From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—When 11-year-old Riley Liston arrives at Camp Olympia, he quickly realizes that it's going to be a long two weeks. As one of the youngest and smallest campers, he lacks the skills at basketball and softball that the older guys have. Normally, he wouldn't mind—he knows he's a good swimmer and runner—but the cabins are all competing for the coveted Big Joe Trophy (named after the legendary snapping turtle that inhabits the lake), and Riley doesn't want to be the person who takes the Cabin 3 Threshers out of the running. His concerns seem well-founded: during the games, loud Barry berates Riley for his playing, and none of the guys goes out of his way to make the boy feel like part of the gang. But he perseveres, and friendships slowly develop as a few cabin mates begin swimming laps each day in preparation for the marathon swimming race that occurs the last night of camp. Despite bumps along the way, the boys in Cabin 3 hold their own, and the question of which cabin will claim the Big Joe Trophy is anybody's call. Wallace has a talent for capturing adolescent boys' behavior, and while the plot is formulaic and some of the plot requires suspending belief, the story has appeal. Each chapter ends with a Camp Olympia Bulletin, the daily newsletter that keeps everyone apprised of upcoming activities and team standings. Purchase where sports stories by Matt Christopher and Dan Gutman are popular.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
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During the bus trip to sports camp, Riley Liston hears about a giant snapping turtle in the lake and other alarming tales. Upon arrival, he starts his busy schedule of basketball games, water polo matches, and a relay race. Interspersed among the descriptions of the games are incidents involving other camp elements—pranks, unappealing food, and strange, unexplained occurrences that may owe something to overactive imaginations. Wallace starts each chapter with the day’s Camp Bulletin, which helps the reader keep up with Riley’s busy schedule. Occasionally, Riley’s insecurity as a smaller, younger kid in the rough-and-tumble camp environment comes through, but on the whole, the novel is mostly a series of descriptive episodes, and readers may feel that they don't know Riley as well as they’d like to. Still, the exciting, tightly written sports passages drive the story and will keep kids turning the pages. Grades 4-6. --Todd Morning