Review: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
By Vera Brosgol
Color by Alec Longstreth
First Second (Macmillan)
Camp is like adolescence concentrate.
Devoid of parents and with a limited time frame, it’s like a social experiment where big coming-of-age themes like self-reliance, belonging, and friendship come into sharp relief and kids are forced to sink or swim. Hot off the heels of her Caldecott Honor for Leave Me Alone! Vera Brosgol mined camp experiences from her youth to create a graphic novel memoir for the ages.
Vera is a fourth grader who, because of her Russian background, doesn’t quite fit in. It’s no wonder then, that when she learns about a summer camp for Russian kids, she jumps at the chance. But when she arrives, it’s not exactly the inclusive paradise she envisioned. Unfamiliar surroundings, mean older girls, a toilet situation that leaves much to be desired – it isn’t long before Vera wants out. When a series of approval-seeking missteps move Vera’s status from camp outsider to camp pariah, she’s forced to make a decision: please others or forge an independent path?
The artwork is stunning. It really has no reason to be as good as it is. But it is, and the result of this effort will likely be a feeling of complete immersion on the part of the reader. The pines so thick midday feels like twilight, the silhouettes against the bright moon, the rugged architectural beauty of the underside of a pavilion – the camp/wilderness setting here plays a key role and Brosgol makes you feel it on every page. Alec Longstreth handles coloring duties and olive green has rarely looked so lush.
Camp is the perfect vehicle for a story about growing up, and Be Prepared captures all of it. I can’t imagine another middle grade graphic novel in 2018 topping this.
Review copy from the publisher.
Watch the book trailer for Be Prepared:
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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