NOT A Happy Camper! Postcards from Camp by Simms Taback
I HATE CAMP. COME GET ME! PLEASE!
MY COUNSELOR IS AN ALIEN--AND VEGETARIAN!
YOUR LOVING SON,
In a stream of postcards, hand designed in the crafts hut, Michael chronicles his first rocky days at Camp Woodland. Not only is the counselor of dumpy Bunk 8 an alien; his bunkmates are a bunch of jerks!
LAST NIGHT I FOUND A BIG WET FROG IN MY BED.
IT WASN'T FUNNY, BUT MY BUNK MATES LAUGHED AND LAUGHED.
MY BUNK MATES HATE ME! I HATE THEM!
His dad Harry shoots him right back a hand-drawn postcard depicting the residents of New York City about to expire in the city's heat wave and bucks Michael up by telling him how "lucky" he is to be cool in camp. Back at Camp Woodlands, however, it's rained every day and Michael worries that fungus may soon start growing between his toes.
But at last the sun comes out and Michael passes his swimming test to become a bona fide SHARK, second level, and despite the mystery meals in the mess hall, smelly bunkmates who swipe your underwear. the green, gunky algae on top and the world's only North American freshwater shark under the water in the lake, Michael's epistles begin to take on a slightly more positive note:
I WOULD LIKE TO GO CANOEING WITH MY FRIEND STEW.
The canoeing trip, with its campfire, ghost stories, and toasted marshmallows is a blast, and soon Michael is up to his unwashed armpits in camp activities and pranks. A final postcard has a throw-away line that says it all:
MAYBE I COULD COME BACK NEXT YEAR.
Not since Alan Sherman warbled his famous ballad of life at the fictional Camp Granada, "Hello, Mudda, Hello, Fadda," has there been such a hilarious camp story as told here in epistolary form by Caldecott artist Simms Taback, Postcards from Camp (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2011). Taback's childlike drawings are perfect for this story told in a exchange of postcards and letters between Michael and his dad. Postcards are shown front and back with a turn of the page, and included among them are actual envelopes which open to reveal letters from camp on yellow lined paper from the homesick Michael. This is a wonderful book which almost anyone who has ever been to camp will enjoy, and for those contemplating their first few weeks in the wild, it gives a light-hearted look at the all-too-real, well-remembered joys and travails of summer camp.
As Kirkus Reviews says, "Share with kids before and after camp—newbies will be astonished at how typical Michael's experience is; seasoned campers (and their parents) will laugh all the way through."