Eleanor Roosevelt and gardening both prove to be unexpected sources of inspiration for 13-year-old Vic, who finds herself reluctantly back at the summer camp she’s attended for years after she learns her parents are having marriage difficulties.
Despite the friends Vic has made over the years at Meadow Wood, she’d hoped to spend a laid-back summer at home with her bestie, Jamie (whose story is told in A Kind of Paradise, 2019, which is not a prerequisite for this stand-alone), and is furious that she and her brother were shipped off as a matter of convenience for her mom. Slowly, with the help of her curmudgeonly but caring counselor Chieko, who is brooding over her own recent breakup with her girlfriend, and the mentoring of diligent camp co-director Earl, Vic begins to see a way through her struggles. If at times these worthwhile life lessons are a bit heavy-handed, many other elements in this warmhearted novel are likely to charm middle-grade readers, including the quirkily funny, brainy younger camper Vera whom Vic takes under her wing and a kind Latinx boy named Angel, who becomes a sweet first love interest when she meets him at the local farmers market. Vic and Vera are white, and there is some realistic ethnic diversity represented in secondary characters, conveyed both via description and naming convention (Chieko is likely of Japanese heritage, for instance).
A gentle novel perfect for middle graders looking for a summer read. (Fiction. 10-13)