Brosgol (Leave Me Alone, 2016, etc.) draws on her bittersweet memories of attending Russian summer camp in this accessible graphic novel.
Convinced that she will never fit in with the American girls in her class because her family is “too poor,” “too Russian,” and “too different,” 9-year-old Vera jumps at the opportunity to attend Russian summer camp in hopes of finding a peer group she can belong to. However, Russian camp in the Connecticut woods is not at all what she had expected: Her tentmates are two mean girls five years her senior, she doesn’t click with any of the other girls, and the outhouse, nicknamed “Hollywood,” completely weirds her out. When all of Vera’s misguided attempts to fit in with the other kids backfire, she resigns herself to waiting out the miserable days till her mother picks her up—until she unexpectedly succeeds in making one good friend. Vera’s wide-eyed optimism and subsequent frustrations come to life through the vivid interplay between Brosgol’s humorous text and her black, white, and olive-green illustrations, colored by Longstreth. While the culturally specific references will particularly resonate with kids of Russian heritage, the larger story will strike chords with any kid who has ever struggled to find a place to belong. It will especially speak to that segment of the population who dreads summer camp, an experience that translates across many cultures. Vera, her schoolmates, and her campmates are all pale-skinned.
A funny summer-camp story with a culturally specific slant. (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 8-14)