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Review: Summer Camp Science Mysteries, Vol. 1-2

Nine-year-old twins Angie and Alex Rayez aren’t sure about heading to Camp Dakota for the summer, but it turns out that camp is pretty fun. They like their quirky camp counselors, Kyle and Loraine, and their fellow campers, Braelin, Rashawn, and Jordan. (Though it’s too bad that Carly is such a snob.) But camp soon turns strange as someone begins leaving them mysterious notes and clues about the terrifying fog zombie. After that mystery is solved, then they find another: Braelin is accused of being a thief, but he insists that he never took anything. Can Angie and Alex and their friends figure out what’s going on by using science to find the answers to these puzzles?

Summer Camp Science Mysteries, vol. 1-2
Written by Lynda Beauregard; Illustrated by Der-Shing Helmer
Ages 8-10; Grades 3-5
Lerner/Graphic Universe, 2012, 48 pages each
Volume 1: In Search of the Fog Zombie
Hardcover ISBN 9780761356899, $29.27
Paperback ISBN 9780761385448, $6.95
eBook ISBN9780761387442, $21.95
Volume 2: The Nighttime Cabin Thief
Hardcover ISBN 9780761356929, $29.27
Paperback ISBN 9780761385431, $6.95
eBook ISBN 9780761387473, $21.95

The Summer Camp Science Mysteries clearly take their cue from Lerner’s Manga Math Mysteries, as they use a very similar formula: a graphic novel format, a multicultural cast of characters, a unique setting that requires a group of kids to spend time together, and a simple mystery that can only be solved using scientific principles. And like the Manga Math Mysteries, the educational component of the story sometimes seems forced, unable to be smoothly and seemlessly integrated into the story.

But, that complaint aside, I did enjoy the Summer Camp Science Mysteries (and the Manga Math Mysteries, for that matter). There is something appealingly earnest about them. Beauregard and Helmer — who is a high school biology teacher, in addition to a graphic novel artist — both clearly love science. This love shows in how excited their characters get about showing off their scientific knowledge. Everyday moments become a way to show off a “trick” or to use science in a fun way. To continue the fun, there are experiments in the back of each book that looked interesting enough that I wanted to do them myself.

Another nice element of these first two volumes of the series is Helmer’s art. The characters are distinctive and the settings believable, even when drawn in a clear, easy to follow cartoon style that is pleasingly bright and colorful. Part of the reason I was so excited to read this series is because of the multicultural cast. Volume One: In Search of the Fog Zombie is one of the first graphic novels I’ve read in a long time that has four non-white characters on the cover. It’s sad that in this day and age that is still a rarity, but I am pleased that Helmer and Beauregard (and Lerner) made the decision to create characters who look and act like the children who will be reading these books. I hope that more graphic novel creators and publishers will join them and soon. Meanwhile, schools can happily add these to their roster of educational graphic novel titles, secure in the knowledge that they will likely spark some scientific curiosity in the children who read them.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Lerner/Graphic Universe.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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