Middle School: Field Trip Fiasco


By James Patterson

By Martin Chatterton

Illustrated by Anthony Lewis

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In this hilarious installment of the bestselling Middle School series, Rafe faces a cranky crocodile, a quirky campout, and a dastardly diamond plot in his most topsy-turvy adventure yet.

Things have quieted down for lovable troublemaker Rafe Khatchadorian, and after all the mishaps and adventures he's been through, he's feeling a little restless. So when he's invited to attend an all-expenses-paid art field trip in California, Rafe jumps at the opportunity.

But things go sideways, as they always do for Rafe, when he arrives and realizes his trip isn't the Hollywood vacation he thought it would be. Instead, he'll be participating in a "Cultural Campout" in the desert.

What follows is a series of unfortunate events that only Rafe could find himself in, including an encounter with a cranky crocodile, a claustrophobic trip into an ancient cave, and a set of ancient cave paintings that may or may not have been faked.

To make matters worse, Rafe finds himself smack dab in the middle of a plot to smuggle a legendary missing diamond. Has he finally stumbled his way into an adventure he can't get himself out of?



Let me start out by saying, I did not expect my school art trip to end with someone breaking into my bedroom to steal the legendary Brilliant Bluebird Diamond. But that’s exactly what happened.

Okay, let me back up, start at the beginning.

I’m Rafe Khatchadorian. You might’ve heard of me? I’m kind of famous from Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life, the bestselling book. (There’s even a movie about me!)

You’re probably wondering about that diamond thing I mentioned, aren’t you? I’ll get to that. But first, if you know anything about me, you won’t be surprised that my art trip to California ended in complete and total disaster, but I swear I didn’t mean for it to! In fact, I was doing pretty good before that. Not getting in trouble I mean. How, you ask? With the help of my friend, Flip Savage, only the coolest, funniest, most awesome kid ever.

We were spending all our free time playing video games. Mom wasn’t exactly happy about that, but it was keeping me out of trouble, right?

And now Flip and I were on another mission: defeating the evil Bridge Troll blocking the Arch of Freedom!

“Rafe-ster, watch out!” Flip shouts.

I dodge a rock the troll threw at us. “What do we do now?” I ask.

“This shouldn’t be that hard,” Flip says. “There’s one of it, and two of us!” He steps toward the Troll. It growls, oozing drool hanging from its razor-sharp teeth.

It lunges for us, and I brandish my sword. I’m like one of those movie heroes charging into battle. “Let us pass, you monster!”

“Neverrrr,” it growls.

“Oh yeah?” I lunge, sword out.

“Rafe!” The Troll glares at me.

I raise my sword.

I charge the Troll.

Flip cheers me on. We’re almost there—

“RAFE.” Mr. Rourke stood over my desk. He looked down at my paper. Instead of taking notes, I’d drawn all over the page—trolls and bridges, and Flip and me as knights.

Oops. Busted.

I do that sometimes. Think about something more fun when I’m bored. I can’t help it, it’s just how my brain works. But with Mr. Rourke watching me, I had to shut my notebook. I had to leave the trolls and fighting behind, and come back to earth where I was stuck at school.

And it was the worst.


Okay, okay, not everything was crummy. For starters:

1. I got to see plenty of my mom and Grandma Dotty (even if I also had to deal with my annoying little sister, Georgia).

2. School was okay. There’s no clever punchline here because, mostly, that’s what school’s like, right? Sort of somewhere between okay and meh. Not amazing, not terrifying, just kind of in the middle. Hey, maybe that’s why it’s called middle school? Har-har-har.

3. Junior! Dogs make everything better. Everyone should have a dog. In case you haven’t been keeping up with things (and if not, why?), this is Junior. I know I’m biased and you probably think your dog is the Best Dog of All Time but I’m here to tell you that you are just plain wrong. Junior is the Best Dog of All Time, that’s all there is to it.

4. I was doing some seriously awesome art. I was filling my sketchbooks with a heap of new stuff. (Not all of it during class, I swear!) I hadn’t shown them to anybody yet but I thought they were looking pretty good.

Great stuff, eh? Did you like that part where I became President of the United States and invaded Pluto? You did? BUSTED! There was no part where I became President of the United States and invaded Pluto. Now, go back and read the list properly.

So, yeah. All in all, life in Hills Village wasn’t too bad. I was just bored, and that made me annoyed because I hate being bored. I mean, who likes it, right? But I couldn’t do anything about it, and that was the real crummy part.


Hi, honey. How was school?” Mom asked when I came home.

She was standing with her back to me, making pancakes, which filled the kitchen with the smell of, well, pancakes.

I shrugged and dumped my backpack by the door. Then Junior barked and jumped up for me to pet him. He was a good distraction from having to answer Mom. I bent down and scratched him behind the ear. He rolled onto his back. His tongue drooped out of his mouth.

“Who’s a good boy?” I asked, rubbing his belly.

I could hear Grandma Dotty watching TV in the living room. She does a lot of that these days and sometimes talks to us about her favorite soap actors like they’re real people. I’ve tried pointing out that they’re not real, but now I just nod and agree with whatever she says.

There was no sign of Georgia. She was probably up in her room, arranging the world’s biggest collection of stuffed animals. Georgia’s got a lot of stuffed animals. Sometimes I think she’ll go into her room and we’ll just lose her in the crowd.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Mom said. “You’ve got a letter.”

On the kitchen table was an envelope. It was propped up very suspiciously against a potted plant. I sat down and looked at it like it might explode. The envelope, I mean—not the potted plant.

Suddenly, Mom having her back to me took on new meaning.

Did she already know what was in the envelope? Were the pancakes to soften the blow of bad news? I wondered if Principal Stricker or her evil minion, Vice Principal Stonehouse, had secretly signed me up for some other fiendish punishment: coal-mining in Alaska, or cleaning the inside of a Ukrainian radioactive fuel dump using only my tongue.

Mom turned around and waved her spatula at the envelope. “What’s it say?”

I picked up the envelope. It was official-looking. So it probably wasn’t a super-late (or super-early) Christmas card or anything safe like that.


It was from my school.

SPROING! Georgia appeared out of nowhere. I wasn’t surprised. She had a weird radar for any bad news coming my way.

“Are you going to open that or just stare at it?” she asked.

“No, I figured I’d stare at it some more,” I said, rolling my eyes and hoping she would go away.

Georgia didn’t go away. She kept snooping in my business, looking at the letter. I waited for Mom to turn back to the pancakes, then shooed Georgia away.

I was ready for the worst.

Worse than the worst. Whatever that is, I was ready for it. Just get this over with…

I ripped open the letter.


Dear Mr. Khatchadorian,

Every four years the Institute for the Advancement of Writers and Contemporary American Artists (IAWCAA) asks a select number of middle schools from around the country to recommend a promising young artist to take part in an educational arts trip. This year the trip will begin on April 27 and takes the form of a week-long “Camp Culture” in California. At the end of the week, there will be an art exhibit.

You have been selected to represent Hills Village Middle School in this all-expenses-paid opportunity. If you decide to accept our offer, please let us know by…

I stopped and reread the beginning. It still said the same thing.

A smile spread slowly across my face.

I, Rafe Khatchadorian, had been invited to an art field trip in California.


A “promising young artist”!

Just like that, a crummy day suddenly got a whole lot better.

Another chapter in the Adventures of Rafe Khatchadorian was about to begin… and I was going to make sure this one didn’t end in disaster.


I played it cool.


I screamed, jumping around the kitchen.

Georgia stared at me like I’d lost my head. Junior looked like he was worried I’d step on him, so he hid under the table.

“What on earth…?” Mom dropped the jug of pancake mix on the floor.

But I didn’t care.

I punched the air and spun in a circle.

“Khatchadorian shoots! He scores!” I shouted. “Good-bye, boring old reality. Hello, awesome California!”

“California?” Mom said.

I held out the letter and danced around the room. “Uh-huh, uh-huh!”

I probably looked a little silly, dancing around by myself. In my head, I pictured everyone joining in. Mom says, “This is amazing!” and starts dancing with me, holding the letter.

Junior starts running in circles around us. Then Grandma Dotty comes in and starts doing an old-lady move she calls the Twist.

We’re having a big old dance party in the kitchen with balloons and streamers and loud music.

I do that dance step thing where you push out your arms and sort of run on the spot while singing a sentence over and over again. In my case that was: “I’m going to California, I’m going to California!”

Of course, that’s when Georgia burst my bubble.

“Earth to Rafe!” she said, loudly. “You look stupid.”

The party was gone. It was back to me, my mom, Georgia, and Junior in the kitchen. There were no balloons or streamers. And no fun music. No music at all.

“Keep the noise down in there!” Grandma Dotty yelled from the living room. “They’re about to find out who the killer is!”

“The guy with the beard!” I yelled back. “It’s always the guy with the beard!”

Mom stepped over Junior and sat down at the kitchen table. She still held the letter. “I don’t know about this, Rafe.”

Remember how I said I was ready for worse than the worst?

Guess I wasn’t.

Because I wasn’t ready for her to say that.


What did she mean, I don’t know about this?!

THIS just happened to be the best thing to happen to me!

THIS was the opportunity of a lifetime!

THIS was going to be amazing, epic, awesome, super, fantastic—the best ever!

She couldn’t just… not let me go. I’d been specially selected for an art trip. This wasn’t fair, Mom wasn’t fair, life wasn’t fair!

“This is so—” I began, ready to tell Mom exactly how unfair this was, when something really weird happened: I did something smart.

It was like there was a voice in my head telling me to not do the thing I was just about to do—that is, throw a complete, full-on tantrum, stomp off to my room, and sulk for a couple of days.

That won’t get you what you want, said the voice.

Be smart.

I knew exactly what to do.

I hopped over Junior lying on the floor and grabbed my backpack. I yanked out my sketchbook. “Aha!” I held it up.

Georgia rolled her eyes at me and started petting Junior.

“I have to go, Mom,” I said. “See?” I handed her my sketchbook. It’s filled with all my drawings from the past few months. I’m pretty proud of them. Not to sound stuck-up, but some are really good. Like the one of my principal as a huge, scaly dragon about to eat a group of kids in detention.

Those poor kids. Never stood a chance.


Mom braved Principal Stricker the very next day. She marched into the death lair while I hung around outside for like ten years. Mom isn’t coming back, I thought. This is it. I’ve seen the last of her.

I wondered if it was too late to break down the door and rescue her.


Rafe,” Mom said as we loaded my things into the car outside our house. “Why do you have two suitcases?”

“I have a lot of stuff?”

“Rafe…” She crossed her arms and gave me her Mom Look.

You know what that is. But if not, I’ll tell you:

It’s when your mom—or parent, or any adult, really—looks at you and they don’t even have to SAY anything, you just know they’re mad.

Usually it comes with crossed arms.

Also a scowl.

And looking down their nose at you.

Oh, plus, there’s sometimes a bonus and it comes with annoying little sisters in the background glaring at you like you stole their favorite stuffed animal and then set it on fire.

“Would you like to tell me what’s really in the suitcase?” Mom asked. “Or should I open it and see?”

“Yeah,” Georgia said. “And by the way, where’s Junior, Rafe?”

I didn’t answer. The suitcase wriggled.

Mom sighed and opened my second suitcase.

Out popped Junior, his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

“Woof!” he barked (I’d like to think he was telling Mom and Georgia that they’d ruined everything), then he jumped out of the back of the car.

“Rafe,” Mom said in That Tone.

That tone that meant she was disappointed in me.

“I know, I know.” I hung my head as I climbed into the car. “No more trouble. Got it.”


At the airport, we met up with Mrs. Donatello. And then we had to wait foreeeeever to board. I was pretty sure my ninety-ninth birthday was going to come and go before the plane even took off.

Then—FINALLY—it was time to get on the plane.

Mom and Grandma Dotty both gave me very public hugs at the departure gate. I pretended to be embarrassed because there were a lot of people around. Plus Mrs. Donatello. But, and this is just between us so don’t tell anyone…

Secretly, I was happy.

On the plane, I sat next to Mrs. Donatello and this lady who smelled like the perfume section in fancy clothes stores.

“So, Rafe,” Mrs. Donatello said. “Are you excited?”

In fact, I was VERY excited. Like bouncing out of my seat excited. Like Christmas-as-a-little-kid excited.

But I shrugged and said, “Yeah.” Playing it cool, remember?

“This will be a great opportunity for you,” she said, smiling in that way adults do when they’ve seen through your act.

Since she already knew I was only pretending, I gave up on the whole “playing it cool” thing…


I had to stop because I had to breathe. It felt like I’d just run a marathon.

Mrs. Donatello’s smile got bigger. “Yes it will, Rafe.” She pulled a book out of her suitcase. “I’m glad you’re so excited.”

I grinned and nodded a billion times.

I was going to Hollywood, where we’d stay in a fancy Hollywood hotel, probably with a pool, room service, a huge TV, and maybe even MOVIE STARS staying there, too.

I grabbed my sketchbook and started doodling. Me and Flip, this time in LA, taking on a big, ugly, hairy monster hanging on the Hollywood sign, ripping off letters and throwing them across the hill.

We use our jetpacks to dodge flying letters. Barely.

“What’re we gonna do?” Flip shouts, ducking under a big O.

“Stop the monster! Save the world!” I yell back.

“Well, yeah,” he mumbles, “but how?”

Suddenly, this loud rumble interrupted my drawing and I found myself back on the plane, sitting next to Mrs. Donatello. She’d fallen asleep while reading and was snoring.


I went back to my drawing, and then—


It got LOUDER.

When we got to California, it was like no time had passed at all!

We left in the afternoon, flew a bunch of hours—longer than the last Avengers movie!—and we still got there in the afternoon. Weird, huh? That’s time zones for ya!


On Sale
Jan 25, 2021
Hachette Audio

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

Learn more at jamespatterson.com

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Anthony Lewis

About the Illustrator

Anthony Lewis (1927-2013), a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was a columnist for the New York Times op-ed page from 1969 through 2001. In addition to his long and distinguished career with the Times, Mr. Lewis was, starting in 1983, the James Madison Visiting Professor at Columbia University. He was the author of two other books, Gideon’s Trumpet and Make No Law.

Learn more about this illustrator