In Stephens’ (Some Act of Vision, 2016, etc.) first middle-grade novel, a fifth-grader can’t wait to go to Adventure Camp with his classmates, but staying overnight might be a problem—because he still wets the bed.
Young Texan Pierre François loves Minecraft, hanging out with his best friends Max and Bo, and listening to his French father tell jokes. But he desperately wants to overcome his bed-wetting habit, and although doctors have tried numerous remedies, from using “big-boy diapers” to wearing special hooks on his pajamas, nothing has worked. When he soaks his sheets during a sleepover at Max’s house, he surreptitiously stuffs the sheets in the washing machine and pretends that nothing happened. Unfortunately, Pierre can’t hide his secret for much longer, as a class trip to Adventure Camp is coming up. During the trip, he bunks with Max and Max’s father; although they have to share their cabin with the school bully, they all get to enjoy canoeing, eating new foods, and searching for wildlife. But just when everything is looking up, Pierre wakes up to a soaked sleeping bag. What’s a kid to do? Stephens crafts a well-realized school environment, replete with friends, bullies, and caring teachers. Pierre’s first-person narration has a sincere tone, and his antics are sometimes reminiscent of those in Pierre’s favorite comic strip, Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.” Debut illustrator Yokochi provides simple images to highlight larger events, in a style similar to that in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate series; however, the pictures aren’t the focus of the book’s humor. Pierre’s bed-wetting angst is the book’s major theme, but Stephens also focuses on Pierre’s smaller victories, such as staying up late with a friend to play video games or realizing that the girl he likes knows his name. This lends the book a slow-paced, slice-of-life feel as readers come to know and appreciate Pierre’s world, and the resolution is both believable and satisfying.
A fun middle-grade novel with a winning protagonist and a charming setting.