Memories of sweet-scented pine trees, cool dips in a sparkling lake, and rousing, ridiculous songs beckon many a young camper each summer. For novices, however, the idea of camp can conjure unsavory images of inedible food, mean kids, and hard, buggy bunks. A fresh whiff of humor and well-chosen children’s books, though, can ease the way for those about to experience sleep-away camp.
Rodman, Mary Ann. Camp K-9. Illustrated by Nancy Hayashi. Peachtree, 2011.
A bus load of pups is heading for Camp K-9, but one pooch clutches her backpack anxiously. Roxie is guarding a secret: inside her pouch lies her precious blankie.
The other soon-to-be campers seem friendly — except for one pushy poodle named Lacy. Naturally, soon after they arrive, it’s Lacy who lands in the Mutt Hut along with Roxie and an assortment of other campers. Conflict ensues, with Lacy taking over the bunk Roxie has already claimed. The illustrator, using watercolors, pen and colored pencils, shows a forlorn-looking Roxie sitting on her new bunk, longing for her blankie but not daring to bring it out for all to see.
A series of events indicates Lacy’s lack of concern for others’ feelings. For instance, when they sit around the campfire singing “99 Buckets of Bones on the Wall,” they hear an eerie cry of “Ah-hooo!” After Lacy reveals herself, she calls them scaredy-cats. “Nobody calls me a cat!” cries Kia. Predictably, when another dog demands she “take it back,” Lady refuses.
More drama looms, as the dogs race to the pond, only to discover Lacy is missing. They reluctantly abandon their plans to swim in order to seek her. When they find Lacy, she is sprawled on her bunk with … her own beloved blankie! My favorite moment in the story is when Roxie pauses to reconsider her feelings about Lacy: “I take a deep breath. I know what I have to do.” She decides to get out her own blankie. No one laughs; in fact, it turns out each canine has brought her own from home.
Rodman, who has shown admirable skill in depicting friendship (My Best Friend), has crafted a lighthearted but sensitive portrayal of a child’s hopes and fears. Recommended for ages 6 to 8.
More Camp-related Reads
Adler, David A. Cam Jansen: The Summer Camp Mysteries. Puffin, 2007. Cam and her friend Eric are off to Camp Eagle Lake for three weeks. They find more hot stuff than marshmallows, though. Three mysteries — one involving a lock box filled with the campers’ cash; the other, a messy raid on Cam’s bunk; and worst of all, a third case involving the theft of all the sports equipment and even prizes for the banquet. Leave it to Cam and Eric to solve the case just in time. Fun title in a good series for independent readers.
Katz, Alan. Mosquitoes Are Ruining My Summer! And Other Silly Dilly Camp Songs. Illus. by David Catrow. McElderry, 2011. What would summer camp be without dopey songs? Katz delivers another of his wacky, kid-pleasing collections. Each poem is set to the tune of some well-known song. From the beginning “On the Bus Ride,” utilizing the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” Katz generates one funny phrase after another. “This Whole Bunk Is Very Cluttered,” for instance, relates: “One deep breath and we all sputtered. / All the walls are peanut-buttered. / There’s dust beyond belief!” Mosquitoes, care packages, hiking, arts and crafts, bad food, contests, and campfires all get a turn, concluding with one happy camper so busy he never gets around to mailing a note home. Catrow’s illustrations are hilarious, dishing up the same kind of humor as Katz’s loopy lyrics.
Van Leeuwen, Jean. The Great Summer Camp Catastrophe. Scholastic, 1999. The three city mice featured in Van Leeuwen’s The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper and The Great Rescue Operation have it made living in the toy department at Macy’s. Then they’re accidentally taped up in a care package and shipped to Camp Moose-a-Honk in Vermont. Wild adventures and narrow escapes follow, and the mice fall in love with camp. This humorous fantasy/adventure will please readers who love action-packed plots. Ages 8-11.
Wojciechowski, Susan. Beany Goes to Camp. Candlewick, 2002. Beany didn’t want to go to summer camp, but despite the bugs, bugle calls, and scary swim tests, she enjoyed becoming a part of a great new community. Recommended novel is part of a funny series for ages 8-10.