CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 15. . . .December 15, 2017
Princess Angelica, Camp Catastrophe. (Orca Echoes).
Monique Polak. Illustrated by Jane Heinrichs.
Victoria, BC: Orca, January, 2018.
97 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $6.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1538-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1539-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1540-7 (epub).
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Danielle Wing.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“Do we call you Princess Angelica? Or do you prefer Your Majesty?” Joon asks when we have finished unpacking and are lying on our cots.
“Either one is fine,” I tell her.
“Well then, Princess Angelica, do you mind telling us about the royal court?” Amber asks.
Now is the perfect moment to tell the truth, to confess that I am not really a princess. But I don’t want my new friends to think I’m a liar. Besides, if they knew I was just a regular girl like them, they wouldn’t look at me the way they are looking at me now. They wouldn’t think I was special, and they wouldn’t be so eager to hear my stories. I adjust myself on the bed. “Certainly.” I close my eyes. My imagination works best when my eyes are shut.
Angelica is a strong-minded and clever storyteller with an inclination to bend the truth. In this series opener, her stories lead her into a difficult and relatable situation. When her parents send her away to a sleepaway camp without Maddie, her best friend, Angelica’s insecurities and a little mix-up result in a whopper of a story. Her new camp friends believe that she is a princess, and Angelica plays along. She crafts stories of an opulent lifestyle in the royal court of a faraway kingdom: milkshakes and chocolate eclairs whenever she wants, a moat with crocodiles, gold furniture, and a magical library. Angelica knows that she shouldn’t be telling her new friends lies, but she loves the attention she is getting. Each time she considers telling the truth, her insecurities bubble up to the surface. Will they still want to be friends with her if they find out she has been lying?
Beyond being an excellent storyteller, Angelica is also good at fixing things – she patches a leaking roof and repairs a kayak when her friends are in trouble. Despite her desire to be a princess, she is a strong female character who is capable of solving her own problems. When her friend Maddie unexpectedly joins her at camp and spoils the princess treatment that Angelica has been enjoying, she faces a new obstacle: she must earn back the trust of her friends. Her storytelling skills can’t help her with this, but her problem solving skills and ability to repair things can. Angelica finally makes progress with her apologies on an overnight kayaking trip gone wrong. A damaged kayak and an injury provide her with the opportunity to prove she can be a good friend. She helps to fix the kayak and contributes to the team effort as they struggle back to camp. While being herself isn’t as exciting as being a princess, Angelica comes to realize that her friends like her best when she is not pretending to be someone else.
The princess theme aside, this story has broad appeal, and readers will find themselves relating to Angelica’s struggles. Polak succinctly captures the insecurities one encounters when meeting new people and trying new things. She carefully explores the dangers of lying before softly reminding readers that being themselves and helping others can be instrumental in creating and maintaining friendships. Angelica’s flaws and strengths drive the story, and readers will enjoy travelling into her magical royal court before settling in to realize that she is just like them: she, too, makes mistakes and has insecurities. Illustrations bring the camp setting to life and elaborate on some of the situations in which Angelica finds herself. The conclusion is satisfying without being overdone. There’s no magical cure to undo the lies that Angelica has told her friends, and it takes time and hard work to earn back their trust. Princess Angelica, Camp Catastrophe is an enjoyable read with a strong message and relatable characters.
Danielle Wing is a Children’s Librarian in North Vancouver, BC.
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University of Manitoba
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