THIS SNAKE IS GOOD by Helen Copeland


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Duncan's World (1967, 806, J-286) is here Camp Caneechee in western Pennsylvania, already ""absolutely vomitizing"" by the first afternoon. Not only is Duncan, small for his twelve years, saddled with a prize bully, but worse, he can't follow the creek in search of snakes and he won't find any in camp because they've all been killed--and that's the reason he chose Caneechee, to collect specimens for his father's Nature Museum. When Duncan's not preoccupied with the Nature Museum, he's natural enough, and his four-week feud with Preston, the one bristling like a bulldog, the other nipping like a terrier, is survival training for all underdogs. Also, he's nice to a forlorn six-year-old without making a fuss about it, and his reaction to burly oracle Uncle Murdock, the director--part skeptical, part mesmerized--taps the summer camp mystique. Eventually Duncan does find a snake, a harmless and valuable king, hides it, and then, when the snake's accidental discovery causes a panic, defends it to Uncle Murdock. Told he can keep it, he's tripped by Preston who clubs the snake, and the two fight to a bloody draw (without being stopped by the staff). He can take some satisfaction, too, from having sold Uncle Murdock on snakes. The ending is questionable, especially since Preston was already pretty well demolished, but as a glimpse of the nuttiness and occasional nastiness of camp life it's close to the mark.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1968
Publisher: Crowell