Madison is feeling like an outsider. Far Hills Junior High’s seventh grade is headed on an overnight camping field trip. Maddie has been on sleepovers before, but never to sleep-away camp—and it is a whole different world. There are going to be activities like climbing the tower and even a talent show. Plus, there’s one big challenge for Madison: no laptops! Luckily Maddie has a new journal, her best friends, and determination to make it through this adventure in the woods.
About the Author
Author Laura Dower has a lot in common with Madison Finn: They’re both only children and they both love dogs, the color orange, and books! Laura has written more than ninety kids’ books to date, including twenty-five in the series From the Files of Madison Finn. Her other books include the new Palace Puppies series and For Girls Only, a guide to girl stuff. When she’s not writing, Laura loves to garden, sing (loudly), and volunteer as a scout leader for her daughter and two sons. She and her family live in New York. Want to be keypals? Drop her a note at www.lauradower.com.
Read an Excerpt
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 12
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2003 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
The clock on Mr. Sweeney's classroom wall buzzed like a wasp. For the first time this spring, the room was hot. Madison picked at a plastic tab on her math notebook and stared at the clock's hands, praying for them to turn ahead. Could one long and steady glare move time forward?
Instead, the minute hand clicked backward.
Madison blinked, but it was truer than true. She was trapped in a math-class time warp, and there was nothing she could do about it!
Mr. Sweeney had his back to everyone. He was drawing geometric shapes on the blackboard and asking for class participation. The only kid who answered him was Wayne Ennis, math superwhiz.
But Mr. Sweeney was looking for other volunteers—like the kids who weren't paying attention.
Madison tried to avoid his darting eyes. Head down, she traced a few words in the margin of her notebook.
Jasper Woods. Field Trip. Wow.
She couldn't get her mind off the seventh-grade field trip that would be starting the next day. All the kids were traveling overnight to Jasper Woods, a camp located about two hours from Far Hills. It was a very big deal. Principal Bernard explained to students that the trip was for "personal growth and community experience," but Madison thought differently. It was a chance for boys and girls to be out of school for two days.
As she doodled hearts around the edge of the page, Madison daydreamed about what she and her best friends, Aimee Gillespie and Fiona Waters, would do together on the field trip. She wished they were in class right now to swap ideas, but unfortunately her BFFs were in a different math section.
"Maddie!" Egg whispered from the next row. He was Madison's best guy friend at Far Hills Junior High. His real name was Walter, but no one really called him that except for his mother and a few teachers, Mr. Sweeney included. Egg had just been transferred into Madison's math section.
"WALTER DIAZ!" Mr. Sweeney barked, facing the class. "Since you're so eager to speak, why don't you do this problem on the board for us?" he asked.
Egg sank into his chair and turned crimson. He glanced back at Madison, who looked immediately to her right to keep from laughing.
From a seat behind, one of Madison's classmates, Lindsay Frost, snickered. "Looks like Egg is in trouble again," she said.
Madison quietly and carefully tore an edge off her notebook page and scribbled a secret note back to Lindsay.
Are you packed 4 tomorrow?
What r u wearing?
Write back now or l8r.
She leaned over and tossed the note onto Lindsay's shoe. Fortunately, Mr. Sweeney missed the toss. He was too busy torturing Egg up at the board.
After a few more problems, math class finally ended. Egg grabbed his books and hustled out without glancing back. Madison headed for the door with Lindsay.
Near the exit, Ivy Daly and her drones, Joan and Rose, otherwise known as Phony Joanie and Rose Thorn, stood blocking the way.
"Look who's standing by the door," Lindsay said.
"Yeah," Madison whispered into Lindsay's ear. "Just waiting to ambush Mr. Sweeney on the way out. Pathetic. They'll do anything for a good grade."
As they approached, Madison heard Ivy and her friends gabbing about the field trip.
"I have to bring my new camera to Jasper Woods." Ivy snorted. "And my hair dryer, of course."
Her drone Joan snorted right back. "And don't forget the curling iron, too, right? You wanna look good for you-know-who."
Madison knew who "you-know-who" was. Hart Jones, the same seventh grader Madison liked.
"Um ... you guys?" Madison said. Even though she shouldn't have been listening, Madison couldn't resist interrupting. "We're sleeping in a cabin. I don't think they allow hair dryers in the woods, Ivy."
"Of course they allow them," Ivy said with a huff. "They have electric sockets in the Jasper Woods facilities. And you would know that if you read your permission slip. Duh. Who invited you into our conversation, anyhow?"
"Yeah," Joan piped up. "No one invited you."
"Whatever," Madison said. She whirled around and grabbed Lindsay's elbow. "Let's go."
"Don't forget to pack your teddy bears," Joan taunted.
"Yeah, you don't want to get homesick or anything," Ivy added, cracking herself up.
Madison wished she could haul off and sock Ivy in the jaw, but she kept her cool. Thankfully Mr. Sweeney walked over before the drones could say more.
"They make me so-o-o mad," Madison grumbled as she and Lindsay walked away.
"Yeah, me too," Lindsay agreed.
"They treat us like idiots!" Madison grunted.
"Yeah," Lindsay said with a sigh.
But Madison had to admit: there was some truth in what the enemy said. Madison had never been to Jasper Woods or any other woods, for that matter. She'd never even been away to summer camp. Sure, she'd been traveling with Mom, a film producer for Budge Films. And in fourth grade she'd won a pink ribbon from Camp Chipachu, but that was just a day camp. That didn't count. Madison had never been to real sleep-away camp like all of her friends had.
Lindsay said good-bye quickly as they exited the classroom. She had to get to a photography club meeting. Madison dragged herself down the hallway toward her locker. She hoped to find her BFFs waiting there. Maybe they could all walk home together.
Fiona leaned up against the wall with arms crossed, tapping her foot.
"I am so stressed!" Fiona cried when she saw Madison approach. "Egg just ignored me. He raced by and wouldn't even stop when I called after him. He won't talk to me!"
Madison sighed. Fiona always acted like a worry-wart when it came to Egg. She'd been crushing on him since the start of seventh grade. Sometimes it felt weird to be friends with people who liked each other like that.
Fiona rolled her eyes. "I just don't understand him," she said.
Aimee appeared at her side. "You don't understand Egg?" Aimee said with a chuckle. "Nobody understands Egg, Fiona. Except maybe Madison...."
"Yeah, but—" Fiona started to say.
"Be quiet, you guys," Madison said. "He's coming."
Egg strutted back toward them, and he wasn't walking alone. Right behind him were Drew Maxwell, Egg's best pal; Chet, Fiona's twin brother; Dan Ginsburg, Madison's pal from school and the animal clinic; and Hart.
Madison bit her lip. Hart was wearing a rugby shirt with blue and gold stripes and khaki pants. She noticed how his brown hair was getting long on top. It whooshed over his forehead. She wished she could touch it—just once.
"Hey, you dorks!" Chet called out, ruining Madison's daydream.
Fiona turned in toward the locker. She pretended to be rifling through her bag for a pen.
"Hey, Finnster," Hart said, giving Madison a little punch on her shoulder. She blushed. Only Hart called her by that nickname.
"Hey, yourself," Madison answered.
"You guys psyched for the trip?" Aimee asked the group.
Fiona turned around meekly, eyes on Egg.
Egg didn't seem to notice.
"This trip is so lame," Chet declared. "Hanging around in some cabins ... what's that?"
"I think the trip will be fun," Dan said.
"Well, we don't have classes," Aimee said.
"Maddie, are you bringing your laptop?" Egg asked.
"We can't bring laptops! You know that," Madison said.
"Yeah," Fiona added, trying to get into the conversation—and to get Egg's attention.
"I have to get to my ballet class," Aimee said, checking her watch. "Want to walk out together?" she asked Fiona and Madison.
"I don't know. Maddie, are you going home?" Fiona said, stalling to see if maybe Egg was doing something interesting.
Madison shrugged. "I guess," she said, anxious to see what Hart might be doing next.
"I'm out of here," Egg said, giving Hart and Drew both high fives. "I have to go meet my mom."
Egg's mother, Señora Diaz, taught Spanish at Far Hills Junior High. Some days she gave Egg and his friends a ride home. Drew and Hart asked if they could get a lift today, and Egg agreed. They wandered off down the hall together.
Fiona stared down the hall until Chet smacked her on the back.
"Fiona!" he cried. "Let's get going. Dad is picking us up out front, remember?"
"Don't hit me!" Fiona barked, smacking Chet right back.
Madison wondered why Egg hadn't stopped to talk to Fiona like he always did. Was their crush crushed? Was Hart acting hot and cold, too?
"I'm sorry, Maddie," Fiona said, changing her tone of voice. "I'd give you a ride, but Dad is taking us to Tech Shack."
"No problem," Madison said. "E me later."
Aimee slammed her locker. "I'm so late!" she said, spinning around. "I'll e you both after ballet!"
Waving good-bye, Madison watched Aimee twirl down the hall and through a set of swinging doors. Fiona and Chet disappeared right after her.
At the other end of the hall, Ivy gazed into a mirror on her locker door, brushing her long red hair. Madison couldn't help but stare.
Surviving inside school was tough enough. How was Madison supposed to deal with surviving the enemy in the middle of Jasper Woods? She slung her orange bag over one shoulder and headed home.
"Yoo-hoo, Maddie, is that you?" Mom called out.
Before Madison could answer, her pug, Phin, came running, claws clicking on the bare wood floors. He slipped and slid his way to the front door, attacking Madison with a hundred little wet doggy kisses. She wiped her face. No matter how bad things seemed at school or with friends, Phinnie could always cheer Madison up instantly.
"I'm in here, Mom," Madison said, giggling.
"Your father called. He can't have dinner tonight," Mom said as she entered the hallway. "He's sick, apparently."
Ever since the Big D—the divorce—Mom and Dad had been sharing Madison for dinners and weekends.
"Sick? How?" Madison asked, lifting Phin up off the floor. "I just talked to him last night."
"A twenty-four-hour bug," Mom said. "How was school? Everyone ready for the trip?"
Madison shrugged. "I guess."
"You guess?" Mom said. "You don't sound so enthusiastic, honey bear."
"No, I am," Madison said. "I just don't like the idea of bunking with Poison Ivy and her drones."
"You and Ivy still haven't made up?" Mom asked.
Madison glared at Mom. "Are you kidding? Mom, we're enemies for life. Don't you know that by now?"
"Sorry," Mom said. "I can't keep track of your friends sometimes. Are you still best friends with Aimee and Fiona?"
"Of course!" Madison said.
Mom laughed. "Okay. Now, go and pack! You haven't done a thing to get ready for the trip." She handed Madison a typed list. "These are the items the school recommends that you bring."
Madison scanned the sheet. Hair dryers were listed. Ivy had been right.
"I'll be upstairs." Madison groaned, feeling defeated. She dragged her bag behind her. Phin followed.
"Wait! I almost forgot!" Mom said. She opened up a brown paper wrapper from the kitchen countertop, and handed Madison a brand-new notebook with a fluorescent cover.
"It's orange!" Madison said, smiling. Day-Glo orange was her favorite color. "What's this?"
Mom smiled. "You won't have your laptop on the trip, but you need to keep those files up to date. So I thought ..."
"Oh, Mom, it's perfect! Thank you!" Madison said, throwing her arms around Mom. She flipped through the notebook and ran upstairs to pack.
As Madison flung her body across her unmade bed and buried her face into a cool pillow, Phin jumped up on the bed, too, nuzzling her arm.
"Hey, Phinnie, do you want to come on the field trip?" Madison asked, grabbing his tail.
"Gggggrrrrrrrrrooooooo," Phin cooed, rolling over. She scratched his tummy.
Next to the bed Madison's laptop lay open in the exact same spot she'd left it the night before. She'd been chatting online with her keypal Bigwheels.
Even though Bigwheels lived across the country in Washington State, they talked online so much that it seemed like Bigwheels lived closer.
Madison logged on and found three new messages blinking inside her mailbox. She readjusted her pillows. It was easy to procrastinate. Who wanted to pack when there was e-mail to read!
Dad had written to explain about missing dinner. He had a fever of 102. Madison hit REPLY and sent him back a get-well-soon message. Then she clicked on Bigwheel's first e-mail.
Subject: Read This
Date: Wed 23 Apr 2:42 PM
Maddie, really bad news. I don't have a boyfriend n e more. Reggie decided to ask someone else to the spring dance and just stopped talking 2 me. JUST STOPPED. Could u die? I am sooo bummed out. I never had a bf and now I don't again. What am I supposed 2 do? Luckily, my dad got me a kitten today. Isn't that cool? His name is Sparkles. But it isn't the same as a boyfriend, u know?
Yours till the heart aches,
Victoria, aka Bigwheels
Poor Bigwheels, Madison thought. She opened the second e-mail right away.
Date: Wed 2 3 Apr 2:45 PM
R u leaving on school trip? J/W. I think that's what u said BWDIK. Write back! HAGO!
Yours till the rain falls,
Victoria, aka Bigwheels
Madison hit REPLY and marked the e-mail with a red exclamation point for URGENT.
Subject: Re: P.S.
Date: Wed 23 Apr 5:04 PM
:-e! How could ur bf do that? He's a dummy. I'm away until the weekend. But I wanted to say pleez don't be bummed. Everything will work out, I swear. I'll write as soon as I get back from the class trip, ok?
Yours till the key pals,
p.s. What does Sparkles look like? Can you send fotos online?
Madison wanted to say more to cheer up Bigwheels. But that was all she could think of writing. She still had to pack for Jasper Woods.CHAPTER 2
"Madison, are you on the computer this early?" Mom yelled through the bedroom door. "You have exactly thirty minutes to get down to the car."
Luckily, Madison had successfully stuffed her duffel bag the night before. This morning was her last chance to go online before Jasper Woods. Madison eyed the digital clock on her nightstand.
Mom's wrong. I really only have twenty-six minutes, Madison thought. But I just need to finish....
She typed quickly.
At 3 AM this morning I decided I don't want to go on this trip. I was imagining the bus ride there and before I knew it, my whole stomach did a flip-flop. I just know something major is going to happen there and I'm not prepared at all.
Dad's sick with a fever and that gave me this brilliant idea that maybe I should pretend to be sick, too. There are so many reasons NOT to go:
1. I have a fear of heights and falling and a bunch of other things and I don't want to climb mountains. Does that sound lame? WILL we be climbing things?
2. I don't know any camp songs because I have never been to camp.
3. We have to share a bunk and I do NOT want to get undressed in front of Ivy and her drones.
4. I can't bring this laptop.
5. I just don't want to. Isn't that a good enough reason?
Of course, staying awake thinking up excuses means that I got no sleep and I have giant black bags under my eyes, which is SO attractive. I am sure Hart will love it just like he loves everything about me. HA HA LOL.
Rude Awakening: Everyone says spring fever means tons of fun. But my spring fever feels more like the flu.
Madison glanced at her bedroom window, which she'd cracked open. The early morning air felt warm and smelled sweet. Puffy clouds crowded the sky. Madison knew what it all meant. Rain.
"As if I wasn't already freaking out," she muttered to herself, "now it's going to rain, too?"
"Rowrroooooooo!" Phin howled. Sometimes when Madison talked to herself, Phinnie answered.
"MADDIE!" Mom called. "Better pack that fold-up umbrella with your clothes."
Madison searched the top shelf of her closet for the umbrella, tossed another sweatshirt and her new orange notebook into the bag, and zipped it shut.
Despite all protestations and reservations, she was going to Jasper Woods. She'd turned in her permission slip. Aimee and Fiona would be waiting out in front of the school.
The teachers had requested that all students "please arrive at seven sharp!" The digital clock now read 6:37 A.M. Madison quickly shut down her laptop, pulled a blue faded cardigan sweater over her overalls, and laced up her shoes.
"I'm coming!" Madison declared as she bounded into the kitchen and grabbed a piece of toast on the counter. It was smothered in purple jam. "Can I eat this?" she asked, taking a bite.
Excerpted from Lights Out! by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2003 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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