Published by First Second
Summary: Vera often feels like she doesn’t fit in–her family is from Russia and her single mom is struggling to put herself through school. When Vera hears about a Russian summer camp that’s paid for by the church, she’s sure she’s found a place to make new friends. She begs her mom to go, but when the big day finally arrives, she discovers camp isn’t the paradise she had imagined. She’s the youngest in her group, and the other kids are either mean to her or treat her condescendingly. The bathrooms are gross, and when she tries to make friends with a chipmunk, he bites her. Vera is relieved when the two weeks is over, but when her mom comes to pick her up, she tells Vera that she’s gotten an important job interview. Vera and her brother have to stay for two more weeks. Vera is desperate, but then slowly things start to change. She begins to enjoy striking out on her own, and by the last week, she’s made a friend from the younger group. Ultimately, Vera decides that camp is not for her; she doesn’t plan to return the next year, but she has learned a lot about herself and gained some confidence during her four weeks there. 256 pages; grades 5-8.
Pros: Fans of Raina Telgemeier and other girl-memoir graphic novels will enjoy this summertime tale based on the author’s real experiences. The ending is kind of refreshing, in that Vera decides camp was a good growing experience, but it’s not her thing. I personally didn’t love the green and black color palate, but it was a good choice for the somewhat austere Russian camp.
Cons: Heads-up on a scene near the end that may raise an eyebrow or two from elementary parents: two of Vera’s older tentmates get in a fight; one of them steals the other one’s underpants after she’s gotten her period and runs them up a flagpole.