Monday, June 08, 2009

Summer Days: A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee

Ah, summer vacation. Time to waste with your best friend, doing "nothin.'"

These are the idyllic and perhaps vanishing summer days that grown-ups remember, when kids got up, dressed minimally, and went outside with the whole day a blank slate to be filled as they pleased.

But the adults in Marla Frazee's 2009 Caldecott Honor Book, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, have other ideas. Eamon's Grampa Bill signs him and his best buddy James up for a week at Nature Camp. Grampa dutifully grumbles through the long, winding drive to the day camp every day because he has visions of the two boys happily accompanying him to the local museum's fascinating (to him) penguin exhibit and acquiring a life-long love for nature, thanks to his wise guidance.

James and Eamon have other ideas. They dutifully climb in the truck for the long haul to camp every day, but contrary to Bill's hopes, the two don't exactly become budding Audubons:

"I think it should be called Sit-Around Camp," said Eamon.

"Yeah, or Sweat-Alot Camp," said James

Bill presents the kids with a matching pair of binoculars and a list of birds to spot, but the boys have other ideas of nature study.

On the way home the boys report their findings.

"His freckles are HUGE!"

"Yeah, and his tongue is GROSS!"

The boys never tire of each other's company, bouncing on their basement air mattresses, watching endless TV shows, and "meditating" as they slaughter each other in video games, until Bill gives them a joint name--"Jamon." But at least one part of their visit is an unquestioned success:

Bill brought tide charts and glop to the dinner table.

Pam served banana waffles with maple syrup.

"The food is way better here than at my house," says James

"Mine, too!" says Eamon.

On the last night Bill and Pam schedule a movie and popcorn night, but the exhausted grandparents are soon snoring loudly on the couch, and the boys find themselves at loose ends.

So they wander outside for some peace and quiet. Tomorrow they have to go home.

They look up at the sky and out at the ocean.

For the first time all week, they couldn't think of anything to do. The sun went down. The stars came out.

At last James and Eamon finally got busy with something... and it turned out to be the very best part of the boys' best week ever.

Collecting shells and flotsam, James and Eamon build a model of Antarctica--complete with rocks for whales, and, to Bill's delight, clamshell penguins--that nearly fills Grampa's dock. Bill wakes up, takes in the amazing scene, and hugs them both, and the two admit that they hope they can be nature campers again soon.

Frazee's relaxed award-winning cartoon-syle illustrations let the two round-headed (a la Charlie Brown) campers' body language tell the story of two kids who know what they like and do it together constantly for their best week ever.

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