Friday, July 08, 2016

Getting Away From It All! Herman's Vacation by Tom Percival


Despite the stacks of travel flyers and posters, Herman and Henry are not having a meeting of the minds. Henry desires a deluxe vacation to some tourist mecca--Cake World, for example. Herman wants something... well, cheap! He claims that a camping vacation is all they can afford.

Henry is NOT happy, as the enthusiastic Herman packs up tents and cookout gear in what seems bulky backpacks and rents a couple of pack donkeys to ferry them to backwoods campsites at Camp Lucky Well. Even the donkeys balk at the long walk and Herman has to resort to the old-carrot on the stick trick.

Getting there is NOT half the fun for the recalcitrant Henry.

And Henry is not pleased with the budget attractions when finally they cross the ramshackle rustic bridge and put up their pups tents. Toasted (i.e., smoked) marshmallows are not cake! And it gets worse. A hooting owl scares him and his sleeping bag is lumpy. And then when he finally falls asleep, Henry's tent falls on his face, and in fighting his way out of it, he lands in the freezing brook.

Dear Aunt Winifred.
Have you ever been camping? Don't! It's awful.
P.S.: Please mail me some chocolate cake.

Meanwhile Herman is exulting in the outdoor experience. He, too, sends a post card home:

Dear Uncle Harold,
Wish you were here! Guess what? We're on a camping vacation and having the best time! Well, I am. Henry seems a bit quiet. I'm sure he's fine. Everyone LOVES camping, right?

But all is not fine. Henry does not love camping and he's making no bones about it. He keeps the mail busy with cards to his Aunt Winifred, requesting everything from hot chocolate to his living room sofa and television set. It's hard to get away from it all when you have it all shipped to you!

Poor Herman hates to see his friend unhappy. He throws all his energies into trying to please Henry. Sending for tools from Uncle Harold, he builds a deluxe but rustic log inn (Hotel Henry,) more up to Henry's standards, and constructs an exciting log flume water slide. Henry is at last pacified and the rest of the vacation pleases him.

Dear Herman,
Thank you for making my camping trip so fantastic. I had the best time ever! Same place next year?
--Your Best Friend, Henry

Young readers may be excused from wondering why the easy-going Herman continues to cater to his persnickety, wet-blanket buddy, but then, best friends, however hard to please, are hard to find, in Tom Percival's Herman's Vacation (Bloomsbury Press, 2016).

As in his earlier epistolary tale of this odd couple of pals, Percival's undeniably comic artwork carries the load (unlike the donkeys), dropping rib-tickling sight gags (a bale of hay is labeled "Donkey Fuel" and the "Free Donkey Ride" comes with the dangling carrot on a stick to get their mount moving), and interspersing the narrative with flaps composed of the vintage post cards home add a lot of fun to the story. This one, and its companion book, Herman's Letter (see my 2015 review here) make a great pair for summer reading.

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