Thursday, June 02, 2011

Into the Woods: Piper Reed, Campfire Girl by Kimberly Willis Holt

"Now, about the camping trip. All in favor of trying to convince our parents that another weekend would be better?" I said, "Aye!"

Stanley pointed his arm toward the ceiling. "Nay! I want to go camping. I've only been once. With the Boy Scouts. I wanted to earn that campfire badge, but I didn't...."

"Stanley," I said, "we don't earn badges in the Gypsy Club."

"Maybe you should," he said."We could have special shirts and as we earn badges we could have them sewn on the collars. Then when people asked about them we could tell them how we earned them. We could make it challenging to earn them, but not too hard. We could....."

He went on and on. My stomach felt queasy. Stanley Hampshire was ruining my life

Piper Reed wants a regular Halloween. In Pensacola. With her friends in the Gypsy Club, the club for Navy brats who move a lot. She wants candy and costumes and jack-o'lanterns, and cheery neighbors handing out lots of treats--and she doesn't want Stanley Hampshire in on it.

Stanley is the middle child in a Navy family who has just moved onto the base. He's shy and jittery, and reserved--until he starts to talk. And then he can't stop. Words roll out of his mouth like Niagara Falls. And worst of all, he's been invited to go along on their camping trip, scheduled for, yikes! the whole Halloween weekend. There will be no trick-or-treating in the woods...but it looks like there is going to be plenty of Stanley.

In Kimberly Willis Holt's fourth book in the delightful Piper Reed series of easy chapter books, there are plenty of complications along the way to those delicious s'mores: Uncle James gets lost, as usual, and is hours late delivering his AirStream camper to the family for the trip; Nicole comes down with a fever and sore throat and spends the weekend inside the camper; The Chief's boat turns over in the lake; Piper's dog Bruna gets lost in the dark woods, and is found only with Stanley's bright idea to call out "Liver Lumps" as they search: and Piper's impromptu Halloween costume as an apple tree in a windstorm turns out to have some unexpected complications. Stanley offers to help her find some suitable leaves to decorate her outfit. There are no apple trees in the woods, but Stanley spots some perfect big green leaves on a vine near the camp.

"Great find, Stanley! See, your Boy Scout skills have come in handy."

"Those leaves look familiar," said Stanley, "but I can't remember why

Readers will readily know where this one is going. Predictably, Piper's Halloween disguise turns out to include lots of red spots and pink calamine lotion, but the camping trip is a qualified success despite the surprises, and it's "Happy Trails" for all as the Reeds pack up and head back to the base after a Halloween Piper will never forget.

National Book Award-winner Holt knows how to craft characters that are both universal and yet intensely themselves, and Piper Reed, Navy brat, is a funny, resilient, and very real protagonist who is learning to deal with her middle status between her studious and supercilious big sister and her pesky little brother as she adapts to life in yet another new community in Piper Reed, Campfire Girl: (Piper Reed No. 4) (Henry Holt, 2010). As one reviewer insightfully puts it, "These are the Bobbsey Twins or the Happy Hollisters in a brave new world of dyslexia diagnoses, clinical shyness, and heart-breaking loneliness . . . peopled by nine- and ten-year-olds brave enough to overcome the lot."

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  • Thank you for reading and reviewing Piper Reed Campfire Girl. I'm glad you enjoyed it! That means a lot to me.

    All the best to you,

    Kimberly Willis Holt

    By Blogger Kimberly, at 3:02 PM  

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