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Justin is going to start fourth grade—but first, he has to survive the summer. He “gets” to go to camp every day on a bus. He “gets” to experience all sorts of new things: Bugs. Mess hall food. Flip-flops (they hurt the space between his toes and they’re hard to walk in). And (gulp!) swimming.
Justin’s little sister, Elizabeth, seems to deal with camp just fine. So do his friends. Justin is trying very hard not to be a worried kid anymore, especially when it comes to making friends at camp, including a new kid who is kind of . . . rough. After all, Justin is going to be in fourth grade. It’s time to be brave. Right?
About the Author
Rachel Vail is the author of numerous novels and picture books, including Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters, Piggy Bunny, and Flabbersmashed About You. She lives in New York City with her husband and sons. You can visit her online at www.rachelvail.com.
Matthew Cordell is the author and illustrator of the picture books Trouble Gum and Another Brother, also published by Feiwel and Friends. He lives outside of Chicago with his wife, the author Julie Halpern, and their daughter. You can visit him online at www.matthewcordell.com.
Read an Excerpt
June 20, Sunday
Summer vacation started yesterday. That means for the next 79 days, including today, I have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Nothing to Worry About might be tied with gummy worms as my favorite thing ever.
I gave Dad gummy worms, a full half pound minus one or possibly two worms, for Father's Day. Nothing to Worry About is not a thing you could wrap even if you had excellent wrapping skills and a lot of tape. Gummy worms were challenging enough. Also I don't think Dad really worries anyway.
He seemed to like the gummy worms and didn't mind that they came from his own store. He probably shared just because he is nice, not to get rid of them.
But I have Nothing to Worry About all for myself, so even though I am not a father, it kind of felt like today was my day, too.
June 21, Monday
I used to be a worried kid. Back then, going barefoot would have given me a lot of thoughts like, What if I step on a rusty nail or a sharp piece of glass or dog doo, or what if that's not actually blades of grass under my bare feet but really hundreds of slithering snakes?
Today when I was barefoot, playing tag with my little sister Elizabeth, I mostly didn't think those kinds of thoughts very much at all.
It is much more relaxing to be this way.
Though dog doo would be so disgusting to step in with bare feet, I had to put my sneakers back on after a few minutes.
June 22, Tuesday
We pressed SEND on the Camp GoldenBrook sign-up page after I said "Yes, I am sure" about a thousand times.
I am sure.
At Science Camp, where I went last year and the year before, there's no pool and the only sport is tag. Which is optional, and also you do fun variations like Molecule Tag or Electron Tag. There is no Electron Tag at Camp GoldenBrook. There's Baseball and Basketball and Swim a Mile.
That is why Camp GoldenBrook is where all the runny-aroundy kids go. And none of the nice calm worried kids. I am not a worried kid anymore, but I am still not a runny-aroundy kid.
But I'm ready for Camp GoldenBrook. I am sure.
I would be more sure though if Mom and Dad would please stop saying, "Are you sure, Justin?"
June 23, Wednesday
My second-best friend, Noah, and his mom came with us to the town pool today. The problem with going to the town pool is that the moms want us out in the sun, but then they slather us with protection from it.
"If we could just stay inside, we'd be perfectly safe," Noah pointed out.
"What are we going to do with you guys?" Noah's mom asked us.
I didn't know the answer to that. So I just squinched up my eyes to keep the sunblock out of them and waited for Noah's mom to move on to a different subject.
"Can we go to the snack bar now?" Noah asked. He is good at changing the subject. Also at eating.
"If you take Elizabeth," Mom said, and gave me two dollars. "And put on your flip-flops."
We had to walk slowly to the snack bar because my feet are not used to flip-flops. The first time I wore them, this morning, I fell down, twice, on our deck. If I fall down at camp, it will be Very Bad. But Mom says I will get used to it. That is what she says about all the bad stuff, like cooked carrots and icy ocean water. And I never do. I am not somebody who gets used to it, which she should know by now. But she doesn't. I have to keep these flip-flops.
I like soft socks with lots of cushioning and no pinchiness or seams, and then my sneakers. My feet like to have some privacy. Flip-flops are barely even shoes, just bottoms and a pole to annoy the space between my big toes and the other guys. And too much air on my feet feels freaky, like I forgot to get all the way dressed.
On our way to there, Elizabeth told us about her plans for when she grows up. She is going to be an artist and a toll collector and a vegetarian.
"You don't like to eat meat?" Noah asked her.
"Yes, I do," she said.
"She thinks a vegetarian is an animal doctor," I explained.
"That's a veterinarian," Noah tried, even though I shook my head. I looked up at the whiteboard listing the snacks and wondered if anybody ever actually ordered a lime popsicle.
"No," Elizabeth said. "A veterinarian is somebody who fought in a war. That is why there's Veterinarian's Day."
"Don't even try," I warned Noah. "Trust me."
"I should know," Elizabeth said. "I am the one who is going to be a Vegetarian, not you."
"True," Noah said. "And a toll collector?"
"You stand in the booth and people give you money for nothing! And then I can use all that money to buy more animals to be the doctor of! Cherry popsicle, please."
"I'll have a rainbow popsicle, please," I told the teenager behind the counter.
"Don't worry about Camp GoldenBrook, Justin," Noah said to me. "You probably won't get badly hurt or beat up."
"Thanks, Noah," I said. "What's that smell?"
"Summer," Elizabeth said.
"And if it's terrible, maybe you could switch back to Science Camp," Noah told me, and then smiled up at the teenager. "May I have a lime popsicle, please?"
After we finished, Mom said Noah and I should get in the pool and swim already, but we couldn't. You have to wait half an hour after you eat something or you could drown because, possibly, you get too heavy or else something to do with cramps.
Noah is full of facts about ways you might die.
June 24, Thursday
Luckily it rained today so the plan for me to go to the town pool with Xavier Schwartz and his babysitter and my horrible flip-flops got canceled.
Xavier Schwartz has gone to Camp GoldenBrook since kindergarten.
He is practically king of the runny-aroundy kids and probably an excellent swimmer, too. He seems like somebody who would hold somebody's head underwater as a joke, even though that is Not Funny. Xavier Schwartz was my enemy until third grade, and maybe he still is, or maybe he's one of my best friends. He is the kind of friend who is a little scary and hard to decide about, like maybe that was a friendly hug he was giving me or maybe that is called beating me up. My muscles tighten whenever Xavier Schwartz comes near me.
Sometimes rain is just what a day needs.
June 25, Friday
It doesn't get dark out these days until practically bedtime. That makes it really hard to wind down.
I am sitting on my bottom bunk, still winded very up. I had to get a cup of water because I was desperately thirsty. Then unfortunately I had hiccups. Noah says the best way to get rid of hiccups is to swallow a teaspoon full of sugar.
Apparently in our family we don't do that.
When the hiccups finally went away, I had to go to the bathroom. I could not help that. While I was there, I noticed a mosquito bite that needed some stuff sprayed on it. I'm sorry if that is inconvenient for some people like Mom, who was very busy cleaning up from our day — for goodness' sake, Justin, enough already — but it was itching my arm off.
The most recent time that Dad said, Good night, Justin, it sounded more like, Good NIGHT, Justin.
So now I can't call them again, or they will start yelling their heads off at me even though the ticking sound I keep hearing could be The Boiler downstairs in our basement, which might explode all of our pipes any second.
If it does, I probably will not be able to go to Camp GoldenBrook due to injuries.
My first summer of Camp GoldenBrook, which I am SO looking forward to. And I might miss the whole thing because of getting blown up into a thousand pieces by The Boiler, which is a very mean-looking thing that has fire in it and is very dangerous. Dad even said so when I was banging on it when I was little, and I have not forgotten.
Maybe it would be best for me to suggest to them that probably a very dangerous thing should not be in our basement doing that ticking and possibly other dangerous stuff. And they could call the Boiler Removers right now or the cops.
But no, I am not yelling downstairs to my parents to call 911 for this emergency. It is their own fault if we all blow up. I just hope I am making a wise decision, unlike the one I made about my new sneakers.
I actually first liked the velvety-textured brown ones that looked cozy and calm. Mom said those looked nice, but on the other hand the white ones with silver looked fast and good for sports. I wanted to be good at sports and very fast, so I said okay to the white-and-silver sporty sneakers.
The rest of today whenever I looked down, I thought some other kid's feet got stuck on the bottoms of my legs.
So I think maybe I made a bad choice at the shoe store today, and now maybe I am making another bad choice by not warning Mom and Dad even though I hear The Boiler ticking.
If it really is The Boiler, which it probably isn't.
Just in case it is The Boiler and it is about to explode because it is very dangerous (or maybe a bad guy tinkered with it because of Evilness) and we are all going to blow up, I have gathered up all my best stuffties to shield them from the explosion. We are squishing together in the far corner of my lower bunk bed where we evacuated to because you would not want to be on the top bunk in a Boiler Explosion, I think. Or maybe the top would be better. But I have no time to change that now. I am just going to stay right here on the bottom bunk, on top of all of these very worried and slightly smooshed stuffties. I am trying not to drip tears on anybody. I am a brave kid, now. Not a worried kid. I will protect these stuffties if it is the last thing I do.
The Boiler keeps ticking.
Or it might be Dad's watch. He might have taken it off when he added cool water to my too-steamy bath earlier and the cold-water-turny thing was screwed on too tight for me to adjust it with my soapy hands. Maybe Dad left his watch in the bathroom, which is right next to my room. It could definitely be Dad's watch that is ticking, which would be good.
Except for the still having to go to Camp GoldenBrook in sneakers that don't look like they could possibly be my sneakers if I don't blow up problem.
June 26, Saturday
I guess it wasn't a bomb because nothing seems to have blown up.
Well, except for possibly Qwerty.
He woke us all up by making sounds like a truck honking. Mom asked him, "What's wrong, Qwerty? What's wrong?" He looked up at her with his big sad dog eyes like, I have no idea, lady. Something crazy.
And then, boom. He exploded. Well, kind of. It was a barf explosion. Dog puke everywhere.
It looked like he puked a rainbow.
"What did you eat, Qwerty, you crazy dog?" Dad asked him.
Qwerty's answer was just more rainbow-colored dog puke.
June 27, Sunday
Dad apparently had a little snack Friday night after everybody else went to bed, and then left the half-full bag of gummy worms I gave him for Father's Day out on the couch.
We found the last few half worms and the chewed-up paper bag under the couch this morning.
The heads of both Dad and Qwerty hung down low while Mom had a little chat with the two of them about inappropriate snacking.
June 28, Monday
"Come on, Justin," Mom said, holding up a bunch of swimsuits with tags hanging off them. "Camp GoldenBrook starts next week."
"Mmm-hmm," I said. I was in the middle of a battle with the new knights my grandparents sent me, so I could not really pay attention right then.
"Try these on, please," Mom said. "Right now, Justin."
The Dragon Green Walker was in a battle to death against the best good guy, Achilles Heel. Also, I hate trying on clothes. She made me anyway.
And then Mom did not say, I am proud of you, Justin, for trying on these scratchy swimsuits that have tags poking at your hip skin and weird netting all inside them, which is very tickly on your private parts, right in the middle of an epic battle, which the good guy lost because of the bathing-suit catastrophe, so civilization is now doomed.
No. She did not say any of that.
What she said was that we are going to have to get onto a good schedule because Camp GoldenBrook is the kind of camp that you have to take a yellow bus to. Every day. And it is also the kind of camp that you don't get home from until 5 P.M.
Science Camp, which I went to last year and the year before, was only until 3 P.M. And the moms bring you and pick you up. And no swimming/no swimsuits.
So maybe the suits I said were good are not. I have no experience with choosing which swimsuits fit me right or are good. Mom always made those decisions independently, in the past. These might be too small, and they'll be pinchy and embarrassing or too big and fall off in the pool. Or just be ugly.
But it is too late now. The tags are off.
Even the horrible mighty Dragon Green Walker looked a little serious about what a mess I have gotten myself into.
June 29, Tuesday
Mom was sighing as she looked at the website of Camp GoldenBrook. She asked me the question again of "Are you sure you are up to this camp, Justin?"
I gave her the answer again of "Yes, I am sure."
Dad winked at me and called me Atta Boy, which is his name for me when he is proud of me. Then he asked me if I knew who Gerta was.
Gerta is apparently a poet and a guy.
He wrote the poem "Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid."
That is it. That's the whole poem, and it doesn't even rhyme. But the poor guy's name was the girl's name of Gerta, so maybe he was trying to reassure himself in the poem. Maybe he was hoping mighty forces would come to his aid if only he was bold enough to write one-line poems that don't rhyme or have nature words in them, and admit he had a girl's name. Or maybe he hoped the forces would be mighty enough to change his name to a boy name.
"That's a cool poem," I told Dad, because he was waiting all hopeful with his eyebrows up near his hair. "I like that. 'Be bold ...'"
"'And mighty forces will come to your aid,'" Dad said again, smiling. Then he grabbed me by the neck and hummed into my hair. Sometimes Dad tells me stuff like poems that don't rhyme and then grabs me by the neck and hums at the top of my hair. Maybe when I get old and have kids, I will be weird like that, too.
After that I thought maybe Dad would want to play with me, the game of my choice, since he was so proud of me and I listened nicely to his poem that didn't rhyme by a girl-man, but no.
I am not sure why Dad has to sew name tags into all my stuff instead of playing Battleship with me. Nobody will be able to read my last name anyway. It is Krzeszewski. Even we can't read it.
Everybody used to call me Justin K., even after Justin R. moved away to Alaska before second grade. But then in third grade, Xavier Schwartz said that I was the most worried kid in the world because I thought we should use pencils before the markers on our map-drawing project just in case we mess up.
I am not a worried kid anymore, but I still don't think that was even a particularly worried thing, compared to most of my worried thoughts. It didn't seem to me like pencil first was such a crazy idea. But to Xavier Schwartz it did. He said instead of Justin K., my name should be Justin Case.
Pretty soon everybody at school was calling me Justin Case instead of Justin K. I don't know if everybody at camp will, too. Maybe I could get a better nickname there like Ace or Spike or Sharkey. Maybe if we had ordered name tags that instead of Justin Krzeszewski said, Justin, whose nickname is actually Ace, so please call him that or Justin "Spike" Krzeszewski I would have a better shot at a cool nickname.
But maybe not. We may as well be playing Battleship anyway because nobody will even see those name tags. Dad is sewing them on the insides of my clothes.
June 30, Wednesday
The reason there are now name tags inside all my clothes is:
We have to take off our clothes at Camp GoldenBrook.
I looked up the camp website and downloaded the schedule while Mom and Dad thought I was playing my half hour of computer games. I didn't copy it down, but I remember the basic idea of the schedule. It was:
Go to camp.
Take off clothes and silver sneakers.
Put on swimsuit and flip-flops.
Get wet and cold in the pool.
Take off swimsuit and flip-flops.
Put on clothes and silver sneakers.
Get sweaty doing rough sporty stuff.
Eat in the "mess hall" (whatever that is, but it does not sound like a place anybody would want their food to be).
Take off clothes and silver sneakers.
Put on second swimsuit and same old horrible flip-flops.
Get cold and wet again.
Take off swimsuit and flip-flops.
Put on clothes and silver sneakers.
Do more boring sweaty sports that require skills.
No wonder Mom had so many sighs coming out of her.
I somehow convinced my parents to send me to Clothes-Changing Camp. And it starts in five days. I have to work on my courage a little bit more, I think. Also changing without letting anything private show. Also maybe sports skills, eating messes, and flip-flop walking without ending up on my face.
July 1, Thursday
I hate summer break.
It goes too quickly.
I've hardly done anything, and here we are already partway into July. The days are just flying by.
July 2, Friday
Xavier Schwartz and Gianni Schicci came over for a double playdate today.
Excerpted from "Justin Case"
Copyright © 2012 Rachel Vail.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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.
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