J. R. Black: Scream Around the Campfire (Shadow Zone #10)

This is one of two middle-grade series books called Scream Around the Campfire (the other one is a Graveyard School book).

scream around the campfire 2

Gina and Frank Giardelli, eleven-year-old twins, have been sent to Camp Slumbering Pines for the summer. Gina hates it. She feels invisible because all the other campers know each other, she thinks of the place as Camp Dork, she gets scared by a raccoon, and the girls in her cabin prank her by hiding a garter snake in her bag and shaking a baby rattle so she’ll think it’s a rattlesnake.

Gina is a city girl, unappreciative of all this nature. She also doesn’t appreciate Stacey, the only person who speaks to her initially, because Stacey is “wispy” and “mousy” and Gina doesn’t want to bond with the camp nerd. It’s really, really easy to dislike Gina in the first couple of chapters, and if I’d read this when I was the right age I bet I would have hated her. Reading it as an adult, it’s obvious she’s that kid who copes with loneliness and homesickness by being such a pain in the arse that other kids avoid her, and I was relieved when she started relaxing a little.

At the campfire the first night Gina’s the only person not wearing long socks and hiking boots and a baseball camp. Even Frank is dressed like the rest, and he’s obviously fitting in well with his bunkmates, which makes Gina feel worse.

The guy who runs the camp, Henry Creeley, has plans to build a new, more expensive “camp” site with air conditioning and electricity and room for parents to come stay on the weekend. The campers are not enthused.

The main purpose of the campfire seems to be to scare the kids by telling them about the loggers in the area in 1924 who got attacked by  a group of Big Foot. (Is that honestly how you pluralize that? One Big Foot, two Big Foot?? That’s not what I’d have gone with.)

On the way back to the cabin her hair gets caught on bushes and her legs get scratched, and she’s starting to understand the point of the dorky camp clothes as she falls behind. Then she sees the glowing red eyes and large, hairy form of a Big Foot!

She screams and runs back to the cabin, where everyone basically accuses her of lying for attention. By the next day the whole camp knows, and they’re calling her “Big Foot” (and later, “Sasquatch”).

Frank believes her, though. He thinks she scared it when she screamed, and also points out that if the creatures were dangerous, kids would go missing every summer and it would have hit the news. (Their father is a television reporter.)

Gina does well at arts and crafts, though she’s still planning to write a letter home begging to be allowed to go stay with her mother instead. Her mother is helping Aunt Sarah with her new baby, but Gina thinks dirty diapers can’t be any worse than camp.

That night she goes out to use the outhouse, and on her way back something drops a rough blanket over her, picks her up, and carries her off into the woods.

It’s a sasquatch named Oak, and honestly, if Gina was twenty-one instead of eleven I’d have expected them to be a couple by the end of this. But no. Instead he brings her to a cave filled with glowing rocks (I don’t know either; is this a real thing?) and cave paintings, and tells her his people are relying on her to stop construction before their wilderness is destroyed.

Gina spends the rest of the book valiantly trying. She talks to Mr. Creeley first, which seems unlikely to succeed (and it doesn’t, because a) he thinks she’s lying to get sent home and b) he wants to make money on a new camp, not pander to hairy woods creatures).

Meanwhile the Big Foot (ugh, HOW is that a PLURAL. I hate this) are escalating things by bending up the flagpole, throwing out the perishable food, tossing away a concrete step, and taking a bite out of a baseball. On the bright side, Gina’s cabin mates start to believe her, and try to help her come up with ways to stop the construction from going ahead.

Gina manages to phone home and leave messages for her father informing him of the hostile Big Foot presence at camp. Ha. Frank gets kidnapped by the Big Foot (Big Foots. Big Feet. PLEASE).

Gina goes after him, and the whole camp are out searching for them, but they can’t find them because the Big Foot cave is in “the shadow zone,” kind of a parallel universe to our own. Then Gina and Frank escape the now-angry creatures, only to be confronted by a very angry Mr. Creeley.

Creeley does a full-fledged villain monologue about how nothing can stop his construction plans and he should’ve just blown up the cave with the kids inside. Only, surprise: Mr. Giardelli and his camera man are there, recording it all.

Gina tries to show her father the cave, but it’s gone back to the shadow zone or whatever, and just looks like an ordinary cave conspicuously un-filled with cave paintings or Big Foot.

But it doesn’t matter, because Mr. Giardelli has discovered that Creeley showed fake maps to the Environmental Planning Agency, and he doesn’t actually have permission to build anything here at all.

Happy endings all around! Not in the Bigfoot Erotica sense, though. Creeley hands the camp over to his sister, who loves the camp as is. Gina and Frank are allowed to go home if they want to, but they no longer want to, because they’ve adjusted to camp and made friends.

Then Oak comes to visit Gina one last time, and it really is slightly romantic. Sorry. I know it’s not meant to be, but…

I looked back at Oak, who was still laughing. Actually he was kind of cool-looking, in a heavy metal kind of way. (p. 123)

scream around the campfire

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