It’s 1948, and twelve-year-old Nick is ready for the best summer ever. He’s going to hang out with his best pal, Ace, and maybe with Penny too—she is a girl, but she has a great throwing arm. Then things get wild when a polar bear escapes from Milwaukee’s city zoo and appears right on his block. They’re all going to have to keep their eyes open now.
But Nick’s grand plans start to crumble when Ace gets a paper route and Penny decides to share it with him. Now they’re never around. Nick himself is working at his Uncle Spiro’s frozen custard shop, but at least he gets free all-you-can-eat dessert.
When Uncle Spiro opens a custard stand at the zoo, Nick volunteers to help—if that polar bear escapes again, he’ll have a front row seat! But their competitor, Happy Harold, opens a stand of his own right outside the zoo. Now Nick is scrambling to keep their customers, especially because Happy keeps playing dirty tricks. When Penny discovers that someone may have let the polar bear out on purpose, Nick suspects that Happy might be involved. With mysteries to solve and a whole zoo-full of monkey business, it looks like Nick’s summer won’t be so boring after all!
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
THE SUMMER OF 1948 STARTED with a bang.
Or, I should say, a crash.
It was early morning on the first day of summer vacation, and I was still half asleep. If you’re a delicate sort of person, skip the rest of this sentence, because I was lying on top of the sheets in my underwear. Sorry about that, but it was the middle of a heat wave. My bedroom window was wide open, but that didn’t help. I couldn’t feel even the hint of a breeze.
I tried to distract myself by imagining everything that would make this the best summer ever. No more sixth grade. Swimming at the lakefront. Ball games at Orchard Field.
I opened my eyes. Someone—or something—was out in the alley behind the house. Raccoons in the garbage cans again? Or maybe Ace’s little sister left her roller skates out (again), and the milkman tripped over them (again). Whatever it was, I was too sleepy and too sticky to get up and look.
Downstairs in the kitchen, the radio hummed to life. Ma was up early, as usual. Maybe she had taken the garbage out and had knocked over the trash cans by accident.
Top o’ the morning, folks! It’s your ol’ pals Ray and Bob here on WTRJ radio, helping you start your day.
BOB: It’s gonna be another hot one, folks. The mercury will be working its way up to ninety-one degrees today.
RAY: It might be a good day to head on down to the lakefront, don’t you think, Bob?
BOB: Or you could go to a nice air-conditioned movie theater. Sit back and enjoy that new John Wayne picture in cool comfort.
Now I sat up in bed.
That wasn’t Ma. I could hear her rattling around in the kitchen downstairs.
I hopped out of bed and poked my head out the window.
I blinked. I rubbed my eyes and looked again.
Something had knocked over the trash cans, all right.
But it wasn’t a raccoon, and it wasn’t the milkman tripping over roller skates.
It was a polar bear.