The arrival of his cousin Corky prevents Bill from attending summer camp and realizing a year old dream to set up a camp zoo. Disappointed for a time, he accepts second best and with Corky volunteers to help out at the municipal zoo. The teenagers are assigned to the Reptile House where they spend a fascinating summer learning to differentiate the many species, becoming familiar with their habits and behavior, and participating in the exciting and often dangerous job of reptile care. Corky's first job is unloading a crate of chameleons. As they slither away leaving their tails in Corky's hand, she has her first hand experience with a natural protective device. In addition to the reptiles, their food is also raised in Reptile ""kitchen"". White rats are thrown in to the Guardo Camino, mealworms to the lizards, dead fish to the alligators. Though Mac the keeper believes that ""snakes are the most humane killers"", he is bitten, proving man's vulnerability even when protected by skill and experience. Bill sucks out the venom and gets Mac to a hospital. The summer is climaxed by a newspaper article publicizing this unusual job and leading the way for the formation of a local zoological society. It is obvious from the descriptions above that some squeamish readers will be repelled. Boys and girls (like Corky) with stomach and stamina will definitely find a treasure of accurate and intriguing information here.