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  • Sports Camp
  • Written by Rich Wallace
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  • Sports Camp
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Written by Rich WallaceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Rich Wallace

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On Sale: April 13, 2010
Pages: 160 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89535-7
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Riley feels like the smallest kid at sports camp. In fact, he is. He just turned eleven in April, but most kids here are twelve, and a few are even thirteen—and gigantic. It’s hard enough for a shrimp like Riley to fit in. He just doesn’t want to be the weak link as his bunk competes for the Camp Olympia Trophy.

Riley knows he’s no good at strength and accuracy games like basketball and softball. But when it comes to speed and endurance events, like running and swimming, he’s better than he looks. He’s pretty sure he can place in the top ten—and bring in major trophy points—in the final mile-long swim race across Lake Surprise. But he doesn’t count on being followed by the shadow of Big Joe, the giant vicious snapping turtle of camp lore. Wasn’t that supposed to be a legend?


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE  

Facing the Wall    

Riley Liston's first glimpse of the lake came as the bus wheels screeched around a tight turn on the rural highway. He could see the water shining in the sunlight beyond the trees. The driver braked hard, and Riley lunged forward. The minibus made a sharp right onto a narrow dirt road and rattled past the CAMP OLYMPIA sign.  

The sign--featuring a painting of a giant snapping turtle--looked considerably shabbier than it had in the brochure. From what Riley could see of the buildings up ahead, the rest of the camp looked run-down, too.  

"That thing had my foot in its mouth last year, I swear!" said Barry Monahan, the pudgy kid in the seat in front of Riley. "I've still got a scar."  

"That thing" was Big Joe, the legendary resident of Lake Surprise. Said to be as wide as a wheelbarrow and as fierce as a mountain lion, the snapping turtle had been the subject of all kinds of stories from the older guys on the three-hour ride from the city. They told of kids who'd lost fingers and toes, and of others who'd barely escaped.  

"About ten years ago he bit some kid's leg off!"  

Riley squirmed and looked toward the lake again, but the bus had turned uphill and was approaching a ring of cabins.  

When the bus stopped, a counselor stepped on board and introduced himself as Shawn. "You guys are in Cabin Three," he said.  

"Who's in those other cabins?" somebody asked.  

"Your rivals."  

Riley swallowed hard and grabbed his backpack from the rack above his seat. He'd done well at sports in the past--Little League baseball, YMCA soccer--but he'd be one of the youngest kids at this two-week sports camp in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Most of the guys on the bus were twelve and a few--Barry and Hernando--had already turned thirteen. Riley's eleventh birthday had been in April.  

"Move your butt," said the guy behind him as they stood in the aisle.  

Riley looked back. Tony Maniglia, who towered over Riley, was smiling as if he'd been joking--there was no way Riley could go anywhere until the line started to move.  

Riley could sense that these older guys would be picking on the smaller ones like him. He knew most of them from their neighborhood in Jersey City, but not well. They'd been to camp before; Riley hadn't.  

The only other eleven-year-old in the group was Barry Monahan's scrawny little brother, Patrick. He wasn't much bigger than Riley, but Patrick could have kicked his butt in two seconds. Riley had seen him working in the alley behind Monahan's Tavern, lifting beer kegs that Riley wouldn't have been able to budge.  

Riley took a lower bunk against the wall, below Patrick. The inside walls of the cabin had been painted a pale yellow many years before, and the floor was bare gray boards. There were also ten lockers but no locks.  

Riley spread out his sleeping bag, shoved his backpack under the bunk, and hung his sweatshirt and rain jacket in the locker.  

"Cabin Three...," Barry was saying. "I seem to remember that this is the haunted one. I stayed in Cabin Six last year, but the guys in this one were always scared to be in here alone."  

Riley looked around. It didn't look spooky in the daylight. He read the sheet of paper that had been sitting on every bunk:    

CAMP OLYMPIA BULLETIN  
Saturday, July 31  

BASKETBALL ACTION BEGINS TONIGHT  
Triple-header on Tap  
Who: Cabin 1 Wonders vs. Cabin 2 Tubers (Cabin 3 Threshers vs. Cabin 4 Fortunes and Cabin 5 Fighters vs. Cabin 6 Sixers to follow)  
When: 6:30 p.m.  
Where: The spacious and modern Olympia Arena  
What's at Stake: Team points toward the Big Joe Trophy!  

Softball, Water Polo Get Under Way Tomorrow  

Softball: Sunday morning at the Arthur Drummond Memorial Stadium  
Water Polo: After lunch at the Lake Surprise Aquatics and Fitness Center

Each camper must play at least one quarter of every basketball game and one half of each water-polo event  

Upcoming: Two-man canoe races, a cross-country running relay, the tug-of-war, and lots more, including the camp-ending Lake Surprise Showdown (a marathon swim race)  

Best of luck to all Camp Olympia athletes!    


From the Hardcover edition.
Rich Wallace

About Rich Wallace

Rich Wallace - Sports Camp
“When you’ve faced that moment and given everything you have, you let yourself realize that . . . your success or failure is not ultimately based on whether you triumphed, but in how you faced up to the challenge.”—Rich Wallace

Rich Wallace is the author of several books set in Sturbridge, Pennsylvania, including Wrestling Sturbridge, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults; Shots on Goal; Losing Is Not an Option; and Playing Without the Ball.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’ve heard it said that most people who write for kids have a fixed point in their childhood where their most significant memories lie. A piece of them has remained that age, has continued to see the world through the eyes of that child. It’s where their emotions run hottest, where their impressions are most vivid.

For me that place is the high school years, the years of Ben in Wrestling Sturbridge and Bones in Shots on Goal. It’s the moments of absolute torture waiting for the girl to answer the telephone, or of gut-twisting anticipation just before a race. It’s the white-hot fury in the rush toward the finish line, the rare but deserved feeling of confidence when you step to the line for a game-winning free throw, and the satisfying range of emotions after a loss or a draw or a triumph.

I was successful as an athlete in high school and college and beyond, but what I feed off now are the alone times: the training, the psyching up, the self-definition. The way Ben prepares himself in the locker room before going to the mat with Al, coming to the realization that “I’ve been waiting a long time to walk out there in a match that means everything—my whole career. Al’s, too. I earned it and I want it.”

Or Bones, before the championship soccer game: “My eyes are wide; I can feel my heart pumping. Coach calls us over and I walk toward the sideline. I am confident and ready and scared.”

These guys have reached pivotal moments in their lives, not just as athletes, but as people. They’ve reached places where they’ve wanted to be, but it’s terrifying just the same to be there. Because you can’t duck out; you can’t say it doesn’t really matter what happens. Because it does.

And afterward, when you’ve faced that moment and given everything you have, you let yourself realize that it wasn’t the winning that mattered, or the losing. That your success or failure is not ultimately based on whether you triumphed, but in how you faced up to the challenge.

I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever move away from my teenage years, in either direction, and write about little kids or adults. There’s this fiery orb of matter centered on the years from fifteen to eighteen, and I don’t think it will expire in my lifetime. So the likelihood is that any future novel I write will draw most of its heat from that period.

I kept intense diaries during my teenage years, packing them with the ups and downs of my daily existence. I captured the boredom and frustrations of life in a small town, the angst and embarrassments of my first dealings with girls, the desire and growing confidence that came with gradual success as an athlete, and the enormous fun of hanging with a group of funny, frustrated, kinesthetic guys. I turn to those diaries sometimes when I need to relive an emotion for a scene in a novel. And I find the same guy I am now—a lot more naive, a lot more ego-driven, but essentially the same individual.

I hope I never lose him. One way I keep him alive is by letting him write these novels of mine. I hope he finds like-minded readers, and that he can help them face their own moments of definition.

Rich Wallace has worked as a sportswriter and news editor, and as the coordinating editor of Highlights for Children magazine. He’s coached his sons’ youth sports teams year-round, including soccer, basketball, and track and field.


PRAISE

WRESTLING STURBRIDGE
“It’s a riveting story . . . Wallace weighs his words carefully, making every one count in this excellent, understated first novel.”—Starred, Booklist

“There are only a few contemporary writers who can hit the mark with teenage boys, and Rich Wallace, with his first novel, seems likely to join that group. . . . You don’t need to know or like wrestling to become quickly engaged with this story.”—Chicago Tribune

“The sports angle makes this a great ‘guy’s’ book, while the gripping narrative and feisty heroine will appeal to young women, too. A real winner.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

Awards

Awards

NOMINEE Bank Street Child Study Children's Book Award

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