Friday, May 24, 2024

The Lightning Circle, by Vikki Vansickle (ill by Laura K. Watson)

With a broken heart from an unrequited love and a strong desire to be alone and lick her wounds, Nora is reluctant to be stuck at summer camp, taking care of a cabin of thirteen year-old girls.  But it's what she signed up for and so she goes.  It's hard to find the space to do her own grieving and there's no time for it. From the moment the campers start arriving, she gets thrown into the thick of her charge's own dramas.  

It doesn't help that it's her first summer and she's never been a camper herself.  Being a camp "virgin," every ritual is a surprise for her and she approaches the experience like it is a foreign land.  But with good instincts and a little help, she manages to survive the summer and learns a great deal, growing to love the place and its people.

A beautiful piece of nostalgia for the summer camp experience, this novel in verse is illustrated with sketches of camp miscellania (a bunk, a horse, a pencil, fellow campers, etc.) that beautifully evoke the innocence of the experience.  It is a very gentle story with no particularly severe traumas but instead chock full of authentic memories lovingly retold by the author.  While fictional, you can't make stuff like this up, so it is clearly drawn from Vansickle's own childhood at camp (in the afterward, she admits as much).

For anyone who was lucky enough to go to camp, reading this book will send you down memory lane.  For others, the book and its exploration of friendships formed and social skills learned in a summer will explain the appeal of this rite of passage.  Definitely a children's book much better appreciated by adults!

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