A new administrator’s efforts to remake an easygoing boys’ sports camp into an athletic powerhouse meet spirited resistance.
Loosely branded as a sports camp, Camp Avalon (aka Camp Average), unlike its better-funded competitors, doesn’t specialize in one sport. While directors annually remind campers about its sole baseball tournament win (1951), many activities aren’t competitive or even sports—until director Winston takes charge, canceling traditional events and activities and banning hot dogs and sugary cereals. After exhaustive athletic-aptitude testing, each camper is assigned a sport, which they’ll spend all day, every day, playing. Eleven-year-old Mack Jones, white, and Andre Jennings, a dark-skinned, talented pitcher, both land baseball, as does Nelson Ramos, YouTube celebrity toy-and-game reviewer, a baseball newbie with awesome hand-eye coordination. Winning trumps all: Poor test results consign brainy, well-liked Miles to keeping score and maintaining statistics. Led by Mack, who misses water-skiing, the kids rebel, spectacularly losing games against other camps. As Winston doubles down, adding “boot camp” practice, war escalates. The athletes grow dispirited—losing intentionally is still losing—but then Miles makes a discovery. Mack and friends are endearing, authentic tweens, their bond transcending sports. Camp, campers, and counselors (default white, with names conveying cultural diversity for the most part) are portrayed with unsentimental affection. Sports journalist Battle, past editor of Canadian children’s magazine Owl, brings a sharp, satirical eye to trends benign and otherwise in children’s sports.
Hilarious, irreverent, and timely, highly recommended for sports fans, summer-camp alums, and preteen-years survivors. (Fiction. 8-13)