Vera’s family are Russian immigrants. She feels that her family is poor compared to her friends at school. They all go away to summer camps but she’s never been. Until she finds out there’s a more affordable one for Russian Orthodox families- where the kids are encouraged to speak Russian all day long, learning some of their culture and history alongside the usual camp skills to earn badges, etc. Vera’s so excited to go, whereas her little brother drags his feet. Camp isn’t as she expected, though. She’s put in a tent with two older girls who are unfriendly. Not knowing all the camp traditions and etiquette (other kids have been coming here for years), she makes a few blunders. Tries to make friends by giving away drawings, but finds out later that those friends aren’t the kind you would want. There’s competitions between the boys’ and girls’ side of the camp. Bonfires, hikes in the woods, swimming in the lake. Uncomfortable with bugs, the horrors of the outhouse (and frightful stories made up about it), and shocking things the older girls reveal to her about going through puberty. Vera’s so desperate to be liked, I really felt for her. In the end, she does make a friend- and rescues a lost pet- and it’s her brother who dreads staying at camp longer, while she’s excited for one more week. This was pretty great. Although I can’t imagine sharing it with my ten-year-old, who fears things like the outhouse even more than Vera. Based partly on the author’s experience as a child.
Borrowed from the public library.