No matter what kind of summer camp they go to, most kids don’t leave their childhood summers without at least one brush with bug spray, ill-fitting camp T-shirts, and songs. If you’ve been to or taught at a summer camp, you know that there’s a special magic to summer-only friendships and arts and crafts, as well as the campfire stories about urban legends that everyone shares.
People who love or hate summer camp should check out this list for kids and teens. It’s for people who love or hate summer camp. Enjoy it with some bug juice.
Beware the Holy Kitten (Lumberjanes #1) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooklyn A. Allen
The Lumberjanes graphic novel series is a great mix of the Baby-Sitters Club, Gravity Falls, The Princess in Black, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s great for kids and teens who like mysteries, monsters, and girl power. To get their Up All Night badges, five great campers and their counselor fight wolves, boys, and more.
Like Bug Juice on a Burger by Julie Sternberg
My kids love Julie Sternberg’s books about Eleanor, a nine-year-old girl who thinks a lot and sometimes makes mistakes, but who always gets through them with the help of friends and adults. Bug Juice is about Eleanor’s first time at a sleepaway camp, and it talks about bugs. This is a good lesson for any child or parent who is afraid of change. She doesn’t always like it, but she learns how to open up and give something new a chance, which is important.
Holes by Louis Sachar
This is what my coworker Sarah calls a “bummer camp.” Holes tells the story of a boy who was wrongly accused of theft and sent to a juvenile detention camp in the Texas desert. From here, the story takes many turns, both fantastical (treasure, family curses, and venomous lizards) and sociological (Sachar looks into racism, poverty, and the juvenile prison system), giving it a level of complexity that isn’t always found in kidlit books. When I read this, I was already a fan of Sachar. Even people who haven’t read any of his books will be impressed by how he can combine fun stories and important social issues into a single book.
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
In this comic book, Vera Brosgol dives into the world of Russian summer camp, but kids of all backgrounds will love it. It’s about fitting in and surviving the long days until your parents come and pick you up.
To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
We should make Meg Wolitzer the Queen of Summer Camp. This is what we should do (see adult fave The Interestings). This book is written in the form of letters. It has a modern twist on The Parent Trap. At sleepaway camp, Avery and Bett’s dads will teach them how to fall in love, too. As soon as the book starts, even young readers can figure out how it will end. But reading about Avery and Bett’s growing friendship is what this book is all about.
Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy
This story by Mary McCoy is about five groups of preteen girls who live in five different cabins. Each cabin has a different mystery or horror inside. Each wall-less cabin has a different goal for its campers, like a dangerous Olympic competition with another camp, a cursed cave monster, a crazed killer, and more. McCoy’s sly thriller is a lot of fun. It’s not scary, but preteens who can handle The Hunger Games will be fine with it.
The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini
Ned Vizzini was a huge hit with kids and teens, especially when they felt awkward, sad, or unheard. This summer camp ode to RPG nerds explores those issues through a fun adventure fantasy that sends Perry on a quest to free a princess from another dimension. Camp has never been so full of elves that are hot.
All Summer Long by Hope Larson
This isn’t fair. When it comes to books about summer camp, Larson has written a great one. All Summer Long is better than that one, though. Remember when you were a child and your best friend went to camp or went on a family trip? And did you come home a little different? Larson talks about Bina, a 13-year-old girl who loves music and whose best friend, Austin, isn’t the same when he comes back from soccer camp. How Bina makes sense of their changing friendship and her own growing interests is real, funny, and illustrated in a way that makes you want to laugh.
Flamer by Mike Curato
Mike Curato’s amazing comic book is about Aiden, a teen at Boy Scout Camp who is struggling with his body, his Filipino heritage, his Catholic school, and his sexuality. When you think about it, that sounds like a lot. But it’s easy to forget that teenagers deal with a lot of very serious problems on their own, and often without help from adults. Curato’s illustrations show how hard Aiden’s journey is, and his story is important for people who don’t know about these issues and important for people who are going through them.
Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
Maggie Thrash tells the story of how she came of age in this comic book about a pivotal year at summer camp. Maggie has spent all of her childhood summers at conservative Camp Bellflower in Appalachia, where she’s always had a good time. When she turns 15, she gets a crush on one of the female counselors. Maggie is confused by her feelings and surrounded by people who don’t like them. She has to deal with the pain and pleasure of a first crush and the bittersweet realization that her life will be different from now on. It doesn’t matter how old or how old you are.
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
James and Eamon are going to go to nature camp at the same time. When it’s summertime, the two friends do everything and nothing. They have the best time ever! When Frazee talks about summer with friends, he does a great job of putting it into words.