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Review: Brain Camp

It’s official. Summer is here. I know. I know, it’s been here for a week, and weather wise, a bit longer, but today was the last day of school in NYC and so now I can say it: its summer.  And with onset of summer come thoughts and memories of camp. So, when I recalled that I’d never reviewed Brain Camp, I thought, that’s the best way to start my summer vacation!

Brain Camp
Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, art by Faith Erin Hicks
Ages 11 and up; Grades 6 & up
First Second Books, August 2010, ISBN: 978-1-59643-366-3
160 p. $16.99

Camp Fielding is an exclusive camp that transforms ordinary children into prodigies. Jenna and Lucas are invited after two of the campers become mysteriously ill.  Both are misfits. Jenna just can’t please her parents, who want her to strive and do great things, whether it is to become a musician or a doctor. Lucas is a borderline juvenile delinquent, whose mother may not have

any particular high hopes, but wants her son to amount to something.  Both bond instantly at Camp Fielding, initially over the lousy food, but eventually because their bond somehow gives the

m the ability to see that something is amiss.  And that gets them into a heap of trouble as they uncover what Camp Fielding is really about.

This title is quite creepy, so on second thought, if you know someone going to camp wait to share it with them until they get home.  The creepy effect is carried out in both the storytelling and the artwork.  First notice the absolutely awesome cover.  All the other campers, who are in the shadows, have eyes that sort of move with the light.  All the ‘other kids’ look almost zombie like (which is really how they’re portrayed in the book).  Next, notice the muted and sometimes dark colors that work perfectly to create the mood.  The storytelling is pitch perfect.   Readers are automatically hooked in with the image of two campers throwing up what looks like birds.  And Jenna and Lucas will resonate with readers, because adolescence is rife with not measuring up, feeling small and inadequate.

The twists and turns of the story will keep readers engaged and the ending will leave readers wanting more.  This is a great summer read and will be devoured by readers both young and old. This title truly earned all the accolades.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © First Second.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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