The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann (9781536207361)
The little girl narrating this picture book has never been camping before. So she is very excited when her Aunt Jackie and cousin Samantha ask her to come. She just knows that she is going to love it. She packs using a list from her aunt, then leaves her father behind and heads out on the journey to the camp site. It’s a long drive to Cedar Tree Campground. When they reach it is it big and quiet with lots of trees and a lake. They set up camp, then they go swimming. But swimming in the lake with fish isn’t at all like swimming in an indoor pool. They go hiking, but hiking has a lot more hills than walking around town. Dinner is tofu dogs and broccoli salad, which is actually pretty good. Smores are munched before bed. But sleeping in a tent is something else that is pretty different, though it might help to look at the stars until you get sleepy. The next day, even the lake doesn’t look quite as scary anymore.
Mann celebrates the big outdoors and the joys (and pains) of outdoor activities. She nicely shows things that the narrator can learn to love, like swimming in a lake and going on hikes, rather than mosquito bites. Mann shows how high expectations of having tons of fun can feel horrible when reality comes along, but also how being open to new experiences allows us to love new things just as they are, fish and all.
Mann’s illustrations are done in pencil on tracing paper which is then digitally collaged and colored. The picture book reads more like a comic book with panels and lots of speech bubbles. The Black family at the heart of the book gives it a fresh and inclusive take on being outside.
Perfect for reading when camping in the wilderness, backyard or living room. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick Press.
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (9780525553908)
This graphic novel memoir takes readers directly into the heart of a huge Kenyan refugee camp and the life of one boy who lived there. Omar and his brother Hassan lost their parents in Somalia when their village was attacked. Omar still hopes to find his mother, who was separated from them in the chaos. The brothers live together in their own hut in the camp and are watched over by their guardian who lives next door. When Omar has a chance to go to school, he must make the gut-wrenching decision of whether to leave Hassan, who doesn’t speak, behind. Their time in the camp is spent waiting, waiting for a UN interview, waiting to see if they can finally be moved to another country, waiting for water, waiting for food. It is also a time filled with doubts and hope, requiring true resilience for Omar to see a way forward.
It’s always a delight to see a new graphic novel by Jamieson, author of the Newbery Honor book Roller Girl. It’s all the more impressive to see her take on the challenge of a more serious topic and to do it as a biographical piece, telling the true story of Omar Mohamed and his time in the refugee camp. Jameison crafts the story in a way that truly reveals the plight of those in the camp, the horrors of what they experienced in the past, and the dullness of the routine days. She fills the pages with Omar’s deep caring and worry for his brother, his only remaining family member, and the reality of his sole responsibility to not only keep him safe but offer him a future.
As always with Jamieson, the art is wonderful. In particular, she offers glimpses of the beauty of the night sky in the camp and the warmth of the community of people who have been thrown together by tragedy. It is marvelous that Mohamed worked with her to tell a true story of the camps, that truth resonates on the page, lifting this new work to a different level.
Human, tragic and empowering, this book gives a human face to the many refugees in our world. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from purchased copy.