Ah, summer camp, where the combination of adolescence and proximity makes for a summer filled with hothouse-intense relationships of intimacy, jealousy, and insecurity and energized by the occasional ghost story. So it is in Larson's graphic novel featuring Abby, a veteran camper returning to find a surprising friendship with new cabinmate Shasta, a glamorous but unpopular girl; Abby's summer involves her anxious vacillation between Shasta and her old camp comrades, her friendship with an older girl, Rose, and her gentle flirtation with an Actual Boy at camp. Though the characters are similarly drawn, making visual identification initially a challenge, the black-and-white art is narratively effective in its cinematically laid out sequences. The episodic nature of the story authentically reflects the camp experience, with conversations at the lunch table or when walking from place to place more resonant than the scheduled activities. Characterization is conveyed by collections of stop-motion glimpses—readers may not really understand Shasta completely, but they'll see both the creativity that draws Abby and the self-dramatization that annoys others, while Abby is pitch-perfect as the go-along-to-get-along kid finally opting to make her own decisions but remaining uneasy about their consequences. Non-campers will relish the vicarious holiday, while veterans of the experience will appreciate the recognition and may want to have a go at writing their own camp memoirs.
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Larson, Hope; Chiggers; written and illus. by Hope Larson. Seo/Atheneum, 2008; [176p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4169-3584-1 $17.99 Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-4169-3587-2 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-9
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