chase and Buck bring the total to 2,002?

The team pulled themselves up a sheer wall of ice with handheld picks and spiked shoes, grunting and groaning from exhaustion.

"Urrbmph ..." Buck could barely speak. "Radio base camp. Ask how much time before the blizzard hits." Talking nearly stole his last bit of energy. He breathed through the oxygen mask and spoke with a scratchy voice. "Chase, your tank's empty and mine's almost gone."

Chase mumbled into the walkie-talkie and repeated the news to Buck. "Base camp says we have two hours to reach Whitefish Peak and get back to camp. And the temperature has fallen to 300 below zero. Base camp says we must return now or die."

"We swore to do this or die trying. But maybe we should turn back," Buck said. Chase's neck was so cold she could barely nod. Buck held up his mitten-covered hands, using his last milligram of energy to shout, "My fingers ... They're frozen!"

It turned out to be a near-fatal mistake. In lifting his hands, Buck dropped both of his handspikes, which he needed to pull himself to Whitefish Peak.

"Buck!" Chase shouted. "Hang on to the rope. Kick the ice 'til your boot spikes lock in. That'll hold you."

Buck tossed his oxygen tank to Chase. "You'll need this."

"No! We'll share it!" She spiked closer to Buck. The sideways-spike-lunge was the single most dangerous move in mountain climbing.

"Buck, we've climbed mountains without oxygen before," she said. "We will never ever give up. Never give up what's important to you, Buck! Never! Ever!"

"I broke my foot in the avalanche this morning. Didn't want to say," Buck gasped. He put the oxygen mask to Chase's nose while his eyes drooped shut. "Chase ... go ... on ... without me."


"I'm dying, Chase. Go ... live our dream."

Buck flopped and then log-rolled down the ice, down where they'd escaped the avalanche, down into a dark hole.

Chase screamed.

"Christa Boyd-Adams! How many times do I have to shout?" Mom was standing by our picnic table near the cabin door. Her arms were crossed.


"Come home for lunch."

Mom always ruined fun with food. I yelled, "NOW?"



"Stop shouting and get over here. I'm not telling you again."


"Christa, stop shouting and come here and talk to me."

I was just about to ask for ten more minutes when Alex said, "We're having tacos like the ones you can buy in Arizona and chips and cookies."


"No. We're eating in town. Hurry up."


We scooted down the hill on our butts. I told Alex, "When I get back, we can go into the woods and climb my favorite tree."

"There weren't trees where I used to live," Alex said. "But my friends and I could climb a skyscraper if we wanted. I'm not afraid of heights at all."

I studied his face and said, "You're totally afraid of heights, aren't you?"

"Am not."

I heard a cough and a snort. Mr. Edmund Clark was walking slowly from the shore toward his shed. He had his fishing pole in one hand and a net in the other. It looked like he'd caught a couple of nice-sized perch. In all those years at our cabin, we'd only seen him fishing or working at his restaurant. Sometimes we'd be racing across the lake in our speedboat, and he'd be fishing from his boat in the cove at the lake's east side. Dad would slow down so our waves wouldn't interfere with his fishing. Mr. Edmund Clark did not like his boat to be rocked.

If he lived in a condo and made salad all day, I'd understand why he was an old crab. But he was surrounded by trees and water and pepperoni. How could someone with his own pizza business and a house on a lake — even if it was an old house — be so grumpy?

"Does he ever smile?"

Alex thought about it. "Dad told me not to expect hugs and kisses. He didn't say anything about smiles."

"My grandparents hug me all the time. They even hug Amelia."

"Until we moved here, I'd only seen my grandpa a few times."

That was strange. My grandparents lived in Florida, and we talked on the Internet every week and saw them at least four times a year — sometimes more! They gave me presents and candy and called me Angel, which made Amelia snort. By the looks of it, they were a lot younger than Alex's grandpa, too. His face was so wrinkly it made a raisin look like a grape! My grandma had just a few wrinkles, which she called "smile lines." If Mr. Edmund Clark hardly ever saw Alex, if he didn't have a grandchild for presents and hugs, then his wrinkles definitely weren't from smiles.

"Christa!" Mom's voice cut through the air. "I said now and I mean now!"


When I stood up, my feet wouldn't bend because of the forks taped to my shoes. I had to keep my legs straight and wide, which made me walk like scissors. I could hear Alex laughing.


Excerpted from Finders Keepers by Shelley Tougas. Copyright © 2015 Shelley Tougas. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Summer Vacation and the Thief,
Chase Truegood and the New Old Amelia,
Pizza and Supervision,
Finders Keepers and Losers Weepers,
The Canoe and the Basement,
Zanimals and the Pipe,
The Canoe (Again) and Game Night,
The ATV and the Argument,
The Loot and the Secret,
The Fiasco and Eavesdropping,
The New Realtor Thief and Yonder Gold,
Quincy and the Tree,
News and Fish,
Fish and Visitors,
An Apology and Another Apology,
Trusted and Busted,
The Holiday and the Scare,
The Journal and the Deal,
Finding and Keeping,
Dirt and More Dirt,
The Chase and the Escape,
Fantastic and Just Like That,
Loud Words and Pickles,
Maybe and Maybe Not,
About the Author,
Also by Shelley Tougas,

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Finders Keepers 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Christa’s family has been spending every summer at their cabin on Whitefish Lake. Unfortunately her father has lost his job and to make ends meet they decide to sell the cabin. Christa doesn’t want this to happen. She learns of the story of Al Capone’s missing money and with the help of her friends and her grandpa goes on the hunt for the missing money. This is a great story. Christa is such a strong character and doesn’t fit into the normal image of a 10-11 year old girl. She is strong willed and very determined. I loved the adventures she gets into. I like how the story involves real life situations like her father losing his job and how the family is adapting. This is a great mid-grade story that any age will like. There is a great adventure with lots of imagination. I received Finders Keepers for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.