The Battle of Junk Mountain


By Lauren Abbey Greenberg

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For fans of Rebecca Stead and Jennifer L. Holm, this is the perfect middle grade summer beach read.

Twelve-year-old Shayne Whittaker has always spent summers on the Maine coast, visiting her grandmother Bea and playing with her BFF Poppy. Both Shayne and Bea are collectors, in their own ways: Shayne revels in golden memories of searching for sea glass and weaving friendship bracelets with Poppy, while Bea scours flea markets for valuable finds, much of which she adds to a growing pile in her house that Shayne jokingly calls Junk Mountain.

This summer, though, everything has changed. Poppy would rather talk about boys than bracelets, and Bea’s collecting mania has morphed into hoarding. Only Linc, the weird Civil War-obsessed kid next door, pays attention to her. Turns out Linc’s collected a secret of his own, one that could enrage the meanest lobsterman on the planet, his grandpa. What begins as the worst summer of Shayne’s life becomes the most meaningful, as she wages an all-out battle to save her friendships, rescue her grandmother, and protect the memories she loves the most.




I didn’t expect my summer sister to ditch me the first minute of vacation. She could’ve at least waited until I emptied my suitcase.

“But… but…” I sputter like the last seconds of microwave popcorn. “What about going to Lolli’s?”

Poppy sighs. “I’m sorry. I wish I could, but the last time I didn’t show up for a shift, my dad totally freaked out.”

I sink onto what will be my bed for the next month. “But we always go to Lolli’s for milkshakes first thing. It’s tradition.”

“It sucks, I know, but…” She shrugs. “Our tradition will have to change.”

Change? What’s she talking about? The best thing about Thomas Cove is that nothing ever changes.

I stare at the stack of neatly folded T-shirts on my lap. “Couldn’t your dad wait for you to start working at the store until you’re older? Nobody I know back home works full-time when they’re twelve.”

She sits next to me cross-legged and examines the bottoms of her bare feet. “It’s different here. Kids start hauling lobster traps by the time they’re eight years old. Consider me lucky.”

Poppy’s parents own Quayle’s Market, the only grocery store on Cedar Island. Her two older sisters have worked there for years. I guess it was only a matter of time before she got roped in. But why did it have to be this summer, the first one without my parents?

Sunlight streams through the window, making Poppy’s auburn hair glow like a maple tree in fall. “You could come with me. I have to stock the shelves and stuff, and it’s kind of boring, but at least it’s not the fish counter.”

“Thanks, but I guess I should stay here. I’m ready to get this project going, if you know what I mean.” I tug on the top drawer of the pine dresser in an attempt to put my clothes away, but it’s stuck shut. The one under it opens easily, but it’s full of miniature glass ducks, piles of old comic books, and several cat calendars. Looks like my grandmother’s been trolling the yard sales… again.

My cheeks puff out. This is going to be a bigger job than I thought.

I catch my reflection in the cracked floor-length mirror. The damp Maine air has wreaked havoc on my curly hair already. I pat down the puffed-out ponytail at the base of my neck. Ugh, I look like a beaver.

Poppy rolls onto her stomach, smooshing the ruffled blue throw pillows beneath her. Together we peer out the window. The view outside is postcard pretty, the kind parents pay top dollar for at a hotel. A lobster boat cuts through the water; its motor drones steadily as it passes anchored skiffs that rock gently back and forth in its wake. Next door to us, a hulk of a man wearing a camouflage baseball cap chops firewood. Sweat darkens the back of his dingy gray tank.

“Is that the new neighbor?” I ask.

“Yup, that’s Cranky.”


“His real name is Mr. Holbrook, but I call him Cranky, because that’s what he is. Every time I see him, he has this look on his face like he just bit into a vomit burger. He’s so mean, Shayne. He’ll yell at you if you cut through his yard. You can’t use his dock—”

I gasp. “No dock jumping?”

“Nope. All his property is off-limits.”

Drat. The old neighbors, the Krafts, used to let us have full run of their place like it was our own private playground.

“When he moved in, my mom made me bring over a plate of cookies. As soon as I stepped into his yard, he appeared from behind a tree, clutching a great big ax, his eyes wild and crazy. I screamed and took off, dropped the cookies and everything. He started yelling at me, and his voice was so gravelly, like he ate pebbles for breakfast.”

“Hold on. Important question. What kind of cookies were they?”

“White chocolate chunk.”

I press my hand over my heart. “Tragic waste.”

“You know what else?” Poppy lowers her voice. “Mona said that when he moved in, there was no moving truck, nothing. He has no furniture and he sleeps alone on the bare wood floor with nothing but a hunting knife beside him.”

Goose bumps cover my arms, even though I’m not sure if I should believe her. Poppy always says that her sister is a big fat liar.

I reach for the tin box where I keep all my supplies for making friendship bracelets. Last year, Poppy and I cranked them out like crazy, and I’m happy to see she still has the blue-and-green one I made her wrapped around her wrist.

“I brought a whole bunch of colors,” I say, showing her my new pack of embroidery thread.

“Oooh, I like the neon green,” she says before twitching her nose. “No offense, but you need to air out this room. It smells like old people.”

I open the window, and the scents of salt, fish, and pine needles blow in at once. “Don’t worry. When I’m through with this place, you won’t even recognize it.”

“I can’t believe your mom’s making you clean up your grandmother’s house,” she says.

“She didn’t make me. I offered to come. Anyhow, it’s not so much about cleaning up as getting her ready to sell her stuff at the Cedar Island Flea Market.”

I place my bracelet tin on top of a tower of National Geographic magazines so old and worn they’ve practically molded into a small table.

Poppy glances at her watch, then hops off the bed. “I better go. Don’t want the boss to ground me.” She rolls her eyes.

I walk her down the stairs to the front door. Wooden signs of various shapes and sizes decorate the walls, some with beach themes (LIFE IS BETTER IN FLIP-FLOPS), some spouting puns (GARDENERS KNOW ALL THE DIRT), and others offering warm fuzzies (THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE).

Poppy shouts over the sound of a blaring TV. “Bye, Bea!”

Everyone calls my grandmother by her first name. Even me.

“Bye, Poppy!” Bea yells from the family room.

Poppy squeezes my shoulders and gives me a friendly shake before she leaves. “Don’t worry. We still can have the Best. Summer. Ever. You’ll see.”

Doubt prickles my skin. The best summer ever means morning swims in the cove, searching for sea glass, riding bikes to Lolli’s, gorging on lobster rolls—stuff we’ve been doing for years. Now she’s sort of available. What am I supposed to do when she’s sort of not?



After Poppy leaves, I join Bea in the family room. She sits at what I like to call Junk Mountain, the epicenter of all her worldly possessions. When it comes to stuff, my grandmother’s a keeper. She keeps everything.


Some kind of table supports Junk Mountain, but I have no idea what it looks like because it has always been buried under an avalanche of old books, cracked dishes, stuffed Beanie Babies, and a gazillion other things. A mothball smell hovers like a rain cloud over the pile.

Whenever we visit, my parents note that Junk Mountain has expanded in height and width, and my mother practically breaks out in hives at the sight of it. You would never guess she and Bea were related. Mom calls my grandmother names behind her back like “pack rat,” “Dumpster diver,” and “eBay explosion.” But Bea sees it differently. She calls herself a “collector of everything.”

“Sit with me. I need to talk to you.” Bea writes a number on a piece of masking tape and sticks it to the bottom of a pumpkin candle.

I turn down the volume on the TV and pull up a folding chair beside her. A furry key chain dyed grapey purple catches my eye. “Is this a real rabbit’s foot?” When I touch the bottom, I feel pointy toenails.

Bea examines it. “I’m not sure, although, they say if it’s real, then it’s good luck.” She passes me a shoebox with the words GOOD LUCK written in her shaky scrawl. “Here, add it to the rest of my charms.”

I sift through a jumble of dream catchers, four-leaf clover pins, and tiny Buddha figurines. “So, how long do we have to get ready for the flea market?”

“One week,” she says.

My eyes grow wide. I hadn’t realized it was so soon. “And all this needs to be sorted and priced, right?”

She waves her hands over the merchandise. “So many memories, my treasures. Not only do I remember where I found each item, but I could tell you how much I paid for it and who I was with.”

Please, don’t.

I inch my chair closer and pull a yellowed teacup from the mound. “This looks ancient. How much should we sell it for?”

“Ah, ah, gentle.” She removes it from my hand and inspects it through the wire-rimmed glasses perched on the end of her nose. “Mark that as twenty-five cents.”

I frown. “What, only a quarter? I thought it was special.”

She hands me a Sharpie. “It is special. This teacup may not look like much, but it represents history, memories. It’s—” Her brown eyes enlarge. “Now, what’s this doing here?” She reaches for a beak poking out from under a cowboy hat and pulls out a silver bird statue.

“Nice chicken,” I say.

Her forehead creases. “It’s a pheasant. Look at this workmanship, the detail in the feathers.”

I stifle a yawn. “Mmm-hmm.”

“Your grandpa gave it to me years ago when I was in my bird phase. I remember he paid a couple hundred dollars for it. I could have killed him. We didn’t have that kind of money to spare. But I did some research and found out it was made by a famous Russian artist. I believe it’s worth a lot. Do me a favor, dear, put this on the mantel. It’s not for sale. Not yet, anyway.”

I set it down over the fireplace, next to my favorite picture of Grandpa. He squints at the camera from the helm of his lobster boat. His face is sunbaked and lined like an alligator’s skin. I really miss him.

I dust off my hands on the back of my white shorts. “So… is that what you wanted to talk to me about?”

Her face falls. “Well, not exactly. I have some news.” She stands and I notice a black apron stamped with a fish print tied around her waist. “Surprise,” she says, sounding as excited as if it were Meatloaf Monday. “I went back to work.”

“What? I thought you retired years ago.”

Bea retrieves a tube of lipstick out of her apron pocket and paints her thin lips bright pink. “The truth is when Grandpa died, he didn’t leave me with much. You would be surprised how much everything costs—the house, utilities, you know, other stuff.”

I eye the buried table, the couch strewn with magazines and newspapers, the kitchen counter littered with boxes and cans. Yeah, I know “stuff.”

Bea coughs into her fist and catches a glimpse of her watch. “Darn it, I’m late.”

I follow her to the kitchen. “You’re leaving now?”

She grabs her enormous sack of a purse off the counter. “I’m sorry, horrible timing, but it’s just the lunch shift. I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

First Poppy’s news and now this. Are you kidding me? I cross my arms in a huff. “Aren’t you too old to be a waitress?”

“I beg your pardon.” Bea tries to swat me with a dish towel, and I jump out of the way. “I’ve waitressed for more than thirty years. Of course, I was nervous at first, going back and all, but then I had forgotten how much I missed the Cod Café.”

Aside from a few roadside takeout shacks, the Cod Café is the only full-service restaurant on the island, known for its enormous lobster platters and famous potato salad tossed in Secret Sauce. The servers are usually college kids from the mainland. I want to remind Bea of this, but from the insulted look on her face, I know I have said enough.

Bea finds a leftover tuna sandwich in the fridge and takes two nibbles before putting it back. “Do me a favor, don’t tell your mother.” She grabs an industrial-sized can of hairspray from her purse and fumigates her frosted mass of curls along with the entire room.

I cough. “How come?”

Bea sighs like she’s already answered this question a thousand times. “Let’s just say she gets… funny about money.”

Her pace quickens, and I follow her to her beat-up Subaru wagon.

“Wait, what about our project?” I motion behind me. “I can’t tackle that all by myself.”

She reaches for the door handle but pauses before turning to me. “You don’t need to touch a thing. We’ll sort through my treasures later this afternoon, okay?”

The slam of the door makes quick tears sting the back of my eyeballs. Why is everyone leaving me?

She drives away. A hush falls over the cove except for the occasional tinkling of a distant wind chime. The windswept grass tickles my calves as I cut across Bea’s yard. A thick rock wall separates her lawn from the sea, and the still water has a copper color to it, like an old penny. Maybe I’ll jump in and swim five hundred miles home to Maryland. I’ll say to my mom, “I couldn’t do it. I failed.”

Ha! Never.



With a few hours to kill, I skip down the aluminum ramp that connects Bea’s backyard to a floating wooden dock. A small white boat, securely moored to a thick post, bobs under my weight as I climb aboard. Bea’s fishing skiff is called Knot for Sale. Grandpa came up with the name. It was his way of teasing Bea about her yard sale and flea market obsessions.

Seated at the bow, I remove a tangle of embroidery floss from my front pocket and choose cornflower blue and battleship gray threads, colors that match my current mood. Even though a lot of my friends are “over” making friendship bracelets, it’s still one of my all-time favorite things to do. The repetition of weaving and knotting kind of puts me in a trance, especially when I need to sort things out in my head.

I think about my friends back home. Zoe and Maya went to some sleepaway camp in West Virginia. Mom had tried to sell me on the idea.

“What about Maine?” I countered. That started a whole fight. Mom told me that this year my dad had to fly to Egypt for a documentary film he’s producing, and she was slammed with work from her real estate business. It was like they’d totally forgotten that we go to Maine every August. My begging and pleading pretty much went ignored, but then Bea saved the day. She happened to call a few days later and told my mom she needed to sell some of her things at the Cedar Island Flea Market this summer. That’s when the brilliant idea came to me. I reminded Mom about all the community service hours I had earned collecting, sorting, and selling books for the Monroe High School used-book sale. Sometimes I still catch a phantom whiff of musty pages on my fingers. Helping out Bea couldn’t be that different, right? Eventually, Mom agreed. She probably just wanted me out of her hair so she could show houses morning, noon, and night without feeling guilty about it, but I figure that’s a win for everyone.

To be fair, I had an ulterior motive. I couldn’t imagine a summer without seeing Poppy, who lives on the opposite side of the cove from Bea. We had our first playdate when we were like three years old, and I’ve spent every August with her since. The funny thing is, we’re so different that you wouldn’t even think we’d be friends. She’s loud, I’m soft. I like mustard, she’s ketchup only. Poppy’s convinced she could be a reality TV star. I hate those kinds of shows. But we both like lazy summers, making bracelets, and collecting sea glass, and two years ago at my grandpa’s funeral, she was the one who held my hand the whole time and passed me tissues when the tears wouldn’t stop.

With a loud sigh, my eyes wander to where the mouth of the cove feeds into Casco Bay. A long-ago memory of my grandpa bubbles to the surface. He’s in his lobster boat, heading out to check on his traps. His bright orange fishing waders pop against a backdrop of misty gray skies. I’m standing on the dock with my mom, watching him. The motor gurgles as he pulls away, and I can hear Mom saying, “Wave bye-bye to Grandpa.” I do, but then out of nowhere, thick fog rolls in and he completely disappears. It totally freaks me out, like some wet, white monster swallowed him whole. I scream and cry while my mother tries to calm me down. Then the sound of a bullhorn pierces the air. Grandpa must have heard me carrying on, so he blew the horn to tell me that everything was all right. And it was… that time.

I’m so lost in the memory that I have completely spaced on the bracelet. I must have missed a knot or something, because the pattern’s not even. Drat. I have to start over.

As I hoist myself out of the boat, I hear loud rock music in the distance. A couple of shirtless guys in a speedboat careen into the cove like it’s the Indy 500. They’re not supposed to be going that fast, and I feel like yelling Slow down! but someone beats me to it.

I hurry up the ramp to find Cranky screaming at the boys. Standing on his dock, he shakes his fist high in the air. I have to admit, I wouldn’t want to cross him. He’s pretty big and beefy for an old guy. The boys couldn’t care less, though. They drive their boat in a circle, creating a huge, obnoxious wake.

Suddenly, Cranky twists as if he senses me. I duck behind a thicket of rosebushes as my heart hammers my rib cage.

The sound of tires crunching over gravel makes me realize he’s not interested in me. A dark gray minivan pulls into Cranky’s driveway. The first thing I notice is the magnet on the back of the van that says I HEART HISTORY.

A man with a scraggly beard steps out of the car. He looks as if he marched off a Civil War battlefield with his navy cap, black boots, and wool coat belted with a wide buckle. To be honest, the way he’s dressed isn’t all that surprising. All kinds of, let’s say, unique people reside on Cedar Island. There’s the man who travels around town on his riding mower, and the lady who wears a floral crown in her hair every day, even when it rains. What’s interesting, though, is the way Cranky’s looking at this costumed visitor: with disgust. He doesn’t say Hello or Can I help you? or Do you need directions? Which is not very Cedar Island–ish at all. I can’t make out what they’re saying, but there’s a lot of angry faces and finger pointing as the two men walk toward Cranky’s weathered, gray house. I’m so confused. This is the worst welcome wagon ever.

A boy who looks to be my age hops out of the van. He’s wearing a scaled-down version of Beardy’s soldier outfit—same cap and boots, but instead of the coat, his white billowy shirt is untucked and rumpled. He glances at the house, then wanders in the direction of my hideout. The boy sits on the other side of the rosebush, only a few feet away from me. Trying hard not to breathe, I carefully push aside a couple branches, making the red, cherrylike flowers bounce up and down.

The boy takes a swig from the old-fashioned canteen slung over his shoulder. I lean my face further into the foliage to spy on him.


Hot pain radiates from the center of my left cheek. Clutching my face, I stumble out from behind the bush.

“Are you okay?” The boy hovers over me. He smells kind of ripe, like maybe it’s not a good idea to wear long sleeves and tall boots on a hot day.

I curl into a ball. “I think something bit me.”

“Can I see?” His light eyebrows push together with concern as I remove my hand. “The stinger’s in there,” he says. In one quick motion, he brushes a fingernail against my cheek. “It’s out.”

I sit up and pat the tender spot. “It is?”

“Linc, get in here, your father needs you.” Up on his sagging porch, with hands on hips, Cranky looks, well… cranky.

“Coming, Grandpa,” the boy says.

Before I can even thank him, he runs into the house and slams the screen door.


  • "This absorbing middle-grade read gently but unflinchingly considers the common ground of growing up and growing old."—-Kirkus Reviews
  • Told in the voice of a spunky, hopeful 12-year-old, this story explores not only the importance of family but the reality that some people grow apart. Realistic descriptions detail what it's like to live with a hoarder and the reluctance to let go of sentimental treasures. This beautiful story reminds readers that there's much more to life than material objects.—-Booklist
  • "Themes on intergenerational relationships, grief, and evolving friendships elevate this above the standard summer vacation story. A solid purchase, especially where realistic coming-of-age middle grade is needed."—-School Library Journal
  • This coming of age story is a great book for middle grade girls who enjoy realistic fiction."—School Library Connection
  • "Loved it! Shayne's sharp wit combined with her can-do compassion grabs us from the get-go. Her summer of trials and unexpected friendships shines a brilliant light on the power of holding on . . . and letting go. I didn't want this sweet, heartrending story to end!"—-Jennifer Richard Jacobson, author of Small as an Elephant
  • "The Battle Of Junk Mountain is a warm, fresh tale that will have readers smelling the salty air of the New England coast as they explore the heavy burden-and joy-of toting around the past. Anyone lucky enough to have a summer friend will instantly relate to Shayne as she navigates honoring old traditions and fostering new paths."—-Beth Vrabel, author of Caleb and Kit and the Pack of Dorks series

On Sale
Apr 17, 2018
Page Count
224 pages
Running Press Kids

Lauren Abbey Greenberg

About the Author

Lauren Abbey Greenberg is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and has been published in Highlights for Children and Knowonder! magazine. She was a freelance writer/producer for many years and worked on a ton of cool projects such as TV spots for Discovery Kids, educational videos for National Geographic, and a film for Mount Rushmore National Memorial. She lives in Maryland with her husband, children, and fluffy dog, and has spent summers in Maine for the past twenty years. The Battle of Junk Mountain is her debut novel.

Learn more about this author