Books for Happy Campers

According to the calendar tacked to my 12-year-old daughter’s corkboard, there are 30 days left until she leaves for summer camp. The only thing scarier than having her gone for three whole weeks is the two-page packing list she downloaded from the camp website. I’m happy to report that books are on the packing list—right after bug repellent and the optional tennis racquet and the 12-15 pairs of underwear (not optional).

To be honest, I don’t remember doing much reading when I went to summer camp, which was about ten thousand years ago. I do remember s’mores, though, and swimming and singing and laughing—and picking ticks off my white knee-highs. Despite the ticks, I loved camp and still love camp stories.

Below are eight stories about the perils and pleasures of summer camp—marshmallows not included. All descriptions come from Indiebound unless otherwise noted:

Nerd Camp, by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum, 2011)

Ten-year-old Gabe has just been accepted to the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment. That means he’ll be spending six weeks at sleep-away camp writing poetry and perfecting logic proofs. S.C.G.E. has been a summer home to some legendary middle-school smarty-pants (and future Jeopardy! contestants), but it has a reputation for being, well, a Nerd Camp. S.C.G.E = Smart Camp for Geeks and Eggheads.

But, is Gabe really a geek? He’s never thought about it much, but that was before he met Zack, his hip, LA-cool, soon-to-be step-brother. Now, Gabe is worried that Zack will think he’s a nerd, not only a nerd, but JUST a nerd. A wild summer at camp—complete with a midnight canoe ride to “Dead Man’s Island”—makes Gabe realize that Zack may not be the brother he’d always dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends.

My Life as a Book, by Janet Tashjian with illustrations by Jake Tashjian (Holt, 2010)

Summer’s finally here, and Derek Fallon is looking forward to pelting the UPS truck with water balloons, climbing onto the garage roof, and conducting unusual investigations.

But when Derek’s parents get tired of cleaning up after his “fun,” they decide to send him to Learning Camp. His entire summer is ruined! Until Derek starts digging into a family secret involving himself (in diapers! no less), and he realizes that this summer may not be so bad after all.

Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire, by Brenda A. Ferber (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)

Jemma Hartman knows that her first summer at beautiful Camp Star Lake is going to be amazing. There will be swimming, sailing, and overnight trips – not to mention her best friend, Tammy, who moved away a year ago. But when Tammy’s cousin, Brooke, decides to come to camp as well, Jemma’s perfect summer starts to crumble. Brooke never laughs at Jemma’s jokes, and she thinks she rules the cabin. She even convinces Tammy to be her sailing partner, sticking Jemma with the camp weirdo. Jemma just can’t understand why Tammy wants to spend all her time with Brooke. And is it really possible to make new friends but keep the old, like the song says, or does Jemma simply need to let go?

Love and Pollywogs from Camp Calamity, by Mary Hershey (Wendy Lamb Books, 2010)

Effie has been waiting forEVER for St. Dom’s special fourth-grade camp. Could there be anything more thrilling than an entire week with her two best friends? But when her big sister Maxey (Bosszilla) ends up working there, Camp Oh-So-Perfect turns into Camp Calamity. And Effie has to figure out how to hide the fact that she’s not, um, the greatest swimmer. She can’t even float. But she better learn fast, because she just HAS to be named Outstanding Camper of the Week and win back her family’s good name! (And she is N-O-T homesick. Completely and totally not even.)

Sports Camp, by Rich Wallace (Knopf, 2010)

Riley feels like the smallest kid at sports camp. In fact, he is. He just turned eleven in April, but most kids here are twelve, and a few are even thirteen—and gigantic. It’s hard enough for a shrimp like Riley to fit in. He just doesn’t want to be the weak link as his bunk competes for the Camp Olympia Trophy.

Riley knows he’s no good at strength and accuracy games like basketball and softball. But when it comes to speed and endurance events, like running and swimming, he’s better than he looks. He’s pretty sure he can place in the top ten—and bring in major trophy points—in the final mile-long swim race across Lake Surprise. But he doesn’t count on being followed by the shadow of Big Joe, the giant vicious snapping turtle of camp lore. Wasn’t that supposed to be a legend? [Description from Amazon]

Campfire Mallory, by Laurie Friedman (Carolrhoda Books, 2008)

It’s summertime and the Wish Pond Road gang is getting ready to go to Camp Blue Lake. Mallory’s not so sure she wants to go. What if she gets homesick or none of the other kids like her? Her best friends, Mary Ann and Joey, convince her how fun it will be to go swimming, boating, and roast marshmallows over a campfire. But when Mallory arrives at camp, nothing goes as planned. Will Mallory ever find a way to be a happy camper? [Description from Amazon]

Chiggers, a graphic novel by Hope Larson (Aladdin Mix, 2008)

Abby is back at the same old camp she goes to every summer — except for the fact that this summer, nothing is the same. Her friend Rose is a cabin assistant, her friend Beth is pierced, and now the only person who doesn’t seem too cool for Abby is Shasta, the new girl. Shasta, who was struck by lightning, whose Internet boyfriend is a senior in high school, and who is totally annoying to everyone but Abby….

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Knopf, 2010)

Lunch Lady and the Breakfast Bunch kids are looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation with no funny business. What evils could befall them at summer camp?
Of course, there is the legendary swamp monster. Stories say he haunts the camp at night. But that’s just a legend. Or is it?
Once again, Dee, Hector, and Terrence must help Lunch Lady prevail against a secret enemy!

* * *

Laurie Schneider went to summer camp in Wisconsin where she learned to paddle a canoe, braid a lanyard, and sing “Eddie Kucha-Kacha-Kama-Tosa-Nara-Tosa-Noma-Sama-Kama-Wacky-Brown.” Today she reads, writes, and shops for underwear (12-15 pairs!) in North Idaho.

Laurie Beth Schneider