CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 6. . . . October 13, 2017
More than anything, Max wants a break from Duncan, his special needs brother, and Derek, his mom’s new boyfriend. Max’s dad has passed away, and he really misses their old life. If he can convince his mom that she can afford to send him to camp with his best friend Ian, he’ll be able to get away for awhile. Ian is hooked on meeting some girls at camp, but Max just needs to have some fun without the pressures of family. When Max’s mom tells him he can go to camp, his excitement is quickly tempered. There’s a catch. The only way Max can go is if he takes Duncan and acts as his “helper”. Max, in fact, has to stay in a cabin with all the special needs campers. It seems like camp will be a bummer.
Although Max resists his role as a special needs assistant, he always steps up to help Duncan when necessary. Sometimes, he’s the only one who can calm him down. When he meets Ainslie, a girl whose brother also has special needs, he finds a kindred spirit. Maybe camp will be better than he thought...
Camp forces Max to confront a few hard truths. His dad is really gone, his mom’s boyfriend is sticking around, and Duncan will always be a demanding brother whom he loves nonetheless.
Max exemplifies a boy in the early stages of adolescence; he wants to focus on having a good time, but sometimes life makes that impossible. Camped Out tackles the issue of grief at the loss of a parent and the hardships that kids experience when their sibling requires extra attention. But Daphne Greer treats these issues as just a part of life. Kids can feel hurt and excluded, but they must contend with their feelings and move on.
Camped Out is not a sad book. Greer brings summer camp to life with her descriptions of campfires, canoeing accidents and elbows-on-the-table dining hall antics. Her straightforward writing will appeal to kids who enjoy realistic fiction. Camped Out is also an easy read that will entice some reluctant readers Kids will be able to identify with Max; like all of us, he has family struggles. But ultimately, he’s just a normal kid.
Greer is also the author of Maxed Out, another story about Max and Duncan.
Christine McCrea is a children’s librarian at Richmond Public Library in BC.