Bears beware, p.1

Bears Beware, page 1


Bears Beware
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Bears Beware



  Number One Kid

  Big Whopper

  Flying Feet

  Star Time

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Text copyright © 2012 by Patricia Reilly Giff

  Jacket art and interior illustrations copyright © 2012 by Alasdair Bright

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  Wendy Lamb Books and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  Visit us on the Web!

  Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Giff, Patricia Reilly.

  Bears beware / Patricia Reilly Giff; illustrated by Alasdair Bright. — 1st ed.

  p. cm. — (Zigzag Kids; #5)

  Summary: Mitchell is afraid when the children from the Zigzag Center go camping overnight, but he tries to be brave and discovers that nature is not so scary after all.

  eISBN: 978-0-375-89639-2

  [1. Camping—Fiction. 2. Fear—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction.]

  I. Bright, Alasdair, ill. II. Title.

  PZ7.G3626Bd 2012



  Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


  For my boys,

  Jim and Bill,

  with love


  • • •

  For my friend Jenny Goodes, with love




  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page



  Chapter 1 - Monday

  Chapter 2 - Still Monday

  Chapter 3 - Saturday Morning

  Chapter 4 - Still Saturday Morning

  Chapter 5 - Saturday Afternoon

  Chapter 6 - Still Saturday Afternoon

  Chapter 7 - Almost Dark

  Chapter 8 - Saturday Night

  Chapter 9 - Still Saturday Night

  Chapter 10 - Sunday Morning

  About the Authors

  School was over for the day. Whew!

  It was time for the Zigzag Afternoon Center.

  Mitchell McCabe darted into the lunchroom. He scooped up a snack from the counter.

  It was some kind of bread thing. It had green stuff inside. The green stuff crunched against his teeth.

  Mitchell gave his best friend, Habib, a poke. “Weird,” he whispered.

  The lunch lady must have heard. “I like to give out surprises all the time,” she said.

  “Dee-lightful,” Gina said.

  Mitchell and Habib grinned at each other. Dee-lightful was the music teacher’s favorite word. Gina was in love with music.

  Too bad she sang like a coyote.

  The lunch lady was watching. Mitchell didn’t want to hurt her feelings. He jammed the snack into his mouth.

  Habib was juggling his snack. It left little green chunks on the floor. Mitchell watched him swoop down and juggle them up again.

  “Come down to the auditorium, everyone,” Ellie, one of the college helpers, called. “There’s news! Great news!”

  Mitchell crossed his fingers. “Maybe they’re going to shut down the school,” he said.

  Habib stopped juggling. “Really?”

  “I saw it on television. A huge snowstorm. Whoosh. No school.”

  “It’s not winter,” Habib said. “Not even close.”

  Mitchell nodded. Still, this was the best time for school to shut down. His birthday was at the end of the week. He would have the whole week to celebrate.

  They passed the outside door. Mitchell looked around. Mrs. Farelli, the art teacher, would have a fit if he went out.

  He took a chance. He needed fresh air to get rid of the snack taste.

  He opened the door. A gust of air blew in. So did Popsicle sticks, an old homework paper, and—


  Enough for a bath.

  Mitchell opened his mouth wide to catch a drop. Ahhhhhh!

  “Shut the door!” Gina screamed behind them. “I’ll catch the worst cold of my life. My grandma Maroni says I have a weak throat.”

  Habib grabbed his neck. “Your throat needs muscles. Take it to the gym.”

  “Not funny,” Gina said.

  “Listen,” Mitchell told her. “We’re going to hear big news in the auditorium. Who knows? The school might shut down. You could stay in bed all day.”

  “Maybe it’s a trip to Hawaii,” Habib said. “You could go away.”

  Mitchell slid across the floor. “Look out, waves. Here I come!”


  That was Mrs. Farelli. She was on her way down the hall.

  She was a great finger snapper.

  “Someone is using his outside voice inside the Afternoon Center,” she said.

  It was a good thing Mrs. Farelli was standing straight as a stick.

  If she looked down, she’d see that homework paper floating in a rain puddle on the floor.

  Mrs. Farelli turned. She went the other way.

  “Dee-lightful,” Habib said.

  They dashed into the auditorium. Mitchell couldn’t wait to hear the news.

  His big sister, Angel, was in the front row. She was sitting with her friend Yolanda.

  Ellie was standing on the stage.

  Mr. Oakley, the grandfather who helped out, stood next to her. He was wearing his best jacket, with zigzag lines.

  And there was Mitchell’s teacher, Ms. Katz, with new purple eyeglasses.

  Mrs. Farelli slid into a seat at the end of Mitchell’s row. Her face was serious. And she was looking his way.

  Mitchell tried to look serious, too. He frowned hard. His eyebrows half covered his eyes.

  Ellie stepped forward. “Here’s our news,” she said.

  Mitchell forgot to look serious. He crossed his fingers and his toes.

  “No school, please,” he said under his breath.

  “Dee-lightful,” Habib said.

  Mitchell held his breath. What would he do with his free time?

  It made him almost dizzy to think of it.

  He’d write a story. He was pretty good at that.

  Maybe it would be about a magician with all kinds of powers.

  What would he call him?

  Mitchell squinted up at the ceiling. Harry something.

  No, someone had written about a Harry.

  How about Gary? Gary Bopper. Great name.

  Gary would have a beard and muscles. He’d be brave. And strong.

  All the things Mitchell wasn’t.

  Mitchell snapped his fingers. Perfect.

  Mrs. Farelli frowned. She leaned forward.

  He’d forgotten. Mrs. Farelli liked to be the only finger snapper in the Center.

  Mitchell looked up at the stage. He put on his listening face.

  He thought about an adventure for Gary Bopper. Fighting a giant grizzly bear. The bear had claws that were sharp as knives.

  Mitchell shivered.

  Everyone began to clap.

  Mitchell sat up straight.

  “… old enough to leave home now,” Ellie was saying.


  Mitchell didn’t want to leave home. His mother would mis
s him. Who’d help his father carry out the trash? Who’d sleep with his dog, Maggie?

  Worse yet, what about his birthday? What about his presents? What about his birthday cake?

  Ellie smiled. “We’ll stay overnight at the Zigzag Nature Center.”

  “Eee-ha!” Trevor, a kindergarten kid, yelled.

  Mitchell leaned over to Habib. He didn’t care if Mrs. Farelli saw him. “What about our mothers?”

  Habib didn’t answer. He was still listening.

  Maybe Habib didn’t care about leaving his mother.

  Mitchell couldn’t believe it. Habib’s mother made the best chicken. Her cupcakes had gooey icing.

  Mitchell didn’t want Habib to think he was a baby, though. Mitchell’s sister, Angel, called him that all the time.

  “It’s great news.” Mitchell could hardly get the words out.

  Who’d want to stay at the Nature Center? It was probably full of poison ivy.

  Things might wander around in the woods. Bears, maybe. Coyotes. Snakes and lizards.

  “Any questions?” Ellie asked.

  Hands waved all over the place.

  “Where will we sleep?” Charlie asked.

  “In tents,” Ellie said.

  “Eee-ha!” Trevor yelled again.

  A bear could rip open a tent in two minutes, Mitchell thought.

  And wouldn’t it be dark?

  At home he slept with the hall light on.

  He wanted to be sure things weren’t moving around.

  Creatures like the ones on the Nature Channel.

  “We’ll see nature up close,” Ellie said.

  “Dee-lightful,” Gina said.

  “You’re right.” Mr. Oakley stepped forward. He waved his hands around.

  Mitchell hoped he wouldn’t fall off the stage.

  “We’ll learn about unusual plants and animals.” Mr. Oakley smiled. “We’ll be surprised at all we see.”

  Mitchell tried a cough. It was an I have to stay home cough.

  Mr. Oakley was still talking. “We might even see nature at night.”

  Mitchell’s next cough was louder. It sounded like a clap of thunder.

  Mrs. Farelli was passing permission slips around. She frowned at him.

  Mitchell stopped coughing. He put on a Gary Bopper face. A Don’t worry about me, I’m only choking face.

  Mrs. Farelli looked as if she didn’t believe him anyway.

  Mitchell sat back.

  He thought about tents in the dark. And paw prints.

  Bears with teeth as large as their claws.

  He thought about killer plants that grabbed your ankle.

  Worst of all, spiders with fangs and feelers!

  Mitchell and Angel were wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants. “We’ll have to watch out for deer ticks,” Mr. Oakley had said.

  They dragged their bags down the street. Their dog, Maggie, raced around them. She thought it was a great adventure.

  Mitchell didn’t think it was so great. He’d hardly slept all night.

  Mom walked with them. “Watch out for each other,” she said about a hundred times.

  “Don’t worry,” Angel said. “We’ll be home by tomorrow afternoon.”

  By that time, Mitchell’s birthday would be almost over.

  “Keep an eye on each other anyway,” Mom said.

  Mitchell looked at Angel. She was older than he was. Taller. But her arms and legs were skinny as sticks.

  What good would she be against a bear?

  He shivered.

  “Do you feel sick?” Mom asked.

  Mitchell started to nod.

  Angel was staring. “Are you going to be a baby?”

  Mitchell put on a Gary Bopper face. “I’m almost as old as you are.”

  Up ahead was the Zelda A. Zigzag School. Mom gave them both a bunch of kisses.

  Mitchell kept his head down. He didn’t want the whole Afternoon Center to see.

  He clumped his bag across the school yard. He clumped carefully. His bag was old. The zipper was a little broken.

  His mother had put red tape all over the outside. “It’ll be easy to spot,” she’d said.

  Afternoon Center kids were coming from everywhere.

  Trevor was walking on stilts. “I’m going to keep away from snakes and poison ivy!” he yelled.

  Destiny twirled across the yard. She had green beads in her hair. About fifty of them.

  Mitchell wondered how she could hold her head up. It must be heavy.

  Angel’s friend Yolanda was right behind them. “Hey, guys!” she called. “Wait up.”

  Angel slowed down.

  Mitchell sped away from them. He caught up to Habib.

  Mr. Oakley stood next to the bus. He wore jeans and combat boots. He still looked like a grandfather.

  “Hurry, everyone,” Mr. Oakley said. “We don’t want to miss a moment of fun.”

  “I can’t hurry too much,” Habib said. “I have a giant bag.”

  Mitchell looked down. Habib’s bag was elephant-sized. “What do you have in there?”

  “A bunch of food. Cupcakes. Chicken,” Habib said. “My mother doesn’t want me to starve.”

  Lucky, Mitchell thought.

  Habib leaned over. “My mother put in Bugs Be Gone, too. Nothing will go near it.”

  “Does it work for snakes and bears?” Mitchell asked.

  “It works for everything,” Habib said. “Don’t worry. I’ll share.”

  Mitchell nodded. Habib was a great friend.

  Mitchell climbed onto the bus. Too bad his mother didn’t know Habib’s mother. Mitchell’s bag was filled with clothes.

  All his mother was worried about was clean underwear and dry feet.

  The bus started up.

  It wouldn’t be a long trip. The Zigzag Nature Center wasn’t far.

  “We can’t walk, though,” Ellie had said. “We have too much to carry. Tents, and food, and nets.”


  Were they going to capture something? Mitchell hoped the nets were ant-sized.

  He looked out the window. Maybe it would rain again.

  He poked Habib. “Do you think we’ll go home if it rains?”

  Mrs. Farelli turned around. “Don’t be silly, Mitchell. Zigzag kids are tough.”

  Mitchell put on his Gary Bopper face. “Rain is good,” he said. “Rain is terrific.”

  How many hours were there in a day? Maybe sixty?

  Gary Bopper would have his hands on his hips. He’d shout something. What? Maybe “Bears beware!”

  The bus screeched to a stop.

  “Everyone off,” called the bus driver.

  Mitchell scrubbed at the dusty window. They weren’t at the Nature Center. He could still see the school.

  “The bus broke down,” Habib said.

  “We’re almost there,” Mr. Oakley said. “We’ll have to walk.”

  “What about all this stuff?” Ellie asked.

  “Don’t worry,” said Mrs. Farelli. “The Afternoon Center boys and girls are strong as bulls.”

  Lucky Mrs. Farelli. She looked like a bull. Big and tough. No animal would mess with her.

  They climbed down from the bus. The bus driver threw out bags and boxes.

  A minute later, Mitchell had one end of the boys’ tent pole on his shoulder. Habib had the other end.

  The tent pole was a hundred miles long. It must have weighed as much as Mrs. Farelli.

  Besides, Habib was a little taller than Mitchell.

  The tent pole slid all over the place.

  Sumiko and Destiny were carrying the girls’ tent pole. Lucky. Both girls were the same size.

  Charlie had four bags on his back. He was bent over like an old man.

  Angel carried two bags. One of them was Mitchell’s. He could see the red tape.

  “Let’s go,” Mr. Oakley said.

  They marched along.

  Mitchell could see Angel and Yolanda in front. Angel looked back. She was probably che
cking up on him already.

  She tripped over Yolanda’s feet.

  The bags went flying.

  The one with the red tape opened.

  Mitchell could see his underwear hanging out. Mom had bought it for this trip.

  He raced forward. Never mind the tent pole.

  “Oof!” yelled Habib.

  Mitchell darted around Destiny. He threw himself on the bag.

  Behind him, Habib yelled, “Watch out!”

  Something hit Mitchell in the back of his head.

  “Oh, no!” Gina said. “They just broke the boys’ tent pole.”

  At last they reached the Nature Center. It was a wild kind of place. Fields. A pond. Trees. Mitchell crossed his fingers. He hoped there wouldn’t be killer animals.

  “Bears beware,” he whispered in a Gary Bopper voice.

  He looked up. The sun had come out. It was a hot sun. He was thirsty already.

  He had a bottle of juice in his pocket. He took a slug. He shared the rest with Habib.

  “Drop everything right here,” Mr. Oakley said, “in front of the Critter Cabin.”

  “Great name for small creatures,” Ellie said.

  “The front door is open,” Mr. Oakley said. “Make sure to visit the critters today.”

  “Dee-lightful,” Gina said. “I’m crazy about ants.”

  Habib wiped his mouth. “I’m not so crazy about ants. All they do is run around on the ground.”

  Wasps were worse, Mitchell thought. He’d been stung once.

  Angel had called him a baby for crying.

  But that was two years ago.

  Wait a minute. The Critter Cabin was huge. How big were those creatures, anyway?

  Screened windows were all over the front. A giant critter with stingers might break out any minute.

  One thing Mitchell knew. He wasn’t going near that place.

  “We might see a tarantula,” Angel said. Her voice was strange. Maybe she was getting a cold.

  Yolanda nodded. “What about black widow spiders? A bite from one of those babies and it’s goodbye!”

  Mitchell tried not to think about elephant-sized wasps. He tried not to think about killer black widows.

  He looked at the tent pole. It was in pieces. Where would they sleep?

  “A perfect Saturday for a campout,” Mrs. Farelli said.

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