Nine-year-old Eleanor discovers that it’s possible to like some things about sleep-away camp.
She thought she would like Camp Wallumwahpuck. Her mother liked it, after all. But the big bus she has to ride from Brooklyn is scary, and the buggy, too-quiet woods even worse. There’s no food she likes, and she has to wear a life jacket to jump on the floating trampoline. The story of Eleanor’s gradual adjustment is believably told in short lines of first-person narration and dialogue. Kids will find her worries familiar ones. Each short chapter describes a distinct episode and is liberally illustrated with Cordell’s line drawings, which sometimes show the unhappy camper and other times highlight small details. This title has the heft and substance of a chapter book but is surprisingly accessible. Its story stands alone. Readers will not need to have met Eleanor in Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie (2011), but as in Sternberg’s earlier story, letter-writing plays an important role. Adults are sympathetic and encouraging, and even her cabin mates, at first thoughtless and indifferent, become supporters. In a note on the camp’s Wall of Feelings, she discovers that someone else shares her discomfort: “But I don’t need to love it / I just need to survive it.” Eleanor doesn’t just survive, she grows.
Readers will celebrate and look forward to more. (Fiction. 7-9)