A YouTube cartoon launches a chapter-book series with a story about rival summer camps.
Anything superhero kid Drew Pendous draws with his Pen Ultimate magically becomes real. As it’s summer, instead of Cool School he’s attending Camp Cool School. While the text reads with the evident presumption that readers are familiar with the show, early pages also give a rundown of characters and names (along with Drew, the protagonists are all white with the exception of a lone black character, Ella). The capstone activity of the summer is a color war against the Cruel School Camp, where instead of traditional activities they practice “drilling holes in one another’s canoes and making fun of small woodland creatures.” A second character rundown reveals that these campers are mostly evil versions of the heroes, especially Ray Blank, Drew’s evil twin, who has a magic eraser to counter the pen. Instead of offering up a parallel for Ella, the traits of rotund, food-obsessed Robby are split between two villains who are both just as pathetic as he is. The contests—tug of war, arm wrestling, and dodgeball—between blue Camp Cool and red Camp Cruel are interrupted by another villain, the color-stealing gray (literally) Grace Cale. To get their colors back, they must all work together. The bright artwork and the design—combining illustrated pages and comic-book panels—will appeal to kids, but the humor’s not strong enough to elevate characters or concept in unanimated form. And the reliance on fatness and disability stereotypes (one Camp Cruel counselor has two hooks and an eyepatch) further sucks the fun out of the enterprise.
Skip. (Graphic/adventure hybrid. 5-7)